University of Calgary

Work Abroad

There are many work options abroad. It is important to evaluate your reasons and expectations for working abroad to help refine your search.

The lists below are not exhaustive but are a sample of what is available. We do not promote or monitor these organizations, unless indicated otherwise.

Teach English Abroad

English has become an international language, used in trade, science, politics, technology and more. Around the world, English is taught everywhere from grade schools, universities and private language schools to companies and businesses. The field is open for those with experience and those without.

Choosing Where to Go

In narrowing down your geographical preference, keep in mind a few general rules of thumb:

  • Most schools do not require knowledge of the host country's language and many often prefer that you use an “English Only” method in the classroom. Of course, learning a few phrases of the host language will certainly come in handy outside the classroom.
  • The "big" markets are Eastern Europe, Turkey, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, China and Japan
  • Asia offers the most opportunities for teachers of English, with or without qualifications.
  • Eastern Europe is looking for teachers but by North American standards, the pay is low. Demand is highest in Hungary, Poland and the Czech and Slovak Republics. Highly qualified teachers are definitely given preference and expect loads of red tape.
  • In Western Europe, getting a working visa is tough. The British and Irish are given preference as they have access through the common market. The jobs tend to be market oriented and your best bets are Italy, Greece, Portugal, Spain and Turkey. Private schools will still hire unqualified teachers and private tutoring is in demand.
  • If you are interested in teaching in Latin America, expect to work in private schools. Your best bets are Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile, Peru and Venezuela.
  • Much work in Africa is done through volunteer organizations like World Teach and New World Teachers.
  • Try these sites for travel info about specific countries: World Travel Guide and Lonely Planet  


Bachelor's degrees are now almost a pre-requisite to teach and may increase the salary offered and likelihood of being hired by a reputable school. In some countries, a Bachelor's degree is required to obtain a work visa. Some schools may require Master's level education with an ESL specialization while certification to teach English as well as formal or informal teaching experience may be acceptable in other locations.  Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan and Thailand may hire based on you being only a native English speaker without certification. If considering certification, find a program that includes at least 100 hours of training and a minimum of 6 hours of supervised practice teaching.

Common Acronyms

ESL is English as a Second Language – TESL is Teaching English as a Second Language. This is a term that refers to teaching that is offered to non-native English speakers IN an English-speaking country. For example, there are ESL courses for recent immigrants offered in Calgary at Immigrant Aid societies.

EFL is English as a Foreign Language – TEFL is Teaching English as a Foreign Language, or teaching non-native English speakers OUTSIDE of an English-speaking country, For example, teaching English in Turkey. This acronym is known under similar variations that essentially indicate the same thing: TEFLA (Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Adults) CTEFLA (Certificate of...), DTEFLA (Diploma of...)

TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) is the British version of TEFL.  

ELT stands for English Language Teaching/Training and is used internationally.

TOEFL is the Test of English as a Foreign Language – an exam administered worldwide to international students applying to institutions of higher education in many English-speaking countries.


  • Teaching English Overseas - A Job Guide for Americans and Canadians by Jeff Mohamed
  • Teaching English Overseas by Susan Griffith
  • The Big Guide to Working and Living Overseas by Jean-Marc Hachey
  • Transitions Abroad - Volunteers at UCI have compiled a special binder dealing with articles on teaching English. Ask them to point it out for you.

These are available at the Centre for International Students and Study Abroad (MSC 275)

Online Resources:

Dave's ESL Cafe
Go Overseas


Short-Term Employment Opportunities

Working Holiday Visas  
Several countries issue working holiday visas  for a period ranging from 6 months to 2 years. Working Holiday programs are designed to allow you to extend the length of a holiday by engaging in short-term casual employment overseas. Finding employment is the responsibility of the permit holder. Some countries with working holiday agreements open to Canadians include Australia, France, Great Britain, Japan and Sweden.

Student Work Abroad Program (SWAP)
arranges work permits for Canadian students interested in short-term work opportunities while travelling abroad. The minimum age for participants is 18; the maximum age limit varies by country. Visa duration also varies by country, ranging from 3 months to 2 years. Program services include a welcome orientation and ongoing advice and assistance regarding employment and accommodation. SWAP is not a placement program and participants are responsible for their own job search, although they are assisted by the SWAP hosting organization.


Public Sector

Alberta Economic Development
Business background recommended.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
A Crown Corporation with a variety of activities abroad.

Canadian International Development Agency
Focuses on international development assistance.

Careers in the Public Service of Canada

Environment Canada
Candidates should have a background in the sciences.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
For career opportunities, check for position openings for Foreign Service Officers, Commerce Officers and Policy Analysts.


Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

Aga Khan Foundation Canada
International Development projects in Africa and Asia.

Amnesty International
An international NGO in the field of law and good governance.

Canadian Red Cross Society
A branch of the International Red Cross.

Care Canada
NGO work overseas.

One of North America's largest International Development organizations.

Offices in 34 countries.

South Asia Partnership Canada
A network of organizations involved in sustainable. development

World University Service of Canada (WUSC)
One of the largest NGOs in Canada.