Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), is a term used to describe the teaching of English to non-native speakers in a country where English is not the first language (see ESL/ESOL/EFL/ELT, which explains the differences between the many acronyms you are likely to encounter in English language teaching). It is possible for TEFL to happen within English speaking countries, in language schools for example, but teaching tends to takes place in a student’s native country. There, TEFL is used within state school systems, private language schools and even by freelance teachers. Teachers can be either native or non-native speakers.
There are institutions that provide TEFL certification across the globe, but there is no internationally recognised independent accrediting organisation that overlooks the issuing of these qualifications. TEFL providers tend to get their certificates accredited by organisations within their region that are able to approve teaching qualifications.
As with all jobs a TEFL teacher’s rate of pay depends on length of service, experience and the employer. There are other more specific factors that apply to teaching abroad, such as the threat of terrorism or military action, duration of the teacher’s contract and the economic status of the country. Do not always be put off by what appears to be a low wage; it could be enough to provide a high quality of life.
The highest pay for TEFL teachers on short-term contracts is in the Middle East. Demand for English classes far exceeds the number of teachers so Taiwan, Japan and South Korea are all popular locations for travelling TEFL teachers.
Be aware that in some countries it is possible to set up private language schools without any restriction on teaching standards or staff wages. Unscrupulous businesses use these schools to exploit both teachers and students, so be careful and research any school you are considering working for.