Thousands of Americans move overseas every year to teach English. Most go to countries a little more ‘exotic’ than the country they are citizens of — countries like Thailand, Cambodia, Peru, China, Saudi Arabia and Morocco. Some Americans, however, would love to have the experience of living overseas but want to teach in an English-speaking country like England. Is that an option, though, or will it be impossible to get a job?
As a British citizen and a former EFL teacher who hasn’t worked in the UK in more than 30 years, I looked into getting an English teaching job there last yet. Let me just say, if it was incredibly difficult for myself when it came to finding a job, you can only imagine how difficult it would be for an American. In fact, an American would find it almost impossible to get a job teaching English in England and here are a few reasons why.
England is full of native speakers – The point of going overseas to teach English is that most non-English speaking countries have few native speakers living in them. That means, when it comes to finding a native speaker to teach English the way it is correctly spoken to students in public, private and language schools, most schools will hire Americans. Along with British, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand citizens, of course.
In England, however, the vast majority of the population are native English speakers, so there is no need to import American teachers to teach there.
The British economy is sluggish – Even if a school or a company did consider hiring Americans to teach English, the British economy is still so sluggish that 100 young British teachers would be applying for the same jobs you are. With that kind of competition, unless your experience is truly unique and out of this world, you’re hardly likely to be hired to teach English in England ahead of a native Brit.
Immigrant population is taught by the British – While England and the rest of the UK has a large immigrant population with more non-English speaking people emigrating there every year, they will be taught English in language schools and in one-on-one private lessons by British teachers.
This isn’t all because of the need to hire British teachers first, although that is part of it. It’s also because immigrants to the United Kingdom who don’t speak English particularly well need to learn the British version of the language and not the American. After all, they won’t be living in America so need to be able to manage their daily lives in the version of English spoken in Great Britain.
Almost impossible for an American to get a work permit – It has always been quite difficult for an American to get a work permit to work in England or the rest of the United Kingdom., no matter what job they want to do.
It’s even more difficult when it comes to teaching English, as the first question a government official would be likely to ask is “What can you offer as a teacher that a British citizen cannot?” Sure, you might have an American accent or know more American vocabulary, but when it comes to teaching the basics of English, that’s really not important in England.
EU access to employment law – All citizens of EU member countries are entitled to apply for jobs in any country in the EU including England and the rest of the United Kingdom, and they have the same rights as a citizen of that country under the EU access to employment law. So, in England for instance, someone who is French, German, Italian, Spanish or Greek has as much right to apply for a job in England as does a Brit.
What that means is any teacher from any of these or other EU countries will be given priority over an American. That’s because, not only are they legally able to work in the UK, but the paperwork a company or school would have to produce to hire a German or a Spaniard is minimal compared to what they would have to complete to hire an American.
With so many countries in the world where you can teach English, setting your sights on England or on any other English-speaking country for that matter is probably not a good idea. You are unlikely to be offered a teaching job there as there are too many other people who would be given priority, whereas in a hundred other countries you could walk into one tomorrow.
Why not consider some of those instead?