People often think of teach abroad opportunities as a short stint for young, 20-somethings to experience in their gap years, or to broaden their horizons and learn who they are. It is a great way to do all of that and more, but it doesn’t mean those in their later years should rule it out. It can be a life-changing experience at any age.
If you’re a retiree or approaching retirement and looking to spend a few years doing something meaningful while seeing the world, teaching abroad might be for you. Though it’s a bit more difficult to find work at retirement age, it’s not impossible.
By far the easiest region to find work abroad after retirement is Latin America. With regions known for rich heritage, culture, landscapes and food, it’s also known for being the most laid back region when it comes to teaching English as a foreign language. Where other countries, such as South Korea and China, enforce age restrictions that make it difficult for schools to obtain proper working visas for anyone past the age of 55 (age maximum varies between 50-60 depending on the country), countries like Costa Rica, Guatemala and Peru are wide open to those looking to teach English abroad in retirement, as well as those without a university degree and non-native speakers. Read our guide to teaching English in Central America here.
You’re not limited to Latin America though. Some European, Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian countries are flexible enough and many retirees have found ideal situations there. In Thailand, for example, many agencies and schools will say they prefer teachers under the age of 55, but don’t let this discourage you. Rules are often not rigid, and there are other options. Read our guide to teaching English in Thailand here.
If you’re planning to teach English abroad in retirement, here are some tips to help you get started.
If you’re a retired teacher in your home country, you’re likely already a good candidate with a few decades of experience, and most schools will be happy to work with you. Look into international schools where it’s necessary to have your qualifications in order to apply, which strongly diminishes the competition of the young and bubbly. Also, these institutions usually pay higher salaries than government schools.
If you don’t have teaching experience or the proper education, I highly recommend getting a TEFL certificate. Though not always required, it will give you some insight about what to expect in the classroom, and it will prove to the hiring agencies/schools that you are serious about finding work. Plus, you’ll earn the skills you need to be a successful English teacher, while also understanding how to deal with cultural and language barriers in the classroom. I recommend choosing a TEFL certification course that will help you find your first job when you graduate.
Be flexible and wear many hats.
The age requirements typically exist for visa reasons, which means that you might be able to find work, but not with the legality of a work permit. If this is an issue for you, you can always look into part-time positions (maybe work at two different schools in the same town), substitute teaching, English camps and tutoring. These opportunities provide a varied work schedule, flexible, part-time hours and the freedom to combine any or all into enough work to make a living. Plus, they lack a requirement to have a government issued work permit, which means the main reason for hiring younger is mute.
Be location independent.
Remain open to teaching in the lesser-populated areas of the country you wish to live in. The majority of teachers want to work in the big cities and popular tourist destinations, and the chances are much higher of a fresh-faced, 20-something getting a job over the more qualified you. Even though it might not be what’s best for the students, it’s a reality that many schools tend to uphold.
Other reasons behind the age discrimination range from the superficial ‘celebrity’ of a young foreigner in school, to a belief that an over-60 teacher might not have the stamina to keep up with rambunctious children. Whatever the truth, it’s best to stay away from the competition and immerse yourself in a school that will be happy to have you.
Try to learn the local language.
Even though you’ll be hired as an English teacher and speaking the local language is not a requirement, learning a few words will go a long way with your students and your coworkers. Even just hello, how are you, and thank you will show your peers that you take an interest in their language and culture, and likely earn you a lot more respect as a member of the community.
Do your job well.
To many, this goes without saying, but you’ll encounter workers in any field all over the world who do less than average at their job. If you take your work seriously (but not too much, it should be fun!) by showing up on time, engaging your students in conversation and participating in school functions, you’ll create a more meaningful experience for everyone involved, ensuring your job will be yours for as long as you want it.
Planning your retirement or already retired? Contact us to discuss which opportunities are right for you.