TEFL Teacher Contracts: A Checklist

What’s that saying? Nothing in this life is certain, except death and taxes. But if you’ve ever had a job of any kind, you’ll know that job contracts can be added to this list. If you’ve gotten to the point of considering a teacher contract for teaching English abroad, congratulations! This means you must be the proud owner of a teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) qualification – as well as a sense of adventure and a fair amount of bravery, too, of course. 

What is TEFL Certification and why is it important

You’ve probably spent a fair amount of time thinking about your TEFL qualification and finding a job, so you probably know the steps involved pretty well:

  1. Browse jobs boards – like The TEFL Academy’s – for jobs 
  2. Find a suitable job
  3. Apply for a job
  4. Have an interview
  5. Have a second interview (possibly)
  6. Receive rejection email (sorry!) and go back to #1 OR
  7. Be offered a contract

Going through these steps can be an arduous process and you may not have considered what you will do once you have a contract in your hands, but this is the most important part of looking for a job. Do you know what to look for in a TEFL job contract to make sure you want to sign it?

Signing a TEFL contract is a big deal, and you need to make sure you read all the fine print before you grace it with your autograph. Let’s look at the important points to consider when considering a job contract, so you can feel confident in your decision. 

TEFL teacher contract: Salary

Yes, let’s start with the important bit: how much money are you going to make?! And yes, while it is definitely something to consider, there is more to your salary than the number. Your TEFL contract should outline the following:

  • Is your salary amount inclusive or exclusive of tax?
  • Are you paid weekly/monthly?
  • Are you paid a salary or an hourly rate?
  • Does the school pay your tax?
  • Will it be paid into a local bank account?
  • How much will you be paid overtime?
  • Are you paid only for teaching hours, or for administrative tasks/preparation/other duties?

Read more: The Average TEFL Salary: The Lowdown

What are the start up costs when teaching English abroad

TEFL teacher contract: Working conditions

If you are not familiar with the country you are moving to, working conditions can be a tricky topic. Bear in mind the working conditions in a country might well be very different to what you are accustomed to in your home country. However, you should be able to tell if the working conditions are outrageous. These are the points you should think about:

  • What are your working hours?
  • How many contact hours will you teach?

[For a full-time job, 20 – 25 teaching hours is the norm.]

  • How many students are in your classes?
  • What administrative duties are expected of you?
  • Is there a probationary period?
  • Do you have a teaching assistant?
  • What else is expected of you on top of your usual lessons e.g. leading extra mural activities, staff meetings, paperwork?
  • How many holidays are there?
  • Are holidays paid or unpaid?

Classroom layout for ESL teachers

TEFL teacher contract: Accommodation

Accommodation is one area which might affect the actual figure on your paycheque. Sometimes schools will offer you accommodation or a housing allowance. In these cases, your salary might not be as high as other teachers’ because this needs to be taken into account. Generally speaking, accommodation can be a big chunk of your salary, so if it is included in your contract, this may affect your salary quite a lot. Here are few other things to make sure are clear in your contract with regards to accommodation:

  • Is accommodation provided? Is it shared? Are you expected to pay bills?
  • If accommodation is not provided, are you given an accommodation allowance?
  • Will the school help you find accommodation?
  • Where is the accommodation in relation to the school?

TEFL teacher contract: Visa

Chances you will need to organise a work visa to work in a country. This doesn’t need to be complicated, as it can be quite straightforward if all your documents are in order. If your contract doesn’t mention anything about a visa (and you know you need one) this immediately is a red flag. Be sure your contract deals with the following:

  • Will the school help you organise your visa?
  • Who will pay for the visa?
  • What visa do you need to work legally?
  • How long will it be valid for?

Read more: What’s the Deal with Visa Requirements for TEFL Jobs?


TEFL teacher contract: Extras

Last but not least, there are a few more issues to consider: 

  • Will you be paid a contract completion bonus?
  • Will the school pay for your flights?
  • Will you be reimbursed for your flights?
  • Does the school offer medical insurance?
  • Are you allowed to teach private students?
  • Are there opportunities for Continued Professional Development, such as workshops and conferences? Are these optional or mandatory?
  • What happens if you break the contract?

Note: if you want to end your contract before the stipulated end date, there is usually a fine. This will be taken out of your last paycheque or you may forego your flight re-imbursement. You also won’t receive an end-of-contract bonus. 

Clearly there are a lot of things to think about when it comes to your TEFL contract, but it’s important to think about these things so you know what you are getting into. Relocating across the world to start a new job is daunting and if you examine your contract critically, it will help you feel more comfortable with your new circumstances.

Besides these points, you must also make sure you do your due diligence and find out everything you can about your new employers. Do an online search to find out if they have had any bad reviews, make sure their website is legitimate and if possible, find the contact details of someone working there. All of this may seem like a lot of work before you’ve even started your job, but rather safe than sorry!

20 reasons to do tefl

Note: This blog post was updated in August 2022.

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