“Would you recommend ELT as a career these days?”
This is a huge question, as so much depends on who the advice is aimed at. ELT is a global industry, and conditions and career prospects vary enormously around the world. But for the sake of brevity, let’s stick to the European market, as that has traditionally been the destination of many young “TEFLERs”
Post Brexit complications
For anyone who doesn’t have the automatic right to work in the EU, which generally means being in possession of either an EU passport or spouse, the post-Brexit Withdrawal Agreement has complicated matters considerably. Many of the once-popular EU destinations have fairly stringent work visa quotas, and a private language school is unlikely to go through a lengthy and expensive procedure simply to employ a newly-qualified British teacher simply because they are a native speaker. This means the aspiring ELT teacher is more likely to find work opportunities further afield, in Asia or South America for example.
It’s a sad fact that in most cases, salaries for ELT teachers are low. A typical salary for a full-time teacher at a private language school in Italy, for example, is around 1,500 euros net per month, which after rent and other living expenses doesn’t leave much over for luxuries, or, indeed, for saving for the future.
ELT offers incredible scope for creativity and is in general a wonderfully rewarding job for those who enjoy working with people. It’s true, however, that these days teachers may find themselves working with large groups of children in state schools, which may not have been quite what they envisioned during the famous “4-week prep course”. The A in CELTA, after all, stands for “Adults”.
No job these days is “future proof” and ELT is no exception. It may be that AI tools will soon make it less necessary for most people to undertake the hard slog of learning another language and knowledge of English becomes once more, as was French for young English ladies in the nineteenth century, simply a desirable attainment, akin to being able to play the piano or paint watercolours. However, although Google Translate and ChatGPT can really help students with their writing skills, one would hope that students would still want the social aspect of having lessons in a classroom as well as preferring a conversation with a real human being rather than a bot!
To sum up
ELT has a lot to recommend it, above all the opportunity to experience other cultures while engaged in stimulating and rewarding work. I would, however, advise any young graduate to think long and hard about whether i they would want to make it their long-term career.
In any case, ELT can provide good training for other language-related jobs as well as those jobs that require good interpersonal skills – this will be the subject for a future post!
Tim Julian got on a bus bound for Italy in 1982, armed only with a scribbled address, a preparatory teaching certificate and 100 pounds to tide him over. He has worked in Hungary and Spain as well as Italy, and for many years he was the Director of Studies at International House La Spezia where he still works part-time as a teacher.