• Ryan

Invest in Higher Education or Ride Out The ESL Wave?

The Goal of this article:  Layout possible career path and higher education options for current ESL teachers

Questions to ask yourself…

1. Do I want to stay in ESL long term?

If the answer is maybe, then research the following options

The next question(s) bouncing around your head…

Where is the industry going?  Will the investment pay off?

I think it is very important to not just think in monetary terms. Factor in quality of life, learning new skills, and networking.

Know Where Incentives Are

“Don’t ask a barber if you need a haircut.”

As with anything, you should always know incentives and know the narrow scope from which the person you are talking with comes from.  If you are talking to someone doing their Masters they are probably going to be positive about that track. If they are just riding out the ESL jobs with their current qualifications then they probably will think the masters, delta, and teacher certification aren’t worth the investment.

Mentor Tip:  If talking with a college, university, or certification program rep then try asking for contacts who are currently in the program and contacts who have graduated the program. 

Go one step further and try to research people who were interested but did not take the program.  Their reasons might be even more important to you.

While talking with that person, try seeing what they are doing now and if they regret not going through with the program you researched.

What’s Next?

While talking with that person, try seeing what they are doing now and if they regret not going through with the program This is one of the biggest questions we face as ESL teachers which is why I am so passionate about the topic.

What’s Next?  I have been obsessed with this question since day 1 of teaching English.  For me, this was always a bridge to something else and whatever happens in my life I will be deeply in debt to the South Korea school system and Korean people for all they have done for me.  Teaching English has allowed me to learn so much more about myself and get paid to do it.

I want to help others on their life journey.  If you decide to continue down the ESL road I am happy for you but the steps are clear cut.  Follow some of the steps below OR ride out teaching ESL with your current credentials as long as you can. You don't need Mete and myself.

If you do want to pursue more education in ESL, the following options should be researched heavily.  

This is just a starting point.

The “hire anyone with a pulse and a native speaking country passport” mentality is changing slowly.  

As an ESL teacher, you are on your own to decide how to separate yourself from the competition. Should you get a Master’s in ESL, DELTA, or not invest.

Higher Education

Masters in ESL

The biggest time and money commitment. If you are pursuing this then you probably have your eyes on a university position or would like to be in curriculum development.  A masters in ESL is extremely narrow. You need to be committed to teaching ESL for the long term. It does not have much flexibility in other fields. However, it gives you a track to level up with a PhD where the following options do not.

Price Tag $25,000 -$32,00


Described as a more practical way to receive higher education.  Less theory but not as widely known as masters. It will allow you to get interviews for jobs that involved curriculum design and management opportunities.  For example, you could be a Director of Studies in a language school.  Masters would allow you to work in a University while a DELTA (probably) won’t.  I have also heard that in the Middle East this isn’t really accepted.

This would allow for the possibility of a bit more money in your pocket every month but there are still some low paying Director of Studies jobs out there. So you run the risk of investing time and money to stay generally around the same pay grade. Possibly around $2,500 per month widely depending on the country. Doing some serious hip firing with that number but it gives you an idea.

This option is again only for serious teachers who are ready to take on a lot of work.

Price Tag: around $6,000 depending on where you take it

Teacher Certification

This form of higher education is a great option if you want to be a teacher back in your home country at some point.  It would give you a leg up on your resume within International Schools.  However, you will be out of luck if you want to teach at a university with this certification.

If you currently know someone who is teaching English at a University with this certification please contact me.  I would love to hear how it is possible.

Price tag:  $6,000

Options for each one of those can keep you busy for days.  Research for a while but…

If you are still not sure, take a break and let your subconscious work on the problem after intense focus.

This means go live your life!  Go to work or do some cleaning.  Go exercise or hang out with friends.  Do whatever you do to unwind. The answers will rise to the surface soon enough.  

Invest Nothing!

This seems like a viable option considering how most of us got into teaching English.  However, teaching English is the path of least resistance to living and working in another country.  That means more and more people seem to be doing it which is one of the reasons why salaries aren’t rising.

If you decide ESL is nice for now and you want to change your career then it is a perfect time for you to level up your skills on the side while you still have income coming in.

Small business/Freelance

One of my old bosses in procurement used to say “the best time to find a job is when you have a job.”  I should have taken that advice rather than quitting and moving across the country 5 years ago but sometimes you only allow yourself to learn through personal experience.

While you are teaching English you have spare time.  If you don’t have spare time then check your priorities.  Write out where your time goes.

Work – 40 hours

Sleep – 56 hours

Selfcare – 10 hours

Exercise – 7 hours

Mentor Tip:

Set a timer and schedule for 5-10 hours a week to explore the next step of your life.

If you want to be a writer then write.  

Check freelance websites and do anything that you think will help you.  

That could be taking free projects to focus on meeting deadlines, listening to other people’s wants, etc.  

Money isn’t an issue because you still have a job…for now.

You might be thinking…

What can I do now?

Reach out to 5 people who know you best.  Ask them to describe you as a person.  Ask them what they perceive as your strengths and weaknesses.Take a look at your online profile and what you search online.  This might give you an area on what field of expertise you would like to become world class at.


Brainstorm ideas.  

Just put the pen to paper.  

Do it for 20 minutes a day for a week.

See what happens.

Brainstorm with Mete(coach) and Ryan(mentor).  

20 minute free no strings attached video call.

Research web courses on Coursera or Udemy.

That is just a short list. 

Many more things you can do. 

Just start now!

Corporate Work

Most of the ESL teachers don’t have a degree in English.  If you had a career before teaching English maybe you are going back to that.  If you had a degree in another discipline but have a few years gap in the resume that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It will absolutely be flagged and a question will be asked. However, if you have an unbelievably empowering (and true) story about a relevant project you worked on in your own time showing your own leadership.  That is the ultimate key to filling the gap. Your future boss won’t have to worry about you slacking off or not exceeding expectations because you are already killing it in your FREE time.

Brainstorm your next project in a free 20-minute session with…

        Mete(leadership coach)      


We all know what travel can do for our lives.  While higher education might not be credited by travel we can certainly use it to help our own personal development.  For some reason when we travel we connect with individuals and are more open to hearing about the lives they live.  These same people are walking around in our daily lives but they are in our daily lives so the energy isn’t the same.  Travel can be a great way for mental clarity. Will you fall backwards into your next career move? Doubtful, but never say never and if you have been working on side projects or learning how you can add value to others then you will have a better shot than most.

Bridge The Gap

While writing this article I tried to remain as unbiased as possible.  The only bias comes at the end of the last option. If you are changing your career path to something other than teaching.  Mete and I would love to be in service of your future goals with our Bridge The Gap program. We have coaching tracks to help guide you and assist you in thriving in whatever you do next.  

If you are leaving the world of ESL, the next chapter of your life has limitless possibilities.

If you can remember back to stepping onto that plane and how exciting it was. It was probably equally as daunting of a task.  

As time went by, expat life became a breeze.

You expanded your comfort zone and made a bubble in your life.

Now you are on the edge again.

The world is yours.

Schedule a 20-minute call to talk about the program, brainstorm your next steps, or just say hello.

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