About half of new TEFL teachers complete their first year contract and then head home, illuminated by a year of enjoyable new experiences.
Others make an entire lifetime of teaching English abroad, often becoming a Director of Studies for a language centre after gaining a few years of experience in the profession. Studying towards the DELTA qualification or an MA TESOL is a good way of demonstrating to potential employers that you are in it for the long run. It also opens doors to a career in TEFL teacher training, whether at home or overseas.
There are also related management and publishing opportunities within the education sector that some TEFL teachers move into. These include being in charge of hiring new teachers for a large chain of language centres and working in curriculum or textbook development. Based on your experience, you may even be offered the chance to manage the expansion of a language centre brand in an entirely new country.
Some TEFL teachers go on to open their own language centres. This is especially common in Europe, where large number of teachers from the United Kingdom make contacts over the course of a couple of years before launching their own, more profitable, business. This usually begins when a teacher has success as a freelance tutor and, as the success grows, decides on opening a centre or two. This can be done with or without other partners, but certainly involves employing several full-time members of staff to take care of the day-to-day running of the language schools.
Teachers who stay in one country for several years often become married to local partners and this can make arranging necessary paperwork for starting a new school much, much easier. Different countries have very different rules in regard to both opening a new business and longer-term residency rules. It is, of course, essential to conduct thorough research at the time to ensure that nothing important is overlooked or forgotten.
Another possibility for many TEFL teachers is that of returning to their country of origin and working within the English language training sector back at home. There are numerous opportunities to teach English to foreign professionals who have arrived to work in a given industry and wish to improve the level of their English language skills. The kinds of courses normally fall into the category of English for Occupational Purposes (EOP). There are also vacancies to teach asylum seekers who need to know elementary English to accomplish their daily tasks.
Some TEFL teachers return home and decide to become fully-qualified teachers in their own country. This usually requires a year of further study followed by an NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) year. Should the travel bug bite again there are countless opportunities to work in International Schools around the world. Contracts with bona-fide International Schools usually come with an impressive salary, accommodation, pension and other benefits previously out of reach.
It is also reasonably common for teachers to return to the profession after a year or two working in totally different employment sectors. The great thing about TEFL is that it is remarkably flexible. There are always thousands of new opportunities across the world and you can hop back into teaching English as a foreign language remarkably easily.