With a slowing economy in many Western countries and the number of college graduates outstripping the amount of available jobs, native English teachers are more than ever opting to teach English abroad. Most also see it as a way to travel, explore and immerse themselves into a foreign country. The number of available jobs teaching English continues to grow and should hold strong for the foreseeable future as English has become a necessity in both emerging and established economies around the globe. From Asia to Latin America, the global middle class is not only eager to learn English as a means to communicate, but in the hopes of fostering greater job security. As a result, native English speakers use the opportunity to spend a year or sometimes several years teaching overseas as a means to see the world and potentially save money while doing so. There are also those that do it as a long-term profession and I’ve met plenty of individuals who have been doing it for 20 or 30 years.
There are only a few requirements for one to teach English abroad. First, as if we weren’t privileged enough, one merely has to be a native English speaker. Second, in most cases you will need a university degree, although it may be possible to teach without one in certain circumstances. Third, it is best to have a TEFL, TESL or CELTA teaching certificate. Any of these will only take a couple of months to obtain and will qualify you to teach abroad. However, make sure the certificate is at least 120 hours and from a program that is accredited. Lastly and most important, one needs to have an adventurous spirit and strong will to survive sudden bouts of homesickness and adversity. While you will likely be in a secure situation, you certainly will not have the same amenities as back home, nor your friends or family. You will be alone in the vast world, which can also be the most sensational feeling at times.
There are plenty of countries where a native English speaker can find a job. However, if you are even slightly more interested in being able to save a good amount along with decent benefits, then the list of viable places to teach slims down considerably. Here are the top five markets to teach English for money.
- Average Salary: $40,000 to $50,000 per year
These two are grouped together due to their geographical proximity and similar working conditions. It is also difficult, if not merely impossible, t to land a job teaching English fresh out of college in either of these countries. To teach in Saudi Arabia, the UAE or any other affluent part of the Middle East, you will absolutely need an accredited 120 TEFL, TESOL or CELTA certificate and at least one year of classroom experience for the lower-end jobs. The majority of English teaching jobs I’ve seen there require at least three years of classroom teaching experience and many schools require teachers to have a degree in English, linguistics or TESOL. The reality is that while the best paying jobs teaching English abroad can be found in petroleum-rich gulf nations, the requirements are quite strict.
Most teachers in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia make between $40,000 to $50,000 per year and a few make more than $60,000. On top of that, you can expect to receive free housing, free healthcare, paid airfare and a contract completion bonus. Keep in mind that you don’t pay any taxes in the Middle East, so making $50,000 there is like making $70,000 back home. To find a position in Saudi Arabia, you can apply directly to schools or go through a recruiter. There are a handful of recruitment companies out there competing to fill positions throughout the region. For most part, most recruitment companies that place teachers in the Middle East are fair, but there a few are bad apples, so do your homework. One indication of the bat is they respond in their emails. Do they take the time to answer your questions and write in a professional manner or are hasty and trite?
Keep in mind that Saudi Arabia is rather conservative compared to the West. There are certainly jobs there for women, but Western women are expected to abide by the same social norms as Saudi women when out in public. The most open city in Saudi Arabia is Jeddah, which is known to be a bit more cosmopolitan and influenced by the West. The United Arab Emirates is also much more open to Western ideas compared to other parts of the Middle East. On the other hand, Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, is conservative and Western women there are expected to cover up when in public. However, this is not to discourage Western women from teaching in Saudi Arabia. I’ve met quite a few women that enjoyed their time there.
- Average Salary: $24,000 to $30,000 per year
South Korea has been and continues to be the hotspot for teaching English abroad. It is estimated that there are roughly 24,000 Westerners teaching English in the capital, Seoul, at any given time. There remain plenty of jobs at private language schools, public schools and universities. Pay can vary, but expect to make between $2000 to $2300 during your first year. This includes free rent, airfare, health insurance and a bonus upon completion of one’s month salary. There are more experienced and established teachers making upwards of $3000 per month. Unfortunately, there are still reports of qualified, but non-white teachers being discriminated against by private language schools. This is an an issue that I am trying to raise awareness about, so let me know if you would like to help in that capacity.
While inflation has taken its toll on the cost of living recently, it’s not uncommon for the right person to save $15,000 to $20,000 in one year. You will need a teaching certificate (TEFL, TESOL, CELTA) to get a job in a public school in South Korea, a four-year degree and a clean criminal record. It is possible to teach in private institutes without a TEFL, TESOL or CELTA. In most cases, you need to go through a recruiter to find a position and secure a work visa before entering the country with the intent to work. There are also programs that place Western teachers into Korean public schools. The Korean government has mandated that all public school English teachers must have a TESOL or TEFL.
- Average Salary: $20,000 to $30,000 per year
Considering the cost of living, this is a great place to save money, but also to enjoy a more adventurous lifestyle than the more developed and secure East Asia. Teachers In the large metropolitan areas of Vietnam are making $1500 to $2800 per month. With the low cost of living, it is possible to save $10,000 plus a year. Living in Vietnam allows easy travel to the rest of Southeast Asia. Have a one month vacation from your teaching position? You can jump over to Thailand and live like a king for $1200. It may be possible to teach in
Vietnam without a teaching certificate, but it is certainly easier to land a job with one. Plus, schools that require a TESOL or TEFL are more likely to be legit and pay on time. TESOL/TEFL courses range between $100 to $2200. However, anything under $250 is likely a scam and there are effective and recognized online certificate programs out there that only cost $300 to $400. It might seem like a lot of start-up cost, but it’s a small investment that pays dividends in the long run. You will also need a four-year degree and a clean criminal record to teach in Vietnam.
- Average Salary: $18,000 to $30,000 per year
This is the land of endless economic opportunity. Depending on where you are, you probably won’t make as much as you would in South Korea or Japan, but the cost is often less and the chance of parlaying a teaching gig into another better paying opportunity is far greater. On top of that, there are not enough teachers to fill the amount of teaching jobs in China, which means that salaries will only continue to rise. Overall, salary, benefits and conditions to teach English in China have improved considerably during the past few years. This is not to say that there aren’t ‘fly-by-night’ schools there that you should be wary of, but they less common and some measures of regulation been implemented.
One significant change when it comes to teaching English in China during the past couple of years is the government effort to crack down on Westerners teaching illegally on a tourist or business visa. To legally teach in China, you will need what is called a Z-visa. However, in order to get a Z-visa, the Chinese requires one to have a four-year degree and be from a native English speaking country. As far as I know, there really are no exceptions to these requirements. Consequently, it has become quite difficult for non-native English speakers to find teaching jobs in China. Depending on the province, you will also be required to have a 120-hour TEFL, TESOL or CELTA certificate and the majority of provinces are now requiring one. There has also been speculation lately that this policy will become nationwide in the coming months and strictly enforced. This is not me trying to sell you a TEFL, TESOL or CELTA course, but the policy of the Chinese governments in conjunction with the schools there.
Depending on where you live, first-year teachers can expect to make between $900 to $2000 per month during their first year in China and more experienced instructors can make upwards to $3,000 per month. It really just depends on the city, cost of living and your qualifications. The reality is that incomes for teaching English in China vary considerably throughout the country. You can find a job without a TESOL or TEFL, but I wouldn’t recommend it since the more quality institutes require one. While you used to be able to get away with an 80-hour online TEFL course, most institutes want to see a 120 hour certificate.
- Average Salary: $22,000 to $28,000 per year
Taiwan is one place that often goes under the radar as a destination to teach English. However, salaries are nearly on par with countries like South Korea and Japan. However, Taiwan overall is less expensive, which affords the opportunity to save a decent amount of money. It’s possible to save $10,000 per year working for a school in Taipei. You do not necessarily need a teaching certificate, but it is better to have one. You will also need a four-year degree. Like China, you can fly in on a tourist visa and later change it to a work visa. Most foreign teachers in Taiwan are employed by private language institutes known as buxibans. Most first-year teachers start off in large, corporate buxibans,while the more experienced ones find better pay and working conditions mid-sized schools.
These are the best places to make money teaching English. Of course, it’s not all about the money and some choose to teach on little pay simply to enjoy a certain lifestyle. There are also other countries that offer competitive salaries and benefits for teaching English. Feel free to comment if you would like to include another country on this list.