The options for teaching English abroad are endless: You want to live la vida loca in Latin America, immerse in China’s completely foreign culture or enjoy the cheap prices of South East Asia? This list of the best places to teach English abroad will help you to make a decision.
- Basic requirements to teach English abroad
- Which are the best countries to teach English abroad?
- 10. Thailand
- 9. Nicaragua
- 8. Brazil
- 7. South Korea
- 6. Poland
- 5. Saudi Arabia
- 4. Vietnam
- 3. Japan
- 2. Colombia
- 1. China
- Best countries to teach English abroad: honorable mentions
It’s a new day and another opportunity to do something with your life. Maybe you feel burned out from your job or recently ended a relationship. You might be a young kid that just finished college and yearn to see the world. You may not fit into any of these categories. In fact, you may even be a professional teacher in your own country and want to use those skills to teach English.
Whatever the reason or circumstances in life, you find yourself reading this article on the best countries to teach English abroad. It might only be out of amusement, but there is a chance that you are seriously considering taking that leap of faith and going overseas.
Basic requirements to teach English abroad
What a wonderful idea isn’t it? Well, it isn’t for everyone as there are some qualifications; a university degree, passport from a native-English-speaking country, a sense of humor and a willingness to let adventure take over your life.
If you are serious about teaching English, I strongly recommend taking a course and getting a TEFL certification. It wasn’t necessary to get a certificate twenty, ten or even five years ago, but at this point in the game, you are better off in the long-run shelling out the funds to take a credible course.
Like every other industry, the market for teaching English abroad has become a bit saturated. But with a little hop in your step, eagerness to live overseas and all the right qualifications, it is likely that you will land a teaching job. If you fall in love with the country you are living in, you could always move on to a better position your second and third year.
Ok, so you have decided to break up with your boyfriend or girlfriend (or maybe not), quit your job, sell your car, defer your student loans one more year or any combination of these in the coming months in the hopes of teaching English in another country. It sounds adventurous, doesn’t it? (I know because I taught in Japan for four years.)
It’s not all fun and games living in a foreign country and you likely will face some adversity, but that is also part of the fun. Keep in mind that teaching English is much more than grammar exercises and pronunciation drills. When you are abroad, all eyes will be on you as you will be an ambassador from the West. You will misunderstand, understand and then misunderstand again several times over. So, with that being said, let’s get started or have I scared you off?
Which are the best countries to teach English abroad?
If not, then you are probably wondering: where exactly are the best places to teach English abroad in 2018? Besides your personal preferences, you should inform yourself about the different requirements and job opportunities of the regional TEFL job markets, which will make it easier or more difficult for you to land a job there.
In determining the best places to teach abroad for 2018, a simple formula was used; quality of life, job availability, cost of living, fun and my own subjectivity.
- Monthly salary: $1000 to $1400
- A plate of Pad Thai: $1.50
Thailand remains in the top ten of the best places to teach English abroad for the third year in a row. While the teaching market there continues to suffer from saturation the cost of living is slowly increasing, Thailand remains on the list simply because it is Thailand. If you’ve ever been to the land of smiles, then you know what I am talking about.
Things have changed there quite a bit for the Western English teacher. The job market has simply become more competitive and stagnant. However, that doesn’t mean that you cannot still find a job. If you are just breaking into the Thai market, don’t expect to make a whole lot or save much. While some of the established and long-term teachers are doing better, as a newbie you will have to take what you can get.
You aren’t going to advance your career teaching English in Thailand, but living or visiting there is such a cool experience. It’s a country full of friendly people, majestic scenery, Buddhist temples, fantastic food, and smiles.
If you decide to give it a go in Thailand, I would recommend getting a TEFL or TESOL certificate. If you are turned off by the hustle and bustle of Bangkok, check out Chiang Mai in the North. Expect to make between $1,000 to $1,400 per month. Although inflation has crept up in recent years, it is still relatively cheap to live. During vacation, it is inexpensive and easy to travel throughout Thailand and neighboring countries.
You can take a TEFL training onsite in Chiang Mai, Thailand, including observed teaching practice and job placement. Check dates and details here.
- Monthly salary: $500 to $800
- Una Cerveza $1.50
You may notice that my list is heavy on Latin American countries. If teaching English for you is not only about making money but about traveling, living abroad, learning a language, teaching nice people and experiencing the unknown, don’t overlook Latin America, including Central America.
Nicaragua is a country of mostly friendly people, a lifestyle that is ‘tranquila’ (easy-going) and beautiful beaches. You won’t make a lot of money teaching there, but it won’t matter since the cost of living is low. A little common sense and charm will keep you out of harm’s way. Expect to make between $500 to $800 per month in Nicaragua, which should be enough to live on. To supplement your income, pick up a couple of private lessons on the side.
- Monthly salary: $1,000 to $1,800
- A pound of rice: 60 cents
Who wouldn’t want to be in Brazil right now? If you are a woman, the men are beautiful. If you are a man, the women are stunning. It’s a win-win situation. Good music, great food, friendly people, laughter, little cafes, bars, clubs, the Amazon. Sure, there is crime and Brazil has its problems, but Brazil is a geographically large country with a diverse population, opportunity and an abundance of adventure.
Despite a recession in recent years, it remains an economic power in Latin America and the 8th largest economy in the world. With a growing necessity for English, there are certainly a fair amount of English teaching jobs.
Are you going to pay off your student loans or save for a down payment on a house back home? Absolutely not. Would it be a great opportunity to find out more about yourself, connect with another perspective on life and have a good time teaching? Hell yes! Brazil surely deserves its place in the top ten list of the best countries to teach English abroad.
In my opinion, if you cannot enjoy yourself teaching English in Brazil, then stop reading this article immediately and completely forget about teaching English there or anywhere abroad. How much you make in Brazil depends on where you live.
Sao Paolo is an expensive city and you will have to get by on around $1500 to $1800 per month. In smaller cities, you might make between $1000 to $1500, but the cost of living will be significantly lower. If you find a full-time job teaching at a school or private company, the best thing to do is to pick up some private lessons as a side hustle to supplement your income.
7. South Korea
- Monthly salary: $2,000 to $2,500
- A pint of beer: $3
South Korea has fallen significantly this year to number seven, down from number two during the previous three years. A lot of people would disagree with me on this one and rank South Korea much higher and definitely in the top three. It is still one of the places where can make relatively OK money teaching English.
I suppose if you are a bit conservative, frugal and just good with money, you could save a fair amount of money in a few years. Expect to make between $2000 to $2500 per month teaching in South Korea depending on experience. Many schools will still pay for your apartment and initial flight over, but that is quickly changing as the golden days are long over.
Unfortunately, the teaching market in South Korea is following a similar path to that of Japan 10 or 15 years ago. Saturation of teachers, stagnant incomes of South Koreans and inflation do not bode well for TEFL teachers. With that being said, it is still one of the best places to teach abroad. While it will take more effort to find a position these days, there remains a healthy necessity to learn English throughout the country. You will have a better chance of finding a job if you are willing to teach small children.
- Monthly Salary: $1,300 to $2,000
- One-bedroom apartment: $500 per month
Poland is the only European country on this list, but keep in mind that Spain, the Czech Republic, France, and Italy are also viable options. The biggest issue as always with teaching English in Europe is getting a proper working visa. If you are not comfortable teaching “off the books”, then it can be difficult to get a visa if you are not from the UK.
With that being said, if I were going to teach English in Europe, I would head to Poland. Sure, it doesn’t sound as sexy as other European countries, but there is more of a craving to learn English there as this central European country attempts to keep pace with Western Europe. In other words, Poland is still growing economically and from an educational standpoint. Whereas Spain and France have become a bit stagnant, you are more likely to find a job teaching in Poland at this point.
The cost of living is also lower, the food is fantastic and the people are friendly. If I had to do it all over again, this country would definitely be on my radar. Salaries for teaching English vary throughout the country depending on experience and the type of position but expect to make between $1300 to $2000 per month.
Some positions come with benefits, such as paid accommodation, healthcare, and travel allowance. Being centrally located in Europe is another great advantage since you can easily travel throughout the continent.
5. Saudi Arabia
- Monthly salary: $4,000 to $6,000
- A gallon of gas: 78 cents
If you have big plans to pay off your students loans teaching English abroad or saving enough for a sizable down payment on a house, then Saudi Arabia is the place to go.
Actually, you could include the rest of the oil-rich Middle Eastern states here. But since this is a top ten list of the best places to teach English abroad, you can just use Saudi Arabia as a starting reference point. Keep in mind that requirements, pay, and benefits are similar in places like the United Arab Emirates.
Fantastic news about Saudi Arabia right? You are just going to finish up your graduate thesis in Medieval European history and waltz over there for a couple of years and wipe clean that sixty grand in student loan debt you’ve managed to rack up taking bong hits and eating Domino’s Pizza during the past six years. Maybe you could even pick up Arabic and then get a well-paid job working for the US State Department.
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Sorry to be a downer, but it’s not going to happen. The oil-rich states of the Middle East have the best paying jobs, but they are also the hardest to get. Typically, you will need a bare minimum of three years teaching experience and a recognized TEFL, TESOL or CELTA certificate. They also prefer Westerners who are at least thirty years of age or older. Actually, they really prefer teachers that have degrees in education and a teaching license in their home country.
If you manage to land a gig in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, expect to make a tax-free $50,000 to $70,000 per year. On top of that, they usually pay for your housing and a flight there and back once you complete your minimum one-year contract. I have personally come across teachers that have claimed to have saved $30,000 a year teaching in Saudi Arabia. Considering that alcohol is forbidden, it seems like a feasible goal to achieve.
- Monthly salary: $1,000 to $2,000
- A light beer: $1
If you like Pho, Vietnamese sandwiches, riding motor scooters, a low cost of living, the ability to make a decent salary, cheap street food, friendly people, light beer on a sweltering day and the thrills of traveling throughout Southeast Asia, then I cannot think of a better place to teach than Vietnam.
If I could do it again, this place would definitely be in my top three. I can picture myself after a long day of teaching, roaming around on my motor scooter, stopping for a quick bite to eat and then stepping into a bar to down an ice cold Saigon beer. Well, that is the way I would roll. How you spend your time in Vietnam is up to you.
To get back to the point, Vietnam remains one of the better places on the planet to teach English. Expect to make between $1,000 to $2,000 per month depending on the position, your experience and your willingness to pick up some extra private lessons. If you can manage to make close to $2,000 a month, you could easily save $800 a month and still live comfortably.
Like Thailand, inflation has reared its ugly head in recent years, but it remains a cheap place to live. There is an abundance of inexpensive, yet delicious street food for one or two dollars a plate and you can rent a decent flat (apartment) for $300 per month.
Buses and train rides are a fraction of the cost compared to the West if traveling around the country during time off is your thing. If you are American, a trip to the health clinic will almost seem free considering what you would pay back home.
Best of all, Vietnam is a country of friendly, yet feisty people. If you can’t enjoy yourself there, then you might just be an incredibly boring individual.
You can take an in-class TEFL training in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, plus observed teaching practice and job placement. Check dates and details here.
- Monthly salary: $2,000 to $3,000
- Internet service: $37 per month
Have you ever seen that movie where Tom Cruise plays Captain Nathan Algren, an American military officer hired by the Emperor of Japan to train the country’s army on the techniques of modern warfare in the late 1800’s? Captain Algren eventually falls in love with a widowed Japanese woman and even becomes pals with Ken Watanabe. Have you seen that one? Well, that is not what living in Japan is like unless of course, you understand everything metaphorically.
I lived in Japan for four years from 2007 to 2011, so while my pick may be a little biased, I think it is justifiable to place Japan at number three of the best places to teach English abroad. Sure, the economy there has been bearish for over a decade, there is a saturation of Westerners jousting for jobs and salaries continue to decline.
But Japan is still Japan. While the job market is better in China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam, none of these places compare to Japan in the long run. It is the perfect mix of modernity, history, culture, harmony, urban landscapes, nature, and innovation.
Personally, I also really enjoyed learning Japanese. It is a systematic, yet elegant language. It will give you a headache trying to learn it during your first year, but once you get to level two, it begins to fit together like a puzzle. Japan is also a nation of friendly, curious, educated and often worldly people. If you prefer the unworldly types, then you can find them too.
Expect to make between $2,000 to $3,000 per month teaching there. You can get a small, yet modern apartment from about $400 or $600 dollars a month (outside of Tokyo). A beer at a bar is typically five dollars.
If you really want to enjoy yourself in Japan, I would suggest not living in Tokyo. Once you get outside of Tokyo, the cost of living is considerably lower as is the quality of life. You will have an easier time finding work if you are willing to sing songs to little kids. It’s possible to teach at a college or university, but those positions are highly competitive.
- Monthly salary: $800 to $1,500
- Local bus: 70 cents one-way
I always tell people that teaching English abroad is about having fun, connecting with other people in the classroom, learning a new language, trying to teach your own and just the downright thrill of having the opportunity to financially support yourself while living in another country. You are not going to make much teaching in Colombia and probably won’t save anything, but so what.
If you are just out of college, give yourself some time to enjoy life before you march down the soul-crushing path of consumerism, mortgages and redundant dinner parties drowned in hot air. If you are a 30 or 40 something who is fed up with the nuances of adulthood but have some money put away, then what better place to teach than Colombia.
It’s a country of beautiful people, terrific food, culture, art, history, lovely beaches and incredible ecological diversity. Better yet, the Colombian economy has become the star of Latin America in recent years. As a result, demand to learn English throughout the country remains high with no sign of slowing down.
Salaries vary from $800 to $1,500 per month depending of the position, but generally, expect to make about $1,000 per month. It isn’t a whole lot of money, but so long as you are not in Bogota, the cost of living is relatively low compared to the United States and Europe.
Competition for jobs has increased in recent years as the market is beginning to become saturated, but saturation like this really exist everywhere in 2018 and in every industry. Globalization is a cool thing, but people tend to forget that economic growth cannot take a continuously linear path.
Keep in mind that teaching in Colombia is also a great way to learn Spanish and travel throughout South America. Personally, I spent four months in South America and it is, in my opinion, a very underappreciated continent.
- Monthly salary: $1,000 to $2,500
- A pint of beer: $1
Ok, I know this is the conventional choice for number one, but there is no way around it. Whether you like it or not, China is the number one place to teach English abroad. It might not be number one on your country list, but based on the total amount of jobs, size of the country, ability to make money and the fact that it’s the world’s largest economy after the United States, it seems unreasonable not to place it at number one.
Let’s not forget about a country with a fascinating history, a complex culture and economic ambition to become the country of the future.
Are there drawbacks to teaching in China? Yes, there are definitely pitfalls like killer air pollution, traffic, and overcrowded cities. But its also a much more geographically, culturally and politically diverse country than you realize. With this being said, there are various types of positions and situations in China that are sure to fit a wide array of Western teachers.
Teaching salaries in China vary from $1,000 to $2,500 per month depending on the location, position and your experience. You will obviously make more money in the larger cities and less in the rural areas. Expect to pay between $300 to $500 per month for an apartment. You can get a beer for a dollar or two at a restaurant or bar and a metro or bus ride should cost you under a dollar throughout the country.
Keep in mind that the Chinese government has gotten stricter when it comes to issuing visas in recent years. You will need at least a 4-year degree, a passport from an English-speaking country and some cases, some sort of TEFL, TESOL or CELTA certificate.
Best countries to teach English abroad: honorable mentions
Taiwan, Chile, Ecuador, Czech Replubic, Spain, Costa Rica, Peru, Argentina, Russia, France, Italy, India, and Mexico are all great places to teach English as well. If you really want to get off the beaten path, don’t forget that there are sorts of volunteer teaching opportunities throughout the world.
Teaching English abroad is a great way to connect with other parts of the globe, learn a language, meet all sorts of interesting characters, make lifelong friends and garner a better perspective of your own culture. Whether you teach for a year or decide to stay for a lifetime, appreciate that time abroad, smile, relax and have a good time.
I would also love to hear your feedback on the best places to teach English abroad. Whether you want to pay me a compliment or tear me to shreds, comments are always welcome.