The Best Places to Teach English Abroad in 2020

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I’m guessing you’re here because you want to teach abroad – right?

Maybe you’ve seen Instagram posts or heard stories from friends who’ve spent time teaching adorable kids in far-flung tropics, or maybe you’ve read that teaching abroad is a good way to make bank without having to go back to school for 8 years or slog away at the corporate grindstone. 

No matter what your motivation is, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to find fun, fulfillment, and perhaps even fortune teaching abroad.

Not sure where to go? Choose China, Chile or the Czech Republic?

We’ve got you covered. Keep scrolling to find our list of the top ten countries to teach English abroad in 2020!

The Best Places to Teach English Abroad
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Teaching Abroad Seems Scary!

Teaching abroad is scary.

You’re diving headfirst into a new job, a new country, a new culture – all by yourself.

Luckily, there’s a wealth of resources out there to help you figure out how to get started. For starters, we have resources to help you figure out whether teaching English abroad is the right choice for you and an article to help you figure out the requirements for teaching English abroad

And you can read testimonials from people who’ve taught all over the world on our website and elsewhere!

No matter where you’re getting advice about the best places to teach English abroad, though, remember that the experience of teaching ESL in a foreign country is the opposite of monolithic: every school, every country, every teaching position is different.

Salaries, experiences, teacher requirements, and workloads all vary drastically from place to place, so it’s important to do research on the school and country you’re going to in order to get an idea of what your teaching abroad experience will look like. 

It’s also a good idea to do an unflinching assessment of yourself, your desires, and your competencies to ensure that you’re entering a situation that meets your needs.

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The Top Ten ESL Teaching Destinations in 2020

Deciding which country to teach in is a deeply personal decision, and which country you’ll enjoy most depends on your teaching qualifications, your personality, and what kind of experience you’re looking for.

And, of course, your experience is what you make of it: a fun-loving person who’s open to new experiences will most likely have a better time anywhere than someone with a bad attitude and a dislike of change.

All that said, we’ve created a 5-star ranking of the top ten teaching destinations in 2020. These rankings are based on a few factors: 

  • The availability of jobs and teaching programs 
  • The overall quality of life 
  • The average teaching salary and cost of living
  • How much fun and adventure you can have

Note that these are generalizations – some of these countries (like China and Mexico) are huge, and your experience (and cost of living) will vary vastly based on where in the country you are and whether you’re in a city or the countryside. 

Your financials will also vary based on your teaching experience and background: generally, the more qualifications you have, the higher a salary you’ll be able to get.

Given all that, we think all of these countries are great destinations. You’ll be able to find jobs that more than cover your cost of living in each place, and you’ll find expat communities that can help you get situated in each of these countries.

Are You Already TEFL certified?

You might notice that teachers in many of these countries need to be TEFL certified. If you’re not certified yet, check out our guide to TEFL certification to find a TEFL course that’s right for you! 

10. Mexico

teach-english-mexico
Tulum Beach in Mexico
Country Rating: Mexico
Availability of jobs4 out of 5 stars
Quality of life4 out of 5 stars
Financials3 out of 5 stars
Fun5 out of 5 stars

Mexico is a great teaching destination, now more than ever! Americans love teaching here because it’s not too far from home and they can learn or practice Spanish, but teachers flock here from all over the world, too. 

You won’t become a billionaire in Mexico, but due to the low cost of living teachers here live comfortably and are able to travel around the country. Teachers here also tend to have relatively light workloads, giving them time to explore and engage with the culture on a meaningful level.

In Mexico, there’s a lot of culture to engage with! Whether you’re an adventurer, a dancing queen, a history buff, or a foodie, you’ll be more than sated with possibilities. 

If you want more information on life and work here, check out our guide to teaching ESL in Mexico!

9. Brazil

teach-english-brazil
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Country Rating: Brazil
Availability of jobs2 out of 5 stars
Quality of life4 out of 5 stars
Financials3 out of 5 stars
Fun5 out of 5 stars

When you think of Brazil, you might think of excitement: fútbol, Carnaval, and samba dancing.

Brazil is full of passion and bubbling activity – here you can explore the Amazonian rainforest, eat sizzling barbecued meats, and marvel at the humongous Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) statue in Rio de Janeiro.

People play it fast and loose in Brazil, and that mentality stretches to teaching ESL: pretty much anyone can find a job in this country, regardless of qualifications.

Most people work for private schools or do private tutoring, making a healthy but not exorbitant salary and earning more than enough to live well and have something left over to travel and have fun with – though not enough to start a savings account.

However, if you’re highly qualified and have past teaching experience, you’ll be able to get a coveted high paying job at an international school. Ready to get on the road to Rio now? Check out our guide to teaching English in Brazil.

8. The Czech Republic

teach-english-europe-czech
Prague, Czech Republic
Country Rating: The Czech Republic
Availability of jobs5 out of 5 stars
Quality of life5 out of 5 stars
Financials3 out of 5 stars
Fun4 out of 5 stars

If you’re looking for easy living, low prices, and tight-knit community, you can’t beat the Czech Republic (also called Czechia).

Czech culture definitely has a different flavor than American culture, and while it can be isolating at first, many expats report building close communities with expats and Czechians alike in their time there. 

Of course, some people feel resentment toward foreigners who don’t speak Czech (a notoriously difficult language to learn), but if you’re able to deal with the odd mean look and break into the culture you’ll have a wonderful time in the Czech Republic. 

The country has beautiful architecture, biergartens out the wazoo, and enough gourmet restaurants to stuff a Michelin guide. 

If you’re a native English speaker, you’ll have no trouble finding work in the Czech Republic. And the best part of being an expat in this country is that your work visa isn’t tied to your job! 

People living here can apply for independent contractor visas which allow them to work multiple jobs and even change jobs, eliminating the headache that accompanies the visa process in many other countries.

Want to know more? Check out our article about living and teaching in Prague.

7. Taiwan

teaching-english-taiwan
Taipei, Taiwan
Country Rating: Taiwan
Availability of jobs3 out of 5 stars
Quality of life4 out of 5 stars
Financials4 out of 5 stars
Fun4 out of 5 stars

Taiwan is China’s cheaper, more democratic cousin, and it’s also a great destination for ESL teachers.

If you live in Taiwan you’ll get paid more than enough to travel and live comfortably – and while the pay is lower than in China, the cost of living is, too.

Along with beautiful old temples and natural wonders like beaches and waterfalls, you’ll find record stores, hip restaurants, good concerts, and cute arty boutiques here.

As long as you have a TEFL certificate and a bachelor’s degree and you’re a native English speaker, you’ll be able to find a good job teaching English in Taiwan.

Got more questions about living and teaching here? Check out our guide to teaching ESL in Taiwan.

6. Vietnam

teaching-english-vietnam-ha-long-bay
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Country Rating: Vietnam
Availability of jobs5 out of 5 stars
Quality of life3 out of 5 stars
Financials3 out of 5 stars
Fun5 out of 5 stars

Vietnam is an increasingly popular teaching destination: its people-packed cities and serene seasides make it a desirable place to spend a year or two, and its low cost of living and almost complete lack of background requirements for teachers make it an easy place to go.

As the country develops, things are tightening up a little bit, but for the most part, you can still easily get to Vietnam, find a job, and set up a little life for less than the cost of a weekend in Tulum.

Teachers here tend to have schedules that are less than strenuous, giving them plenty of time to chew the scenery or celebrate with an ice-cold beer and a delicious banh mi for cents on the dollar.

Plus, once you’re in Vietnam you can easily travel all around Asia, which is a great way to spend school breaks.

Hooked? We’ve got a guide to teaching in Vietnam that will help you start your journey.

5. The United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Country Rating: The United Arab Emirates
Availability of jobs2 out of 5 stars
Quality of life5 out of 5 stars
Financials5 out of 5 stars
Fun2 out of 5 stars

If you’re highly qualified and are looking for a healthy paycheck, look no further than the UAE. This land of old traditions and new luxuries is a favored destination for career ESL teachers because of how handsomely you can get compensated here. 

You need a master’s degree or teaching certificate as well as prior teaching experience to get a job in this country, but if you do find an employer here you’ll find yourself with a high salary, comprehensive benefits, and no taxes. It’s a dream, seriously.

The UAE is also really fun! Though you’ll definitely work hard as a teacher here, you’ll be able to spend your spare time (and spare dollars) at upscale restaurants and bars, seeing world-class concerts and art exhibits, and free-wheeling in the endless expanses of the desert here.

Teachers here generally need to sign a 2-year contract, but if you find yourself called to the Emirates you may very well want to stay longer than that.

Want more info about finding a job in Dubai or another Emirate? Check out our guide to teaching ESL in the UAE!

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 4. Japan

Yokohama skyline city
Yokohama, Japan
Country Rating: Japan
Availability of jobs3 out of 5 stars
Quality of life5 out of 5 stars
Financials3 out of 5 stars
Fun5 out of 5 stars

Japan is beautiful. The islands and volcanoes and cherry blossoms are beautiful, yes, but so are the vending machines and trash cans and parking lots and even toilets. 

It’s a joy to spend time in a country where art is not relegated to art museums and ritzy boutiques but is instead understood to be an essential of everyday life.

All the beauty comes at a price, though: Japan has the 17th highest cost of living in the world. You can make a decent salary in Japan, and if you find work at an international school, you may be able to save up, but otherwise expect to make enough to live and travel but not enough to amass a savings due to the high cost of living in Japan.

You might be thinking, “Isn’t it hard to find work in Japan?” That used to be true, but right now the job market is pretty open. If you have a bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certificate and you’re a native English speaker, you’ll most likely be able to find a job here!

Want to know more? Read our guide to teaching English in Japan.

3. Spain

teach-english-europe-spain
Madrid, Spain
Country Rating: Spain
Availability of jobs2 out of 5 stars
Quality of life5 out of 5 stars
Financials3 out of 5 stars
Fun5 out of 5 stars

If you’re a night owl and a lover of late nights and long lazy meals, if the phrase “hustle harder” makes you want to puke, if you’re allergic to looking at your clock, then Spain just might be the teaching destination for you.

Spain is a great place to go to practice your Spanish, and it’s also a popular destination to teach English! As the country becomes more international, colleges and businesses put more of an emphasis on language learning, creating more of a need for ESL teachers.

The job market is competitive in Spain because it’s such a popular destination, but if you do get a job here, you’ll earn a competitive salary and live comfortably (although the high cost of living means you probably won’t be able to save up too much). 

If this laidback, beautiful country sounds like the place you’d like to hang our hat, read up on our tips for living and working in Spain to find out more.

2. Colombia

Bogotá, Colombia
Country Rating: Colombia
Availability of jobs4 out of 5 stars
Quality of life5 out of 5 stars
Financials3 out of 5 stars
Fun4 out of 5 stars

Although Colombia has historically been violent and dangerous, it’s currently much safer than it used to be due to a more stable government and political reforms. The country also has a growing economy, and in fact it currently has the fourth-largest economy in South America.

These factors make it an increasingly popular destination for ESL teachers, and with good reason: life in Colombia is pretty good.

Here you can eat deep-fried arepas, caramelly sweet Arequipa, and fresh mangosteens and other tropical delights. You can hike through lush jungles, explore pre-Colombian ruins and Gothic cathedrals, snorkel in pristine waters, and take pictures in colorful Bogota.

You won’t get rich in Colombia, but you can easily find teaching work if you’re a native English speaker with a bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certificate – and you’ll make more than enough money to fund your Colombian adventure.

Our guide to living and teaching in Colombia has more information about what life in Colombia is like, along with useful links to help you find work there.

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1. China

teaching-english-china-great-wall
The Great Wall of China
Country Rating: China
Availability of jobs5 out of 5 stars
Quality of life4 out of 5 stars
Financials5 out of 5 stars
Fun4 out of 5 stars

China is the ultimate destination for ESL teachers right now, and for good reason: the country is booming. Demand for ESL teachers is at an all-time high, so it’s easy to get work even with little or no qualifications. 

You can also make a pretty decent salary in China, enough to amass a savings depending on your teaching setup. 

And China is a really interesting place to live: although you should be careful moving there as an American right now, you can learn so much about a really different society by living in China. You can work on your Mandarin, sample tasty food, and travel all over a country that’s huge and varied, seeing all kinds of sights.

In China you can make money, see the world, and live a good life. If that sounds good to you, read our guide to living and teaching in China for more information.

Bonus Info: Teaching English Abroad in the Worlds Regions

There are ESL jobs to be found the world over, and there are as many flavors of jobs for English teachers as there are locations to teach.

Teaching English in, say, rural Colombia looks far different from teaching in Dubai, which in turn is much a totally separate experience than teaching in France or Poland. 

This section has further information about what each world region is like, as well as what teaching English there might look like:

Asia

Asia may be the number one market for ESL teachers in the world. China, in particular, is going through a teaching boom right now, but Japan, South Korea, and many countries in Southeast Asia also have a fervent need for ESL teachers.

In general, you can find a job teaching English in Asia with minimal qualifications, and you can earn more than enough to live comfortably (and maybe even accumulate savings!) on a teacher’s salary.

Teaching English in Asia has more than just monetary perks, though – living here will give you the opportunity to deeply engage with a new culture, see ancient architecture and beautiful scenery, and learn about yourself and the world.

For more information about what it’s like to live and teach in this region, read this article about teaching ESL in Asia.

Latin America

Are you an adventurer, a wanderer, a lover of the world and all that’s in it?

Latin America is the perfect destination for anyone who wants to see, touch, and really live in the world. Here you can climb Machu Picchu, stuff yourself silly with ceviche and arepas, and improve your Spanish by haggling and learning slang on the street.

Granted, Latin America isn’t the place to go if getting rich is a top priority for you, but if you want to live comfortably, help kids (or adults) learn English, and travel, then Latin America is the destination for you.

If you’re hooked, read this article to find out more about living and teaching in Latin America.

The Middle East

Ka-ching! If your most-used app is Robinhood and you crave a life of luxury, then the Middle East is where you should set your sights. 

ESL teachers in this region generally need to be highly qualified (think a master’s degree and previous teaching experience), but they’re rewarded for their experience with a handsome, sometimes even tax-free paycheck. 

Teachers in this region often must sign two-year contracts, so if you feel ready to make your Arabian dream a long-term reality, then check out opportunities in the Middle East and get ready for a life of camels, sand dunes, and rich carpets.

Europe

There are plenty of opportunities for ESL teachers in Europe, but be warned that your salary here probably won’t leave you with much savings given the high cost of living. 

However, if you’ve been long dreaming of Parisian boulevards or German nightclubs – and you have a teaching certificate or some previous teaching experience – then Europe just might be the best place for you.

Check out our guide to teaching ESL in Europe for more information about what it’s like to live and teach here, as well as a deeper insight into which countries are worthwhile destinations for work.

Elsewhere

You might have noticed that we didn’t include Africa or North America on this list. There are opportunities for ESL teachers in both regions — there are opportunities for ESL teachers everywhere!

English-speaking countries obviously tend to have fewer jobs available than other places do, but there are still plenty of positions available, especially in places where there are influxes of immigrants and refugees. 

You might rake in a lower salary in those places, but you’ll be providing an essential service that improves peoples’ lives. 

There are also lots of volunteer positions in Africa and North America, through Peace Corps, Americorps, and other similar organizations.

And if you have your sights set on a specific country or place, check out our extensive collection of country guides above to find out more about your desired destination.

Conclusion

The best teaching places to teach English abroad for you will depend on your credentials and expectations, but overall you should look for countries that have lots of teaching opportunities available and where you can make enough money to live comfortably (unless you want to volunteer and you have savings to live on!).

Overall, as long as you do your research you’ll probably have a great time teaching abroad, and will be glad that you made the leap to see the world and live somewhere new. 

If this article’s left you with questions about how to start teaching internationally, check out our starter guide to teaching abroad – it’s got tons of resources to help you further as you continue researching countries and jobs.

And if you have any questions or insights about this ranking or anything else, feel free to drop us a line in the comments section below.


4 thoughts on “The Best Places to Teach English Abroad in 2020”

  1. I would absolutely, 100% rethink the rating given to China on this chart. I can only presume this was written in 2012 or so. The “availability of jobs” and “financials” rankings both appear hopelessly outdated, as does the statement “the country is booming right now.” If by “booming” you mean “crashing and burning,” then yes. When I left the country two weeks ago (after five years in Beijing) the demand for ESL teachers was plummeting, and so were the salaries, while the cost of living was rising (for instance, rent in Beijing has more than doubled in the span of three years). The fact that you make fewer RMB now than a few years ago is compounded by the fact that the RMB itself is dropping, meaning the “you can work here and travel around Asia” principle is no longer assured. The five-star rating on “fun” is also highly questionable, given the tendency of the PSB to prowl around harassing foreigners.
    My advice to anyone considering China as a work destination is “avail yourself of some information that was not written by the Party.” It’s not only unpleasant but downright dangerous right now.

  2. I’m not sure whether I would recommend Saudi Arabia as a TEFL destination, despite the high wages. The rest of this article though is spot on and extremely helpful for anyone thinking about teaching English overseas. Mia.

  3. Thanks for this very helpful list. As someone who’s about to embark on the ESL journey, Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia have been added to my list. Fingers crossed!

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