Every year more and more travellers are using English teaching as means to make money, travel the world and live in different countries. And why not? The demand for English teachers continues to increase especially in Asia and the Middle East. Having taught in South Korea and Thailand, I have had to do my fair bit of job searching and preparation of documents to make it all happen. Here is some wisdom I’ve gleaned from my practice…
1. Money, location or benefits?
This is the first decision you will have to make before deciding where to teach. If your goal is to make money and save; then your best bets are the South Korea, Taiwan, the Middle East and in some cases China. You’ll earn a lot in Japan but won’t save due to the high living expenses. If you can’t stand to live in an over-populated, polluted city and yearn to be beside the sea, then Thailand is the way to go. The money is not great, if you’re good you can save a little but you could end up living on an island (like I do).
If you are keen to have prepaid flights, free accommodation and health cover then South Korea and the Middle East will make you happy. China and Vietnam mostly offer reimbursed flights back to your home country once your one or two year contract is over. Taiwan has average salaries but the cheap living expenses allow you to save. If you’re just going for a new cultural experience, then South America’s low pay rates won’t bother you at all.
Or island life and palm trees?
South Korea: Salaries begin at 2 Million KRW and range all the way to 2.9 KRW depending on your qualifications ($1773- $2500). They are one of the only countries who still offer round-trip airfare. Some jobs will offer accommodation or a housing subsidy, work visa, health insurance and pension. Seoul is not a cheap city, but if you watch your money you can save a considerable amount.
China: Salaries generally range from 7000 RMB- 12000 RMB ($1142-$1960). They offer reimbursed flights once you have completed your contract or a flight allowance. Some jobs may offer free furnished accommodation (mostly single) and paid visas. Many say it’s hard to save in big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai but easier the more rural you go.
Middle East: Tax free salaries ranging from $2500 – $7000 depending on your certification and how many Masters Degrees and years of experience you have. They provide airfare to the country but also an annual flight home including furnished accommodation or an allowance. The health coverage is comprehensive as well as up to 30 days of annual vacation- motivation to get your Bachelors in Education or PGCE?
Thailand: Salaries range from 15 000 BHT- 60 000 BHT ($500- $1963). They will not offer any flights or accommodation allowances and very few will offer health insurance. Living expenses are relatively cheap (unless you’re living on Koh Samui) and it is possible to save but unless you have a work permit, regular visa runs will drain your finances.
Taiwan: Salaries range 30 000 NTD- 65 000 NTD ($1300- $2200). They will not offer an accommodation allowance or flights but friends who have lived there said the cheap living expenses allowed them to save a lot.
2. Do you meet the requirements to work in each country?
Immigration in each country dictates that you will have to produce certain documents to be legally employed as teachers there. So it’s best to check what you’ll need way in advance and start preparing the documents before you leave home.
Whilst there pay is high, they demand a lot from prospective employers. You will need an apostille authenticated National Criminal Background Check ( unless you’re doing it from Korea), a copy of your University degree needs to be notarized and apostille authenticated to send to Korean immigration, sealed official transcripts , a health assessment and an interview at the embassy or consulate in your region ( for first-time E2 applicants only).For more info: Go East recruiting.
The pay is often half of that in South Korea and when apply for a Z visa they only ask for a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree and sometimes a TEFL. Depending on your school or recruitment agency, they may ask for teaching experience. Unless you were dealing in drug distribution or deadly weapons you may not necessarily be disqualified from receiving a visa. For more info: Middle Kingdom Life
Thailand claims that you need a BA and a TEFL certificate to teach English, but unless you’re working at an International school this is not the case. I know many people who come here to do a TEFL and get a job thereafter. Often to avoid the frequent visa runs, people get a one year education visa which allows you to be in the country legally whilst taking Thai lessons. Most schools will not even pay for visa sponsorship for employers which can be quite pricey. For South Africans, the Ministry of Education (who always seems to be changing their minds) has stated that we don’t qualify as an English speaking nation and therefore have to complete tests such as TOEFL to qualify for a work permit. Check this with your employer before you accept a job offer.
Most positions require a BA or higher plus a teaching certificate such as a CELTA, TESOL or TEFL and a Police Clearance Certificate.
The Middle East
The salaries and benefits are incredible but many jobs ask for teaching certificates, Masters/Bachelors in English, Linguistics or Education. They will clearly state whether they need a male or female and sadly for couples it’s quite difficult to find an employer who wants a married couple as they only provide housing for single males or females.
As we’ve discovered, unfortunately countries with tons of English teaching jobs such as Spain, Italy, France, Russia, Germany etc. only accept EU passport holders. So unless you’re willing to try work and live illegally there, don’t waste your time applying.
You will need a Bachelor’s Degree and usually a CELTA. Government regulations dictate that only applicants from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA will be considered. For all the Saffers wanting to work and live in Bali, no luck!
You must be a native English speaker with a full college or Bachelor’s Degree and sometimes a 120 hour TEFL/ESL certificate.
3. Where do I look?
The job search can often be quite overwhelming. Whilst many recruitment agencies have a good record and can be quite helpful, I have heard of quite a few scary stories where applicants are placed in less than adequate jobs totally unlike what was promised. With any country, do you research on the school and agencies recruiting you as you don’t want to sign a contract and discover that it’s your idea of a nightmare job. Here are some sites for job searching in each country.
For all countries
One of the best job search sites is www.daveseslcafe.com, it has a portal for just Korea (which is where I found my job in Seoul), China and then International jobs.
Ajarn is the big TEFL site for Thailand. You can find all the latest job posts and tips from teachers working there already. Each post gives you a direct email address and doesn’t make you sign up or fill in a dozen different forms first.
Tealit is the site to find jobs, houses for rent and items for sale in Taiwan. Most of these job posts allow you to contact the school directly.
Gulf Talent and Bayt are both well-known sites for jobs in the Middle East. Both will ask you to sign up and register your cv. When applying for jobs in the Middle East you will be warned by job sites not to include any personal details such as your home address, full details on your passport and any financial details to protect yourself against identity theft.
4. Children, Adults, hours, holidays and lesson preparation.
These are a few things you will need to clarify with a prospective employer before signing a contract. Be sure that you know the full amount of hours you will have to work. Some countries state 20 teaching hours but they omit telling you that you are bound to prepare lessons and spend another 10 hours in the office. Ask if they all have pre-planned lessons or whether you are required to do your own as this will add a lot more work to your plate. Clarify whether you will have to work weekends and what your exact hours are. Some companies will often list the number of hours but fail to mention that you will have to work from 10am until 9pm at night. Decide whether you are happy teaching children (ranging from kindergarten up until 18 years old) or whether you are best suited to teaching adults as each present their own challenges in the classroom. Some job ads say absolutely nothing about holidays so find out before you’re locked into a year contract with only 5 days leave.
– Pay money to a recruitment agency.
If they are legit, they would have built up relationships with schools and language academies that pay them to find employees, therefore you should not bear the cost. They can provide no guarantee of job placement and you will be left penniless with no job.
– Believe the guaranteed job promise of TEFL Schools.
We did an online 120 hour TEFL course with a language academy based in Thailand. Whilst our course was legit and we received the certificate from the London College who facilitated it and marked our exam, their promises were false. Their website clearly states that you will be guaranteed a job upon completing the course. When we arrived in Thailand, we had no jobs and kept having to follow up to no end. We could never get hold of the owner (who had previously answered all my emails and questions so promptly) and were not placed. Luckily our door-to-door policy worked and we found jobs ourselves.
Have you had a positive English teaching experience and if so, how did you go about your job search?
This article merely serves as a guide and is by no means exhaustive. Prior to relocating and accepting a job in another country, you will need to full research on the requirements for you to work there legally and your working conditions.
Check out this handy teacher resume template from Hiration’s Online Resume Builder
Excellent, informative post! Answered all my questions, Thank you 🙂
Genaro @ ElectricianCoursesBlog.com says
Being an English teacher in a foreign land is an adventure in itself. It’s like learning (the different culture and cuisine) and teaching at the same time 🙂
Jessica J. Hill says
This is a very informative, all-inclusive list. Great work on laying it all out in an easy to read manner. How’s Koh Samui going?
Thanks Jessica! Koh Samui is lovely, but we leave to teach in Taiwan soon! Time for a change. So true Genaro…quite an adventure and challenge 😉
Annette Thompson says
Hi Lauren! I loved your article, lovely photos and country overview. I started teaching English as a second language in the US 23 years ago and have taught overseas in Ethiopia and Haiti. My Ethiopian/American son and his American wife recently returned from 2 years of teaching English at elementary schools about an hour north of Tokyo, Japan. They were both able to earn enough to pay off their college loans so I believe some teachers are able to earn and save a significant amount in Japan still. I look forward to reading more about your adventures!
Annette Thompson in Texas
Thanks so much for reading Annette! Really good to know about saving capabilities in Japan. Perhaps they were good at budgeting, some people we spoke to blew all their earnings on just living there. Ethopia and Haiti must have been challenging and incredible teaching experiences! All the best with your teaching 🙂
Great article! Having lived in Thailand for several years, most of them teaching in various schools across the country, I feel obliged to correct you on a few points!
First, many schools do not recognise TEFL Certificates gained online. Second, salaries can exceed 100,000 baht at the international schools. I’d say, though, that the average starting salary in Bangkok is 35k, outside about 30k. Many good schools do in fact frequently offer accommodation allowance (usually between 2-5k), and some schools (not many though) do include flight costs back to your home country after completion of your contract. Just shop around- you’ll find many different packages out there (inclu. medical insurance too).
Thanks so much for your feedback. This is very fascinating and good to know. I must’ve been looking at the wrong job sites, hehe. Also most countries ( although Thailand usually does it’s own thing in the job market) only hire certified teachers at International schools. Seems there’s a lot of good money to be made in Bangkok, if only I’d known earlier. Are you still based there?
Chat Hallard says
I use to work in the big mango (aka Bangkok) but thankfully, for my own sanity’s sake, I moved to a sweet ‘Thai’ town 2 hours south, Phetchaburi. I currently teach at a temple school (high school level). It’s a charity school for poor kids, most of my students living outside town in the rural areas. They’re lovely and humble- a contrast to my nice and friendly, yet spoilt and well-off, princes and princesses in the big city. BTW: yes, to teach in an ‘proper’ int’ sch in Thailand you’ll need a genuine teaching qualification (B-ed/ or post graduate certificate in edu.). Why oh why didn’t I anticipate my future when at uni and do one of those…. If only I knew:-( Cheers!
Coral Greyser says
Wow… what a great post! Cool to read such a well-considered article! BTW, there is an online service through which you can fill out a a form, the fillable blank is here
Jake Drexler says
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