Tuesday, 6 May 2008

What's the Best Country to Teach English In?

Updated 28 November 2014

General Tips

1. MONEY MATTERS
Before I even start to talk about salaries you need to know about budgeting, supplementing your teaching salary, and what your debt really costs you. The second thing that you have to know is the exchange rate. XE, Yahoo Finance, Onda Fx History, and the Bank of Canada are good places to check. Don't forget about the cost of living. If you have a job in Korea that pays $1333 and a job in China that pays $1000, China might be the better option, because of the cost of living.


2. BUILDING A NEST EGG
If you're looking to save money while teaching English abroad head towards Africa, Brunei, Hong Kong, Korea, and the Middle East. If you're a newbie, Korea is the easiest country to get a good paying job with great benefits.

There are a couple of countries in Africa (such as Libya, Chad, and Equatorial Guinea) that offer positions teaching for oil companies. Salaries usually start at £2500, but often they only accept people from the UK or Ireland and some of them only accept men. TEFL.com is a good place to look for these jobs.


Brunei is a little known secret among TEFLers though they generally don't hire American. They have strict requirements for its teachers. You'll need to be a licensed teacher in your home country and have 3 years teaching experience in primary or secondary schools. American teachers usually aren't welcome though. You can make between $37,000 and $57,000 a year. Salaries aren't taxed and you get great benefits such as furnished / subsidized housing, insurance, interest-free car loans, a settling-in allowance, and allowances for your spouse/children. CfBT (not open to Americans) and Teach Away recruit for Brunei. They also have an online TEFL cert from the University of Toronto.

Hong Kong may be a more difficult market to get into. The NET Scheme (Native English Teacher) is the best since you can make from $3000 to $6500 a month.You will need experience and to interview in person. Interviews are often in HK, Canada, and a couple other countries. Start up and living costs are high though. Teach Away recruits for NET. They also have a TEFL cert from the University of Toronto.

In Korea housing and flights are paid for, taxes are low, there's a one month severance allowance, and you'll get your pension back at the end. All in all most people make about $28K a year and are often able to save about half. You'll need a federal criminal background check (CBC) from your home country and if you have a record you might not be able to get a visa. Most people end up at a hagwon (institute) or a public school. Public schools recruit through EPIK, GEPIK, SMOE, TALK, or GNUCR. If you've got teaching experience then you might be able to teach at a university. Joe Seoul Man has a comprehensive list of universities in Korea.

The Middle East has tax free salaries ranging from $30 to $96K usd a year plus benefits such as yearly bonuses, furnished housing, paid utilities, flights, medical, dental, schooling for your children, a car, allowances for petrol, shipping, and storage. You'll need a couple years of teaching experience as well as a masters degree, preferably in TEFL. Keep in mind that life in the Middle East comes with limitations such as needing special permission to leave the country and alcohol limitations. Saudi Arabia is at the top as far as money's concerned. You can read more about teaching in the Middle East in this ELT article. Good employers are Amideast, YCMES, YALI, Aramaco, and the British Council. Universities are also very good to work for. Don't use recruiters though if you can help it. Apply directly to the university. Direct-hires get more benefits. The one exception is Oman since all the universities use recruiters such as the Ministry of Manpower.If you go there, make sure you get your stop-over at a hotel. You can find more info at Dave's ESL Cafe.

3. LIVING IN PARADISE
If you're looking for a laid-back atmosphere, try Argentina, Malaysia, Mexico, or Thailand. Malaysia is easy to get a work visa for and Argentina is very difficult. Mexico and Thailand are somewhere in between. Second and third world countries may also be very good to teach in since the cost of living is so low.

Argentina has more of a European feel to it than Mexico, but the Latin American mindset still goes strong. Read more about teaching in Latin America in FAQ about Latin America here. You can find free lists of schools at The LA Job List. You can earn about $700 to $1000 a month.

Malaysia is a melting pot of many religions and cultures. Although it's in SE Asia, it's not a third world country so that means that cost of living is higher than what you would pay in Thailand or Vietnam. You should be able to earn about $1500 a month.

Since Mexico is part of Latin America you'll be treated to two-hour lunch breaks and siestas. The language is considerably easier to learn than Asian languages. You can read more about teaching in Mexico in FAQ about Latin America here and find lists of schools at The LA Job List. You can earn about $700 to $1000 a month.

Thailand has great weather year round and lots of beaches. It's also a top tourist destination, so you'll find many of the amenities there that you will find at home. You can earn about $1000 to $1500 a month.

4. MONEY + THE GOOD LIFE
Different people think different places are good for money. Here's a post about best paying countries.

Asia's the place to go to get the best of both worlds: decent money plus a good lifestyle. People are often able to save a bit and still be able to afford travelling a little.


China has a low cost of living so if you can get 8000 - 10,000 RMB a month you should be ok. It is a popular country with expats so you can find all the amenities you need. Contrary to fact, there are places in China that pay well. Here's a list of good schools in China. Sino-British consortiums like NCUK or XJTLU and Sino-American consortiums like Fort Hays or Houston Community College often pay well. You'll often need a couple years of teaching experience plus a diploma or masters to get these jobs. IELTS testing with the British Council can also bring in some extra cash. Job openings are often placed on Dave's ESL Cafe. Here's an advert for IELTS examiners.

Japan has high salaries and a high cost of living. Typical starting salaries are about 250,000 yen a month and you may not get free housing. Due to key money (the deposit you put down on an apartment) start-up costs are high. One of the biggest benefits of working in Japan is that you own your visa. You can also work legally without a degree or get a working holiday visa.

Taiwan tends to pay more than China but less than Korea. Taiwan has high start up cost as well but most people are able to earn at least $2000 a month. The year-long hot weather is another perk to living in Taiwan. The ultimate guide to teaching in Taiwan has more info about teaching in Taiwan.

Vietnam has a lot cost of living and most people are able to make between $1500 and $3000 usd a month. Language Link, ILA, Apollo, and RMIT have decent paying jobs. Typical benefits include a relocation allowance, health insurance, a contract completion bonus, and re-signing bonus. There are lots of jobs out there for people who want to teach VYL. Try checking out New Hanoian or email teflersanonymous@yahoo.com

5. EUROPE
Europe has beautiful architecture and a fascinating history. Pay seems to hover around $900 to $1500 a month. Getting a visa in the new EU (Central and Eastern Europe) is much easier than trying to get one in the old EU (Western Europe). Europe for non-EU passport holders is a good place to start looking for info. Salaries might not be very good compared to the cost of living, but you will make enough to live on. The good thing about Europe is that a trip to another country is only a short train ride away.

If you can get into an international school, you'll be paid much more. Switzerland, for example, requires teachers to pay for most things, such as flights, accommodations, health insurance and taxes, but the salaries are so high (starting around $80,000) that people have reported being able to save half that a year. See ISR for more info about salaries.

If you're interested in teaching in Europe, do a little family background research as you may qualify for a passport. Italy and Ireland are the easiest countries to get a passport from. I've been trying to get Romanian citizenship since 1999.

There are tons of programmes that can help you get a visa to work in Europe legally such as Geovisions. You might also be able to go to Europe for a bit as a camp counselor. To learn more about specific countries in Europe read this article at ELT World.

6. INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS
If you have a teaching license and a couple years of experience then money and visas won't be an issue for you. The majority of international schools will pay about the same as schools in your home country, but you often get better benefits if you work abroad at an international school. You can learn more a by reading teaching in international schools.

Ready to Take the Leap?
If teaching abroad sounds like something you'd like to do then start by reading these articles.

Also published in . . .
This article has also been featured in the ELT Times.


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