Every year, tens of thousands of people go overseas and teach English. Young and old, they go for many reasons: to learn about a new culture, make some money to travel, seek adventure, or just experience something new.
The time I spent teaching English in Asia was life changing. In Thailand and Taiwan, I learned that I could make friends and start a life in a strange place, as well as adapt and thrive in a different culture. It gave me a confidence that nothing else before it had.
Yet with seemingly millions of places to teach, where are the best places to go? What countries provide the best experience, pay, or benefits? Here’s my list of where to score a fun, rewarding, and well-paying job teaching English overseas:
South Korea — South Korea is one of the best places — if not the best — to teach English. Jobs are abundant, the pay is high ($2,000–5,000 USD per month), and you get awesome benefits, like a contract completion bonus, healthcare, free housing, and airfare reimbursement. A lot of recent college graduates are attracted to Korea because of the money, benefits, and the fact that Korea takes many first-time teachers. If you don’t have any experience, this country is one of the best options for you. As a place to live, Korea has plenty of things going for it: the food is delicious, the country is dirt cheap, and the people are friendly. Plus you will find lots of other international young expats there. Since you earn so much money in a country with such a low cost of living, most people leave having paid off a substantial portion of their debts! You could easily walk away after a year of teaching with your loans (school or non-school) paid off AND money for travel!
Japan — Japan’s reputation for good jobs means it also attracts as many people as South Korea. Though the fat years of easily teaching in Japan and making quick cash are long, long over, people willing to stay at least a year can generally save a substantial sum of money. While the cost of living can eat up a lot of your salary, especially in Tokyo, there are a number of programs out there (including the government’s JET program) that reward long-term teachers with generous benefits and completion bonuses. Additionally, the Japanese are incredibly friendly and polite, the food is endless gourmet heaven, and the culture is unique. It’s one of my favorite countries in the world.
The Middle East — The Middle East lures many teachers in for one reason: its salary packages. Middle Eastern countries offer incredibly large salaries (up to $80,000 USD per year for an experienced teacher), lots of benefits, and no taxes. A teacher can walk away with around $50,000 USD after one year. However, this is no place for the recent college graduate. These countries want certified and experienced teachers. If you couldn’t teach at a public school in your home country, you have little chance of getting a job in this part of the world. As such, most of the teachers here are older and more settled and have families. Dubai, Qatar, and Abu Dhabi are the most popular teaching destinations.
Thailand — Thailand attracts lots of young and new teachers with its cheap cost of living, warm beautiful weather, tropical beaches, mouth-watering food, and party atmosphere. Most of the language school teachers are ex-travelers looking to save for future travels…or travelers who thought they were doing that but ended up never leaving. The pay in Thailand isn’t that high ($1,000–2,000 USD per month), unless you teach in Bangkok or at an international school. However, teaching in Thailand isn’t about making lots of money — it’s about everything else: the ease of getting a job, the food, the fun-loving atmosphere, the weather, and everything in between. It’s one of the best destinations for young, new teachers, especially in a larger city, since you’ll fit right in.
China — As China rises in global stature, its need for English teacher grows as more and more citizens need to know the language for their job. Moreover, the culture puts an emphasis on learning it. As such, it is one of the easiest places to find work. No matter where you go, you can find work, even in saturated cities like Beijing and Shanghai. You can earn loads of money teaching there (upward of $3,000 USD a month), and many jobs give completion bonuses, free housing, free lunch, and airfare reimbursement. China is the brave new world and a country in constant change. It’s a good location for teachers of all abilities — there’s something for everyone there!
Prague — Prague has a seemingly abundant supply of teaching jobs. The city has grown in size the last few years, attracting a variety of tech start-ups and expats, which has created a lot more job opportunities for teachers. While it’s very hard to get a job in the public school system or a university, there are plenty of language schools in the city to choice from. The pay isn’t as high as other countries in the world and there are few benefits (especially when compared to Asia or the Middle East), but you’re a stone’s throw away from everywhere in Europe (making Prague an excellent central base from which to explore the continent), and the city is one of the most beautiful, vibrant, fun, and growing cities in Europe.
Spain — In last few years (and despite the economic downturn), Spain has become one of the premier places to teach English. There are plenty of jobs, the government has an active program for attracting teachers, and your visa means you can freely travel around Europe. There are also many opportunities to teach private lessons on the side. You don’t get many benefits (or high pay compared to Asia or the Middle East), but the pay is still enough to live off of.
Taiwan —Taiwan is an excellent country to teach English in, thanks to lots of job opportunities (though they tend to be with young kids), high salaries, benefits similar to South Korea, and lots of other young teachers to share a social life with. The country places a very high importance on learning English, and you’ll be able to find freelance tutor opportunities besides your regular, steady job! I loved my time in Taiwan, made some wonderful friends, and adapted to a culture that isn’t as Western influenced.
Anywhere with Craigslist — Don’t want a formal job, or not planning on staying too long in one place? Post ads on Craigslist letting people know you are available to be a private tutor and/or for conversation exchange. Most people just want a language partner to be able to learn how to speak the language instead of just learning from books or online courses — they care less about grammar rules and more about knowing what to say when. So post an ad, head out for coffee with your new acquaintance, and make some money for drinks as you travel the world!
I had fun teaching overseas. It was on my favorite experiences on the road and it taught me so much about myself. You gain a lot of perspective on life by living in another culture. While there is an opportunity to teach wherever English isn’t the native language, the destinations above draw the biggest crowds, offer pay the best, the best perks, and are the most fun. If you are thinking about doing becoming an English teacher overseas, my advice is to head to one of these destinations and just do it!
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Note: I wrote earlier that you could earn upwards for $4,000 a month in China. That was meant to say $3,000.