The Ultimate Guide to Teaching English Abroad Jobs
Using our experiences helping many ESL teachers live and teach English abroad, we’ve compiled this comprehensive guide of collective wisdom from our teaching community and direct experience working with the schools.
Why Should I Teach Abroad?
An Amazing Travel Opportunity
Teaching English abroad will be an eye-opening and life-changing experience. You’ll get to meet people from different cultures, try strange cuisines, and visit beautiful destinations. Imagine getting paid to live in your dream country without having to pay substantially for a semester studying abroad or an international travel trip.
You’ll get to visit not just places nearby where you teach ESL abroad, but also the neighbor countries if you’re feeling adventurous. For example, traveling from Thailand to other southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar takes only a few hours on a bus, an airplane, or even a boat. Similarly, if you teach English abroad in Spain, a train trip or flight to spend the weekend in France or Portugal costs just a couple hundred bucks.
The ESL Job Market Overseas Is Great!
There are approximately one billion people attending English classes worldwide every year. Thus, the demand for ESL teachers in many countries across the globe is huge and constantly increasing, especially in Asia. The question is not whether you’ll get hired as an English teacher abroad, but which country would be a good fit for you. In most of the countries around the world, an inexperienced ESL teacher can earn a livable wage to cover all their living expenses, and sometimes even save up to pay off their student loans.
Meaningful Teaching Work that Improves Others’ Lives
Teaching abroad does not only pay the bills and gives you the chance to travel, but also is a fulfilling work that makes a difference in the lives of others. For kids and adults in many countries, being fluent in English helps them gain access to educational and professional opportunities that will improve their lives. You as an English teacher are helping them to achieve their goals to create a better future.
Teaching ESL Abroad Job Options
It all depends on your personality, lifestyle, and preference. Whether you’re looking for meaningful work, a decent salary, an exciting adventure, a relaxing beach life, or a combination of all, there’s an ideal country for you to teach English abroad in.
Asia’s job market for ESL teachers is booming. You’ll find sandy beaches, tropical islands, snow-capped mountains, majestic rivers, wild jungles, sand dunes, and bustling cities, all in this continent. Developed countries in Asia such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and big cities in China have a higher standard of living and offer some of the highest paying English teaching jobs in the industry. Vietnam, Thailand, and the rural parts of China offer lower salaries, which still allow a more than a comfortable lifestyle for expats given the low cost of living there. In some poorer countries, you may only find volunteer opportunities or English teaching jobs that pay a local wage.
Europe promises less culture shock and a more convenient lifestyle, however, working visas may be hard to get for non-EU passport holders. However, there are many beautiful countries in Europe that would be a dream to live and work in such as France, Germany, and Spain.
South America and Central America also have a wide range of ESL teaching opportunities. You can explore the spectacular nature, diverse Latin cultures, beautiful music and arts in countries like Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Mexico.
English teaching salaries in the Middle East are among the world’s highest, thanks to the region’s oil wealth. Not everyone finds this area’s lifestyle, traditions, and political situations attractive. Yet the benefits and cultural experiences in the Middle East are quite unique. Major EFL destinations in the Middle East include Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
For native English speaking countries such as Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and South Africa, English is already used widely in schools and daily life. Therefore, there isn’t a shortage of ESL teachers and the competition is tougher. In other less developed African countries, only a few schools could afford the rate of a native English speaking teacher. Therefore, those jobs are often filled with volunteers.
Onsite ESL Teaching Job Types
There are different types of ESL teaching jobs abroad. You may work in public schools and teach K-12 students. You will likely have to follow their standard curriculum and teaching materials. Public schools offer decent vacation time and more benefits than private schools. Teaching ESL at private schools tends to be more demanding but the pay is better.
You can also teach at private after-school learning institutions. The target students there would be both children and adults. They operate outside of regular business hours: at nights and on weekends.
There are some teaching opportunities for foreign ESL teachers at universities and other higher education institutions as well. Yet the qualifications are higher. You must have a minimum of a Master’s Degree and in some cases, prior teaching experiences.
Lastly, you can even do private tutoring and teach one-on-one or your own group of students. This allows flexibility in scheduling and possibly higher pay, yet requires lots of time and effort to find your own students, especially when you’re new to the country and have no connection.
Find Your Next Teaching Destination!
Teach Abroad World
What Are the Qualifications of Teach English Abroad?
General Requirements of Teaching ESL Abroad
- A Bachelor’s degree (any majors)
- A TEFL or TESOL teaching certificate
- In countries such as South Korea, Japan, Spain, they only hire native English speaking teachers with passports from the United States, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia or New Zealand. In Spain and some other European countries, it’ll help to be an EU passport holder since many jobs at public and private schools don’t hire non-EU residents. If you aren’t a native, explore countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, and some parts of China.
- Complete background and medical check
- Ability to obtain a working visa for the country you’ll teach in. This usually comes after you’re already hired since the recruiting agency or your employer will sponsor your visa and help guide you through this process.
- Passion, positivity, and patience to teach students of various ages, abilities, and personalities
- A clean-cut and professional look
Optional but Preferred Qualities
- Prior experience teaching overseas
- Knowing the local language: Most schools prefer that you speak only in English to the students. However, knowing the common phrases would help ease you into life in a new country as you may encounter locals who do not speak any English.
- Ability to work odd hours or over the weekends for some after-school institutions or private schools
Can I Teach English Abroad without Prior Teaching Experience?
Totally! As mentioned above, prior experience teaching overseas is optional in most schools abroad. However, it’d be a huge advantage when you apply for a competitive position or ESL teaching jobs at prestigious schools and higher education institutions. If you don’t have any teaching experience, it’s recommended to obtain an English teaching certificate such as TEFL or TESOL. This is important for credibility and necessary at some institutions if you want to teach English abroad.
Would I Need to be Able to Speak the Local Foreign Language?
No, it’s not usually the ESL teaching job requirement. Most schools prefer hiring a native English speaking teacher because they want their students to interact in English all the time to improve their English communication skills. However, in many countries, the locals don’t speak much English, if not at all. Therefore, knowing the local language will help you get by, ask for directions, order food at a restaurant, and quickly adjust to the new life. It helps to enroll yourself in a course or self-study using an online app to know basic phrases before teaching ESL abroad in a foreign country.
Does Age Matter When Teaching English Abroad?
The minimum age requirement for TEFL and CELTA courses is usually 18 years old. Many English schools abroad want their teachers to be at least 21 years old with an additional credential like a college degree. If you’re 18, 19 or 20, you can still get an ESL teaching job in places like Latin American countries or join volunteer programs, summer camps, and tutoring projects.
While many schools want to hire candidates with a level of maturity in life and professional experiences, there are certain concerns over health issues and higher costs of an older ESL teacher. Health insurance skyrockets for people over 60 years old. In many Asian countries, there’s a compulsory retirement age of 55, 60 or 65. Overall, age shouldn’t matter if you are serious about teaching English abroad. Go wherever the market appreciates what you have to offer!
Types of English & ESL Teaching Certificates
All of these teaching certificates are globally recognized and will put you in a better position while applying for ESL teaching jobs. It shows that you have put in the effort and know-how to teach English to foreigners. It’s especially valuable when you have no prior ESL teaching experience and your Bachelor’s degree has nothing to do with teaching English.
- TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language): This is the most common ESL teaching certificate. The certificate fee may range from $40 to $1,400 since there’s no consistent and universal standard for the quality of a TEFL course. It can be obtained online with little difficulty. It’s recommended to take at least a 120+ hour course. See this TEFL guide to choose a suitable course >
- TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages): This is also a common ESL teaching certificate, yet tends to be offered by more accredited university-level institutions. A TESOL certificate program typically costs around $3,000+. See this TESOL guide to choose an appropriate course >
- CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults): This is an accredited certificate offered by Cambridge University. It’s the most intensive English teaching curriculum you can get. As a result, the price is high and maybe more than what you need for an ESL teaching abroad job.
What to Expect While Teaching English Abroad?
Where to Find English Teaching Jobs Abroad?
No worries that you aren’t physically there in your dream country. All information about teaching English abroad jobs is online these days. You may find job postings in our Teach English Abroad Jobs Facebook group, where ESL teachers, recruiters, and students discuss employment opportunities.
You can also work with a recruiting agency who will help you polish your resume and make sure you have all the necessary and correct documents. You’ll find a faster response time and a higher chance of being recruited. We can help you find a teaching job abroad!
The Students in the Foreign Land
The students will be diverse and different all over the world. South Korean students tend to be shy initially and are often pressured by their parents’ high expectations. They are hardworking and respectful. On the other hand, Spanish students are used to communicating and interacting in class, thus you need to incorporate fun and engaging activities to keep their attention. The education system in Taiwan and China is designed to focus on immediate results and employs lots of memorization, with the test scores being the key metrics of students’ success.
However, each student is unique as well. They have different methods of learning and varied capabilities. Teaching young kids will be very different from teaching adults. You’ll just have to carefully observe, change up your teaching methods, and seeing which one yields the most results.
Compensation & Salary Teach English Abroad
It vastly varies depending on where you teach and what type of school you’re working for. Please note that you should take into account the cost of living in that particular country as well. The salary may sound modest at first, but if the living expenses are low then it’s actually a great deal and will allow you to save money. In some countries, a high salary is just enough to cover the expensive cost of living there. You should also pay attention to the tax rate in that country as well as any other compensation you get with the contract such as housing allowance, flight tickets reimbursement, and bonuses.
Here’s the breakdown of an ESL teacher’s salary range in many countries across the globe:
- Saudi Arabia: $3,000 – $4,500
- United Arab Emirates: $4,000+
- China: $1,000 – $3,000 (Full-time position at a good international school in China can pay up to $5,000)
- Japan: $2,000 – $5,000
- South Korea: $1,750 – $2,500
- Singapore: $2,800 – $3,500
- Hong Kong: $2,300 – $3,200
- Taiwan: $1,400 – $2,400 – see why teaching in Taiwan?
- Vietnam: $500 – $2,000
- Thailand: ~$1,000
- Morocco: $1,000 – $2,100
- Spain: $1,250 – $1,850
- France: $900 – $2,000
- Germany: $900 – $2,200
- Brazil: $800 – $1,300
- Chile: $750 – $1,000
- Mexico: $500 – $800
- Peru: $500 – $1,000
- Israel: $420 – $1,300
- Egypt: $250 – $500
Working Visa to Teach English Abroad
Your work visa process depends on your destination for teaching English abroad and the worth of your passport. The country with the strictest visa policy is probably China. Learn more about the Chinese Work Visa requirements here. Some European countries such as Spain, France, and Germany are also strict about granting a work permit to non-EU passport holders. Overall, ask your recruiter or employer for assistance with the visa process once you’re hired.
Foreign Legal and Employment Contract
Before setting foot in a totally new country to live and teach English, make sure you completely understand your ESL teaching abroad employment contract and legal responsibilities. Is your employer going to pay for your flight ticket? What is your salary after taxes? What does the housing cost? How many PTOs are you allowed to take? How long is the contract? How many hours are you required to work (teaching, preparing your lessons, and other administrative work if any)?
Overall, here are some common clauses to pay attention to on an ESL teaching abroad employment contract:
- Contract period: duration of the working contract (typically 12 months)
- Probation period: usually one to three months
- Job title and job duties
- Location(s) of designated work
- Hours of work per week and schedule
- Compensation and salary: base salary, overtime, bonus, housing and flight allowance, tax withholding (income tax, healthcare insurance, national pension contribution) if any.
- Health insurance: most countries require the company to cover your healthcare but it’s better to confirm with the company.
- PTOs (national holidays, sick leaves and vacations)
- Employee Training and Orientation
- Dissolution and Termination: some companies will place early contract termination penalty
- Codes of conduct
What Are the Drawbacks of Teach English Abroad?
Well, maybe going thousands of miles away to live and work among strangers doesn’t sound appealing to you! There is a lot to take in at first when you move away to a foreign country and live by yourself. Not to mention the culture shock you may experience in some countries that are vastly different from your own.
There’ll be times when you’d be frustrated because you’re starving and you cannot read the restaurant menu in the local language, and nobody understands you. You’ll wake up missing home only to realize you are hours and hours of flight away and it costs you 24 hours of traveling and $1,000 to see your friends and family. But there will be days you’re proud of yourself for stepping out of your comfort zone and not miss the chance to experience such a unique, life-changing adventure!
Should I Teach English Online Instead?
Depending on your workload and work visa criteria, you might able to take a part-time job teaching English abroad and teach online to give you greater flexibility. Looking into online English teaching jobs might be preferable if any of the following situations apply to you:
- You don’t have a valid work visa to teach English abroad
- You are unable to find suitable residency necessary to teach overseas
- You are in the middle of a lease or other contract making teaching abroad infeasible
- You prefer to teach ESL online
Are You Ready to Teach ESL Abroad?
Prepare for Your Online Interview
See full guide 5 Tips To Ace Your Teaching English Abroad Job Interview
Where can I find a supportive English Teaching community?
You can also ask questions or support your fellow teachers’ in this FAQ section. You can also join our Teach English Abroad Jobs Facebook group to learn about others’ experiences and available employment opportunities all over the world.
Let Us Help You Find Matching English Teaching Jobs
We can assist you in finding a or multiple matching jobs by Submitting your application.
You can also leverage sorting and filtering features to find the online ESL teaching jobs from this searchable teach abroad teaching job list.