Posted on November 27, 2018 | By Jenni Fogg
27th Nov 2018
When the weather’s relentlessly grey and the news is full of doom, the idea of teaching English abroad under sun-drenched skies sounds like sheer bliss. But can you earn enough from teaching English to live a lavish lifestyle or is the salary a pittance? In other words, how much does teaching English abroad pay?
The answer, like so much in life, is that it depends.
In hard cash terms, if you’re a native English speaker, with TEFL certification, a degree and several years of English teaching experience on your CV, you could earn as much as $5,000 (£3,500 / €4,500) a month in the right location. Pretty impressive, eh? At the other end of the scale, if the only qualification you have is non-native English language skills, you’ll struggle to find any paid working teaching English – and a salary of anything more than a few dollars an hour would be good fortune.
How to get paid well teaching English abroad
If you’re keen to earn a good salary teaching English abroad, there are three main factors you need to consider.
Top paid English teaching jobs: Gulf States
The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar have a well-founded reputation for being at the top of the tree for TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) salaries. If you land a job in one of these locations, you can earn anything from $1,500 (£1,200 / €1,300) up to a whopping $5,500 (€4,800 / £4,250) a month, often with added benefits on top such as free accommodation, paid time off, health insurance and return flights to your home country.
However, in return you’ll need to offer excellent English language skills, a good TEFL qualification with evidence of ongoing professional development, several years of TEFL experience – and a willingness to work hard in a culture that is rather less liberal than most in the west are used to.
Hot on the heels: Japan
Nudging its way into this top group is Japan where a potential salary of $2,000 (£1,500 / €1,750) to $5,000 (£3,500 / €4,500) can almost reach the heights of the country’s snow-tipped volcanoes. Add in the beauty of cherry blossom, the allure of Kyoto’s temples, scrumptious food and extremely polite students and you can see why teaching English in Japan is hugely appealing. One word of caution though – the best English teaching posts here are very competitive, and you’ll need a CV packed full of experience to land the highest paid roles. Most newbie TEFL teachers go into Japan on schemes such as the JET programme, which pays a lower, though still reasonable, wage.
Decent wages: South Korea, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand
English teachers’ salaries in South Korea, China and Taiwan don’t quite hold their own against the Gulf States. However with average pay around $1,500 to $2,500 (£1,200 / €1,300 to £2,000 / €2,250) per month it’s still reasonable, particularly when topped up with extra benefits such as accommodation and food, which are often included in the package. You’ve got a far better chance of picking up a job in one of these locations too.
One step further down the pay scale are TEFL hotspots such as Vietnam and Thailand. These countries won’t pick up any awards for English teachers’ salaries alone, with monthly pay of around $1,000 (£750 / €850) to $2,000 (£1,500 / €1,750). However, they can be a great option for your first job teaching English and, with comparatively low living costs, it’s easy to live well on this pay.
Great for the experience: Europe, South & Central America
If you’re hoping to make your fortune from teaching English, then you’re probably better off avoiding jobs in Europe, South America or Central America. However, if you budget carefully, you can earn enough to live comfortably across these continents and may even have enough left over for some travel.
Salaries vary enormously – you could be looking at anything from around $500 (£400 / €450) to $1,500 (£1,200 / €1,300), with pay sometimes stretching up to $2,000 (£1,500 / €1,750) per month in western Europe. However, bear in mind the cost of living is western Europe is high also, meaning your salary won’t go that far here.
Volunteering is great: Africa
If you’re looking for an amazing TEFL experience, Africa is a brilliant place to teach English. Just don’t expect to get paid for it. Demand for English lessons is high across the continent. However, any paid work is far more likely to go to local teachers than incomers.
If you can afford to spend time here without earning, look out for volunteer opportunities. It’s a great way to top up your CV and to gain a fascinating insight into this huge and diverse continent.
Don’t focus on pay alone
It’s very easy to get carried away by the top line rate of pay. After all, a wage of $5,000 does sound rather enticing against one of $1,000. Almost five times as good, you might say.
But it’s not all about the specific number. When you’re comparing salaries, it’s also important to take the cost of living of the country into account. It’s true that $1,000 monthly salary isn’t great in, say, France or Saudi Arabia. However, transfer that salary to a job in Peru where the cost of food and accommodation is far lower and suddenly it seems a whole lot more appealing.
Also remember to look at the whole package. Some TEFL jobs come with free or subsidised accommodation, meals and health insurance. Others will pay for return flights at least once a year. Add the value of these perks to your salary and you may just think that it’s worth applying for that job after all. And remember that the figures in this article are just guidelines. Salaries change all the time and can vary even within one school or location. If pay matters, make sure you confirm what you’re being offered before making decisions on your future.
Teaching English is not just about pay
Finally, don’t forget that teaching English is about far more than just earning a salary. This is an experience that opens the door to vivid adventures, a myriad of different voices, faces and laughs – and stories that will last you a lifetime. For us, this is what teaching English abroad really pays.