The Best Places to Teach English in Asia

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Those people who tell you there is one specific place that is the best place to teach in Asia are liars. Each country offers a lot of diversity in terms of money and experiences. It is important for all of those considering teaching in Asia to notice the differences in each country. Try to think about what you want from teaching in Asia, is it money or the experience? Teaching in Asia can change your life, and give you new language skills, new confidence and fondness for special cultures. You could even escape Asia with a nice chunk of change.

Here are the main countries that you will want to look into:

Korea

Why South Korea?

A prosperous economy has made South Korea become the main choice for English native speakers for a chance to teach English. Most jobs here pay around $2000 a month, with a lot of added benefits such as paid airfare, a rent free apartment, health insurance, pension and one months bonus upon completion of their contract. The low tax of 3.3% definitely helps attract foreigners to such a small country. The cost of living is relatively low and allows most teachers to live like kings, while still managing to save around $1000 a month. A person who can live a low maintenance lifestyle can easily save over $15,000 in a year of working.

Requirements?

As long as you have a bachelor’s degree in any discipline from a native English speaking country and a clear criminal record, you’re good to go. Both of these are a must requirement for an E2 visa, which allows you to work in a teaching position in Korea.

Positives?

Other than the pay, surviving in Korea is relatively easy with just using English. People tend to be welcoming to foreigners, but the city that you live in will shape your experience. It is one of the most westernized countries in Asia, which means its easier to fit in. The expat community is huge, and it’s really easy to make friends with other English teachers.

Negatives?

South Korea is quite polluted, but less polluted than China. The cultural and social etiquette can be quite difficult at times, but can be avoided as long as you aren’t a negative person. Holidays are uncommon if you work for a Private Academy, but there are some benefits working for one over a Public School.

What to look out for?

Try to full understand the differences between a Private Academy and a Public school, before you make the choice of which one you want to work for. Make sure you really research any schools you apply for thoroughly, as there are a lot of cases where foreigners didn’t get paid for work they did.

China

Why China?

China can offer teachers around $1800 a month, with paid airfare, a free apartment, health insurance and usually some travel expenditure bonuses. Working in China has a lot more opportunities for those who are seeking extra work. It is really easy to pick up extra tutoring work, when compared to other places in Asia, and you can earn some high paychecks from doing this. It is possible to save more money here, than other places in Asia, only if you work those extra tutoring hours. The cost of living is ridiculously low, and there is so much adventuring to be had in China.

Requirements?

Having a bachelor’s degree isn’t a must but will help a lot, and generally being white will be a huge benefit. While all countries in Asia don’t specifically discriminate, white people always have an advantage in China. It is possibly to be from a country where English isn’t the native language and still land a super job.

Positives?

China is a huge country, which means there is so much to explore and for relatively cheap. There are more opportunity to pick up extra money, because there is far less competition in terms of natives teaching English. China feels like a real Asian experience, as far fewer people speak English, which means you’re thrown into the deep end. Generally most schools in China offer some nice paid vacations, which allow you travel a lot. Nonnative English speakers can still find a decent job if they’re not picky about the locations. Seeing other foreigners in China who teach can be extremely rare at times, and it adds to the friendliness of constantly speaking to random foreigners, as opposed to other countries in Asia, where it is likely that you will ignore them as it becomes an everyday occurrence.

Negatives?

The pay is lower than other countries in Asia. The pollution is the worst that you will encounter, especially is the major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. There are very little people who can speak English well, even in the major cities, which means you will need to be comfortable being out of your depth at times.

What to look out for?

Be aware of the number of working hours in a contract, as if you’re in it for the money, you want to be using your free time to tutor.

Taiwan

Why Taiwan?

Taiwan is a small island, but is crammed with attractions for teachers and travelers. You can live a good quality of life in Taiwan, with all the fresh produce and constant activities to be enjoyed outdoors. Taiwan tends to pay around the $2000 mark per a month, but it can be hard to find schools that will provide apartments or even airfare included in your contact. Pay is relative to the cost of living, so it will be possible to save some cash while teaching in Taiwan, but as always, it depends on your standard of living.

Requirements?

As always a bachelor’s degree from an English speaking country is the most important thing. However much like China, it has been known that people have secured jobs with no credentials.

Positives?

Taiwan is extremely beautiful, and has a relatively cheap cost of living. There are less foreigners that travel to Taiwan to teach, which allows you to have a more realistic experience. If you’re interested in learning Mandarin, arguably the second language of the world, then Taiwan is probably a better choice due to less pollution.

Negatives?

Generally jobs in Taiwan do not offer free accommodation and airfare. There are usually no bonuses for completion of contracts.

What to look out for?

Most people want to pay close attention to the amount of guaranteed hours they have in their contract, to make sure they will make sufficient enough cash.

Vietnam

Why Vietnam?

People who go to teach in Vietnam, usually aren’t in it for the money as pay tends to be lower than the other options in Asia. The average salary in Vietnam is between $1500-$2000 a month depending on how many hours you can pick up at your school. There are not a lot of added benefits, but the cost of living is extremely low, so paying for things like your apartment will be relatively cheap depending on the location ($300 a month). However if it is the experience you’re after, then Vietnam is a great choice. The north and the south of Vietnam are quite different and allows for a lot of travelling and experiencing new things, especially one of the greatest wonders of the world Halong Bay. Teaching hours tend to be extremely flexible and this gives you a lot of free time. Vietnam is in the heart of Asia, so travelling to different countries via bus and train is extremely easy.

Requirements?

Recruiters and schools in Vietnam put emphasis on candidates having a bachelors and for some reason a CELTA. While it is possible to get a job without a CELTA, most schools prefer it over a teacher having multiple years of experience.

Positives?

Vietnam has an extremely low-cost of living. Vietnamese people are among the friendliest in the world towards foreigners, despite their terrible history with America and other countries. The country has so much to offer in terms of beauty and amazing things to see.

Negatives?

The country has slowly become more dirty and polluted as tourists flock there yearly. The pay is lower than other places in Asia, which means you will ultimately save less.

What to look out for?

Make sure that your contract states you will be paid in dollar as opposed to Vietnamese Dong. Their currency tends to fluctuate a lot, while the dollar always remains relatively strong.

Thailand

Why Thailand?

Thailand is probably the most beautiful country you will ever visit. Most foreigners will describe this place as literal paradise, which is pretty correct. While the pay in Thailand for teaching English is probably the lowest in Asia, the country, the food and the people make it a constant vacation experience.

Requirements?

Generally a bachelor’s degree is enough, although you will make a lot more money with a teachers qualification. Even a simple online TEFL tends to raise the monthly pay by a decent chunk of Thai Baht.

Positives?

Extremely beautiful country, extremely friendly people and the experience of a free-spirited attitude.

Negatives?

The pay is the lowest for teaching in Asia and is often lower for women. There are constant tourists in major cities and this of course includes the huge amount of sex tourists that can be found in specific cities such as Pattaya and Phuket.

What to look out for?

Try to search around for job opportunities, as the salaries tend to change a lot by each school. Government public school jobs tend to pay really low, but have a lot of job security, especially in regards to a real working visa.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is the international hub of Asia. The busy city has a lot of opportunities for foreigners who want to teach, or partake in business. The Hong Kong NET Scheme that places teachers in the city generally pays between HK$24,450 to 56,810 ($3000-$7000) depending on your experience and most importantly your qualifications! There are a lot of private academies in Hong Kong, similar to those in South Korea, that offer different pay and accept different levels of qualifications. The benefits offered such as accommodation, bonuses and travel expenditure seem to depend largely on your qualifications.

Requirements?

A bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement, while extras will be hugely beneficial for higher pay, such as a TEFL, CELTA and teachers license (PGCE).

Positives?

Hong Kong has a nice and easy visa process, that even allows most people to visit the country without a visa. The country has vast amounts of entertainment and is relatively inexpensive compared to a lot of the major cities in the world. There is an ability to earn large amounts of money, if you have the right qualifications.

Negatives?

Of course the country has pollution, due to being so built up and being basically apart of China. Apartments are really expensive, and you should get use to living in a small boxed room if you want to save some cash.

What to look out for?

While certain programs like the NET scheme will allow you job security, there is more chance for a higher income if you have less qualifications, at an academy outside of the scheme. Like most places in Asia, try to research the school as much as possible before accepting a contract.

Japan

Japan is considered to be the granddaddy of teaching experiences in Asia. The country is clean, unlike most of Asia and the cities are civil. Teachers can earn a livable salary and enjoy a completely different culture. Japan is extremely beautiful, especially during cherry blossom season. The JET program is the most used option for foreigners who want to teach in Asia. It is the longest established teaching program in the whole of Asia and allows foreigners to get a fair wage from the start. This program pays teachers roughly $2,500 a month, with allowance for insurance and a return airfare upon completion of their contracts.

Requirements?

Having a bachelor’s degree is a must, while having teacher qualifications will actually allow you to save money.

Positives?

Japan has an extremely high quality of living, by being a clean country that follows specific cultural rules. It is extremely beautiful, and intriguing. Never will you have a dull day in Japan, because something new and strange will always catch you eye. Japanese people are generally extremely kind to foreigners and want them to have a nice time in Japan.

Negatives?

The level of English in Japan is quite low, even in the major cities, so you will have to immerse yourself in the language. The cost of living is easily the highest in Asia, which means that your paycheck will not go far, and the chances of saving large sums of money are pretty slim. Japanese people can be sensitive, which can make it hard to find long-term friendships if you’re a less sensitive person. The JET program and other Japanese teaching programs generally do not offer accommodation and that will easily take the hugest chunk out of your paycheck.

What to look out for?

Try to learn some Japanese before you go, as this will go a long way in helping you settle in this country. If you’re accepting a job outside of the JET program, try to research the school beforehand as it is common for teachers to have to travel to multiple locations per a week between different schools.

Saudi Arabia

Why Saudi Arabia?

People go to Saudi Arabia for one thing and one thing only, money! Due to the mass amounts of oil that can be found, the country is willing to pay the highest rates in Asia for English teachers. A normal starting wage begins at $4,000 a month and can reach much higher with a lot of benefits such as accommodation, airfare and travel allowances. It’s rumored that a teacher can earn up to $75,000 a year here. All money earned in Saudi Arabia is tax-free and the cost of living is quite low compared to the wages paid. Respectful foreigners will soon learn that most people within this country are very welcoming, as long as rules are followed.

Requirements?

A bachelors is a must as well as a 120+ hour TEFL. A teaching license (PGCE) will allow you to earn a much higher payday.

Positives?

While it is completely unfair in a sense, males will make huge amounts of money in Saudi Arabia, while living a comfortable life. Teaching in this country is only recommended for those who want to save a ton of cash in the space of a year.

Negatives?

Saudi Arabia isn’t a party destination, due to the huge influence of Muslim culture and strict ban on alcohol. Females will have a much harder time teaching here, and while there is some demand for female English teachers, it is usual for women not to interact with males or even drive. Women are usually treated unethically. Also there has been a lot of negative news for female in Saudi Arabia such as women being gang raped, then being charged with sex outside of marriage. While there is a lot of controversy surrounding the treatment of women in this country, there are a lot of positive experiences out there on the internet of foreigners who have taught in this country.

What to look out for?

Research into the cultural rules of this country, before committing to a contract. The rules are extreme, in western comparison.

Overall teaching in Asia is a positive experience, if you have a positive attitude. A lot of foreigners start to become negative once they’ve been in Asia for too long. Usually it’s because they can no longer appreciate the easy life they can live there and instead start nitpicking at the negatives. Each country is unique, and should be treated that way. Take time to think about what you want from your experience, and then pick the country accordingly.

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