How to Get a Job Teaching English in Asia
Many people see English teaching as an easy way to travel and get paid. Travel, it does allow as the demand for native (or native-like) speakers to teach English around the world is huge. But easy, it is not.
Teaching English as a foreign language isn’t for everyone. In fact, I’m not convinced it’s the thing for me in the long term, but I do enjoy doing it occasionally. It is nonetheless, a very popular way for many English speakers to get work in another country and earn decent money, especially in Asia, where the growing population is very keen to learn English.
There are certainly many bloggers who started their travels by moving to Asia to teach, so I reached out to some for their best advice on how to get a job teaching English in Asia.
Please note: all advice is from the point of view of the specific blogger and their own nationality. Legal requirements for work visas etc. may vary depending on which passport(s) you hold.
Moving to the Land of Dragons to teach English might not only be an amazing cultural experience, but also a great source of income as you can save up to $18,000 a year when working full-time and travelling part-time in China.
Let me tell you that finding a teaching job in China is not difficult, even if you are not a native speaker of English, like me. What is much harder though, is getting legal permission to teach here, for which you must obtain a working (Z) visa. My advice would definitely be to apply for your visa before your arrival.
Why? It takes weeks to sort it out in China and it is much quicker to do it in your home country. If you secure your job before getting to China, you will avoid the stress of having to find a job after arriving. Moreover, that can save you a lot of money as you will not have to spend money on accommodation while looking for a job in China and your employer may purchase your inbound flight ticket in advance if that’s one of your contract benefits.
If you apply for your visa before arrival, you will be able to plan your budget in advance knowing how much you will be earning and what is included in your contract and you will also know exactly where you’re going and what to expect in terms of weather, so you can pack your clothes accordingly.
Agness has been teaching English in different provinces across China since 2011. She is currently working in Dongguan with kindergarten students while also being the part-time blogger behind eTramping. If you would like to read more about China, you can check out her e-book, Add the Brick to the Great Wall: Experience-based Advice for China from Expats, which sums up her two-year experience of teaching, living and travelling in the Land of Dragons.
Hong Kong is a great place to teach English as the wages and quality of living are high yet the cost of living (excluding rent) is low. You’ll have most of the comforts of home and most people will speak basic English.
Legally, you’ll need to secure a job before arrival, but there is often a high demand for teachers, so it shouldn’t be too difficult finding one. Unless you’re a qualified teacher, you’ll most likely get a job at a government school, a language center, or as a freelance tutor. At minimum you’ll need a TEFL certificate and a bachelor’s degree in any subject.
Be sure to read over any contracts carefully as there are a few companies that are “black listed”, who like to take advantage of their employees. Also when negotiating salaries remember to take into consideration that rent is generally around $5,000-$8,000 HKD per month for a small flat, as an English teacher I would not take anything lower than a salary of $20,000 HKD monthly.
Originally from Chicago, Beth got her first true taste of travel when she moved to Japan for her final year of university. She ended up loving Asia so much, she found herself moving right back upon graduation. Currently she is living in Hong Kong, where for the past two years she has been teaching English full-time in a language center. However, she will soon be leaving to give the nomadic freelance lifestyle a go! You can follow her blog where she writes about her travels and experiences working around the world.
Teaching English in Taiwan is becoming more and more popular as people discover just how lucrative the job can be (and how awesome living in Taiwan is). Unfortunately that also means that competition is increasing all the time. While it used to be possible to arrive in Taiwan and find a job on the spot, that’s becoming more and more difficult—especially if you aren’t conversational in Mandarin Chinese and qualified to teach.
We always recommend people to secure an English teaching job prior to their arrival in the country, especially if they want to teach in the bustling capital city of Taipei. There are plenty of chain schools that will hire you while you are still in your native country even if you don’t have any sort of TESOL certificate, though keep in mind that these won’t be the highest paying jobs. Reach to Teach can also help you find a job before arriving in Taiwan. They require a TESOL certificate, but they don’t have any fees for teachers looking to be matched to a school.
Dan and Casey spent two years teaching English in Taiwan. Now they are digital nomads traveling and blogging at A Cruising Couple full-time, while also offering writing, photography and content creation services.
If you’re planning to teach English in South Korea, consider what type of setting you’d prefer: city living or countryside setting? What many new teachers may not know is that rural locations often offer an additional stipend to woo candidates to remote locations.
If you’re looking to save a lot of money while working as a teacher, you may want to consider a smaller town. Cities like Seoul and Busan may sound much more alluring, however, there are also many advantages to teaching in a rural setting.
Small town life will mean that you have a more authentic Korean experience and you’ll likely learn more Korean than you would in the city. Plus with Korea’s extensive rail network, you’re never too far from the big city and you can easily take weekend trips to various parts of the country.
Audrey taught ESL in South Korea from 2012-2013. She worked at a hagwon (private academy) in Gyeonggi-do where she taught students aged 7-13. While in Korea she spent many of her weekends hanging out in Seoul’s tea houses and cat cafés. She’s currently on a year-long backpacking trip around the world which she blogs about at That Backpacker, but she’s also looking forward to being back in an international classroom.
The biggest misconception people seem to have when it comes to teaching in Japan, and Asia in general, is that you absolutely have to get a TEFL certificate in order to get a job. In reality, a university degree is typically the only minimum requirement. If you do choose to enroll in a TEFL course, pick one that you believe you can really benefit from, rather than throwing your money away on some obscure course just because you think it’s a prerequisite.
If you’re hoping to teach in Japan, the easiest way to get started is to apply with major companies like ECC, Interac, and Aeon, as well as the government’s JET Programme. The only downside with these programs is that many of them don’t guarantee that friends and couples can be placed together in the same city, which is why my boyfriend and I ended up finding our jobs with a small, private school through Dave’s ESL Café. Some companies hire year-round, but the Japanese school year begins in April, so regardless of where you’re planning to apply, you’ll find the most options if you start your search around the previous October.
Jessica Dawdy is a serial expat who has been slowly working her way around the world since 2011. She has lived in 7 different countries, including a two-year stint teaching English in Thailand and Japan, before becoming a full-time freelance writer and traveller. You can catch up with her travel stories and expat adventures at Ways of Wanderers.
Teaching English in Thailand is a bit like playing the lottery. You could end up at a hip, fun school with a great salary, sweet attentive students, staff trips to the beach, small classes, full visa assistance, company parties and relative independence. Or you could end up at a school with 60 bored or rowdy students per class, an unlivable salary, no curriculum, regular visa runs, and worst of all, no air con.
Do your research when job hunting and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Will someone help you acquire the proper visa and work permit? Will you be paid a salary or for teaching hours only? What is the maximum class size? Asking these questions up front could save you some misery down the road.
To get your name out there, post your resume on Ajarn.com and be specific about the type of TEFL job you want. Avoid recruiters and try to find direct hire positions as the pay and job quality will be much higher—like 45,000 baht instead of 30,000. Finally, once you’ve been hired, keep a positive attitude! There are a lot of angry, jaded expats in Thailand. You’re in the land of Sabai sabai. Enjoy it!
Karisa is a Glampacker who dreams of fun & fabulous travel in every exotic corner of the world. She has taught English to children and adults in Pattaya and Bangkok, Thailand. Prior to becoming TEFL certified, Karisa taught public history education in Philadelphia, PA. These days, she’s exploring the USA and planning her next teaching adventure. Follow along on her blog.
Have you worked in Asia? What do you think is the best country to teach, and what is your best advice for someone to get a job teaching English in Asia?