Stop me if you've heard this before: nobody teaches English abroad for the money, right? Actually...wrong. Although teaching English overseas will never get you on a list of world billionaires, it can come with a reasonable salary. More and more college graduates are turning to teaching when they struggle to find jobs in their home countries, and they're managing to make a decent living -- anywhere from $500 a month to upwards of $4000 -- doing it.
Keep in mind that high salaries are not always everything: weigh up the local cost of living and benefit packages to determine how much you'll be able to save during your teaching stint.
Although some countries and regions still pay very little (like teaching gigs in Thailand or Central America), other countries, particularly teaching jobs in the Middle East and Asia, are compensating English teachers with surprisingly decent wages. The highest paid ESL jobs can often be found is these parts of the world.
Keep in mind that high salaries are not always everything: weigh up the local cost of living and benefit packages to determine how much you'll be able to save during your teaching stint. But anyways, to hell with breaking even: read on for the countries where ESL teacher salaries are the highest.
Generally speaking, the highest paid ESL jobs in the world are found here. Salary packages for teachers in the UAE can range between $2,400 and $4,000 a month, depending on experience. However, like most Middle Eastern countries, the requirements are stringent and most jobs require teachers to be certified to teach in their home countries or at least have several years of teaching experience.
Two of the most popular destinations in the UAE are Dubai and Abu Dhabi. These world-class cities are often compared to Disney World for adults, with plenty of activities and cultural experiences available. What's more, the UAE ranks in our top 5 countries for teaching in the Middle East.
2. Saudi Arabia
If camels, desert, and a little bit of culture shock sound like a fair trade off for a high ESL teaching salary, Saudi Arabia might be a destination for you to consider. Saudi Arabia has an edge on some of the other countries in the Middle East, because many job openings do not require teacher certification. Experience is always beneficial, and TEFL certificates are usually necessary, but salaries float around $3,000 per month.
Due to a high number of international schools, the job opportunities are plentiful for English teachers. Kuwait City may be surrounded by desert, but the city itself is buzzing. It's clean and modern, with skyscrapers, green parks, clubs, shopping, and a vibrant expat community. ESL teacher salaries average about $2,600 per month, tax-free, but most employers require teacher certification and experience.
The food, snow-capped mountains, springtime cherry blossoms, steaming bowls of noodles, and polite, welcoming people have given teaching in Japan a wide appeal. And it doesn't hurt either that the pay can be as high as $3,000 a month with added benefits like free housing and flight reimbursement.
Previous teaching experience is not necessary, though it can be tough to find a position without it since the job market in Japan is extremely competitive. Most less experienced teachers opt to participate in the JET Programme, but be sure to consider the alternatives.
5. South Korea
Japan's neighbor to the west, South Korea, has a similar salary and benefit package to Japan, but is somewhat less discovered as a tourist destination. However, that is changing. English teachers are flocking to Korea, where the salary for ESL teachers is around $2,000 a month.
Factor in overtime and bonus opportunities, and a lower cost of living, South Korea is one of the best destinations for teaching abroad. A minimum of a TEFL certificate and bachelor's degree is usually required to teach English in Korea, especially for the EPIK, GEPIK, or SMOE programs.
For teachers who don't have previous experience and hold a minimum of a bachelor's degree and TEFL certificate, Vietnam is a good option. The country has beautiful beaches, mountains, rice terraces, and world heritage sites like Ha Long Bay for travel enthusiasts.
However, at $1000-$2000 per month, the salary is not as high as the other countries on this list, but the jobs are more accessible and cost of living is cheap -- that goes for everything from food to transport to accommodation.
Like Korea, the salaries in Taiwan hover around $2,000 a month, with an even lower cost of living, milder winters, and near tropical summers. Saving money can be very easy, and ESL teaching jobs are available across the board, from kindergarten to university, public and private. It's best to reflect on your options.
Most jobs in Taiwan don't require a TEFL certificate, just a university degree, though this may change as the job market becomes more competitive. All in all, Taiwan is a small island with a lot to offer.
As the most highly populated country in the world, China offers immense opportunities to teachers. In areas throughout the country you'll find English language programs for students of all ages. Salaries to teach in China can range from $1,000 to $2,000 per month.
If you decide to teach in China, you can either work through a private company or find a position at a public school. English skills are a requirement for many students hoping to pursue higher education in China, so your contributions will really make a difference in the lives of your students.
Oman is one of the most developed countries in the Arab world, and it has seen rapid advancements in its education system in recent years.
Although opportunities to teach English in the country are rather limited right now, it is a great opportunity to act as a pioneer in a burgeoning field. If you do choose to teach in Oman, you'll be rewarded well.
Current salaries can range from $1,000 to $3,500 per month, and with a very low cost of living (around $700 per month) you'll have plenty of opportunity to expand your savings.
Don't Settle For Less
Teaching English abroad is a way to pay off student loans, travel, save money, add to your skill set, and immerse yourself in a new culture. With contracts that range from 6 months to 2 years, it's possible to cater your experience to suit your needs.
Remember that the requirements for teaching in different countries are always changing, but with a little bit of luck and research you can earn both a good salary and an unforgettable life experience.
Photo Credits: Lauren Fitzpatrick and Jessie Beck.