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How Much Can You Earn Teaching English Abroad?

Teaching English Abroad

Are you struggling to find the perfect place to teach abroad? The amount of information out there can be overwhelming, especially it comes to figuring out ESL teacher salaries and the cost of living abroad.

Especially since saving money to travel or pay off student loans is a large priority for many who choose to teach abroad, I'm sure many of you want to know how much you'll earn teaching English abroad. While it’s easy to get a general idea of potential salaries for individual countries, it can be very difficult to compare salaries and programs across countries.

The main issue is that there are many different types of teaching jobs within individual countries, each with their own salary ranges. Most people who teach abroad only do so in one or two countries, therefore, their perceptions are limited by what they personally have experienced.

However, several Go Overseas writers before me have spent a lot of time and effort creating teaching salary guides to 7 of the more popular teach abroad destinations. To make your lives easier, I've compiled all of this information into one informative post to help you compare salary expectations and choose a country that’s right for you! Read on for a country by country breakdown on how much you can earn teaching English abroad.

How much can you earn teaching in China?
  • Average Salary: $942 - 2,500 USD / month
  • Cost of Living: $1,000 per month (rent is usually included)
  • Typical Benefits: Free housing, flight reimbursement, visa assistance, health insurance, Chinese lessons
  • Save or Spend: Save
  • Types of Jobs: Public schools, private language institutions, universities, international schools, private tutoring

China, a classic destination for teaching abroad, isn't necessarily the best paying, but the low cost of living offsets the salary and allows teachers a great quality of life.

In general, the salary expectations for smaller cities and rural areas will be lower than places like Beijing and Shanghai, however, the cost of living is much lower. Your salary will also be influenced by the type of school you teach at, and the amount of experience you have. Like anywhere else, the longer you stay in China and the more experience you have, the easier it will become to find high-paying jobs. Schools will typically raise your salary after the first year as well.

The types of jobs in China are all vastly different from one another. You may work Monday-Friday and teach classes of 50 students, or you might work nights and weekends, educating classes of five. This translates to salaries as well, and for more a more detailed breakdown on salaries by school type read the full guide to teaching salaries in China.

How much can you earn teaching in Japan?
  • Average Salary: $1,700 - 2,500 USD / month
  • Cost of living: $1,000 USD / month (rent is usually covered)
  • Typical Benefits: Accommodation, flight reimbursement, visa assistance, health insurance, teacher training
  • Save or Spend: Save
  • Types of Jobs: Eikaiwas, JET Programme, ALT, universities, international schools, private tutoring

Teacher salaries in Japan tend to be pretty nice -- especially considering that accommodation, flight reimbursement, and health insurance (all some of the more expensive costs of living) are included as benefits on top of teacher salaries.

Most teachers will find jobs either through an Eikaiwa, a private English academy, or the JET Programme, a government sponsored teaching exchange program that recruits ESL teachers and places them in public schools throughout Japan. However, sometimes public schools will directly hire Assistant Language Teachers (ALT) outside of JET. All of these positions tend to be on the lower end of the scale, though still well paid.

University positions are some of the best paying, but Japan has very strict requirements for university teachers. You'll be expected to have a Master's in Teaching English as a Foreign Language, or some sort of equivalent.

Again, a better breakdown can be found in the comprehensive guide on salary expectations for teaching in Japan.

How much can you earn teaching in South Korea?
  • Average Salary: $1,600 - $2,000 USD / month
  • Cost of living: $1,100 USD / month (rent is usually covered)
  • Typical Benefits: Accommodation, flight reimbursement, visa assistance, health insurance, yearly bonus
  • Save or Spend: Save (a lot)
  • Types of Jobs: Hagwons, public schools, universities, international schools

South Korea is famous for allowing teachers to save up a lot of money in a short amount of time. For example, Audry of That Backpacker saved $17,000 and paid off her student loans after teaching English in Korea.

It's also worth mentioning that a Hagwon, one of the most common places to find teaching jobs in South Korea, is a private English academy. While you may be able to find a job as a private tutor in Korea, it's technically illegal.

Many of those who don't end up at a Hagwon will end up teaching in Korea at a public school through one of the government-sponsored programs, such as EPIK and GEPIK. Though you do need a TEFL certificate to snag one of these positions, they do pay well. For more detail -- you guessed it -- we've got a guide for salaries in South Korea.

How much can you earn teaching in Taiwan?
  • Average Salary: $20-40 USD/ hour (roughly $1,600 - $3,200 / month)
  • Cost of living: $950 USD / month
  • Typical Benefits: Visa assistance
  • Save or Spend: Save
  • Types of Jobs: Big chain schools, big chain kindergartens, public schools, Foreign-run Bushibans, American schools

Most Taiwanese teaching jobs pay by the hour rather than a monthly salary, but even so it ends up being a pretty nice monthly salary. Do note that most teachers won't work a full 40 hours a week like other jobs, but 20-30 is more typical, ending you with a monthly salary of somewhere between $1,600 - $3,200 / month.

Many foreigners in Taiwan start out teaching at big chain schools or "bushibans", otherwise known as cram schools. These schools don't pay as highly as their counterparts and have less desirable work environments. However, after paying your dues at a cram school for 6 months to a year, it's much easier to get a job at a more desirable school, like a foreign-run Bushiban. Teaching at a foreign-run Bushiban is considered the most competitive and desirable of ESL jobs in Taiwan (being better paid), however, these positions are also more demanding.

Similarly, to work at an American school, you'll have to be a certified teacher from your home country with outstanding credentials and, as you might assume, these jobs are extremely competitive. Get the full scoop on our Salary Expectations for Teaching in Taiwan

How much can you earn teaching ESL in Cambodia?
  • Average Salary: $1,000 - $1,200 USD / month
  • Average Cost of Living: $840 / month
  • Typical Benefits: visa assistance
  • Save or Spend: Break even -- spend if you're volunteering.
  • Types of Jobs: Private schools, private ESL academies, volunteer teaching

Cambodia's requirements are much less strict than many other countries. For example, most schools do not require you to have a TEFL certificate or a four-year degree. As a result, that tends to be the bigger reason (as opposed to the salary) why people choose to teach here.

Also popular is volunteer teaching -- though, obviously, you won't make anything (unless you're lucky enough to get a small stipend) with this sort of position. If you choose this route, avoid volunteer teaching at orphanages, which often employ orphanage scams to profit off well-meaning volunteers.

Also note that most schools prefer to hire teachers who are already in Cambodia, so be sure to book a flight and do your job hunting on the ground. These schools are also unlikely to pay for your flights, so work that into your startup costs of moving abroad. Overall, you may save a little if you're thrifty, but when it comes to teacher salaries, Cambodia's no South Korea, that's for sure. Read more on our guide to teacher salaries in Cambodia.

How much can you earn teaching in Spain?
  • Average Salary: $1,000 - $2,000 USD / month or $18 - 27 USD / hour
  • Average Cost of Living: $1,000 - 2,000 USD/ month
  • Typical Benefits: visa assistance, health insurance
  • Save or Spend: Save (a little) or Break Even
  • Types of Jobs: North American Language and Culture Assistants, private language schools, private lessons

Spain is a coveted destination in the eyes of to be ESL teachers, but not necessarily the best paying. Furthermore, if you're not an EU citizen, it's terribly complicated to get a job there. For that reason, most Americans and Canadians go through The North American Language and Culture Assistants program, which places 2,000 Americans and Canadians in Spanish public schools each year. While the salary might be a bit low, health insurance is included and many assistants also teach private lessons on the side.

The price of private lessons varies depending on which city you're living in. Bigger cities like Madrid can command high prices while teachers in smaller towns may not be able to make as much. Granted, the cost of living is much lower in these places.

Despite the so-so salary, cost of living in Spain is affordable and most teachers are able to save a little (maybe not $17,000, but something) and live a good quality life. Read more on our salary expectations for teaching in Spain guide.

How much can you earn teaching in Saudi Arabia?
  • Average Salary: $2,600 - $4,000 USD / month
  • Average Cost of Living: $1,500 - $1,844 / month (rent is usually covered)
  • Typical Benefits: Accommodation, flight reimbursement, visa assistance, health insurance, completion bonuses, tax-free salaries
  • Save or Spend: Save (a lot)
  • Types of Jobs: Private language schools, private international schools, universities

A terribly kept secret in the ESL world: the Middle East, and specifically Saudi Arabia and the UAE (next on our list), tends to pay very well for English teachers. However, Saudi Arabia primarily targets highly qualified and experienced ESL teachers, though in exchange offers a high salary and comprehensive benefits for both you and your family.

A working knowledge of Arabic is highly valued and will help you get a job and command respect (and a higher salary).

Of course, life in Saudi Arabia isn't for everyone. Alcohol is forbidden and there are strict rules against relations between unmarried men and women. However, if you feel like the pay off (literally) is worth it, you can live very comfortable and save (a lot) teaching English in Saudi Arabia. More details on our guide to teacher salaries in Saudi Arabia.

How much can you earn teaching in the UAE?
  • Average Salary: $2,500 - $5,500 USD / month
  • Typical Benefits: accommodation, flight reimbursement, visa assistance, health insurance, completion bonuses, tax-free salaries
  • Average Cost of Living: $1,200 - $1,900 USD / month
  • Save or Spend: Save (a lot)

Very similar to Saudi Arabia, teacher salaries in the UAE tend to be high paying and come with full benefits for both ESL teachers and their families. Additionally, many schools have 2-3 year contracts, with yearly bonuses and full benefits.

Again, jobs in the UAE are highly competitive and many schools are looking for experienced teachers with advanced credentials. A TEFL certificate with a few years of teaching experience is a must, but a teaching certificate will command higher pay.

An added non-monetary benefit that also draws many ESL teachers to UAE is the fact that most teaching jobs provide a stipend for children's private schools and multi-room apartments. For this reason, teachers with families tend to look towards the UAE for international teaching jobs. Get the full scoop on our guide to ESL teacher salaries in the UAE.

How much can you earn teaching in Thailand?
  • Average Salary: $1,000 - $1,500 USD / month
  • Typical Benefits: one-way flight reimbursement home, completion bonuses
  • Average Cost of Living: $450 - 1,300 USD / month
  • Save or Spend: Save (a little) or break even
  • Types of Jobs: Private international schools, public schools, language academies

Though it may not be the most lucrative teach abroad destination, Thailand's low cost of living means you'll still be able to save money and have a good quality of life while teaching English in this Southeast Asian gem. Most newbie teachers can find a job that pays around $1,000, though those with more teaching experience could earn $1,500 or more. Also note that both salaries and cost of living in Bangkok tends to be around 30% higher than the rest of the country.

Like in the other countries on this list, you can earn a higher salary if you're TEFL certified and exact pay often varies depending on the type of school you're employed at.

If you're still unsure of how much you should expect to earn teaching in Thailand, read the full guide to teaching salaries in Thailand.

Let's Get Started!

Whether you want to save a bit of money to backpack Europe, or further your teaching career while supporting a family, there is a large wealth of teaching jobs for every need. Looking for a gap year job where you can make a bit of money without a college degree? Be sure to try Cambodia. Want to pay off your college debt after graduation? Consider South Korea.

Once you've chosen a country, be sure to utilize our resources to see if you meet the qualifications for your ideal teaching job. There are so many opportunities available, there's sure to be a position for every experience level.

What are you waiting for? Apply for your dream teaching job today!

Photo Credit: Stephanie Heinrich.
Photo of Richelle Gamlam

Traveler, blogger and serial expat, Richelle has been living and working in China for the last four years. From high school English teacher to college admissions consultant, Richelle has tried her hand at many different jobs in China. She spends all of her vacation days traveling Asia off the beaten path, and in her spare time, she loves to scuba dive, salsa dance and try weird foods no one else will eat. For more of Richelle's crazy misadventures, check out her blog Adventures Around Asia.