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Salary Expectations for Teaching English in Taiwan

Taiwan

As a whole, Asia is an incredibly popular destination for ESL teachers. While most will head to Japan, China, or South Korea, Taiwan is a lesser known secret.

Given the favorable exchange rate, rather stable currency, cheap monthly rents, reasonable costs for food and utilities as well as ease of taking taxis and local transport, both large and small cities in Taiwan offer quite an easy life and high standard of living for foreigners. But how much exactly can you expect to earn teaching in Taiwan?

How Much Can ESL Teachers Make in Taiwan?

ESL teacher salaries in Taiwan depend on which type of school you're working at and your amount of experience and qualifications. However, expect to get paid around $20 per hour at a big chain school, and between $30 - $40 per hour at public schools and foreign run "bushibans". More details on explaining each of these school types and average teacher expectations below:

Wait, wait, how much is a New Taiwan Dollar (NTD) worth?

At the time of this writing, 1000 NTD (New Taiwan Dollar) equates to approximately: 34 USD, 36 AUD, 21 GBP, 25 EUR, 35 CAD, 41 NZD, and 342 ZAR. Be sure to check Google or your favorite currency exchange resource to factor in the current exchange rate.

Big Chain Schools: $20 per hour

The average hourly pay hovers around $600 NTD ($20 USD) per teaching hour at a big chain school. Most teachers work an average of 4 teaching hours per day (prep work not paid/included) -- averaging out to about $1,600 for one month's worth of teaching five days per week.

Teacher and Student

Also known as bushibans, or “cram schools,” are a common place for foreigners to start out teaching English. Some well-known companies include Hess, Joy, and Shane.

These chains mainly teach North American English and like to employ a 100% English method, meaning English is the only language spoken in class to and by the students. This probably explains why new teachers who have not yet developed Mandarin language skills tend to end up in these schools. Most new teachers stay at these schools for 6 months to a year.

Generally, white foreigners can get jobs here pretty easily without needing TEFL certification. North American accents are typically preferred, although plenty of British and South African teachers have no problem getting jobs at bushibans.

Sad though true, American born Chinese (ABC as they’re known in Taiwan) do have a harder time finding work and getting the same amount of pay as their white counterparts, despite being native speakers.

Big Chain Kindergartens: $18 - 20 USD per hour

Similar or sometimes lower than a bushiban, big chain kindergartens pay their teachers about $550-600 NDT ($18 - 20 USD) per hour. Again, this is for teaching hours only, but this is made up for in the fact that less lesson planning is needed for these classes.

Typically they are owned by the same companies that run the bushibans for older students. Curriculum tends to be the same, although more arts, singing, and crafts are involved. It would be helpful to at least speak some Mandarin for classroom management, though the teaching method is often to speak 100% English.

Public Schools: $33 - $44 per hour

If you're teaching English at a public school in Taiwan, you should expect to earn around $1,000 - 1,320 NTD ($33 - 44 USD) per hour.

Public school jobs are usually at the high school level, though some middle and elementary schools do seek out English teachers. Generally the curriculum is much more variable and leaves a lot more planning and responsibility to the teacher. English is expected to be used 100% of the time during teaching though some Mandarin may be spoken.

One main thing to consider here is that the level of English proficiency amongst students will vary widely, as some have a background attending bushibans (and may still be attending) while others will not have much English language ability at all.

Hours can also vary quite a bit from school to school and can stretch as long as from 8:30-5pm grading tests, planning, and performing administrative or other school duties.

Foreign-run Bushibans: $30 - $40 per hour

Temple in Taipei, Taiwan

The average hourly rate at a language school / bushiban run by foreigners is $900 - $1,200 NDT per hour ($30 - 40 USD) plus bonuses.

“Hard core” foreign-run bushibans, such as Tomcat or Modawei, are exactly what they sound like - schools that demand more from their students and teachers, and happen to be owned by native English speakers. Generally to make more money, these are the best gigs to get. That said, they are not as easy to work at nor gain employment at.

Pronunciation, sentence patterns, and grammar are all prioritized in these schools. They demand results and will fail students who do not complete their homework and pass tests while other bushibans tend not to fail students. Training is also a big factor as many schools require months of training from teachers, as well as a good amount of teaching experience, before ever setting foot in the classroom.

Chinese ability is also a must as the teaching method here is not to use 100% English, as experience has shown that the ability to explain things to students in Mandarin helps them learn and perform better.

Note: These schools are hyper-competitive with each other and generally require non-competes to be signed.

American Schools: $6,600 USD per month

The most lucrative ESL teaching position on our list, salaries at an American / international school in Taiwan are as high as 200,000 NDT ($6,600) per month.

Like teaching at a private school in the United States though, teaching at schools for foreigners in Taiwan involves teaching lessons in English to what are normally native English speakers. Most of the students are either children of wealthy local Taiwanese or children of native English speakers who live in Taiwan for work. They require a teaching credential and are highly competitive.

How Much Does it Cost to Live in Taiwan?

Before signing that contract, buying your one way plane ticket, and cramming all your belongings into one or two suitcases, you'll need to know some money basics to understand what exactly your salary will cover. What do all those numbers mean, and how do they actually translate?

Basic cost of living in Taiwan:
  • Monthly rent for a room in a shared flat: 5,000 NTD ($165 USD) in a rural area; 15,000 NTD ($495 USD) in a city center.
  • Utilities (including water, energy, heating, garbage): roughly 2,000 NTD ($65 USD)/month
  • Internet: 350-500 NTD ($11.50-16.50 USD)/month
  • Meals at an inexpensive restaurant or street stall: 100 NTD ($3 USD)
  • Meals at an expensive restaurant: Expect to pay western prices
  • Taxi and public transport pricing: Taxis are cheap at 100-200 NTD ($3 - 6 USD) to get just about anywhere within the city limits. The MRT in Taipei, for example, is extremely clean, efficient, and timely at around 30 NTD ($1 USD) per one-way ride
  • Beer at a bar: 50 NTD ($1.50 USD) and up

If you're looking for an apartment share, Tealit, similar to Craigslist, is a great resource to consult.

Ready To Teach in Taiwan?

Taiwan remains one of the best options for native English speakers looking to live and teach abroad. Though more and more schools require advanced teaching certifications these days, it is still possible to show up in Taiwan without certification and land a teaching gig, especially at a bushiban. For those who are qualified, opportunities for higher earnings are definitely out there, and the quality of life is excellent.

Photo Credits: Carrie Kellenberger, MrHicks46, and John Y. Can.
Photo of Kristin Addis

Kristin Addis is a native Californian and former investment banker who quit her job and sold off all of her belongings in favor of becoming a nomad in Asia. Now she travels solo seeking off-the-beaten path adventures. There is almost nothing she won't try! She blogs at Be My Travel Muse. Follow her on Twitter @bemytravelmuse and Google+.