Teach Abroad

The 10 Best Places to Teach Abroad in 2020

Raneem Taleb-Agha
Topic Expert

Raneem is a Syrian-American editor, writer, teacher, and occasional singer. After graduating from UC Berkeley, she taught English in Spain for two years, from which her solo travel adventures began.

When teaching abroad, there are a lot of decisions to be made: How much money should you save? How long will you teach for? Should you bring your favorite teddy along? And, most importantly, where should you go?

While we all have our likes and dislikes, our language abilities and climate preferences, one of the best ways to help you decide is to look at the data: where are other people going?

By looking at each country’s popularity on GoOverseas.com, Google search volume, and how many teaching opportunities they offer, Go Overseas has put together a list of the 10 most popular places to teach abroad in 2020. Take a look at the table below and compare with how they ranked in 2019.

Country Rank (2020) Rank (2019) Change
Spain 1 4 +3
China 2 2 0
Japan 3 1 -2
Thailand 4 7 +3
South Korea 5 5 0
Italy 6 3 -3
Taiwan 7 - New
Vietnam 8 6 -2
France 9 - New
United Arab Emirates 10 8 -2

As you can see, there’s been quite a bit of shuffling. Spain has moved up three rankings to knock Japan out of the top spot, and Thailand rose from 7th to 4th place. Taiwan and France made new appearances, replacing Saudi Arabia and Australia.

Read on to learn what each of these wonderful countries has to offer to the aspiring English teacher.

1. Spain

With mostly sunny weather, beautiful views, and a good work-life balance, it’s no wonder that Spain nabbed the number one spot this year. From private schools to the government-run Ministry program, there are plenty of opportunities in Spain for aspiring teachers.

Though the pay isn’t as high as other countries on the list, it is enough to live a decent lifestyle, and the typical work week for English teachers is between 12 - 25 hours. That means that teachers will have plenty of free time to engage in Spain’s rich culture, from late-night fiestas to language classes to the tapas and music scene. Teachers can even opt to teach private English classes for extra money if they wish.

If that wasn’t enough to send you packing your bags, Spain’s central location and excellent transportation system gives teachers access to affordable travel, both within the country and the European continent.

View teaching opportunities in Spain:

2. China

A force to be contended with, China remains the second-best option for aspiring English teachers this year. Its large population—and increasing demand for English teachers—means that there are job opportunities all over the country. Salaries are relatively high, and several jobs boast great benefits such as airfare reimbursement, accommodation stipends, and language classes.

Whether you’d like to work with children or adults, a small town or a big city, there’s something for you in China. A huge and richly diverse country, you’ll find that you’ve barely dipped your toes in the culture after your year is up—and you’ll want to stay another, and another, and another…

View teaching opportunities in China:

3. Japan

The former top spot-holder, Japan remains an excellent choice for teaching overseas. It has long been a popular destination for teachers, making its teaching opportunities competitive—if you have the motivation and experience, however, it’s all worth it.

Since 1987, the Japanese government has run the now-famous JET Programme, which has attracted participants from all over the English-speaking world. Keep in mind that if you’re hoping to live the big city life in Tokyo, the JET program places most teachers in rural areas, who are most in need of English-language development. However, there are plenty of other teaching opportunities in Japan, so don’t limit your search there.

View teaching opportunities in Japan:

4. Thailand

Turquoise blue waters, ethereal green mountains, a warm, tropical climate—why wouldn’t you go to Thailand? Though teaching overseas is no vacation, participants in Thai teaching programs will have the opportunity to explore this friendly, beautiful country in their off-hours.

Though salaries aren’t high, Thailand is affordable enough that taking the job is more than worth it. A TEFL certificate is helpful but it’s certainly not required, so you’ll be able to find a position regardless of experience.

View teaching opportunities in Thailand:

5. South Korea

If saving money is your end goal, look no further—on top of being a beautiful tranquil country (with the fastest internet in the world!), teaching jobs in South Korea have high enough salaries that you can even save some money if you keep your spending in check.

There are enough job opportunities in South Korea that you’ll be able to find something to suit your needs—so whether you want to live amongst expats in an urban area or you want to be one of the only English speakers around, you’re sure to find something. In addition, though always helpful, neither a TEFL certificate or previous teaching experience are necessary in order for you to find a suitable program.

View teaching opportunities in South Korea:

6. Italy

One of the most popular European destinations, you’ll never have a day of boredom when teaching in Italy. Known for its rich, comforting food and culture, you can eat pizza and gelato every day as an English teacher in Italy, though we can’t say we recommend—there are so many other foods and experiences you’ll want to spend your well-earned money on!

Teaching salaries in Italy will provide you a decent quality of life, but that’s just a small part of your experience—you can also, in exchange for accommodation and meals, choose to stay with an Italian host family, which will give you an excellent opportunity to really immerse yourself in the culture and language.

View teaching opportunities in Italy:

7. Taiwan

With all Taiwan has to offer, it’s quite a surprise that it wasn’t on the list of most popular countries before. Whether you want to learn Mandarin in a country other than China or want easy access to its famed street food markets, Taiwan is a great option for English speakers looking to start or continue their teaching career—though experience and a TEFL is helpful, they’re certainly not required.

Despite the low cost of living, English-teaching salaries in Taiwan are quite high—up to $2400 a month! That means you can even save some money while you’re living there, though you can always take advantage of Taiwan’s geographic location and travel around Southeast Asia.

View teaching opportunities in Taiwan:

8. Vietnam

Less touristy than nearby Thailand, Vietnam has long been a destination for travelers looking to get a bit off the tourist trail—but for English teachers, it’s one of the top countries. Though the pay isn’t high (it hovers between $800-$1000 a month), it has a low cost of living and a very friendly, accommodating culture.

Since the demand for English teachers remains high, Vietnam has plenty of opportunities for aspiring teachers. TEFL certification and prior teaching experience are helpful but not required.

View teaching opportunities in Vietnam:

9. France

Home of the Eiffel tower, artisanal cheeses, and some of the best wine in the world, it’s no wonder that France is the top tourist destination in the world—but teaching English in France will give you much more insight into its extensive culture and history than visiting as a tourist ever would.

Surprisingly, France is a new addition to this list. Jobs are competitive, and its most popular—the government-run TAPIF program—requires at least a basic knowledge of French. However, there are other opportunities that don't have this requirement, including homestays and private schools.

Despite the competition, low pay, and higher cost of living than other countries on this list, France is still a highly popular destination for aspiring English teachers.

View teaching opportunities in France:

10. United Arab Emirates

Last but certainly not least, the United Arab Emirates—if you’re looking to make some serious cash, this is the place to be. It offers the highest salaries of any country on this list, and many jobs provide additional benefits such as reimbursed airfare and housing stipends.

Teaching experience will certainly help you land a job, and TEFL certification or a teaching credential is a strong plus. If you do land the job, then you can look forward to getting a glimpse of both ultra-modern cities and beautifully empty dunes under the sun.

View teaching opportunities in the UAE:

Bonus: Online

It will come as no surprise that 2020 has thrown some curveballs our way, and so it's important that we talk about a new way to teach abroad that doesn't actually require transversing borders: teaching English online. While it may sound less enticing than going to one of the locations listed above, there are actually a number of upsides to teaching virtually.

Online teaching has been on the rise over the last number of years, and 2020 has been the year that we've really seen this trend take off. Now it's possible to connect with students around the globe, immerse yourself in new cultures and languages, and grow your bank account, all from the comfort of your own couch!

Whether you want to manage a full classroom of youngsters, work with adults, or tutor students privately, there are any number of options to make teaching English online work for you. Plus, having some teaching experience under your belt can make getting a teaching position abroad easier in the future.

View teaching opportunities online:

Where Will You Teach Abroad in 2020?

Each country on this list has its unique opportunities and challenges, and where you choose to go largely depends on what you’re looking to gain from this experience—what language you want to learn, what type of lifestyle you want to live, or how much money you want to save. Some countries are better for recent grads, and others are better suited toward seniors.

Though this list was compiled quantitatively—looking at each country’s search volume on both Go Overseas and Google, as well as at the number of opportunities there are available in each country—your experience teaching overseas cannot be measured in numbers. It’s about the people you meet, and places you see, and the memories you create. Regardless of where you choose to live abroad, you’ll be sure to have the adventure of a lifetime.

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