Guide to teaching English in Asia

Countries throughout Asia regularly top the list of destinations for teachers choosing where to move abroad. Northeast Asian locations, such as Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan, have always been popular options amongst ESL teachers, as many choose to teach English overseas through established government-sponsored programs. In Southeast Asia, the economically-thriving countries of Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia hope to increase the number of English speakers among their citizens. This means there are a plethora of jobs in Southeast Asia for qualified English teachers.

In South and Central Asia, while there isn’t a huge market for international educators yet, demand is growing quickly. All across the continent, English is growing in value and popularity, connecting students, business folk, and tourists alike to challenge existing ideas and open up cultural exchanges.

To teach English in Asia, most teachers will require native-level proficiency and a university degree. Some countries may require TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA certification and prior teaching experience. The average salary for teaching in Asia can range anywhere between $150 - $5,500 per month.

Interested in teaching English in Asia? We’ve got you covered! Keep reading to learn more about the types of teaching jobs, average salaries and benefits, and how to get a teaching job in Asia!

Types of teaching jobs in Asia

There are five main types of English teaching jobs in Asia, each with its unique requirements and advantages. Programs sponsored by local governments, for example, often include valuable benefits packages that other employers have a hard time competing with.

Government-sponsored programs

In some countries, the national Ministry of Education oversees teaching programs for citizens of English-speaking countries, such as the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Though the application process is quite competitive, teachers will typically enjoy the benefits of a higher salary, set work hours, and paid vacation days. These programs look for TEFL/TESOL certified, native English speakers to improve the quality of English language education in both public and private schools. These programs in Asia are well known internationally and considered top positions by many in the education sector.

Language schools and academies

As more schools and companies turn to English as the primary language of communication, language schools and academies have grown more popular all across the Asian continent. In almost every major city in Asia, there are numerous companies offering after school, evening, and weekend courses for learning English as a Second Language (ESL). These ESL courses range in subject matter, from Conversational to Business to Refresher English. Although pay is relatively low compared to salaries in full-time schools, language school teachers enjoy flexible schedules and the opportunity to meet local people of all ages and different walks of life. Thus, language schools are great options for inexperienced teachers looking for short-stay contracts.

International schools

Metropolises across Asia are earning the label as global cities due to the growing interconnectivity of worldwide commerce. With this, many expats now call Asia home, bringing their families with them. As instruction is primarily in English, international schools do not hire teachers for ESL, but in the subjects of mathematics, sciences, art, physical education, etc. Following either an American, British, Australian, or International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, international schools often hire experienced teachers, who hold at least a master’s degree, and can commit to a long-term contract. Due to this fact, competition is high, just like the salaries and benefits that come with the job.

Private tutoring

Many parents hire private tutors to enhance their children’s English language training outside of school hours. Many teachers in Asia choose to tutor a few students a week to supplement their salary from their primary teaching job. While marketing yourself takes a bit of individual effort, most teachers are very happy with their tutoring experiences. Besides pocketing a bit of extra cash, tutoring is a great way to meet local families and learn about everyday life in the community.

Volunteer teaching

In certain Asian countries, there is significant stratification between those who do and don't have access to English language education. In both urban and rural locations, public schools often lack the resources or funds to purchase textbooks or hire qualified English teachers. Due to this, volunteer teachers are in high demand in places like orphanages or women’s community centers. While these positions are unpaid, Asian NGOs are always looking for volunteers to increase the long-term opportunities for those who know little to no English.

Average salary and benefits for teaching English in Asia

There is a large spectrum of English teaching salaries throughout countries in Asia. Teachers can expect to earn between $150 - $5,500 USD per month depending on the location, type of job, and the teacher's qualifications.

Benefits packages will depend on your employer but often include flight reimbursement, a housing allowance or free accommodation, paid holidays and summer break, free meals, and visa expense reimbursement.

Read more: How Much Money Can You Save Teaching Abroad?

Cost of living in Asia

Generally speaking, the cost of living in Asia is relatively affordable. If you are moving to a major city, such as Tokyo, Singapore or Shanghai, you may find that rent and food are quite pricey. It is known that the countries of Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia have higher costs of living. However in most Asian locations, urban or rural, you will be able to save a good portion of your salary! If you are aiming to save money, try teaching in Cambodia or Indonesia.

To help keep costs down, cook at home or eat at family-owned, small restaurants or cafes instead of splurging at a Western chain restaurant. Additionally, avoid shopping or dining in the expat or tourist areas as prices in those neighborhoods will be much higher.

To find the average price of common expenses in countries throughout Asia, use Numbeo.

Where and how to find housing in Asia

A common benefit English teachers enjoy in many Asian countries, including Japan and South Korea, is employer-provided accommodation (or a housing stipend). This is especially common among government-sponsored programs. Ensure you know what is included in your contract before signing a lease elsewhere.

To find housing in countries in Asia, it is best to utilize popular classified sites where available apartments and homes are listed. Additionally, local real estate offices are great resources for finding housing, especially if you know the general area you want to live.

Here are a few resources to get started with your housing search in Asia:

Where to teach English in Asia

To find the right country to fit your teaching goals, it's important to do your research first. Start by exploring these popular countries for ESL teachers in Asia:

China

With a population north of 1.4 billion people, there is no shortage of people looking to learn English in China. With dozens of major cities and even more local townships, there is a teaching job for any English speaker in this enormous country.

Chinese schools have started to teach English in primary school, with students as young as kindergarteners learning basic language skills. It is important for Chinese students to have strong literacy as many high school entrance exams include an English comprehension portion. Thus, as schools adapt to the growing impact of requiring an English curriculum, there is an increasing need for English teachers all across the country.

Taiwan

Many have found Taiwan to be an excellent location for new ESL teachers, with its friendly culture and comfortable living conditions. This small island is the ideal destination for a teacher looking to start a career in teaching English while enjoying the perks of modern, Asian city life. Though if you prefer a quieter lifestyle, closer to nature, Taiwan has that too!

South Korea

Each year, countless teachers flock to South Korea as this country has so much to offer to expats. You may find a job at a public school, an international school, or hagwon (after-school program). Whichever route you take, South Korea is a great mix of the old and the new. You may learn quite a bit while immersing yourself in traditions and experiencing the city of Seoul or the quiet mountains.

Japan

If you are a professional teacher, or looking to start a profession in education, Japan is the ideal Asian destination. Work in one of the three largest cities of Tokyo, Osaka, or Nagoya. Or discover lesser-known destinations on the islands of Hokkaido and Honshu. Not only will you fall in love with Japan’s idyllic scenery, but you will also see the charm in its unique culture and cuisine.

Thailand

Growing increasingly popular with tourists and ESL teachers alike, Thailand offers something for every world traveler. If you like tropical beaches, vibrant nightlife, or mountain treks, there’s a place for you here. Schools throughout Thailand hire international educators to bring something new to the curriculum and teach the basics of English.

How to get a job teaching English in Asia

The process of applying for ESL jobs in Asia will vary based on the country and type of employer. Typically, applying in person will wield better results, but online solutions exist if you can't travel to job hunt.

Where to find jobs

To maximize your chances of finding work, you should research schools and institutes in the location you are interested in working and reach out to them directly. In addition, third-party providers, such as the ones below, help place teachers with open positions in Asia, and some even offer TEFL training and certification.

Job boards, like the one right here at Go Overseas, are another great way to find open positions, especially if you already have your English teaching certification.

When to apply

Peak hiring season for English teachers in Asia will be in March-April, and August, as those are the start of public and international school semesters. Private language institutes have a much longer hiring cycle, and you can apply year-round.

Common qualifications to teach in Asia

In most countries, the minimum requirement is a TEFL or TESOL certification and a bachelor’s degree. Since most schools hope to provide their students with proper language training, it is becoming more and more necessary that teachers are either native English speakers or have other training and experience in teaching ESL. Citizens of the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand will be highly considered.

Read more: What are the Requirements to Teach English Abroad?

Work visas in Asia

Depending on your work, you will need either a temporary or permanent visa. For short-term work, a temporary visa will last up to 6 months. Permanent visas will last up to a year. Most schools will need to provide employment confirmation or sponsorship for you to apply for a work visa. Make sure to account for processing time, as some consulates can take up to a month to process an application.

Classroom culture in Asia

It is imperative to research and understand the cultural nuances you will experience in the classroom while teaching abroad. There can be vast differences in the way students and teachers interact, so ESL teachers should be respectful and understanding while adapting to a new classroom environment.

Since Asia is a broad region, be aware that classroom and work culture and etiquette vary from place to place. While India is considered part of Asia, its culture is vastly different from China's or Japan's. Try to keep an open mind and do a bit of early research on culture in your new home!

Here are a few tips to know before teaching English in Asia:

  • dress professionally or business casual while in the classroom
  • Punctuality is a highly valued as a sign of respect
  • Small talk is important to build trust, even in professional settings

Ready to find your dream teaching program in Asia?

Start researching and comparing teaching programs here at Go Overseas, under the Teaching Programs in Asia section below.

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