If you’re looking to transition into a career as an English teacher abroad, taking a TEFL course in Asia is a great place to start. Though Asia is a hugely varied continent in terms of language, culture, and religion, it remains one of the largest ESL job markets in the world and a high demand for English teachers is consistent across the region. As a result, TEFL courses in Asia are easy to find.
While China is far and large one of the biggest employers of ESL teachers and many TEFL courses can be found in Beijing, Shanghai and other major Chinese cities, -- Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, and Japan are also popular destinations for TEFL programs in Asia. Keep in mind that there are massive benefits to getting certified in the country you wish to teach in -- many programs provide job placement and offer an easy transition from student to teacher.
Choose between hiking the Great Wall of China, or exploring Chiang Mai’s world-famous street food scene. Opt to learn South Korean beauty rituals or take a lazy boat ride down the Mekong between classes. All of these experiences and more await you when you pursue your TEFL certification in Asia. Add in friendly people and a rich cultural history, and you’ll quickly understand why teaching English in Asia is so popular!
TEFL + Teach
TEFL + Teach programs are the ideal package if you're hoping to jump-start your English teaching career. These programs combine a TEFL course with a teacher placement program, and they typically take the form of a four-week intensive training. If your plan is to teach in the same country where you go through your training, then a TEFL + Teach program could be a perfect fit! Many but not all of these types of programs include housing, weekend social activities, and basic "survival" lessons in the local language. These types of classes can be some of the hardest to find in this region, but they can also be the most rewarding.
120-Hour TEFL Courses
The 120-hour TEFL programs are the most common, option for getting your English teaching certification, in Asia and around the world. These types of courses can be done totally on-site, usually in a 4-week block, or they can be done as combination classes with the coursework completed online followed by supervised practice teaching done in-person. The combination classes can be super helpful if you'd like to do the online training before you travel, but still want to do your practice teaching in your destination country. Different programs offer different levels of support in terms of finding housing and organizing social activities, so if these things are important to you be sure to ask your program about them in advance!
This is a specific certification awarded by the University of Cambridge’s English Language Assessment. It usually takes place over a 4-week intensive, and it's available in numerous locations throughout Asia.
When to Take Your TEFL in Asia
Depending on the country you’d like to live in and the type of certification that you’re interested in pursuing, you can find a variety of courses at different times of year.
Most future teachers take advantage of hiring cycles when choosing when to get their TEFL certification. In Thailand, the peak hiring seasons are early spring and late summer, and in Taiwan the peak seasons are right after the lunar new year (generally February) and in July and August. In much of Asia, though, hiring for English teachers happens year round, so you have plenty of flexibility in choosing the timing your course!
Popular Destinations for TEFL Courses in Asia
Asia as a whole is incredibly popular for TEFL classes because of the strong market for English teachers across the continent. That said, the majority of classes take place in mainland China and in Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam and Thailand.
Most English teaching certification classes take place in the larger cities in the region, including Beijing and Shanghai in China, and Chiang Mai and Phuket in Thailand. No matter where you decide to take your course, you’re sure to have an incredible experience absorbing the city vibe!
What to Look for in a TEFL Course in Asia
When choosing a course, make sure that it's delivered through a recognized, accredited program. Because teaching English in Asia is so popular, scams do exist and you'll want to make sure that you avoid them. Most intensive courses are 4 weeks long, so be wary of courses that are shorter in duration. Look for a minimum of at least 100 course hours of instruction time, plus at least 6 hours of supervised teaching time. When in doubt, look for reviews from previous students, and ask the program staff if you can get in touch with any alumni. Finally, you should ask about the program’s career assistance options -- some programs will have pre-existing relationships with schools in the country or in the region, or will help you get in touch with schools in your desired area.
Rent in most countries in Asia will be significantly less than rent in the US, Canada, or Western Europe, but it can vary greatly between countries. Few TEFL courses offer housing, but some may provide resources on neighborhoods or cities where housing is reasonable, or introduce you to fellow students so you can work to find affordable housing together. If you choose to stay in a hostel, make sure that you read online reviews of its security ahead of time -- hostels can vary wildly in quality, even within the same price range, so you'll want to compare several if you're planning on living in a hostel for several weeks while you complete your course.
Visa requirements can vary greatly country by country in Asia. It’s important to check with the embassy of the country where you’d like to take your certification classes to determine the most up-to-date visa requirements for citizens of your country, as the rules do occasionally change. You should also check with your certification program to see their visa recommendations as well.
Health & Safety
Asia as a whole is generally safe for foreigners. That said, when in Beijing or Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll want to use the same basic street smarts that you would use in any other large city in the world. Be sure to keep a copy of your passport and keep your personal belongings safe when exploring your new home. In addition read up on common scams and make sure that you're carrying your wallet securely, as pickpockets are unfortunately common in some cities.
Vaccines and health warnings will vary depending on the country you end up enrolling in a TEFL course in, so be sure to consult the World Health Organization's resources about recommended precautions.
When to Apply for English Teaching Jobs in Asia
Asian countries in general have year-long hiring seasons, making the continent a great place to start your English-teaching journey without needing to worry too much about scheduling restraints. That said, hiring seasons can vary individually country by country, so it’s important to talk with your TEFL program coordinators about the hiring seasons in the country or countries that most interest you.
For example, the peak hiring seasons in Taiwan are right after the lunar new year (generally February) and in July and August, which is important to know if your heart is set specifically on Taiwan. Ideally, your program will have connections with local schools in-country or in the region and will be able to help you network. In general it's a good idea to think about what type of school you'd like to work at (public or private), and what your preferred age range is for students, so that you can look strategically at the options that are available.
Average Salary for Teaching Jobs in Asia
Salaries for teaching English in Asia can vary, but they are typically among the highest salaries for English teachers abroad. In most cases you’ll be making enough to live quite comfortably in the country where you’re working. In some countries, like South Korea, you might even end up with extra take-home pay to boost your savings!
Tips for Finding a Job in Asia
Networking ahead of time with established English teachers in your country of choice can be very helpful in navigating the English teaching job market. In addition, it’s important to keep in mind that some schools will hire foreign English teachers in advance before you travel, but other schools may only interview candidates who are already in the country. Your TEFL program and/or local English teachers should be able to help you find accurate hiring information for your preferred city or region.