We all know that heading overseas to teach English as a foreign language is all about travelling the world, having amazing experiences, meeting new people and generally having a full-on, life-changing, globe-trotting, eye-opening experience. But it does help to have a few dollars, dirham or dong in your back pocket doesn’t it?
So here’s our guide to the top three highest-paid TEFL destinations on the planet. Places where you should be able to make enough cash to live well and have a good journey around without emptying your bank account every month.
A pretty strict interpretation of Islam is fundamental to all aspects of life in Saudi, but in recent years the sheer number of foreign workers has brought about better inter-cultural understanding and a slightly more relaxed attitude to Western modes of behaviour, especially in Jeddah.
Get away from the big cities and you’ll discover that Saudi is a surprisingly beautiful country, there are vast dune-filled deserts out in the Empty Quarter, spectacular coral reefs lining the Red Sea coast and the slopes of the Mountains of Asir are lined with beautiful juniper forests. If you decide to teach English in Saudi Arabia, do it with an open mind and you will be constantly and happily surprised.
Overview: Teaching English in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s top TEFL destinations. Expatriate packages are attractive and often include free airfares and accommodation as well as generous holidays and tax incentives.
TEFL Jobs in Saudi Arabia
In the past Saudi was one of the hardest places to get work unless you had completed an MA course in TEFL and a good few year’s experience. Those strict criteria have eased off a little recently and people have been known to find work teaching English in Saudi Arabia without a university degree. But competition is still fierce and expectations still high, so in order to land the best jobs, you’ll need a little experience, a university degree and a recognised TEFL certificate.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Saudi Arabia is roughly the same as you’d expect in places like Western Europe or the USA. However, unlike back home you’re probably not going to be paying any rent or utility bills and a tank of petrol (gasoline) is a fraction of the price you’d pay back home at a Texaco garage. To give you a better idea of what you can expect, a nice meal out costs around $25, a bottle of Coke around 45c and a loaf of bread around $1.
You won’t have to pay any taxes on anything you earn as an employee. If you set up on our own as a private tutor you’ll have to pay around 20% tax.
Potential to Save Some Riyals
You can expect to earn around SR8,000 ($2,100) to SR12,000 (US$3,200) a month if you have a comprehensive TEFL qualification and a couple of years’ experience. If you have an MA in TEFL, you will obviously earn much more.
Those wages are obviously tax-free and include lots of extras such as free accommodation, utility bills, transportation, flights home and bonuses. So you’ll be earning lots of cash and not paying much out. All of which means you should be able to save a pretty hefty chunk of your monthly wages.
The United Arab Emirates is arguably the most affluent of the already pretty-damn-affluent Arab oil states. If you’re a teacher with a few years of experience and a top-level TEFL qualification you’ll be able to earn good money and live very, very comfortably. It’s also one of the more open-minded of the Gulf States, so you should be able to really enjoy the huge bundles of Dirham you earn each month.
Overview: Teaching English in The UAE
The huge number of people from different nationalities that call the United Arab Emirates home means that English has become the primary language of tourism, business and international trade. This has driven demand for a workforce with a near-perfect grasp of English and has helped to create a large and prosperous TEFL industry in the UAE. So it’s safe to say that the demand for qualified and experienced teachers is pretty steady.
TEFL Jobs in the UAE
The high wages and low cost of living on offer in the UAE mean that competition for teaching jobs is pretty fierce. You’ll need a top-level TEFL qualification like our EDI CertTEFL or a CELTA and at least a year or two of teaching experience.
Cost of Living
As a rule of thumb, when you’re living in what is essentially a desert with 100’s of billions of dollars worth of oil under your feet, the cost of living isn’t going to be cheap. The cost of petrol is pretty low though, so if you every fancied driving a Hummer, the UAE is the place to do it. A nice meal with alcoholic drinks in a good restaurant comes in at around 200 dirham ($50) and a week’s groceries should be about 500 dirham ($130) a week.
When you teach English in the UAE you’ll pay even less tax than Starbucks.
Potential to Save Some Dirham
If you can resist the urge to shop at the Prada stores, dine in seven-star hotels and drive that Hummer, you should be able to save a pretty decent amount every month.
The South Korean economy relies heavily on export to the US, Western Europe and Australasia, so having English language skills has become increasingly important for many Koreans. Both wages and the demand for English teachers with recognised TEFL certificates are pretty high, so South Korea is a great choice and is very popular with first time TEFLers.
Overview: Teaching English in South Korea
English is pretty fundamental to the lives of academics, professionals and business people in South Korea. That is due in large part to the fact that anyone wanting to gain a place at university must first pass an English proficiency test. Many of the TEFL jobs best suited to first-time teachers are to be found with privately-run language institutes that cater to young students looking to meet university requirements. Once you have a little more experience there are opportunities at state-run schools and universities.
TEFL Jobs in South Korea
These private language institutes are often referred to as hagwons and can have a bit of a bad reputation. However, there are many reputable schools and so it is just a matter of doing a little research before accepting a position. There are 1,000s of hagwans in Seoul, Busan and every other major city across the country.
In order to work legally in South Korea, you’ll need to get a working visa and to get one of those you’ll need a university degree. While some of the less reputable schools (especially in Seoul) will accept people without any TEFL training, if you want a decent job with a reputable school, you’ll probably need around 120 hours of TEFL training.
Cost of Living
As a new teacher you can expect to earn around 1.8million won a month, but you can earn as much as 2.4million a month. Due to the relatively low cost of living you should be able to live relatively well in South Korea on that, especially as most job contracts include free accommodation.
This will vary depending on how much you earn, but you can expect that around 4-7% of your salary will go towards tax.
Potential to Save Some Won
The relatively high wages, low cost of living and free accommodation mean that South Korea is one of the best places to head if you want to save some cash. That being said, there are lots of ways to really enjoy life in Korea and with flights out of Seoul to most Asian countries, the opportunities to travel are virtually limitless.