Asia is the world’s largest TEFL market and the top destination for TEFL teachers – with brilliant options for both newly qualified and experienced English teachers.
In fact, around half of all English teaching opportunities globally are based in Asia with long-time TEFL destinations such as China, Japan and Thailand now being joined by new TEFL hotspots including Vietnam and Cambodia.
Whether you’re looking to be part of a thriving TEFL community or to explore a fascinating part of the world solo, in Asia you’ll find a TEFL job that meets your needs. While not quite reaching the heights of salaries found in the Gulf States, TEFL wages are good across Asia. In South Korea and Japan, you’ll earn enough to build up your savings while lower paid countries such as Cambodia and Vietnam still offer reasonable salaries in comparison to the cost of living, allowing you a decent standard of living wherever you’re working.
TEFL in Asia is definitely not all about the jobs though. This continent is packed to the brim with bucket-list attractions, such as the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, and Angkor Wat. It’s got sparkling beaches galore that could have fallen off the front cover of a magazine – and often do. Its stunning landscapes encompass the emerald waters and towering limestone peaks of Halong Bay and Bali’s hillside paddy fields, alongside simmering volcanoes, lush rainforests and massive national parks. And then there’s the food. Whether your preference is pad thai, ramen or chow mein your tastebuds will be tingling with excitement!
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You will need a bachelor’s degree to teach English in most parts of Asia. This is usually a visa stipulation rather than a direct requirement of the job, so the degree subject is less important than the fact that you have one.
The main exception is Cambodia. The demand for English in this newly emerging TEFL destination means that requirements are lower and you can teach English without a degree.
The other alternative for non-degree holders is TEFL internships, which run in a number of Asian countries, including China, Thailand and Vietnam. As these can be classified as student programmes rather than paid work, then tend to have less stringent visa restrictions – and so a degree is not always required.
Living costs vary hugely across Asia but, by and large, this is reflected in the pay for each country. You should be able to afford a decent standard of living on a teacher’s salary wherever you’re working on this continent.
Tokyo has a reputation for being one of the most expensive places to live in the world, although it’s probably fairer to say that costs are moderately high. A small one-bedroom apartment in the city costs around £850 per month, for example, compared to a monthly cost of £275 in Thailand’s Chiang Mai. However, even in Japan, your salary can go a long way, particularly if you live outside the city centre, use public transport, shop for local produce and cook your own food. In fact, if you spend carefully, you should be able to build up reasonable savings too.
South Korea is another Asian country where salaries tend to outstrip living costs. While it’s not super cheap – a local beer from the market costs around £1.75, for example – accommodation is normally included in your teacher’s package, making it easier to save.
Costs are lower across the rest of the region but then again, so are wages. In Thailand, you could choose to blow your whole salary and live a life of relative luxury or go for the (still scrumptious) street food and save for your next travel adventure. In countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia, your salary will enable you to live comfortably by local standards by but you’re unlikely to have much left over at the end of the month. Then again, most TEFL teachers enjoy the experience of being in this part of the world so much that saving is not a top priority!
Most TEFL teachers in Asia get their first job in a private language school. These cater for a whole range of ages and skill levels – from pre-school children having fun with language to hard-working teenagers cramming for exams to adults trying to improve their employment options.
Many TEFL teachers offer private tuition on top of a job within a school. The majority of opportunities are either for school-age children or conversational classes with adults. However, if you’re experienced in teaching a niche area such as business English or exam classes you can charge higher rates.
There are also numerous international schools across Asia, mainly populated by the high levels of expatriates living on the continent. Most schools in Asia follow a British, US, Australian or International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum. You’ll normally need a teaching licence on top of your TEFL qualification to work in one of these schools and most expect a minimum of two years of previous teaching experience. However, if you fit the bill, they can offer great salaries and benefits.
In some countries, you’ll also find government-sponsored programmes that aim to get native English speakers into public schools. These tend to be limited to native English speakers who are citizens of countries such as the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand. It’s usually a competitive process but can lead to a good job with a higher salary and better benefits than you’ll find in private language schools.
Asian countries are getting increasingly strict on visa requirements. Across most of the continent, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree, TEFL certification, clean police check and firm job offer to successfully apply for the work permit required to teach legally. Many countries also give strong preference to native English speakers although you can still find teaching opportunities in some parts of the continent if you’re a fluent non-native English speaker.
The main exception to these rigorous requirements is Cambodia. If you’re not a native English speaker or you don’t hold a degree, this is the country to look for TEFL jobs in Asia. This doesn’t mean anyone can teach here though. If you don’t have any other qualifications, do make sure you’re fluent in English and have TEFL certification before you apply.
If you’re employed full time by a private language school, you’ll normally have around 20 to 30 teaching hours per week, with preparation on top. Expect to work evenings and weekends, as peak hours for language schools tend to be outside of the main school and office opening hours.
If you work in either a public school or an international school you will follow a more structured timetable across the school day. However, teachers in international schools are often expected to take on extra curriculum activities, which can add to your hours in the evenings and weekends. Make sure you check your contract before you start, to ensure you know what will be expected.
Class sizes tend to be big in Asia. In Thailand, for example, it’s fairly common to be faced with a group of 50 children. However, like everything else in this continent, expect a wide variation. Remember that respect and non-confrontation are the norm and you should be fine.
You can find TEFL jobs throughout Asia. China has the biggest TEFL jobs market in the world but there are also loads of opportunities to teach English in Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and Japan.
While the majority of jobs are concentrated in the major cities, the demand for English means that language schools exist in even quite small towns and more remote destinations will seek out a native English speaker for their classes.
Most jobs in Asia are organised in advance so check out TEFL jobs boards and recruitment agencies for the latest vacancies. You will normally be interviewed in your home country, either via a video call or a third party. However, if you are already in the region, you can approach schools in person and may even be hired on the spot.
Salaries range significantly across the region. South Korea, Japan and China are the best paying countries in Asia, with TEFL salaries sometimes stretching to as much as £3,000 per month, although around £2,000 is more common. Either way, you’ll be able to live well and should have enough left over to save.
Wages are lower in Thailand and Vietnam – closer to the £1,000 per month mark – and a little less again in Cambodia. However, living costs also drop in each of these countries too, meaning you can still afford to live comfortably and may even have a little left over to save if you budget particularly carefully.
With a high demand for TEFL teachers across Asia, you can pretty much guarantee to find a vacancy whenever you decide to apply for a job.
There are some peak hiring periods ahead of school years – particularly in the months leading up to September. However, the hiring season is definitely not limited to these slots. Check out the TEFL jobs boards to find out the latest job opportunities.
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