Teaching English brings to mind reading old books and plays in high school or college. Teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) is a means to make a living while seeing and living in different parts of the world. As the English language becomes used more in business, entertainment, diplomacy, and education, the need for English language teachers will increase. That trend does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon. This offers opportunities for those who want to see different parts of the planet and interact with and learn about new peoples and cultures all while they earn a living in a fulfilling position as a language teacher. Different parts of the world have different needs and wants, so that gives those who are willing to put in the time and effort a chance to pursue two dreams at once; building a career and seeing the world.
Japan is a common destination for EFL teachers due to the abundance of jobs and positions. People can teach in public schools, universities, or private institutes called eikaiwa operated by Japanese companies.
Companies such as Interac hire assistant language teachers (ALTs) to work in public schools. Requirements include having an education conducted in English for 12 years, holding a 4-year degree, and being a native-level English speaker. Prior teaching experiences and qualifications help, but are not necessary. Interac also suggests having access to 500,00 yen (around 5,000 USD) available in cash for start-up costs until teachers receive their first paychecks. Unlike the JET Programme, Interac accepts applications and hires year-round, but they tend to hire more ALTs in the spring and fall. This is advantageous as there is no waiting around for an application window; the perfect time to apply is right now. Teachers can expect a salary of between 2.4 to 2.7 million yen (around 21,000 to 24,000 USD) annually. Interac will help with getting you settled in Japan, so that’s beneficial. Contracts are a year-long and can be renewed with teachers employed by Interac staying for an average of 3 years.
Westgate works with public schools, but works with universities and offers 4 month long contracts. Their university program offers contracts which are 3 to 5 months long, roughly an academic semester. Payment is hourly, but Westgate reports teachers’ earnings average out to 250,000 to 275,000 yen (2,200 to 2,400 USD) per month. While Westgate provides accommodations such as a fully furnished apartment, they do take out 81,000 yen (around 730 USD) per month from a teacher’s earnings to pay for rent, utilities, and other related costs. This means actual earnings are around 169,000 yen (1,500 USD), but that’s still pretty good for a short-term contract job. Westgate also has a young learners’ and secondary school program which offers the same accommodations as the university program, but average pay is higher at 280,000 yen (2,500 USD) per month with longer term contracts. Spring contracts last 4 months from late March to late July. Fall contacts last 7 months from late August or early September to March of the next year. Westgate will also reimburse teachers up to 1,200 USD for flight costs to Japan, but will not subsidize flights within Japan. Like with Interac, they will help with settlement in Japan.
Eikaiwa companies such as AEON have one-year contracts. AEON is one of the largest eikaiwa chains in Japan with dozens of schools in various prefectures and regions. Because it is a private company, AEON hires teachers year round, but they suggest applying for a position 3 to 6 months ahead of time. Expect to work nights and Saturdays; many eikaiwas serve children and adults after regular school and business hours, so AEON operates from Tuesday to Saturday starting at 12:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at night. They also require their teachers to hold a 4-year degree and have at “least 10 years of education from schools in which English is the primary mode of education.”
While AEON expects its teachers to work exclusively for them for at least one year, they offer some excellent benefits and pay. Monthly salaries are 255,000 yen (2,300 USD) with a 20,000 yen (180 USD) overtime bonus for working on Saturdays; however, 55,000 yen is automatically pulled from the monthly salary to pay rent for a fully furnished private apartment. Health insurance is provided via the Japan Health Insurance Association and 40,000 yen is automatically deducted from the monthly salary to pay for that. Actual take home pay after rent and health insurance payments is 180,000 yen (1,580 USD). Other benefits include a 70,000 yen flight allowance, 3 weeks of paid vacation each year, and 5 personal days’ they also observe national holidays. These benefits and some frugal living should allow you to explore plenty of Japan on weekends and holidays. More information concerning applying can be found here.
The government run and sponsored JET Programme is the most intense and difficult to get into, but offers the most benefits and pay. Like InterAct, it dispatches ALTs to the public school system. The basic requirements are holding a 4-year degree in any field and being able to speak English at a native level. It’s a popular option with university graduates who have an affinity for Japan and want to work there. Many countries are affiliated with the JET Programme with most coming from the UK and USA, but some coming from countries such as China, South Korea, and South Africa. Applications are accepted beginning around late September or early October to late November; application deadlines vary from nation to nation, so checking your nation’s individual JET Programme website will provide clearer information. Interviews are typically offered in January, held in February, and successful candidates are offered a job in April. In a normal year, people who sign on for and survive the rigors of the JET Programme’s selection process can expect to arrive in Japan and begin working around August or September. It’s a long process and not for the impatient, but the Japanese government pays for transport to your location, offers help with housing, and payment starts at a nice 37,000 USD annually that increases with each contract renewal. Contracts are made with local and prefectural Japanese governments and last at a minimum of one year. They can be renewed annually for up to five years depending on how long your contracting organization wants to keep you around.
These various organizations will help cover or reimburse various costs and have different requirements, but all require at least a bachelor’s degree and native or near-native control of English.
Taiwan offers natural beauty and modest costs of living, making it an attractive option for EFL teachers. Potential earnings vary from approximately 1,000 USD to 2,400 USD a month depending on whether the job you work is part-time, full-time, hourly, or salaried. Most positions require a 4 year degree and teachers from nations where English is the primary language spoken. Many positions also require a TEFL certificate; this can be obtained via an online course. While it is possible to land a job at a public school where wages are around 2,000 USD a month, there are more than enough private schools referred to as buxibans to get a teaching job at. Positions are available year around thanks to the number of chain schools operating in the country. Wages at these schools range from 1,400 to 2,100 USD per month. Private schools with English class in Taiwan include:
Other things to know about Taiwan include the fact that many companies may not help with airfare, so be ready to pay for your own plane ticket. We recommend checking Oxford Seminars for more information. While the country has a modest cost of living and it is possible to save money, you may be expected to pay for your own housing. Tealit.com is a great resource for TEFL teachers arriving to or already in Taiwan as the website boasts job posts and people looking for roommates to help pay for apartments. Keeping your options open and being willing to live with one or two other people in an apartment could go a long way toward saving up for the next trip.
South Korea has a booming EFL market. With the government sponsored English Program in Korea (EPIK), public schools, and hagwons (private schools), options are abundant for prospective EFL teachers. Each option carries its own advantages and disadvantages.
Hagwons carry longer working days with classes running late into the evening and less vacation time, but typically have higher salaries than public schools to the tune of 2,100 to 2,500 USD per month. Salaries and requirements may vary from Hagwon to hagown and as private businesses, there is a risk they could fail and close. Public schools offer more job security with more consistent schedules thanks to being government run and funded. There’s also controversy around hagwons in South Korea due to the stress for young learners and teenagers of attending public school during the day followed by additional classes at a hagwon at night. However, there are hagwons in which teachers work with adults trying to enter specific fields, such as flight attendants, civil service programs, and university entrance exams. Class sizes are also smaller, with various websites claiming ten students per class is the norm, but this may vary from school to school. As another positive, many hagwons will reimburse flight expenses and pay for housing. As with any privately run business, hagwons vary in quality as services and employers; asking the right questions during your interview could save you from a job that is a poor fit. So long as you get as much information about what you’re getting into and are fully aware of the risks and rewards, working at a hagwon could be a good solution to teach and live in South Korea.
The EPIK program is run by the Korean government. Much like the Japanese JET Programme, it sends English teachers to Korean public schools who sign contracts with local boards of education and municipal governments. EPIK teachers work with Korean teachers to co-teach English. Other responsibilities include preparing materials in English, helping students practice English conversation skills, and possibly taking part in extracurricular activities. You could work with children of any age ranging from 6 to 18 years old in classes as large as 10 to 40 students per class depending on your placement. Teachers are expected to sign year-long contracts and work 40 hours per week, but weekends and national holidays are yours to use as you wish.
The monthly salary for teachers in the EPIK program starts at 1.8 million won for major metropolitan areas such as Busan and Incheon to 2.1 million won for teachers working in less populated provinces. This translates to roughly 1,500 USD monthly for Level 3 teachers who have a four-year degree in any discipline. Benefits include housing provided by the contracting organization; they cover the rent, but the teacher has to pay for their own utilities. Other benefits include medical insurance and bonuses for renewing and/or completing a contract.
Both hagwons and EPIK offer good opportunities for first-time and experienced ESL teachers looking to experience life in Korea. Consider your wants, needs, and options before applying for and hopefully landing a job.
Saudi Arabia is another option for EFL teachers. Saudi Arabia offers teachers one or two-year contracts and is a good option for experienced and beginner EFL teachers. TEFL.org’s Saudi Arabia guide has some advice for applying to jobs in the country which includes working with reputable recruiters and having any and all documents translated into English before signing anything. Reputable recruiters TEFL.org recommends include:
Tamaki TEFL Recruitment
Global Recruitment Solutions
Gold Star TEFL Recruitment [They primarily hire for the Chinese market, but also hire for Saudi Arabia EFL jobs)
Note that Saudi Arabia is an extremely conservative monarchy that observes Sharia law and abides by royal decrees passed by the monarchy. You will be expected to abide by these laws while living in Saudi Arabia, so doing some reading about the basics of life in Saudi Arabia will help prepare you for culture shock. Fortunately, there have been some changes and reforms made since 2017 that make Saudi Arabia a more moderate nation. Additionally, expats tend to live in compound communities, giving them a little more freedom. Even so, the bans on homosexuality, strict social norms, and bans on recreational drugs (including alcohol) deter some people. However, tax-free incomes, accommodation packages, and high salaries are attractive draws for the right candidate who is willing to adapt to the environment. GoOverSeas.com claims salaries average between 3,000 to 4,500 USD for EFL teachers based on various requirements and qualifications. Taking on a year-long contract could be worth it to save up a travel fund to new destinations.
Italy is a well known travel destination for several reasons. With history tracing back to antiquity, its various sites and cities draw in travelers from around the world. Italy is less well-known for its EFL market, but it exists and requires patience and tenacity to navigate.
Many schools and jobs require a 4-year degree and a TEFL certificate to get a foothold. Unlike the other nations listed, many schools and businesses in Italy pay teachers to work as freelance agents and fill in classes making full-time positions rare and coveted. They are there and can be found by visiting jobs boards though. Many EFL teachers in Italy work as freelance teachers in addition to teaching online and private tutoring to make ends meet. It is possible to make it in Italy as an EFL teacher via some digital nomadism, but be ready to put in some legwork and be patient. Reading up on this teach english in italy blog content by The TEFL Org will help with the search for a good teaching position.
Another alternative means to working and visiting Italy while teaching English is to work short-term as an au pair. An au pair is a foreigner living with a host family and helps with household responsibilities and childcare (which could include English tutoring) and earns an allowance as payment for their services. These are relatively short term jobs, often less than a year long. In addition to the allowance, the au pair gets room and board. GoOverSeas.com has a brief but helpful guide on finding work in Italy as an au pair.
In order to protect yourself from a bad au pair experience, it is helpful to find a position with a reputable agency. Some of these services include GeoVisions (which offers 2 to 3 month long contracts) and AuPairWorld. Some agencies charge a monthly or annual membership fee for au pairs and offer insurance plans, so be sure to search around and consider the commitments and rewards.
These positions in various countries come with different advantages and disadvantages depending on your goals and lifestyle. People who prefer to pick up and go might work well as an au pair and work well with companies like Westgate. Others who want to live somewhere for a year or more would do well with the JET Programme, EPIK Programme, or filling a two-year long contract in Saudi Arabia. Weighing your options and making as informed a choice as possible is your best possible strategy to go out and teach English to see the world.