Teaching English Abroad Salaries – Where Can You Make the Most Money?By Camille Turner
May 20, 2019
Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), which is also referred to as teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) is a rewarding career that requires dedication and passion. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t also pay well! As you make plans to get TEFL/TESOL certified and teach English, you may be wondering about teaching English abroad salaries. Where do teachers make the most? The short answer is that countries like Saudi Arabia, Japan, and the United Arab Emirates are among the highest paying places to teach English in the world (scroll down this article for highest-paid countries in each region). In these countries, salaries can range from $2,000 to $4,000 USD per month, with perks like housing and insurance often included.
Yet looking only at salary doesn’t provide the whole picture when it comes to ESL teacher salary, so we’ll break down the highest paying TEFL destinations and also factor in cost of living to see where you can get the most “bang for your buck” when teaching abroad. But first, a little background on salaries.
How much do TEFL teachers earn?
ESL teacher salaries greatly vary depending on where you’re teaching. A teacher’s salary can be as little as $600 USD per month to as much as $4,000 USD! Each country not only has different salaries, but also different teaching requirements, expectations, and contract lengths to think about. Additionally, location isn’t the only factor when determining salary.
To really answer the question, “how much can you make teaching English abroad?” you’ll need to consider the following factors.
What are your qualifications?
How qualified you are can affect your salary. For example, someone who has a Master’s in TESOL will probably earn a higher salary than someone who only has a TEFL certificate. This is due not only to the basic rule that a more qualified teacher will earn more but also to the fact that teachers with higher qualifications have more access to a wider range of jobs, including positions at universities.
At what type of school will you teach?
Whether you work at a public school or a private language institute can also affect your salary. Depending on the country, some public schools may pay better because of access to government funding. On the other hand, there are many instances when private language schools offer a higher salary because they can also charge parents more to enroll their kids and, therefore, may have a higher budget.
The level at which you teach can also play an important role in your salary. You will almost certainly make more teaching at a university versus teaching English to young learners at a primary school. You may also make more teaching business English for a large company than teaching conversation classes at a local community center.
How does salary compare to the cost of living?
Looking at the salary a job pays doesn’t necessarily reveal anything about how much money you’d actually have left after expenses. It’s important to consider the cost of living for a given location. For instance, Latin American countries may pay less (around $600- 1000 USD per month), but is that really such a bad thing when you can find rent in some places for as little as $150 USD/month? On the other hand, a high salary earned in Japan would not go far in an expensive city such as Tokyo– unless of course, your employer offered free housing with your contract.
Can you make a living teaching English abroad?
Absolutely! To choose a location, consider whether your goals are simply to make enough to travel or live overseas or whether you’re aiming to actively save money. Then, factor in the cost of living and the salary for each location to find out where you’re most likely to achieve your financial goals.
It’s important to remember that when abroad, you’ll be living like the locals do, which means you may spend money on different types of entertainment or sightseeing, and you’ll definitely have to get used to different prices—whether good or bad—when it comes to buying food, paying for medical expenses, renting an apartment, and more. Before taking the plunge, it’s essential that you research locations and learn what you need to do in order to teach English abroad.
Which countries pay English teachers the most?
We’ve distilled the TEFL world down into popular regions and researched the highest paying countries in each one. Each country’s salary information is an estimate based on its major cities. We’ve also included a “bang for buck” suggestion where the salary may not be the highest, but the cost of living is lower!
Highest-Paid Country: Germany
Average monthly salary: $1,500-$2,500 USD
Average monthly cost of living: $1,000 -2,000 USD
Best Bang-for-Buck Country: Spain
Average monthly salary: $1,000-1,500 USD
Average monthly cost of living: $500-$1,000
Other Info to Know
Western Europe is known as a highly competitive market. For most jobs, it is recommended to have both a bachelor’s degree and an onsite TEFL certificate or IDELTOnline.
When it comes to obtaining work visas, UK citizens have been historically favored in Western Europe, but changes may be coming in light of Brexit.
If you want to work in Western Europe’s public schools, there are plenty of great opportunities available, as many governments offer placements. For example, France’s program, Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF), provides renewable 7-month contracts that require you to teach 12 hours per week in up to three different local schools. Spain offers a similar program called Cultural Ambassadors that runs for the duration of one academic year and offers a tax-free monthly stipend and full medical coverage in exchange for 12-16 hours of teaching per week.
Highest-Paid Country: Czech Republic
Average monthly salary: $1,000-$1,500 USD
Average monthly cost of living: $600-$1,500 USD
Best Bang-for-Buck Country: Russia
Average monthly salary: $600-$1,500 USD
Average monthly cost of living: $600-$850 USD
Other Info to Know
To teach in Central/Eastern Europe, you’ll most likely need a bachelor’s degree. The good thing about teaching in this part of the world is that countries tend to be more flexible about hiring non-EU citizens.
Countries in this region also offer government placements in places such as the Czech Republic. One option is to join the Central European Teaching Program (CETP), which offers an approximately 10-month long teaching contract with placements all over Hungary.
Highest-Paid Country: Japan
Average monthly salary: $1,900-2,500 USD
Average monthly cost of living: $1,000-$1,800 USD
Best Bang-for-Buck Country: South Korea
Average monthly salary: $1,700-2,500 USD
Average monthly cost of living: $500-$700 USD (since housing is always provided)
Average monthly salary: $1,000-2,500 USD
Average monthly cost of living: $500-$1,000 USD
Other Info to Know
Asia is currently one of the biggest and most popular markets for learning English, and there is a high demand for English teachers around the region. You’ll likely have your pick of countries when it comes to deciding where to teach English in Asia.
Most positions in Asia require both a bachelor’s degree and at least 120 hours of certification in TEFL.
Some countries, such as South Korea and China, will even cover flight and housing expenses as part of their benefits package, which a huge plus when it comes to getting the most out of your salary. Jobs in other countries may also offer these benefits, so make sure to do a thorough job search!
Most positions in the major cities of China (where pay is highest) require some teaching experience. Learn more about the “tier system” for TEFL cities in China in this article by Brendan, a teacher there.
Highest-Paid Country: UAE
Average monthly salary: $3,000-4,000 USD
Average monthly cost of living: $800-$1,200 USD
Best Bang-for-Buck Country: Saudi Arabia
Average monthly salary: $2,000-4,000 USD
Average monthly cost of living: $500-$800 USD
Other Info to Know
The Middle East ranks as the most competitive TEFL region in the world! If you want to teach here, onsite training or IDELTOnline is pretty much required, as is a bachelor’s, or often master’s, degree and several years’ teaching experience. If you don’t quite meet all of those requirements, consider taking a look at positions in Saudi Arabia, as they tend to require less experience than other Gulf countries.
On the upside, housing for English teachers in the Middle East is almost always provided. This is true for positions in both Saudi Arabia and Oman. Another plus, teaching salaries in the Middle East can be tax-free.
This can be a good region for teachers who prefer to teach adult students, as you’ll often find jobs teaching business English or working at the college level.
Highest Paid Country: Brazil
Average monthly salary: $800-$1,500 USD
Average monthly cost of living: $800-$1,300 USD
Best Bang-for-Buck Country: Ecuador
Average monthly salary: $600-$850 USD
Average monthly cost of living: $450-$600 USD
Other Info to Know
You may find it more difficult to score a job that comes with a pre-arranged visa in Latin America because schools prefer to hire people who are already in the country.
Many of the placements you do find here are part-time, and some English teachers may choose to supplement their income through private tutoring and online teaching.
If you are determined to work full-time in a Latin American school, your best bet may be teaching English at one of the many bilingual private K-12 schools (or “international schools”) that are common in countries like Colombia.
So, where is the best place to teach English abroad?
You decide! Salary and saving money may be the most important factors for some when choosing where to teach English abroad; however, others are drawn to a location because of its history, culture, language, or sights.