What Is a Typical TEFL Salary When Teaching Online or Abroad?

By Betsy Ramser Jaime
October 30, 2020
William, Teaching Teens ESL in China

Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), whether online or in the classroom, is a rewarding career choice, but for many who are interested in this field, one of the first questions they have is, “What is the typical TEFL salary?” This can be a complicated question since there are a lot of factors that go into pay for English teachers, like the location, your qualifications and experience, or what a particular employer offers. Let’s break these factors and others down to give you a realistic idea of how much money you can make as an online or classroom-based English teacher. 

What’s a typical TEFL salary for teaching online?

There are a lot of benefits to teaching English online, such as good pay and the ability to work from almost anywhere in the world. Online ESL teachers tend to make between $12-25 USD/hour. To get a better idea of where you might fall in this range of teaching English online salaries, consider the following variables. 

TEFL/TESOL Certifications


Hawra, a Bridge grad, with her TEFL certificate


Most online ESL companies require that teachers hold a certification such as a TEFL/TESOL Certificate of 120+ hours. In addition to general certification, it’s recommended that you also earn Specialized Certification in Teaching English Online. Specialized certifications are a great way to make your application stand out from the competition and can also lead to a higher starting salary, since you’ll have specific training for the job you’re applying to. 

Experience


To gain a higher starting TEFL salary having anywhere from 6 months to 2 years of ESL teaching experience is important. If you don’t have previous teaching experience, don’t worry, get creative!


  • For example, if you’re hoping to teach ESL online to kids, you could highlight babysitting work, working at a summer camp, or any other experience that you’ve had working with children.
  • Or, if you plan to teach English online to adults, you could focus on how your retail or customer service job trained you in providing excellent customer service for your clients or customers.
  • You could also start gaining more experience right now! Even if it’s volunteering for a few hours a week teaching Sunday school classes, or having weekly online conversations with foreign exchange students in your community, these are simple ways to gain experience.

Degree


You will likely find that you can earn more money as an online English tutor, and have more job opportunities if you hold at least a bachelor’s degree. Some online ESL companies have this requirement and others do not.

Learn more about online English teaching jobs that don’t require a degree

If companies do require a degree, they’ll state this in their job requirements. Also, there are some that will allow you to apply if you are a current university student, especially if you are within 1-2 years of completing your degree.

A few companies prefer their teachers to have degrees in education, linguistics, English, or a related field; however, most just care that you have a bachelor’s and the subject won’t matter to them.

Company


The range of online ESL salaries will also vary from company to company.

Some online tutoring companies have a specific base pay where all teachers start, while others allow for more negotiation based on your experience, qualifications, and how you perform during your interview. You can compare the salaries offered by various online companies by browsing postings on the Bridge Job Board.

Keep in mind that salary can also depend on the country where the online ESL company is based. For example, companies in Asia tend to pay teachers higher salaries than companies in Latin America. However, pay isn’t going to be your only consideration; you may find that the schedule or student demographic of a company in Latin America is a better fit for you. 

Working as a freelancer



Another option is to go freelance. The advantages of freelancing are that you can set your own rates and might have more flexibility. However, you’ll also need to do your own marketing to gain clients and create your own lesson materials. 

Learn the marketing and business skills needed to launch a successful freelance tutoring business in the Bridge Specialized Certificate Course: Teaching English Online as a Freelancer. 

What’s a typical TEFL teacher’s salary for teaching abroad in the classroom?

Even though your plans to teach abroad might be on hold for the moment, you can still start planning your teach abroad timeline now! Learning more about TEFL salaries is one way to do that

So, how much do English teachers abroad get paid? Overall, a TEFL teacher’s salary can vary anywhere from $600-$4,000 USD per month. Why the drastic range? There a number of factors affecting this number. 

Location  


Where you teach (the region and country) is probably the single most important factor in how much money you’ll make teaching English abroad. Some of the highest-paid TEFL jobs are located in Asia and the Middle East, in countries such as Japan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. This article, Teaching English Abroad Salaries, goes more in-depth on specific locations, with TEFL salary by region and country. 

The article Teaching English Abroad Salaries goes more in-depth on specific countries with TEFL salary by country.


Cost of living


While it might be tempting to just pick the highest paying job you’re qualified for, it’s essential that you also consider cost of living for any given location when calculating your potential salary. There are a few reasons for this:

  • It’s important to realize that living in a town or smaller city with a lower salary might allow you to save more in the long run than having a slightly higher salary if you’re living in a very expensive city.
  • If one of your goals is to save money, then choosing a low cost of living city or country will be one of your most important factors.
  • Or, if you love a certain city or country, you might not mind breaking even each month to have the experience of living in a city that you’ve always dreamed about living in.

Keep in mind that in addition to your TEFL teacher salary, some schools might provide you with free housing or a monthly housing stipend. Since housing is often the biggest expense, this can definitely have a big impact on your potential salary and how much you can save.

How can I make a higher TEFL salary? 

There are a few things that you should keep in mind if you want to gain the higher paying TEFL jobs either online or in a classroom.

Teaching Online


  • Do research to find the company with the highest possible starting pay, and then as you gain experience, you could add in a second company where you might earn a better starting pay because of your experience with your first company.
  • Make yourself available during peak hours. Opening teaching slots during the company’s most requested hours (which usually depend on students’ or parents’ requests) will get you many bookings that a lot of other teachers miss out on.
  • Teach online freelance classes on your own. Try specializing and teaching a particular niche such as TOEFL or IELTS training. Or, if you have experience or education in a particular industry, offer your services to professionals in that field.

Learn more: How to Make the Most Money as an Online English Teacher.

Teaching in the classroom


Both credentials and teaching experience are what highly-paid regions such as the Middle East and Asia are looking for in their teachers. In order to qualify for jobs in these well-paid regions, schools will place a lot of emphasis on your educational background. You’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree, and often a master’s degree. Earning advanced TEFL/TESOL certification like the Bridge International Diploma in English Language Teaching, which can be taken for graduate-level college credit, is also a great way to get a competitive edge.

Is TEFL a good career choice?

TEFL can be a great and rewarding career choice. Whether in a classroom or online, you’ll have the chance to meet people from different countries and cultures, while providing your students with a valuable skill that could change their lives. Plus, teaching will give you so many transferable skills that you can use in almost any other career field in the future, particularly, training, recruiting, customer service, and management. 

Remember that most of us regret the things that we don’t do rather than the things we do. Your first step is to gain your TEFL/TESOL certification and after that, you can find the job that’s the best fit for you in regard to TEFL salary and other factors. Go for it! Teaching ESL might be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.