Well, I say “globetrotter’s dream”, but it’s really everybody’s dream, right? There is no one who will recoil at the idea of living freely, immersing themselves in new cultures, soaking up the sun, forging friendships, and boosting their career credentials. The issue clearly isn’t the dream, but merely how to fund it - and that is where teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) comes in.
TEFL is not new. In fact, it’s been a prominent force in the world of travel, tourism, and language teaching for decades now. Droves upon droves of English-speaking people have made their livings working as teachers and tutors in all corners of the globe, miles away from home. If they can do it, why can’t you?
The single most important thing to do when beginning your TEFL adventure is to get certified. How do you do this? By booking and completing a TEFL course from an accredited provider. Simple, right? Well, a quick search on Google will reveal that there are seemingly countless companies offering their own courses and services. Here’s how to choose one.
A TEFL company without accreditation is like bringing an ice cream to the desert - it’s sticky, regrettable, and best avoided. Since there is no single accrediting organisation in the TEFL industry, companies must find endorsement from relevant educational bodies to prove their trustworthiness and quality. By this measurement, look for the the most accredited, and therefore highest quality, provider such as The TEFL Org or any other!
In a similar vein, courses to avoid are those offered by providers with no visible accreditation. Why? Employers will check the source of your qualification and find that the company that gave it to you either does not exist or has no reliable endorsement, meaning that there is a good chance that the training you received was sub-par. Remember: sticky, regrettable, and best avoided.
Groupon, among other websites, offers courses at massively discounted prices. It is these courses that usually have no accreditation.
The international nature of teaching English as a foreign language means that you have to deal with a whole range of different cultures, living conditions, and wages. You might find that your dream destination actually does not provide the conditions and salary that you’re comfortable with.
For a bit of guidance, below is a brief list of several of the best countries to work in for money.
By far and away the largest jobs market in the TEFL industry is China’s. The combination of population and a growing middle class eager to improve their career prospects means that there is a huge variety of positions here. The average salary is around 16,700ZAR - 33,500ZAR per month, which itself can often be negotiated by factors such as your own experience and qualification. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for employers here to offer benefits packages - these can include flight reimbursement, accommodation assistance, and bonus pay. China, maybe more than any other TEFL destination, has a huge variety of positions and locations that you as a teacher could experience. It is definitely worth considering China if you plan to work abroad.
Pay in the United Arab Emirates is known to be high. Work here as a private tutor and you can expect salaries of up to a whopping 67,000ZAR per month! While this undoubtedly sounds very appealing, it can be tough to land a job here due to the high standards of entry - a bachelors degree and 120 hours of TEFL training are the bare minimum.
Working in the likes of Seoul, Busan, or Gwangju will see you in relatively lucrative positions. The hagwons - private schools prevalent in South Korea - offer the best salaries of around 25,000ZAR - 33,500ZAR per month. Like all the countries on this list, a bachelor’s degree and TEFL certificate will be necessary to meet both visa and employer requirements.
Perhaps not the first place to come to mind when considering TEFL destinations - but Saudi Arabia offers some of the best paying jobs out there. Comparable to the UAE, teachers get paid salaries of around 63,500ZAR - 84,700ZAR per month. Those working at universities can expect even more. Working in Saudi Arabia may come as a challenge to some TEFL teachers but it remains a popular destination among many!
In the Land of the Rising Sun, teachers enjoy high standards of living, good pay, benefits (usually), and decent job security. Although Japan is said to have moved on from its TEFL heyday, it is still a fantastic place to go and teach in. Salaries range from 31,700ZAR to 42,300ZAR per month and benefits packages are fairly common. Like China, there are lots of opportunities to work in either one of Japan’s cutting-edge megacities or in the more tranquil rural towns and villages. For those who may have been reading this list dismayed at the consistent bachelor’s requirements, Japan offers the chance for legal work without a degree via its working holiday visa.
It’s important to not start having grandiose fantasies of making it big. Teaching English overseas, while incomparably rich in its potential for excitement and fulfillment, is not usually financially lucrative. The countries listed above are the creme de la creme when it comes to salaries. Even then, they might not be for you - they also have relatively high costs of living and you may not enjoy the cultures.
You may have noticed that all of the countries listed above are in Asia. That’s due to a combination of high demand and standard of living. In Europe and Latin America, your salaries will most likely be a lot less than they would be in Asia, but there are other benefits such as lower qualification standards, more appealing cultures (although that’s entirely subjective), and better affordability.
Good luck with your TEFL adventure and remember that even though its great to get paid to travel, the salary isn’t everything at the end of the day.
This is a guest post by Lucas Belickas.