You’ve done a TEFL course, you’re a qualified teacher, and you’re ready to look up job postings.
When it comes to teaching English abroad, and finding job opportunities across the globe, there are several factors to consider.
Can I, for example, guarantee my safety in a particular country when I teach English abroad? Is there a lot to see and do? What are the schools like? Is there a decent standard of local housing? Can I adapt to the weather, the food, the culture and so on?
An unavoidable fact, however, is that you need money to live. Yep, we’re as shocked as you are, but whether you’re teaching abroad, locally or online, you need to be paid for the work that you’re doing. It’s also particularly important given the fact you need to uproot your life; costs will include travel, getting a visa and finding new accommodation, as well as the day-to-day expenses you’d expect anywhere.
Timing, of course, is everything. As we’ll get to, there are particular parts of the world where English is a real priority for schools and, in fact, for governments. To that end, there are lucrative salaries on offer for ESL jobs, which can really incentivise English teachers to pack up and move abroad.
Alternatively, it might be about the destination and not necessarily the money, but even then, you’ll need a salary that hopefully exceeds, or at least matches, the cost of living while you’re teaching English abroad.
So let’s dive into the world of TEFL salaries.
How much can you earn teaching English abroad?
The pay on offer to ESL teachers varies, but you can expect to earn a decent salary. In more lucrative countries, ESL teachers can get paid a salary between $2,000 to over $5,000 USD per month. Much depends on your position within a business/school, qualifications and where you teach.
We’ll get into the specifics of where is “best” to teach in terms of ESL teacher salaries, however it’s important to remember that a lot depends on context. Some countries may have high wages, but it’ll be relative to the cost of living in a certain nation. Or, wages might seem comparatively low in another country, but the low cost of living means you’d be able to live comfortably on that wage.
Either way – in the main – English teachers abroad are paid relatively well. This is especially true in countries where the demand for TEFL teachers is high, and there’s economic incentive for people to improve English proficiency.
Where you teach
As discussed, where you teach is important, and we’ll get to the countries with the highest TEFL salaries later on.
From a geographic point of view, the best salaries for English teaching jobs tend to be in Middle Eastern countries and in Asia, specifically Eastern Asia. This is because countries like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Japan, for example, are booming, modern economies, and the importance of English in the world of business can’t be emphasised enough.
The standard of English proficiency in some of these nations, specifically Japan, isn’t necessarily great. This means there’s a demand for teachers, and a populace with strong motivations. In simple economic terms, the demand needs to be met by the supply, and so higher wages are on offer for English teachers.
In Europe, there are lucrative jobs going, but they can be extremely competitive. Many European countries rank highly in terms of English proficiency, but universities and schools look for highly-skilled TEFL teachers to fill some gaps.
Latin America has a wealth of opportunities and a high demand for teachers, but the economics dictate that wages aren’t quite as high as competitors in places like the Emirates or East Asia. However, as we’ll get to, the wages are relative to the basic expenses. This is similar to Northern Africa, where there are countries like Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria crying out for English assistance.
How much teaching experience you have
Naturally, what prior teaching experience you have – or don’t have – is going to affect the kind of salary offer you’ll get as a TEFL teacher.
The more teaching experience you have, the more you can earn, generally speaking. TEFL employers, much of the time, are looking for safer options in terms of ESL teachers, given the inherent risks involved with employing someone from across the world. Knowing that an applicant has classroom experience, either in-person or online, is a form of insurance for a lot of employers.
This is especially true in the more lucrative TEFL destinations the world has to offer. Take, for example, the Middle East, Japan and South Korea; experience is all but essential to be considered for higher-paying jobs. While there are plenty of opportunities out there for newly-qualified TEFL teachers, the fact is that positions offering top salaries go to experienced teachers.
However, it doesn’t mean that inexperienced teachers can’t get good salaries while teaching abroad, far from it. In Latin America, for example, as well as Southern Asian destinations like Vietnam and Thailand, new teachers are compensated very fairly, especially in relation to cost of living.
Just like any other industry, though, there’s a ladder of progression to those more lucrative salaries. Having a diverse, impressive CV with years of teaching behind you is more likely to open the doors to better salaries.
Your other qualifications
Having a bachelor’s degree helps, but it’s certainly not the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to TEFL jobs and, thereby, TEFL salaries.
It’s perfectly possible to land a well-paid ESL job without a degree. Online companies based around the world often take on applicants who don’t hold a Bachelor’s degree, and there are countless in-person opportunities to earn a living teaching English abroad.
Latin America offers plenty of chances for ESL teachers to earn a wage. You can teach English abroad without a degree in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Peru, Mexico, and Uruguay, all of which offer competitive salaries.
In Asia, Cambodia is a real option. You don’t need a degree, but the top-rated TEFL jobs offer up to £1,500/$2,000 a month – more than enough to live on, while saving up for the future. Europe, meanwhile, has some great jobs for TEFL teachers without degrees, especially in Germany (where the vast majority of jobs are in the private sector) and the Czech Republic.
If you are an English teacher with a degree, though, it has to be said that the most lucrative opportunities, such as jobs in the Middle East and East Asia, will be more readily available to you. As it stands, large private schools and international schools don’t look at CVs without degrees with the same level of attention. If you have a master’s degree, even better – especially for universities, while an education degree is an obvious advantage.
Your TEFL qualification
If you’re looking to make a living from teaching English abroad, a TEFL qualification is a must.
You have to speculate to accumulate, and by investing in a high-quality TEFL course, you’re assuring that employers will look your way when it’s hiring time for a teaching job. A TEFL certificate demonstrates a passion and commitment to teaching English overseas, as well as the learned skills, lesson planning attributes and general teaching ability to get the job done.
Simply put, to make the most out of a career out of teaching English abroad, you need a TEFL certificate. 120 hours is the industry standard, and accreditation is a powerful thing – if employers see you’ve done a questionable budget TEFL course bought off a site like Groupon, they might not be so impressed.
It stands to reason that better-paying jobs will come to those who are more appropriately qualified.
Teaching abroad salaries
Now, you’re probably wondering after all this talk about salaries: where are the numbers?
Ultimately, that’s what it comes down to. Whether you’re a barista or a CEO, it’s all about those numbers at the end of the month. For TEFL teachers, it’s even more crucial to ensure a salary you can live off – even with modern technology, wire bank transfers and the like, it’s much harder having flint in your pockets somewhere less familiar.
So, to avoid that scenario, consider your outgoings before you move away. Will you need everything you’re paying off monthly? Can you afford rent prices in Chile, China or Chad?
Let’s look at where the best salaries are worldwide, by continent, so you can make an informed decision on where to teach abroad.
When westerners think of excitement, culture and travel, they’re often thinking of Asia. However, there’s another incentive to teach English in countries like China, Japan and South Korea, and it’s to do with your wallet.
Though these destinations require degrees for access, and have strict visa requirements, the salaries on offer are considerable. Take, for example, Japan. The average monthly salary is between £1,000 and £2,000 per month for a full-time position. In South Korea, it’s between £1,280 and £1,600 – a fantastic starting wage!
In China, the average full-time wage is the same as in Japan, albeit with a cheaper cost of living. Additionally, contracts can include benefits such as flight reimbursement and accommodation, which can help you make substantial savings while teaching abroad.
The most lucrative of all, though? Hong Kong boasts an average TEFL teacher salary of £1,550 to £6,300! What’s more, you don’t need to be an experienced teacher to move over and start running classes!
In Europe, English proficiency is relatively common. Countries in Western Europe, like Sweden, Norway and France teach English as a second or third foreign language from a comparatively early age.
Additionally, degrees and experience are – in general – required for the best-paying jobs around the continent. That said, if you can envision yourself teaching English in Europe, you’ll be heartened to know that the wages are very decent.
In Switzerland, for example, where there are several recognised languages, English teachers are paid (on average) between £1,850 and £2,475 per month. The Netherlands, EPI’s number 1 country for English Proficiency, sees English teachers being paid between £1,300 and £2,600 every time they flip the calendar.
Sweden also offers high wages for English teachers, with the language taught at a very high level there. Teachers can expect to earn between £1,100 and £2,400, while neighbouring Norway offers wages between £2,100 and £2,500. It’s tough to land teaching jobs in Scandinavia, but if you can, the wages meet the high cost of living.
Popular TEFL destinations see more of a variance in terms of average wages. In Spain, for example, the average monthly income from TEFL teaching is £614 – £1,317. Italian TEFL wages are similarly modest, coming in at between £1,054 and £1,229 on average.
As ecologically and demographically diverse as it gets, Latin America is a fantastic place to get started as a TEFL teacher.
With the Amazon rainforest, tropical weather, incredible food and a rich sporting history, countries in Latin America make great holiday destinations. Countries like Colombia and Honduras have emerged as more tourist-friendly destinations over recent years, and they’re also well worth considering as an English teacher.
The salaries may not be eye-watering, compared to counterparts in Europe or the Middle East, as we’ll get to. However, relative to the cost of living, you can still be saving money while teaching across Latin and South America.
Wages in Mexico, for example, work out an average of £400-800 per month. The most money to be made is in Argentina, where monthly wages come between £400 and £950, whereas countries like Brazil, Uruguay, Chile and Colombia boast wages that tend to top out at £800.
Latin America might not be the choice if you want to be saving money, but given the cost of accommodation, daily expenses and travel, you won’t find yourself skint with a generally low cost of living.
Middle East & Africa
If you’ve got the experience, the qualifications and the means to get to the Middle East and Northern Africa, you’ll find the best TEFL wages in the world. Truthfully, it isn’t even close.
While Middle Eastern society can be prohibitive from a western mindset, the wages are incredible if you’re able to fit in. Of course, not everyone will have that luxury, but to those determined to make it in the Middle East, the rewards are substantial.
In the United Arab Emirates, for example, average full-time teacher wages are between £1,600 and £4,000. Saudi Arabia’s top-end wage of £3,200 is considerable, as is Bahrain’s £2,500 a month. Qatar, another oil-rich state where the 2022 World Cup will be played, offers average salaries that go up to about £3,200 a month.
Africa, meanwhile, is a bit different. Algeria offers average full-time wages that reach between £400 and £900 a month, comparable to Egypt’s £400-700, and Morocco’s £400-800 a month. Again, it’s relative to the low cost of living – these are still competitive salaries.
Again, it’s not for everyone. However, if you tick all the boxes, the Middle East has high demand for teachers, and that’s reflected in the average salaries on offer.
Countries with the highest TEFL salaries
If you’re looking for the biggest paydays worldwide from teaching English, you’ve come to the right place.
As we’ve covered, salaries can be wildly varied, and very much depend on where you are in the world. Even then, it’s about the specific institution you’re working for. We’ll get to that.
For now, let’s highlight the most lucrative locations for TEFL teachers:
Impressive salaries in the Middle East
The most lucrative English teaching jobs anywhere in the world are in the United Arab Emirates. As a booming economy, with an enormously powerful monarchy, the powerful oil-rich state is looking to make its schoolkids and adults alike proficient in English.
To that end, the sums are more than noteworthy. A full-time English teaching gig in the UAE will make you – on average – £1,600 to £4,000 a month. The wages often include accommodation and flights, and you’ll need a degree as well as a TEFL certificate to be considered, as well as some impressive experience.
Qatar and Saudi Arabia aren’t far behind. As two more oil-rich states, Saudi Arabia offers an average wage of £1,600 to £3,200, while Qatar’s average wages top out at around £2,800 – ideal if you want to teach English and save money simultaneously. Much like the UAE, flights and accommodation are commonly included, and you’ll need a BA degree, TEFL certification and some lofty experience to land a job.
High standards and high wages in the Far East
Wages in Asia, specifically the Far East, can vary wildly, but the top jobs pay enormously well.
Hong Kong stands out – the former British colony pays English teachers (on average) anywhere between £1,600 and £6,300 a month. The average income in Hong Kong is equivalent to $56,178, or £47,394.01 at the time of writing.
Japan, though, has more job opportunities and a teaching abroad salary that’s worth considering. You’re likely to earn between £1,600 and £2,000 per month. Given its strict visa requirements, including the need for a degree and TEFL certification, it’s not the easiest place to get out to. If you do land a job in Japan, though, you’ll immediately have more than enough to get by.
South Korea, which takes applicants through the popular EPIK Programme, pays some of the best teacher wages in Asia. On average, a full-time TEFL teacher can earn between £1,280 and £1,600.
China, meanwhile, is a gigantic TEFL market, with a staggering 400 million English learners. As such, the wages on offer are pretty great. A full-time English teacher should be looking to earn between £1,000 and £2,000 a month. What’s more, there are countless English teaching companies within China, so there are higher salaries available from freelancing or private tutoring.
TEFL Salaries – why the school is crucial
When we talk about wages, of course, we’re considering the national average, based on a compilation of data that we’ve put together. You might hear a story about a teacher making £2,000 a month in a public school in Chile, for example, but that would be the exception rather than the norm.
However, when we consider average salaries, it’s important to be mindful that the average isn’t necessarily the wage you’ll get when you first arrive somewhere. The biggest factor is the type of school you’re teaching in.
Public schools, i.e. state schools, will likely offer lesser wages than private schools. A private school’s wage system, given its independent status and funding from outside sources, is inherently more likely to offer superior wages.
Then, consider elite international schools. These kinds of schools are particularly popular in places with burgeoning economies. The Middle East, for example, is full of international schools, because families from all over the world move to the Middle East in order to generate income from more lucrative jobs. International schools tend to hire teachers with the most experience, as well as those who have been a resident in the same nation for a decent length of time. A degree, for these kinds of jobs, is essential.
Universities have similar tendencies to international schools. Top universities will offer high wages to experienced teachers, who can run classes and offer one-to-one tutoring to students for extra income.
Most of this is common sense; bigger or more elite institutions, in the main, offer higher wages for their staff, so it’s easier to save money for the future. Remember to really research where you might be going if you receive a job offer, as it’s worth investigating the reputation of a school or university before committing.
TEFL salaries & the cost of living
Remember, a salary package from teaching overseas might seem either too good to be true or not nearly good enough. It’s all to do with the cost of living.
Most of the time, an average salary for a nation is relative to the cost of living. In countries where tax rates are high, wages should theoretically match to meet those demands. Scandinavia, for example, offers high wages but it’s relative to the cost of VAT and income tax.
In other cases, salaries might look low for TEFL teachers, whether it’s a language school or an international school, but it’ll be relative to the cost of living. For example, Mexico offers (on average) between £400 and £800 a month, but it’s a country where day-to-day expenses are comparatively cheap.
Before taking a job somewhere, be sure to research the cost of living in certain countries. Our country guides provide a great platform to see how much it costs to pay rent, groceries, clothes and other expenses.
Accommodation, flights and other benefits
It’s well worth checking out whether an employer will offer benefits along with a salary when you’re leaving your home country. Sometimes, benefits will come at the cost of a slightly lower wage, but if you’re lucky, a school, university or company might help you out with a range of costs.
For example, in certain countries employers may cover accommodation, in the form of either helping you to find a local apartment or a place in halls of residence. In some cases, a school or university might own flats that are let out to teachers.
Equally, employers might put flights in a signing package. That way, you avoid the expense of travelling to and from where the job is based.
On a lesser scale, some employers will offer incentives like lessons in the local language, gym memberships, medical insurance (where applicable) and other incentives.
Q. Does teaching English abroad pay well?
Teaching English abroad can pay well when you leave your home country. Certainly, wherever you go, you should be able to make ends meet on a teacher’s salary. However, depending on the type of school (public, private or international) or institution (company, university) you work for, you might earn more than the national average for your TEFL salary.
Some locations, including East Asia and the Middle East, offer comparatively high wages. This is also true in locations like Sweden, Switzerland and Norway, where there’s a high level of English proficiency.
Q. Which countries pay the highest salaries to English teachers?
Some of the best wages are found in the Middle East. The average salary for an English teacher in the United Arab Emirates is between £1,600 and £4,000 a month, while Saudi Arabia and Qatar aren’t far behind.
Taiwan and China, in Eastern Asia, offer high salaries, as do Japan and South Korea. However, the leader in Asia is Hong Kong, where English teachers can earn anything between £1,600 and £6,300 a month.
Switzerland offers high wages for English teachers, with TEFL qualified tutors earning between £1,850 and £2,475 per month. Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands also offer high salary packages, though the competition for jobs is ruthless, and each country ranks highly for English Proficiency.