Unlike other countries in the region (such as Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam) there isn’t an abundance of teaching opportunities in Malaysia for newly-qualified teachers. Most TEFL jobs in Malaysia are for certified teachers to work in international schools, and require teachers to have a BA degree, TEFL qualification, and at least three years’ teaching experience, as well as possibly a higher teaching qualification like a PGCE or MA in education. Visa applications are slow and positions come up infrequently, so it’s not a country you can turn up and teach in on a whim.
However, for qualified EFL teachers with the necessary experience, Malaysia is a great country to work in. Affordable, modern, and vibrant, there are plenty of reasons why a seasoned TEFL teacher might want to head to this area. Malaysia is a diverse country, enriched by a multicultural population comprised of Malays, Chinese, Indians, and indigenous peoples. With the oldest and most biologically-diverse rainforests in the world, picturesque islands, and otherworldly caves, Malaysia is a country that boasts a wealth of natural wonders. It’s also home to dynamic cities such as its capital, Kuala Lumpur. You’d never guess looking at its incredible skyline, which is decorated with futuristic skyscrapers, that this city (home to 1.8 million people) is only 200 years old.
- Popular locations for TEFL jobs: Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Sabah, Kota Kinabalu, Johor Bahru
- Average salary for EFL teachers: The basic monthly salary for full-time positions is likely to be in the region of 3,000 to 8,000 MYR (£550 – £1,450 / $720 – $1,900) per month.
- TEFL qualification requirements:At least a 120-hour TEFL qualification from an accredited provider
- Prerequisite university degree: A BA degree is a visa requirement
- Term times: January to May/June and May/June to mid-November. The school year ends with a six-week holiday from mid-November to early January
- Currency: Malaysian Ringgit (MYR)
- Language: Malay
- Teaching programmes: International schools, International kindergartens, Language Centres, Volunteering
- Age restrictions: Maximum 65
- Previous teaching experience: Usually required
With such strict standards for TEFL hiring in Malaysia, its no wonder that teachers moving there are expected to be professional, inspiring, seasoned in different teaching methodologies, and what one would generally call ‘a good teacher’. Even for kindergarten roles, turning up looking scruffy and playing the same tired games lesson after lesson just won’t cut the mustard. Teachers in Malaysia are expected to be well-versed in their subject and be able to facilitate quality learning, whatever age the students are. If you’re working at an international or bilingual school, you’ll have to put in the effort to become familiar with their curriculum, and doing research into which exams they offer will put you in good stead when it comes to interviews.
In most roles you will be expected to work 30-40 hours per week, with up to around 24 of those being teaching hours. Part-time teaching jobs aren’t common in Malaysia, and in order to get a visa you’ll be better off applying for a full-time role with a respected school. It’s possible to get private, freelance students, but you’re only permitted to do this sort of work if you have a working visa – working on a tourism visa is strictly prohibited. With such good wages for most full-time positions, you’re unlikely to need your own private students in your free time to get by. The demand is high for top-quality teachers, so if you have the experience and qualifications necessary to get work in Malaysia, there will be no shortage of positions for you to apply for.
Requirements for teaching English in Malaysia
|Country||Avg. monthly salary||Degree required||Start of term||Teaching experience||Housing & flights included||Suitable for non-native English speakers||Age restrictions|
|Cambodia||£680 - £1,000
($900 - $1,300)
|China||£1,000 – £2,000
($1,300 – $2,575)
|Yes||September||No||Yes||Yes, if degree obtained from an English-speaking country||Under 55|
|Hong Kong||£1,550 – £6,300
($2,000 – $8,380)
|Yes||August||No||Not usually||Yes||Under 60|
|India||£120 – £775
($150 – $1,000)
|Indonesia||£565 – £1,030
($745 – $1,355)
|Yes||July||No||Not usually||No||Under 60|
|Japan||£1,600 – £2,000
($2,100 – $2,675)
|Kazakhstan||£360 – £470
($465 – $600)
|Malaysia||£550 – £1,450
($720 – $1,900)
|Myanmar||£600 – £1,500
($800 – $2,000)
|Mongolia||£630 – £1,000
($875 – $1,400)
|South Korea||£1,280 – £1,600
($1,670 – $2,000)
|Taiwan||£1,335 – £1,735
($1,700 – $2,220)
|Thailand||£740 – £980
($1,000 – $1,280)
|Vietnam||£920 - £ 1,500
($1,200 to $2,000)
The third cheapest country in Asia, living costs in Malaysia are low, so teachers can live comfortably on their salary. Many TEFL jobs in Malaysia are highly paid, especially those at top international schools, so it’s possible to enjoy a luxurious, expat lifestyle without taking on private students in your free time. While accommodation and eating out is affordable, you’ll find that certain items such as alcohol and cigarettes are very expensive compared to the rest of Southeast Asia. Interestingly, while Malaysia is a predominately Muslim country, alcohol is only banned in two states (Kelantan and Terengganu), and despite the tax rate on alcohol being the third highest in the world, alcohol consumption in the country is actually very high.
When it comes to food, you’re spoilt for choice with Malaysian cuisine being nothing short of incredible, drawing influences from its varied population and cultures. A restaurant meal is comparatively cheap (unless you’re having some beers with it!) but dining out on street food is even more so – and often more exciting! In more cosmopolitan areas you’ll be able to find food from home that you might be craving, but it will come with an inflated price tag, and the cheapest way to get by is living as the locals do.
Although Kuala Lumpur is the most expensive place to live in the country, it’s still very affordable compared to the UK or US. You can expect to pay much less for accommodation (although this is typically included as part of your teaching contract), utilities, and groceries than you would back home. Travel in the country is also reasonably priced, so you can enjoy exploring on your weekends off – or even venture further and visit nearby countries.
- Accommodation: £368 – £637 / $481 – $833
- Utilities: £49 / $64
- Health insurance: Cost of typical visit to a GP: £13 / $17
- Monthly transport pass: £17 / $23
- Basic dinner out for two: £16 / $21
- Cappuccino in expat area: £2.58 / $3.37
- A beer in a pub: £4.32 / $5.65
- 1 litre of milk: £1.17 / $1.53
- 2 litres of Coca-Cola: £0.73 / $0.96
(living costs sourced from Expatistan)