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The Top Places to Teach ESL

Updated on April 14, 2016

Are you unsure about where to Teach ESL?

There are thousands of ESL Teaching Jobs around the world, so it can be hard to narrow down which country you want to teach English in. This site profiles a few of the major countries, like South Korea, Japan and Vietnam where you can teach English and lists some advantages and disadvantages of each place, as well as offers some tips on finding an ESL job. It's a difficult choice, but hopefully this site will help you to make a more informed choice, which will result in a better year teaching abroad. Good luck and happy ESL teaching!


Teaching ESL in South Korea

South Korea is one of the best places to teach ESL. The salary is relatively high ($2000 US/month) and airfare, as well as accommodation are usually covered by the employer. The standard contract is for one year. The easiest jobs to get are at Private Institutes, or public schools. You can often get these with a bit of paperwork, and a little telephone interview. For the qualified (Masters degree), university jobs are possible, but they usually require in-person interviews. They have the advantage of much longer vacations. Koreans are friendly and you'll find most of them quite interested in and welcoming to foreigners.

The drawbacks to teaching in South Korea are a couple major ones. The chances of getting ripped off are quite high, as Koreans don't really place that much value in a written contract, instead preferring to conduct business based on "relationship." Additionally, foreigners don't have a lot of recourse when they do get ripped off. It can be extremely difficult to change jobs mid-way through your one-year contract. The other major drawback is the hoops and hurdles to jump through to get a visa. The basic requirement is a BA degree from an English-speaking country, but there are various other things you need to get, such as a national criminal background check, health check and verified diploma


ESL In Japan

Japan has quite an appealing culture and it's for this reason that many people want to teach ESL there. However, the job conditions are not that great, as compared to South Korea. For starters, it's much harder to get a job in Japan. The big companies will have 2-day interview sessions in various countries around the world, and it's not so common to get hired over the phone.

The salary is quite high (around $2500 US), but you'll usually have to buy your own plane ticket, as well as pay for your accommodation, although the school will usually help you organize this. Food, and basic things like taxis are among the most expensive in the world, so your salary won't go very far. The types of jobs you can get are teaching in a big language schools (either adults or kids), teaching at a public school (either through a dispatch program like Interac, or a government program like JET), or in a university. Jet and University jobs are not that easy to get, and you'll need to be well-qualified.

As far as culture and lifestyle, most people love living in Japan and you should have an enjoyable year. Japan is a beautiful country, with mountains, hotsprings, and beautiful coastlines. You should have no fear of getting ripped off, and you have the advantage of being able to switch jobs easily if you don't like your current one.

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Teaching ESL In China

China is an up and coming country for English language learning. In the past 10 years, salaries and working conditions have improved considerably and my feeling is that in 10 more years, it will be comparable to other Asian countries like South Korea or Japan. For now though, job offers are as varied as China is big. The salary ranges from $500-1500 US/month. Accommodation, and airfare are sometimes offered, but usually not. The nice thing about China is that prices are still very cheap and you should be able to live very well, by local standards on even a low ESL Teacher's salary. Saving money might be difficult if you're not on the higher end of the salary range.

As far as teaching goes, conditions are extremely varied. You can work in a private language institute, teaching children and have the potential to make quite a high salary. Universities will have more vacation, but class sizes will often be huge and pay is generally low. You can also find work in public schools, but again, class sizes will be very large. To work as an ESL Teacher, a BA Degree is often required, but not always. You might be able to find some work with just a high-school diploma and teaching ESL Cert (Celta for example).

China has the advantage of allowing you to study Cantonese or Mandarin, which could be very useful, depending on your line of work back in your home country.


Teaching English in the Middle East

Working in the Middle East as an English teacher can be extremely lucrative. Jobs often pay 2000-4000 US/month and you'll often get free airfare as well as accommodation. Holidays, and things like medical insurance and travel allowance are often included in the package as well. You'll work hard for the money though and are usually required to be in the office for 40 hours/week (although teaching hours are less than that). Holidays can often be quite generous.

Jobs can be found in various places, although many of them are for private companies and teaching in universities. There are comparatively less jobs teaching kids than in Asia. You'll need to be well qualified to get an ESL job in the Middle East, with at least a BA Degree+Celta. A Masters in an education or ESL field, or a Delta is even better.

Companies often recruit at overseas job fairs, but you should be able to secure employment through over the phone interviews.


Teaching ESL In Europe

If you have an EU passport and speak English as a first language, you should be able to find a job extremely easily. The company that employs you will be able to hire you with a minimum of paperwork hassle. However, if you're from outside the EU zone, it can be very hard to find legal employment, as many companies will not want to go through the hoops to get you a visa. However, some countries, like the Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, and other Easter European countries will allow non-EU citizens to get ESL teaching jobs.

The lifestyle and standard of living in Europe is high. However, ESL teacher salaries are not, so you will have a hard time saving a lot of money. You also need to be quite well qualified with a BA Degree and a Celta as a minimum.


Teaching English in Taiwan

Taiwan has plenty of English Teaching jobs and you should be able to find one from overseas. There are plenty of big chains like HESS that are always hiring and have various contracts for you to choose from. The pay is usually between $15-20/hour and it's common to get paid by the hour and not a monthly salary. Public schools and university jobs can be much harder to come by. So the potential to make a high salary is there, if you're willing to work long hours. You usually have to pay for your own airfare and accommodation.

As far as lifestyle and culture go, most people seem to like Taiwan. The weather is warm year-round, and the food is delicious and cheap. There are lots of mountains, beaches and hot-springs. People ride scooters, and there are special lanes for them to ride in, so you'll find transportation very easy and simple.


ESL Teaching in Vietnam

Vietnam, along with China is another up and coming country to teach ESL in. Salaries have risen dramatically in the past 10 years and are now in the $15-20 US/hour range. Most contracts are for hourly work, so the potential to make a nice salary is there if you're willing to work hard. Airfare and accommodation are usually not included in the contract. Most of the work can be found in small language institutes teaching in Ho Chi Min, or Hanoi. If you're in the country, you should have a much easier time finding a job than from overseas. A BA Degree and Celta/TESOL certification are required in order to get a visa.

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