How to Find the Best Paid Teaching Jobs Overseas

How to Find the Best Paid Teaching Jobs Overseas
May 07, 2018 By Alistair Baker-Brian ,

From the adventurous if somewhat pretentious “gap year” student to the seriously driven teacher, seeking out teaching jobs overseas is now a common career path for Westerners. Amid the excitement, however, it can be easy to accept a job that appears highly paid on paper, but turns out to be not so when the cost of living, taxes and visa fees are added into the mix. Finding a teaching job overseas is one thing, but ensuring your job pays well is quite another.

Photo: Flickr

In 2014, I was a naïve first-time teacher who had just been offered a job in Guangzhou, China. While searching online to learn about other people’s experiences at the company I was considering working with, I came across a blog post stating a few positives of the job but bemoaning the fact that the author had to expend on tax, rent, groceries and utilities.

I felt little sympathy with the author given that this information could have easily been obtained beforehand. During the interview process I asked the employer directly. They said that foreign employees who paid rent were exempt from income tax, something which, to be fair, had changed since 2009 when the blogger accepted the role.

In the end I took the job and had a fulfilling and financially comfortable year in which I was able to send around 30 percent of my salary home. This may not have been the case with other jobs, however, so you should be wary of this before accepting teaching jobs overseas.

With this in mind, below is some advice on how to find the best paid teaching jobs abroad.

Note that “teaching jobs abroad” refers in this case to teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). Although international schools may offer jobs teaching other subjects, this is something beyond the realm of my experience.


Getting qualified

Whilst it's possible to teach English abroad without qualifications, your options will probably be limited to South America. A chart produced by the International TEFL Academy lists the qualification requirements for all South American countries as “BA/BS preferred but not required”. In almost all of the jobs listed in Asia and the Middle East, however, a BA or BS is a necessary, and in some countries an MA is preferred.

In short, those who are better qualified have better paid job options. Beyond the minimum requirement in many countries of a BA or BS degree, teachers can complete a TEFL certificate, available through various providers, or the more prestigious and globally-recognised Certificate of Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages (commonly known as CELTA). The latter is recommended for long-term ESL teachers.


Finding a job

Applications via job and ESL websites tend to be the only the way to apply for teaching jobs abroad, unless candidates have direct contact with an employer. Those looking to move to mainland China should of course check out the jobs section of, which posts thousands of new teaching jobs all over China each day. Other ESL recruitment websites like TEFL Org, and Daves ESL Café offer a wide range of jobs in many different countries, albeit fewer in China than

Some websites host forums for discussion, in which employees’ negative and positive experiences can be viewed by potential teachers. In particular, would-be employees can find out beforehand whether the employer is reliable with regard to punctual salary payment, reimbursement of visa costs, payment for overtime and other related issues.


Salary Vs cost of living

One ESL blogger who taught in both Argentina and Taiwan, summed up her experiences as follows:

“If you’re looking for… the opportunity to be immersed in a Spanish-speaking environment… then Latin America will be just the ticket! …If you want to pay off your student loans or build up your savings account, you’ll definitely want to consider teaching in Asia”.

In pure numbers, Dubai offers some of the highest English teaching salaries at around 3,000-5000 USD tax-free per month, in addition to free accommodation and a return flight back home. Outside the Middle East, it has recently been reported that Taiwan has overtaken Japan and South Korea as the best paid teaching destination in Asia.

Of course, high salaries have to be weighed against the cost of living. Teachers should also consider costs that might be incurred before starting a job.

Teachers looking to obtain a Chinese work visa, for example, are required to have their degree certificate and criminal background check notarised by the foreign affairs bureau of their home country. The documents then have to be processed at the nearest Chinese embassy, consulate or visa office, after which teachers can finally apply for a work visa.

Candidates should check if their employers are prepared to reimburse such additional costs as part of their salary package.


Know your goal

Re-reading the blog post that criticised my former employer, made me reflect on my original reasons for teaching English abroad. I wanted to travel and see a different part of the world, but do so in a way that did not constrain me financially.

The “gap year” explorer may be content with a low paid ESL job as a means to fund their travels, but for those looking for a well-paid position, finding the right job is so much more complicated. By following the right advice, however, anyone, from the first-time teacher to an experienced educator, can find a well paid teaching job overseas.

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