Ultimate Guide for English Teachers While Traveling Abroad

Until recently, the idea of getting paid to live, travel, and work abroad seemed unfathomable. But thanks to the ESL sector booming into a multi-billion-dollar industry, this is now more achievable than ever. But you might find yourself asking “am I qualified to teach?” or “where do I even start?” Luckily there are tons of resources available and becoming an English teacher abroad is now more doable than ever.

Here is the ultimate guide for English teachers traveling abroad to help you navigate the ins and outs of the market.

Are you the right fit?

The ESL market is massive and there are plenty of jobs available for various levels of experience and qualification.

College students and recent graduates make up a big portion of English teachers abroad. Before you enter the job market and settle down, ESL jobs allow you to see the world and make money while doing so.

If you are an experienced teacher you can apply for jobs that potentially pay more than teaching jobs in your home country. If you teach English in Japan, South Korea, China, or the Middle East, you can earn high salaries and often have your flights and housing paid for.

Teaching ESL abroad is also the perfect opportunity for people looking to make a career change. Taking a break from your current job seems idyllic but it is not something everyone can afford. Teaching in a foreign country could be the perfect change of pace you need to get your head on straight for the next chapter in your life.

How to become an ESL teacher

Various ESL positions require vastly different qualifications. For beginner teachers, there are many volunteer programs, tutoring programs, and after-school centers that will give you a job with little to no experience. In some cases, a university degree is essential and usually a TEFL certificate is required.

TEFL courses usually consist of 120 hours of study and will provide you with plenty of tools to use in the classroom like lesson planning, classroom activities, and basic language skills to teach English abroad. Try to choose a TEFL course that will provide assistance with finding work once you have completed the course.

International schools are the highest paying option for qualified teachers. They take applications before the new school year starts, which is usually September for schools in the Northern hemisphere and January for schools in the Southern hemisphere.

Volunteer programs run all year long and applications are always welcome. These programs are usually shorter and have less strict requirements.

Online teaching is another brilliant option that thousands of teachers are turning to. Applications are also open all year and companies hire new teachers, native speakers, second-language speakers, TEFL qualified teachers, and even novice teachers. Cast your net far and wide and apply to as many online companies as you can if this is a route you would like to take.

Where to Teach English Abroad

The ESL landscape varies vastly from country to country, each with its own needs and opportunities. These are some of the regions you could teach English abroad in.


Asia has the largest need for ESL teachers and almost every country offers jobs at both international schools and language centers.

In Southeast Asia, salaries are typically lower than in Northeast Asia but countries like Vietnam and Cambodia have very low costs of living. There are more language centers in Southeast Asia than in the North, allowing teachers more time to travel as they are not bound by long-term contracts or full workdays.

South Korea and China are amongst the most popular places to teach English as the benefits are plentiful. End-of-contract bonuses and paid-for flights, insurance, holidays, and housing are some of the perks you could never dream of back home.

Schools in Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam pay between $800 and $1,500 per month with international schools offering slightly more. In China, Japan, and South Korea you can expect a salary of between $1,500 and $2,800.

Central and South America

Central and South America is an emerging market for ESL teachers and more teachers are drawn to the peaceful lifestyle here. Here teachers often volunteer or work at small language centers in exchange for housing and a small stipend. There are however larger schools in the cities that offer full-time salaries and some benefits.

The idyllic landscape and vibrant culture of this region is a huge draw for potential ESL teachers. There are various ex-pat communities across the region enjoying a slow pace of life and low cost of living in beach towns along the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean sea. Average salaries vary between $500 and $1,000 and some of the most popular countries include Argentina, Chile, and Mexico.

Middle East

The Middle East is one of the highest paying ESL regions and qualified teachers are lining up for a chance to teach in this prestigious region. There are language centers, private schools, international schools, government programs, and universities all offering attractive salaries. You can expect between $1,500 to $5,000 per month with the UAE being the highest paying country. Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar are also very popular teaching destinations.


Teaching English in Europe is slightly more complex as many countries have a fairly good grasp of English, or prefer to employ local teachers who can speak multiple languages.

There are however many language schools with after-school programs and programs aimed specifically at adults. There are also summer schools in Europe where students come from all over the world to study languages.

Eastern Europe has more opportunities for ESL teachers as English has a growing demand in the region. Georgia, the Czech Republic, Romania, Russia, and Croatia all have international schools and language centers and the cost of living is fairly low compared to elsewhere in Europe.

In the west, Spain, Portugal, France, and Italy all have ESL teaching opportunities, especially for private tutoring and at centers in smaller villages.

Considering how much you would like to travel, how much flexibility you would like in your schedule, and how much you would like to save will help you choose the most suitable destination. North East Asia provides stable living situations while South East Asia has many potential travel opportunities and low cost of living. Europe has less job opportunities but you are greatly rewarded with some of the most beautiful sights in the world and a high standard of living. The Middle East should be your go to for saving plenty of money but if you prefer a more relaxed lifestyle consider some time in a coastal region of South America. So get out there, and get teaching!

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