Choosing Where to Teach ESL Based on Salary and Benefits

Choosing Where to Teach ESL Based on Salary and Benefits

Once you have made the decision to teach English as a Second Language (ESL), you may decide to get a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate or even a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA). Before, during, or after you have gotten a TEFL or CELTA, you need to choose where you want to teach, and there are many opportunities around the world from which you can choose.

Teaching ESL is an option in virtually any country. You can possibly get a job teaching English to students in your home country, especially in a big metropolitan city. If your reason for wanting to teach English is because it gives you an opportunity to leave home and explore the world, then there are also a lot of places to choose from.

In this article, we’ll look at countries in Asia and the general salary range and benefits.


  • Typical requirement(s): Bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certificate

For teachers who hold a Bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certificate, but no previous teaching experience, Vietnam is a great ESL teaching option. Not only does the country offer great travel experiences, from the rice terraces in Sapa to the beaches in Mui Ne, and a rich cultural history, but Vietnam has also seen a boom in the ESL industry, meaning that the capital, Hanoi, is home to hundreds of language schools. It other important cities, like Ho Chi Minh City, are also full of teaching opportunities.

While salaries in Vietnam typically rank lower than other teaching powerhouses like Japan and South Korea, the general salary range is between US$ 1 000 – 2 000. Beneficially, your cost of living is less than living in wealthier Asian countries. It is also reported that most English teachers are able to save around US$500 after expenses each month.


  • Typical requirement(s): Bachelor’s degree, though individual school do require a TEFL

The island of Taiwan offers a special experience for teachers who want to teach English in Asia. As a high-tech economy, Taiwan combines its excellent infrastructure with a rich cultural heritage, hot springs, and tropical island typography. Most of the ESL jobs are located in the main cities such as Taipei (the capital) and Koahsiung (the massive port city in the south of the country); however, because of the country’s size, popularity as an English-teaching destination and booming economy, getting ESL jobs are not as easy as they once were. Thus, apply early if this country is your first choice.

Furthermore, it is important to note that teaching English in Taiwan is not as lucrative as in South Korea or Japan, but the ESL job market still offers a good salary for English teachers and benefits for TEFL-certified ones. Similar to Vietnam, most teachers are able to save about US$500 each month.

Life in Taiwan

Jobs in Taiwan


  • Typical requirement(s): Bachelor’s degree, though some regions require experience or certification

China has an estimated 300 million people who are either learning or want to learn English, so the most populous country in the world is also the biggest and one of the most lucrative ESL markets. Salaries range from US$ 1 000 – 2 000 per month. According to some reports, in excess of 100 000 foreign teachers teach English in China every year.

Moreover, you can choose from a wide variety of locations to teach: There is populous Beijing, metropolitan Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, which are close to Hong Kong, and even the more mountainous areas, like Hunan. If your aim while teaching ESL is learning Mandarin (or Cantonese), then there are plenty of opportunities available here.

Benefits for ESL teachers often include free housing, free airfare, and a relatively low living cost. Many teachers report that they are able to save between US$500 to US$1000 per month while teaching English in China.

Life in China

Teach in China

South Korea

  • Typical requirement(s): TEFL certificate (and teaching experience is preferred)

South Korea, similar to Japan in many aspects, is one of the countries in Asia that ESL teachers flock to. There are teaching jobs all over the country, ranging from the EPIK program to teaching at private academies (known as hagwons). Furthermore, South Korea has a rich history, high-tech cities, and also really good barbecue.

In addition to those benefits, teachers teaching ESL here can expect free airfare and housing, a highly competitive salary (this can be up to US$ 2 500 per month), overtime and bonus opportunities, a low cost of living, health insurance, and between 2-4 weeks of paid vacation.


  • Typical requirement(s): TEFL certificate (and teaching experience is preferred)

Japan is an appealing country for teachers who want to teach ESL abroad. After all, the country is famous for its great food, cherry blossoms, high-tech cities, friendly people, and skiing in summer. Teachers can also expect salaries of up to US$3000 per month, and some schools offer free housing or reimbursements of flights.

It should be noted that it can be tough getting a job in the competitive ESL market in Japan, so previous teaching experience will be to your benefit. Positions through Saxonourt are available for teachers with little or no teaching experience.

Life in Japan

Jobs in Japan


While a good salary and great benefits should possibly (read definitely) factor into your equation when making the decision of where you want to teach, money isn’t everything. Look at the history and culture of the country, your other reasons for wanting to live and teach there (like the ease of travel to nearby regions), and food.

Want to know more about living and teaching abroad? Visit Saxoncourt’s Teaching Abroad Blog.

About the Author

Denine Walters is currently a freelance writer, editor/proofreader and ESL teacher. Previously, she taught online English lessons to students from all around the world and, before that, she lived and taught English to young learners in Taiwan. In her free time, she likes to read, do scrapbooking and grammar quizzes, and travel.