How much can I make Teaching English Abroad?
But . . . what you need to ask is, “How much money can I save teaching English overseas?”
These are two very different questions.
In some countries you may be provided a relatively modest wage. But with no income taxes, free accommodation, paid or reimbursed airfare, even sometimes subsidized utilities and very low cost of living . . . other than purchasing food – almost everything you are paid is “pocket money” or discretionary income.
The other side of the coin is teaching in some European countries with what might seem to be a very decent wage, but where you must pay for your accommodation, taxes take a huge bite out of your income, airfare is not paid, utilities and transportation are very expensive and the cost of living is very high – and you save nothing. Might even be out of pocket.
So we are going talk about savings, not earnings, here – because what people really want to know is:
Can I pay down my student loans?
Can I pay off my debts?
Can I save enough money to buy an apartment or house – or a car when I return home?
The answer is, “Yes, you can.” It depends only on where you go and your qualifications.
Let’s talk in generalities about regions of the world and specifics about some of the largest EFL markets (China, Korea, Japan, Thailand and more).
EFL Teachers in Korea and Taiwan, for example, typically can save as much as US$1,000 per month or more. Your lifestyle, of course, will affect your personal bottom line as well as how currencies go up and down – but the general idea is accurate. In both countries you will need a BA/BS degree.
TEFL professionals in the Middle East and particularly the Gulf States can sometimes triple the savings of Korea, but the ME will generally require advanced degrees and previous experience for the better positions and some cultural aspects of the region are not to everyone’s liking.
EFL Teachers in China report a good lifestyle on their wages – but that they are usually unable to save significant money, though US$100-200 a month are possible if one is careful.
Thailand and Mexico and many countries in Central and South America offer wages that afford a modest and comfortable living – but serious savings are difficult to come by.
So, as you ponder the decision about teaching English overseas, you’ll also need to consider your financial situation and that will affect what countries you want to look at for your TEFL career.
If you have student loans or other debts, consider only countries where your likelihood of success is great and the average teacher is able to comfortably save at least the amount of your obligations and enough to travel and enjoy the region (Primarily Korea, Japan, Taiwan and parts of the Middle East).
My personal experience is that I started in TEFL with very little in the way of assets – and over the period from 1992 to 2005 was able to buy several rental properties in the USA and pay them off (see TED’s Tips™ below). All the while teaching in four different countries and traveling to many others.
Overall, for me anyway, it was an excellent lifestyle combined with an ability to save. But, it is not all roses and happy faces. I would always prefer to work in a country like Thailand and sit on a beach – but I have had to make some choices and spend some serious time in countries like Saudi Arabia where earnings and net savings can be very high.
TEFL was a real career for me and I needed to make sure I had sufficient funds for retirement (I am now retired at the young age of only 58 – and enjoying that beach!).
TED’s Tips™ #1: In TEFL you are essentially working for yourself, responsible for yourself. Plan for your future carefully.
Working overseas, you might never be paying into a pension fund and if American, you won’t be paying into Social Security. You must plan income for your later years if you intend to stay abroad for a long period of time – or forever. Ignore this tip at your own peril. I’ve have actually seen a destitute old foreigner (Caucasian Westerner) digging through garbage cans, just 100 meters from a beautiful tropical beach. Very sad.
TED’s Tips™ #2: Do you research. Check and double check SAVINGS – not Earnings.
Ask on forums, ask me, ask others: be sure you know before you go.