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Teaching English Abroad

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Teaching English Abroad

Post by Invictus » January 20th, 2017, 4:13 am

What can someone teaching English expect to make in 2017? Is a CELTA a mandatory requirement?

I'm sure most people have experience with China or South Korea. I would like to hear about that.

What about teaching English in the EU if someone had EU citizenship?

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Re: Teaching English Abroad

Post by MrMan » January 20th, 2017, 7:35 am

I was a teacher in Korea in the 1990's. The salary was $1600, in won, a month, flights in and out, some kind of health insurance, and a place to stay. The place to stay could be a shared apartment. I think the salary range was $1400 to $1600 back then, but my memory is hazy about that.

Recently, I checked, and I think it was the same deal for $1800-$1600 a month, which is a drop in salary in real terms, but nominally more. That's still okay. I saved about $6000 during one year in South Korea. I went out to eat for lunch just about every day.

Back then, you didn't need a CELTA to get a job. Just a degree. If you have a CELTA, you probably know what you are doing, which is good. There are also cheaper online certificates you could get.

I also taught in Indonesia. When I first got to Indonesia, I got a higher paying English institute job at about $1200 a month plus housing. The cost of living was cheap. Then the currencly devalued to about a quarter of what it was and the economy entered a deep recession. English First (EF) entered the market (through a local master franchiser, I think) and kept English institute salaries really low. In Indonesia EF is offering rupiah salaries between about $818 and $1185 a month now according to advertisements.

You can see ads on They have an International Job Board. I think they have specific boards for Korean and Chinese jobs. You can see salaries and qualifications.

In Indonesia, if you want to make a decent salary teaching English, one of the best routes to go is get certified as a school teacher in the US, then work for an international school. That would make sense if you wanted to work there long term. You could also work in China. Some international schools pay more than the US, some pay about the same, and some pay less. It's fairly typical for them to set you up with a house and other perks, though. I got a rent-free stay in a nice house one year with free electricity. The neighborhood had a pool and (a rather pitiful) fitness center. You don't usually get that from English institute jobs. The school that put me up in the house was a 'national plus' school, kind of like an international school, but they let locals attend. Those jobs are usually a lot more work than institutes.

There are also niches where you might make a bit more money than working for EF. EF will probably pay lower than just about anywhere else, but the last I heard, it was easy to get a job there. There was also a CELTA course offered in Jakarta the last I heard.

I never got a CELTA. I was either too busy working or looking for work and concerned about spending when I didn't have an income or else a job coming open while I was studying. I ended up going back to grad school and getting out of the ELS field.

If you have free time and money, CELTA is probably a good way to go. It may get your foot in the door in better jobs. I had one national plus school that was thinking of interviewing me once that turned me down because I wasn't certified to teach and did not have a CELTA. For institutes, it didn't matter back when I was doing ESL, and I would imagine it does not now.

If you want more details, Dave's ESL Cafe has discussion forums and lots of existing discussion you can read to learn about the hiring situation in any country.

In Korea, split shifts or Saturdays are common, or used to be. In some schools, you teach kids, and they have classes in the afternoons and evenings, then classes on Saturday morning. That's typical. There schools that focus(ed) on college students and/or business people. They typically have you work a split shift, early morning and late afternoon until night. I had the latter case. I was so jet lagged. The sun came up at 5, which was weird, since it's so far north. So it's hard to sleep on the weekend. I didn't have 8 hours between my last class and my earliest class, and I still had to walk home and eat dinner after class (cheese sandwhiches, ramen noodles, imitation crab stick sandwiches, whatever was fast). I felt sick from jet lag on and off for a couple of months.

Here is my advice:
- Don't take a job unless they fly you in and fly you out.
- Ask if you have to work a split shift, early morning and late afternoons until night, or if you have to work on Saturday.
- Find out what kind of housing they provide.
- Ask about health insurance and other benefits, and of course salary, etc.
- Talk to an expat who works there and ask if the school delivers what they promise.

I never did China. I understand their salaries and facilities have improved dramatically since I first started in the game.

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Re: Teaching English Abroad

Post by Kradmelder » January 20th, 2017, 10:10 am

Those salaries and level of saving sound abysmally low. That is low in a low cost country, and must be terrible in a high cost country. If you have the ability to teach english, and speak a foreign language, would not a job in the private sector, or as a business consultant or something, pay far better? Is there a reason to stay in teaching english? I recall my mother studied languages at university. She was fluent in 6 european languages. Everywhere she went she was offered jobs, including to be a translator at the olympics. But back then women didn't work and families could live well on 1 income; no longer. Besides, they had no desire to live in europe; just holiday.

I can imagine a whte man with english certification and an asian language could do very well.

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Re: Teaching English Abroad

Post by MrMan » January 20th, 2017, 10:35 am


ESL salaries are low. For much of my career in ESL, which ended about 10 years ago, I'd worked for somewhere around the US $25 to $30K per year mark, sometimes counting the value of housing. That's a low salary, but goes a long way overseas. If you spend $5 to $10K less per year than in the US. Prices have gone up since in Jakarta. I am out of ESL and happy to be earning a fairly decent expat salary with housing provided and other perks.

There are a lot of majors in college that don't translate into a job. There are various humanities and social science majors. Seriously, what kind of job can someone get with just a BA in psychology, sociology, or history. Not a history teacher, but a BA in history. There are plenty of people flipping burgers and working part-time retail jobs who have these kinds of degrees. Teaching English in Korea or Japan makes a lot of sense for a young man who is adventurous enough to work in Asia whose other option is to get a part-time job in the US that doesn't cover the cost of living.

I think it is still possible for a single man to save on an ESL salary. I saved $6000 in a year making $1600 a month in the mid 90's in Korea. I think the cost of eating out was similar to the cost of eating out in the US at the time. I ate out pretty much every day, at least for lunch, at middle level restaurants usually, and occasionally at cheap places that attracted college students. I didn't drink or sleep with prostitutes or do drugs. I spent money on video games and movies, though. I also traveled to Seoul and crashed with a friend maybe once or twice a month for much of the year. Maybe that would translate into $3000 a month savings.

But I did not do private lessons because it was against the agreement I had signed. I heard teachers back then were making up to $40 an hour for private lessons. Back then, one teacher who'd worked in Japan said he worked hard there doing private lessons for a year, went home to the US, bought a house and took a year off, living on those savings. I don't know about Japan now, but the actual jobs in Japan I saw advertised paid low, and I know the cost of living was high when I looked into it.

Looking at some ads, it looks like it is possible to make $1400 a month in China. If you have some knowledge of how to start a business and know something about import-export or certain other businesses, China may be a good place to be for starting a side business.

ESL institute jobs are not typically full-time work. It depends on the course materials you have been given, but you could spend 30 or a bit more time counting prep, and still teach.

Asia is also a good place to find an marry an Asian woman. Its funny how that works.

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Re: Teaching English Abroad

Post by Cornfed » January 20th, 2017, 10:42 am

Teaching English generally sucks now. I have posted a lot about this, so I’m not going to repeat myself. If you have the particular background to teach in the Middle East at the right schools then it is still viable, but otherwise best to do something else if you can.

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Re: Teaching English Abroad

Post by xiongmao » January 24th, 2017, 7:53 pm

I got my CELTA 2 years ago in Spain. All the people on my course (except for me) found teaching jobs in Spain, it wasn't that hard as Spain is the best country in the EU in which to teach English. I went back to the UK and got another IT job. English teacher salaries in Spain are around half of what I get working as an IT geek in London, but they've got much better weather lol.

Teaching English is a good thing to do for a year or two after graduation, or if you're semi retired and want to work and travel. It's not much of a career, especially if you want to go home as it's not such a great career in somewhere like the UK.

China is still good for teaching and if you network you can make loads from private tuition. On the downside it's a hard place to live - expect pollution, regular stomach upsets and a lot of chaos.

Other than that if you're young go into IT or accountancy or medicine or law, or learn a trade like plumbing or electrical stuff.
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Re: Teaching English Abroad

Post by El_Caudillo » January 25th, 2017, 5:23 am

Those questions are extremely broad.

I have a CELTA it helped me get some jobs, but I would say a university degree is a far more essential thing to have. Applying for a job in Asia from your home country you'll need to have a degree. Without that, you might find a dodgy recruiter to place you in 'Shanghai' (read some industrial hellhole two hours from that city). I had a friend who was such a recruiter, he freely admitted that he would advertise teaching positions in Shanghai and then convince applicants who applied to accept positions in less desirable locals. Remember all these dudes can smell any naivety a mile off.

So, assuming you have a degree, I'm not sure I CELTA is really needed for Asia - it's an expensive course - and what if you find out you don't like teaching? My advice would be decide what country you are interested in and then get your feet wet. Take a trip to Saigon or somewhere and hit the pavement with your CV, go down the backpacker street and get knowledge of those already working.

If I were twenty-two again probably I head straight for South America...and given current conditions in Asia I might opt for Vietnam or Indonesia. Can you say a bit more about yourself and your aims? In my experience the people who liked teaching ESL the most in Asia were people who could talk a lot without needing much interaction from their audience. Normally Asian students want to listen to you and have you as their pet foreign friend. However, all jobs have such downfalls and teaching can allow you to live somewhere very interesting for a few years. Europe might actually want a CELTA and experience and will pay crap - in general. Do you have your heart set on anywhere?
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Re: Teaching English Abroad

Post by El_Caudillo » January 25th, 2017, 6:40 am

Just picking up on what Mr. Man was talking about in terms of Korea, yes salaries are they same about 2000 USD a month but the hours of teaching are creeping up. It used to 25 a week now it's 30.

Thirty hours a week teaching is a lot. I did it for a while in Indonesia - I used to just keep the words coming out of my mouth while disengaging my brain. But the problem was me - and I'm not a person who likes to talk.
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Re: Teaching English Abroad

Post by yick » January 25th, 2017, 10:27 am

A CELTA isn't at all useful for Asia - like El Caudillo has stated, a degree is more important, massively more important as this is what will get you a working visa. CELTA is useful if you are about to work in Europe and want to know more about CLT (Communicative Language Teaching) methods within small classes and with highly motivated, adult students.

In fact, a CELTA is a waste of money if you are going to Asia.

I enjoy teaching, I enjoy living in China and I enjoy my life and lifestyle - I certainly wouldn't advise anyone NOT to do it, but try it for a year and see how you cope, not everyone is cut out for teaching English and not everyone is cut out for expat living - especially in Asia.

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