Best Countries For High Paying ESL Jobs11 min read

There is a pervasive belief among many ESL teachers that high paying ESL jobs don’t exist. Whatever the reason for this belief it couldn’t be further from the truth. There are a number of countries where schools offer extremely high salaries for teachers along with attractive benefits packages. We’ll take a look at the top five as well as some bonus countries to help you think outside of the box.

What are we referring to as the best salary?

Just to have a solid framework as you look through this list I want to clarify that I am specifically talking about the salary and benefits offered by schools in different countries. This does not mean that you will get rich, be able to save a lot of money, or anything else. Many of these countries are also at the top of the cost of living index and as such if you do not land a job with good benefits such as paid housing, insurance, etc. then most of your salary will be going towards your living expenses. While a large salary in a world-class city like Hong Kong is awesome, you are going to have to do the math to make sure that your salary is going to cover the things you are required to pay for. Make sure that any benefits are negotiated beforehand and included in the contract. Oftentimes, as is the case with many Middle Eastern countries, contracts will be drawn up in the native language of the country so you may have to hire an independent translator to ensure everything promised to you is included. Remember that if it’s not in writing it doesn’t matter what was said.

What are some things to consider?

As mentioned above you will have to look at the cost of living and break it down to figure out if you will be able to cover that with your take-home pay. The last thing you want is to get to a place like Dubai or Hong Kong and realize after the first month that you are going to be in the red at the end of the month and going through your savings or having to minimize your standard of living so you don’t go broke. Aside from this, however, you will have to look at whether you will mind living in that country for a year or more. If, for example, you have a penchant for drinking and couldn’t stand the thought of not having access to the bar for long stretches than perhaps Saudi Arabia isn’t the best place for you. Maybe the thought of living in a densely packed metropolis isn’t your idea of fun. If so, then Hong Kong is probably not the best place for you. You will have to look at whether you are willing to trade-off certain things in order to pull in that higher salary.

One last thing you might want to consider is that many of the high paying jobs in these countries come with multi-year contracts. Are you willing to move to a new country for 2 – 5 years to teach? That’s something you will have to ask yourself before you sign on the dotted line.

Which countries have high paying ESL jobs?

Hong Kong

Hong Kong is an autonomous region of China and is primarily composed of Hong Kong Island and a number of other surrounding islands as well as the Kowloon Peninsula on the mainland side. Most teachers in Hong Kong will be looking to work under the Native English Teacher Scheme (NET) which employs teachers for the Hong Kong school system.

Average Salary: This is determined by a teacher’s credentials and experience but can range between 23,500 HKD and 51,000 HKD ($3,000 and $6,500).

Common Benefits: Common benefits that come with teaching jobs in Hong Kong include a housing allowance, flight reimbursement, family health insurance, visa and work permit provided, and salary bonuses. Not all jobs are guaranteed to have these benefits so teachers should make sure prior to signing any contracts what their benefits will be and ensure they are in the contract.

Cost of Living Index: Hong Kong continually ranks as one of the top three most expensive cities in the world. In 2018 the country ranked number 1 on the Mercer Cost of Living Survey as the most expensive city in the world.

Find out more about Hong Kong.

United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates is a small nation in the Arabian Gulf bordered by Saudi Arabia which is composed of seven different areas known as Emirates. The nation has acquired extensive wealth due to the oil-based economy and in past decades has sought to diversify its economy, leading to the rising demand for highly qualified English teachers. Most teachers in the United Arab Emirates will be employed in the countries public school system.

Average Salary: Pay for ESL teachers will vary based on experience. The typical salary range will be between 9,000 AED and 20,000 AED plus ($2,500 and $5,500+).

Common Benefits: The United Arab Emirates is known for having some of the most generous benefits for ESL teachers of any country. Typical benefits will include a generous housing allowance or provided housing for a family of up to five people, family health insurance, flight reimbursement for a family of up to five people, paid holidays, paid flights for travel (usually one a year), provided visa and work permit for the teacher and provided visa for the teachers family, as well as generous salary bonuses and contract completion bonuses. Not all jobs are guaranteed to have these benefits so teachers should make sure prior to signing any contracts what their benefits will be and ensure they are in the contract.

Cost of Living Index: The cost of living in the United Arab Emirates is quite high, though, cheaper than many of the top Asian cities such as Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai, or Seoul. Dubai ranked 26 in the Mercer Cost of Living Index for the year 2018.

Find out more about the United Arab Emirates.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the Arabian Peninsula and the largest oil-producing nation in the world. The booming oil-based economy combined with a push for modernization in past decades created a high demand for highly qualified native ESL teachers. Teachers in Saudi Arabia will primarily be working with the public language schools as well as universities. It should be noted that Saudi Arabia is an extremely conservative country and alcohol as well as other things are illegal and banned from the country.

Average Salary: Salaries in Saudi Arabia are largely dependent on a teacher’s prior experience and qualifications. Teachers with master’s and doctoral degrees will be able to command a higher salary than a teacher with only a bachelor’s degree. Most teachers can expect to make between 12,000 SAR and 15,000 SAR or more ($3,000 to $4,000+).

Common Benefits: Benefits in Saudi Arabia typically include free housing, paid travel, flight reimbursement, and generous salary bonuses and end of contract bonuses. Not all jobs are guaranteed to have these benefits so teachers should make sure prior to signing any contracts what their benefits will be and ensure they are in the contract.

Cost of Living Index: The cost of living in Saudi Arabia is the lowest of the other countries on this list. Riyadh, the capital city, ranks 45 on the Mercer Cost of Living Index Survey.

Find out more about Saudi Arabia.

South Korea

South Korea comprises the southern half of the Korean peninsula and is situated between Japan and China. The country is known as one of the Four Asian Tigers (South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong) due to its booming economy. Many teachers looking to work in South Korea will be looking at one of four programs which are the English Program in Korea (EPIK), Gyeonggi English Program in Korea (GEPIK), Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education (SMOE), and Teach and Learn in Korea (TALK). University teaching positions in South Korea are also desirable and incredibly competitive.

Average Salary: Salaries in South Korea will be dependent on whether a teacher is working in the public or private sector as well as a teacher’s experience and credentials. The average salary range is between 2 million KRW and 3 million KRW plus ($1,800 and $3,000+). Mos teachers can expect to make between 2 million KRW (1,800) and 2.2 million KRW ($2,200) but at the higher end of University teacher positions salaries can get into 3 million KRW and higher ($3,000). Some teachers a the very high-end have reported making up to 6.5 million KRW ($6,000)  though this is reserved for the most highly qualified of teachers and should not be expected by the average ESL teacher.

Common Benefits: The most common benefits found in South Korea for ESL teachers will be paid for housing or a housing reimbursement, health insurance, visa and work permit provided, flight reimbursement, travel expenses reimbursement, or a salary bonus. Not all jobs are guaranteed to have these benefits so teachers should make sure prior to signing any contracts what their benefits will be and ensure they are in the contract.

Cost of Living Index: The cost of living in South Korea is quite high compared to many other developed nations around the world. Seoul, the cities capital, came in as the fifth most expensive city in the world on the Mercer Cost of Living Index for 2018. However, within the country, the cost of living can vary greatly outside of the capital and other major cities such as Busan.

Find out more about South Korea.

China

China is the second largest country in the world by land and the largest country in the world by population. The large population in combination with China’s booming economy has created massive demand for native ESL teachers. Teachers can find a wide variety of high paying jobs in the public school system as well as at private language schools (sometimes less reputable) and in universities.

Average Salary: Salaries in China can vary greatly depending on your experience and qualifications. Teachers can expect to make between 6,000 RMB and 18,000 RMB ($1,000 and $2,800) with higher salaries reserved for Tier 1 cities. Highly qualified teachers can expect to make more with the right certifications.

Common Benefits: Many jobs in China will provide teachers with free accommodations as well as help with acquiring visas and work permits. Some schools will also provide salary bonuses and end of contract bonuses. Not all jobs are guaranteed to have these benefits so teachers should make sure prior to signing any contracts what their benefits will be and ensure they are in the contract.

Cost of Living Index: The cost of living in China will vary greatly depending on whether you are in one of the major cities or in a rural area. Shanghai, the country’s capital, ranked 7 on the Mercer Cost of Living Index Survey.

Find out more about China.

Other Countries to Consider:

There are a number of countries which most people don’t talk about when bringing up opportunities for high paying ESL jobs. Most of these countries have are either native English-speaking countries that have high populations of non-native English speakers or places which have a reputation for being dangerous (the greater the hazard the higher the pay). It’s worth looking into countries like the below two if you are on the hunt for a high paying ESL job.

Iraq

Kurdistan IraqThe reality of war has significantly reduced the demand for ESL teachers in the country. There are, however, a number of high paying positions that come with the added benefit of being completely tax-free for those who are willing to take the job. An example of this was a recent job listing which advertised a salary of $3,500 per month tax-free plus paid airfare and free accommodations for highly qualified teachers.

 

United States of America

New York skyline.For teachers that are wanting to stay in their home country, many might be surprised that there are a large number of very high paying jobs in the United States of America as well as many other native English-speaking countries. The average salary for an ESL teacher in the United States is between $40,000 and $70,000 plus benefits which can be generous if employed in a government job for a public school system.

 

 

How can I increase my chances of getting hired?

Unfortunately, all of these countries are going to have very high standards and requirements for teachers. At a minimum, every single one of the above-listed countries is going to require teachers to have a bachelor’s degree in (some will require a degree in English or teaching) as well as a teaching certificate and prior experience. The number one thing that you can do to make sure you are competitive when you apply for jobs in one of these countries is to acquire a 120-hour hybrid or onsite TEFL certification. Aside from this making sure that your résumé is in top shape and that you are thoroughly prepared for your interview will go a long way in separating you from the competition.

I want to help you find an awesome job in the ESL industry and then excel at it. I’m a TESOL certified teacher with over two years of experience working both online and offline. I have worked with students ranging from young learners to advanced level university speakers and have worked in recruiting and hiring, teacher training, and content creation. I’ve seen the good and bad of the ESL industry and I’m here to tell you about it.