Many people think ESL teachers are underpaid. Sometimes that’s true. But it’s not always true, and probably a little digging into this theory will uncover a more accurate picture that is it just as much not true as it is true. So why does the stereotype exist? Well, most people just don’t realize that well-paid teachers gravitate to countries where high paying ESL jobs are the norm, and happy teachers tend to be less vocal than those who are less content. Let’s dive in and find out where these awesome jobs are.
What is a high paying ESL job in relative terms?
When we talk about salaries, it’s important to remember the full spectrum of factors that impact your ability to earn and save money. $2,000 does not go a long way in the USA or Canada, for example, but it does go much further in other countries where the cost of living – and taxes – are substantially lower. So, let’s get one thing clear about teaching English abroad. You’re probably not going to get rich teaching English, unless you have coveted credentials that would get you employed at international schools or universities that offer excellent salary and benefits packages. But, let it be known that there are plenty of people who ventured abroad and who were able to earn – and save – enough money to buy a house, pay off student loans, or invest their money wisely. Yes, it’s true. But like everything, the decision to go abroad and teach English requires some sacrifice and compromise on your part, though it’s usually much less than the rewards you can reap with a clear aim of earning a high income.
Which countries have high paying ESL jobs?
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. Qualified teachers can apply for work under the Native English Teacher Scheme (NET), which employs teachers for the Hong Kong public 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. Even so, the pay that teachers earn, along with the stipend they receive for housing. means many are in fact saving a large portion of their incomes. If you’re highly qualified, you can earn on the higher end of the NET scheme pay scale and repatriate a fair amount of money while living in one of the world’s most exciting cities.
United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a small nation in the Middle East, and is made up of seven Emirates. UAE has gained extraordinary wealth due to revenues from the oil industry as well as other industries it has developed such as tourism, aviation and banking. The country’s wealth and large expat population has resulted in a demand for qualified teachers to teach expat children. This is also true for English teachers, who almost certainly need to be certified teachers in their home countries to be considered for teaching positions in UAE. Most teachers in UAE will be employed in the country’s public school system. One of the reasons why UAE is so popular and highly competitive for ESL teaching opportunities is because of the relatively high pay. UAE is generally expensive with a high cost of living, but that high cost is first and foremost down to high housing costs. Most quality ESL jobs in UAE provide housing though, which means teachers based in UAE have effectively eliminated housing – the highest expense – off of their financial statements.
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 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.
Saudi Arabia is the largest oil-producing nation in the world. This wealth, much like that of UAE, is being used to diversify the country’s economy into new areas such as international banking and tourism.This has created a high demand for highly qualified and experienced 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 where alcohol consumption is prohibited and other personal freedoms are extremely limited. So while Saudi Arabia is a great choice for earning a high salary for some, it isn’t for everyone. Make sure you determine if it’s for you before you apply for and accept any positions in Saudi Arabia.
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.
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+). Most 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.
China is the world’s most populous country and one of the largest in the world by area. Its large population combined with China’s rapidly emerging economy and high emphasis on education, has created massive demand for native ESL teachers. Simply put, China is the world’s largest ESL job market by far.
Average Salary: Salaries in China can vary greatly depending on your experience, qualifications and region. Teachers can expect to make between 6,000 RMB and 18,000 RMB ($1,000 and $2,800) with higher salaries typically available in Tier 1 cities such as Beijing and Guangzhou. There is the potential for teachers to earn even more if they can establish a good reputation and find niche job opportunities in private companies.
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, end of contract bonuses and annual airfare reimbursements. Not all jobs are guaranteed to have these benefits, so teachers should confirm what benefits will be provided prior to signing a 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. Beijing, the country’s capital, ranked 8th, while Shanghai, the financial capital, ranked 6th on the Mercer Cost of Living Index Survey.
How to get hired in these top paying
Naturally, the better your credentials, the more likely you’ll get noticed. What this typically means for the best countries for high paying ESL jobs is:
- Native English speaker from a recognized English speaking country (as defined by the local authorities of that country)
- University degree (holders of education degrees will get more recognition, and thus better offers)
- ESL teaching experience (South Korea tends to be less concerned about this, making it an ideal choice for first time ESL teachers)
- Teaching Certificate (for jobs in Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and UAE, this is almost certainly a minimum requirement)
- TEFL Certification with a practical teaching component (online certifications are usually not accepted in Gulf countries at this time)