Top Paying ESL Jobs And How To Find Them9 min read

For well-qualified teachers, finding top paying ESL jobs where the salary matches the level of qualifications may be a high priority. There are some things to take into consideration when starting your search for the right job and which can help you to more easily find results.

What qualifies as top paying ESL jobs?

The typical answer to this question is going to be countries or schools that offer the highest salaries. However, for our purposes, we are going to take a few different things into consideration including the cost of living and benefits. It doesn’t really matter much how much you are making if 80 – 90% of your monthly income is going into the cost of living. For some countries and cities around the world that is a very real possibility even though they would normally make the list for top paying ESL jobs. Hong Kong is a great example of this. If you can land a job with optimal benefits such as provided accommodations or a housing budget then you can do just fine and the salaries are quite high. However, if you don’t get those benefits you can kiss all of your money goodbye as the cost of living will eat up almost all of your income. The rent in Hong Kong can easily take up over half of your monthly salary without even including food and other miscellaneous expenses which are all quite high in the city. Juxtapose that against the ESL teaching scene in Vietnam where salaries are much lower but the cost of living significantly lower and Vietnam becomes a more attractive option if you can’t land the right job in Hong Kong. Teachers in Vietnam are regularly able to save a generous portion of their monthly salary without having to temper their lifestyle too significantly. For these purposes what we are going to be taking into consideration is the salary and benefits. The United Arab Emirates would be a prime example of the type of country I am referring to. Not only is the salary very high in the UAE but the benefits most teachers will receive take care of most of your cost of living. Add to this the generous amount of time off you will receive in a year and the UAE easily ranks as one of the top countries for top paying ESL jobs. Yes, salary is very important but what we are looking at is how much of that salary you will actually be taking home and how much of it is going to be eaten up in the local economy.

Who qualifies for these types of jobs?

With a high salary is going to come high standards for the level of qualifications you will need in order to secure one of these jobs. Almost all of the jobs that fall into the high paying category are going to have a minimal requirement of a teaching certificate along with a bachelor’s degree or higher and in many cases will also require a 120-hour TEFL certification that is either blended learning or on-site. Many of these jobs will also have the requirement that potential candidates must have a certain number of years experience teaching. You will also find that for some of the better jobs the experience you have must be relevant to the level of student you are going to be teaching. So, if you are going to be teaching primary school students then you must have a certain number of year prior experience teaching primary school students. The same goes for middle school and high school levels. For high paying university jobs teachers will often be required to have a master’s degree and in some cases a Ph.D. Some universities, such as in Japan, will also require that teachers be published in academic journals and that they continue to do so while working at the university. It should be noted that the level of competition for these types of jobs is often very fierce and as such, it is not uncommon for schools to have a wide selection of candidates that meet all of these qualifications so anything that can help you to stand out can only work to your advantage.

What are some things to look for?

As mentioned previously one of the most important things you want to look for are the benefits that will come with a job. Compare two jobs in the same countries where one job pays $3,000 per month with no benefits and the other only pays $1,800 per month but offers free housing, health insurance, flight reimbursement, free lunches in the school, transportation reimbursement going to and from school, and paid time off. Let’s say the cost of living in this country is a little high. You can easily spend the $1,200 per month extra you would be making at the higher paying job on rent and flights to and from the country as well as on lunchtime meals. So, the job that pays less, in this case, makes more sense because you are actually going to be taking home more money at the end of the month than if you didn’t have those benefits.

Another consideration should be bonuses that may be offered in some countries or at some schools. As in the above-mentioned case if you have one school in the same country that is paying more than another but the other school offers end of year bonuses that bonus could add up to more than what you would make at the higher paying school. You will have to do the math and not just look at the upfront numbers to make sure you are really getting the best salary possible.

One other thing to take into consideration is the amount of time that you are having to work each month so that you can break down your per hour pay. Some schools may offer an extremely attractive salary but when it comes down to the working hours they are going to belong. If you can get a job that pays a little less but which you will have to spend fewer hours at it is better than a job that pays more but which you have to work long hours. The less time you are spending at work can easily free you up to make more money from things like private tutoring or working online.

As you can see when we speak of high salary ESL jobs you can’t just take the upfront numbers into consideration but must look at the actual amount you are going to be able to bank at the end of each month and how much work you are going to have to do to get that money.

Where to look for top paying ESL jobs?

The first place many people are going to start is by looking into countries that are known for top paying ESL jobs. This is a great place to begin but isn’t the only way to find a top paying job. The thing that you will have to keep in mind is that some countries which may not regularly make the list for having top paying ESL jobs may have specific types of jobs which beat out jobs in the top paying countries. A great example of this is Japan. While Japan pays above average for most jobs it certainly doesn’t make the list of highest paying countries anymore. However, if you can land a job at a Japanese university you can be looking at a nice comfortable salary with some nice benefits. Another example would be comparing working at a university in South Korea to teaching in the United Arab Emirates. While the average job in the UAE is going to pay well above the average school in South Korea, if you can land a job teaching at a Korean university then salaries have been reported to go as high as $5,000 – $7,000 per month (though this is admittedly going to be what teachers who have been working for a while make and not new teachers). While this isn’t going to be the norm the point is that you have to really look around and not just go for the low hanging fruit.

Also, something not many people take into consideration is that there are many countries such as Iraq or Afghanistan where there are many very high paying jobs and where most of your cost of living is going to be subsidized. These are usually government contracted jobs and many are going to only be available to citizens of the United States but there may not be as much competition for these jobs as they are not as well-known. With many top paying ESL jobs, you are going to have to think outside the box in your search in order to find the real gems. Brunei is a great example of this. Many people immediately think of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia as oil-rich countries that pay ESL teachers very handsomely but not as many people look to Brunei. For some awesome jobs, you will have to go down the path less traveled.

What are some final tips?

The thing you want to remember is the qualifications and presentation. All of these jobs are going to have very high standards for who they will and will not hire and the level of qualifications they are looking for in a candidate. As mentioned previously the level of competition for these jobs is quite high. So, if you have the right qualifications for a job then the next thing you can do to increase your jobs of being the person that gets picked is by making sure you are presenting yourself in the best light during interviews and that your résumé is in top shape. It may even be worth considering having your résumé written by a professional. That will be a decision you have to make for yourself. However, every little thing you can do to set yourself apart from other candidates can easily pay for itself with the money you will be making once you land one of the many top paying ESL jobs that are out there.

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.