This post takes a close look at salaries teaching English in Eastern Asia (Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan). These can be some of the best paying teaching English abroad jobs in the world. It's possible to save a $1000 a month on an English (ESL) teachers salary in all of these places.
Aside from Asia the Middle East is probably the highest paying place for international ESL teachers in the world. Countries like UAE (Dubai, Abu Dabi), Saudi Arabia and Oman can have salaries upwards of $3-4000. The difference is that in the Middle East you usually need to have experience and better qualifications.
Many schools in Asia accept teachers right off the boat without experience and in this post I am going to focus on salaries and money for TEFL in the following countries:
These four Asian countries are some of the best places to teach English abroad and make money. Here I'll also mention a few schools/companies, but I am not necessarily recommending them or not. They are just examples.
You can check out the currency converter for the most recent exchange rates.
Your salary for teaching English in South Korea looks something like this
Korea is probably the best place to save money teaching English abroad for beginners. It is not the highest paying country in terms of salaries, but there are a lot of benefits, such as free airfare, free housing, severance pay (1 month pay at the end of the contract), a pension for some and a fairly low cost of living.
Most schools in Korea will offer a salary with benefits ranging from 1.8-2.3 million KRW. Yes, it can go higher or lower depending on the school and the situation. It will depend on the school and perhaps your qualifications. Private schools also often pay more than public schools.
A few examples of salaries and pay in South Korea
CDI (hagwon chain) in Korea claims to offer 3.1-4.2 million KRW (25,000-35,000 an hour) a month for 5 days a week.
Sounds like a lot right? But that's on an hourly wage without any of the benefits listed above. Their salaries range from 2.0-2.8 million Won. If you don't have experience expect to be on the lower end.
The EPIK program is a popular program that places teachers in public schools. Their pay is dependent upon a teachers experience, qualifications and location within Korea. Here's a look at their pay scale which is similar to other public school teaching jobs in Korea if you do not go through them.
EPIK pay scale
- Level 3 Bachelor's degree in anything = 1.8-2.1 million Won (dependent on location)
- Level 2 Bachelor's degree in education, teaching license or TEFL certificate = 2.0-2.2 million Won (dependent on location)
- Level 2+ One year teaching experience + Bachelor's degree in education, teaching license or TEFL certificate = 2.1-2.3 million Won (dependent on location)
- Level 1 Two years teaching experience + Bachelor's degree in education, teaching license or TEFL certificate = 2.3-2.5 million Won (dependent on location)
- Level 1+ After 2 years of renewing as a level 1 = 2.5-2.7 million Won (dependent on location)
My salary and pay in Korea
My first contracted job
In my first contracted job teaching in Busan, Korea I made 2.3 million Won a month (in a private school) which is currently $2044. I had some experience, so I could negotiate a bit. I think they originally offered me 2.1 or 2.2 million Won. Somewhere after 6 months I managed to negotiate another 100,000 Won per month which increased it to 2.4 million Won a month. Towards the end I negotiated and got offered 2.5 to sign for another year, but decided to leave after one. After that contract finished I spent some time hanging out and traveling in and out of Korea...
Getting paid by the hour
After my first year I worked some part time jobs and got paid hourly. Most of them paid me 30,000 Won an hour which is pretty normal.
My second contracted job
I made 2.2 working in a public school in Changwon, Korea. Public school teaching is a bit more set as you can see in the EPIK program pay scale above.
Find a teaching job in Korea
In China your salary for teaching looks like this
Things vary a lot in China. You could make anywhere from 4,000RMB to 16,000RMB or possibly more a month, but that's on the higher end. You'll make more in one of the big cities, like: Shanghai, Shenzen, Beijing or possibly Hong Kong (but there is not a lot teaching jobs there). So on the lower end you could be making $5-600 teaching at a public school or university and on the higher end you could be making $2500+ teaching at an international school or perhaps private school (training center).
"...Especially in Xiamen, the living standards are cheap. You can make less than $2000 and you would only be spending 3 or $400 a month." - Ed in Xiamen, China
Most university jobs that I have seen are between 7,000 and 8,500 RMB a month with free housing. In the bigger cities working in a training center is often close to 11,000RMB or more, but it depends.
Some schools in China will offer free housing and an airfare reimbursement after one year. The cost of living is cheaper here especially outside of the big cities.
My job in China
I briefly taught in a training center in Shanghai that paid me 10,700RMB for about 20 hours a week. They offered an airfare reimbursement as well.
Find a teaching job in China
In Taiwan you'll probably make this much money teaching
In Taiwan the average hourly wage is around 600NT$ an hour. Salaries can range from $NT50-70,000+ a month. Buxibans tend to pay on the lower end. International and public school teachers typically make more. But you need to be a licensed teacher for that. The working hours for those jobs are also longer (8-5 or so). Benefits such as free housing or end of contract bonuses are rare, but the cost of living is pretty cheap.
Salaries and pay in Taipei tend to be a little higher as are the expenses.
"Ahh, if you want to work you can make a 100,000NT. Now a 100,000NT is just short of 2,000 pounds, probably about $3,500 USD or $4000 CAD. To make that kind of money you might need to work 7 or 8 hours a day which can be quite tiring... The minimum is about $550-600NT and hour. In USD that is about $20 minimum. If you want to do privates and you get some good schools you can double that..." - Dale in Taiwan
Here is a little note on Dale's comment. Making 100,000NT a month is not easy for most. Most teachers make closer to half of that. To do that you will need several jobs, be making a good hourly wage and working 6-7 days a week. When he is referring to working 7-8 hours a day he is probably referring to teaching hours.
A few examples of salaries and pay in Taiwan
Hess is perhaps the largest company (chain school) in Taiwan. Their starting pay is $NT580 an hour for beginning teachers. They note on their website that their pay does not cover grading student work or preparing for class. This is pretty common in other schools in Taiwan and in other places in Asia.
- Kalvert American School in Jhongli, Taoyuan county offers $NT650 an hour.
- Shane English Schools claims to offer NT$44,000-70,000 a month.
You can see for yourself if you check out Tealit.com for more on jobs in Taiwan.
My pay in Taiwan
For my 1st contracted job
I got paid $NT600 an hour for about 12-16 hours a week for my first gig teaching English in Taichung, Taiwan at a buxiban. That job gave me an ARC. But I worked closer to 12 hours a week on average. Then I got a few...
Part time jobs
I had this one job working a couple of hours a week for $NT700 an hour not too far from where I lived. I also had a Saturday morning job teaching in a high school outside of Taichung that paid $NT1200 an hour for 1-2 hours of work. I did that until my boss who gave me the visa (1st contracted job) said I had to work at his school on Saturday. This is a downer about visas for teaching in China, Korea and Taiwan. Your boss more or less controls it. Japan wins here!
My 2nd contracted job
For my second contracted job in Taiwan I worked at a buxiban in Tainan county. I made $NT650 an hour for about 18 teaching hours a week. Again this job like the other one in Taichung expected you to show up to prepare and not get paid for that. I actually got a ride from my boss in Tainan to work everyday.
Find a teaching job in Taiwan
Salaries for teaching English in Japan
You may make the most in Japan, however the cost of living is typically more than the other places. Average salaries are around 250,000 Yen a month. Some teachers can make more and others can make less. It used to be enforced by the government that all schools had to pay full time teachers at least 250,000 Yen a month.
But nowadays schools can pay what they want, so if anything salaries in Japan are sliding at least in some places.
Aside from teaching in a university (usually need a master's degree), working as an ALT in the JET program may be your best bet for making a good income in Japan. Teachers here can make around 280,000 Yen a month or more. Teaching privately can also be lucrative. Some teachers easily make $30+ an hour.
A few examples of salaries and pay in Japan
Here's a look at the Jet programs salary:
- 3,360,000 (current close to $27,000) a year for the first year
- 3,600,000 a year for the second year
- 3,900,000 a year for the third year
- 3,960,000 a year for the fourth and fifth year
Aside from universities, which you'll need a master's degree for, the JET program is going to be one of the higher paying jobs. It also offers free airfare to and from Japan granted you complete the contract successfully. It is one of the only programs or positions in Japan that offers any benefits.
Here is a look at AEON's salary:
AEON is a large company known as an eikaiwa (private school) with a salary of about 270,000 Yen ($2170) a month.
Check out Ohayosensei.com for jobs in Japan.
Find a teaching job in Japan
How and when will I be paid?
When I got paid
In my experience teaching in Korea, Taiwan and China... If you work in a private school you get paid around the 10th of the month. That means if you start your job on December 1st you're probably not going to see any money until January 10th or so. I worked in a lot of schools and that was pretty normal in the private school sector.
In Korea I also taught in a public school and there I got paid at the end of the month.
How I got paid
If I recall correctly I always got paid in cash when I worked in a private school. Yet in some cases it might've been possible to get paid by direct deposit. Direct deposit is how I got paid when I worked in a public school in Korea.
Will I make more money or have a higher salary if I have better qualifications?
Read more on whether or not better qualifications like experience, TEFL certificates, or related degrees will increase your pay. If you're considering moving you may also want to know about how much money you need to bring.
Is it all about the money?
With experience I personally wouldn't focus exclusively on the money. You can make pretty good money in all of these places. If for example, you are more interested in say China as a place, but the benefits of Korea are enticing I would recommend that you go to China. I'd say that it is important that you have an interest in a place.
Higher salaries and benefits are good, but they are extrinsic rewards. If you want to be happy focus more on intrinsic rewards.