How old is too old to teach English in Asia? If you started your search for information about teaching abroad in China, Korea, Taiwan or maybe Japan then you probably found out there was some preference for young teachers in their 20's or 30's.
But why is that?
Well, based on my experience I'd say a lot of it is about appearance, culture, and then there's your visa.
It seems like most countries in Asia or sometimes schools have visa cut offs from about 55 to age 70. But even if your 70 or older there are still some options - at least one that I will tell you about later.
First we'll look at the situation in East Asia, talk about the advantages (yes, there are advantages), visas, and you'll get some tips for finding work if you are 55 or 60+.
China - am I too old?
So you may have read that one of the requirements to teach in China is that you need to be 25-55 years old.
First off you will see that as being more common in Tier 1 cities like: Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzen. Tier 1 cities tend to be more strict.
However, these rules are not set in stone across China. Different provinces and cities can have slightly different rules.
There is the concept of guanxi.
What that means is that if your employer has connections to the local government then pretty much anything is possible. I have heard from teachers who got Z visas in China who didn't have degrees or who weren't native English speakers.
According to this site, universities in Hong Kong and international schools in China can have limits that range from 60-70.
Korea - too old?
There is a preference for younger teachers here too. Some teachers suggest applying to public schools versus hagwons if you are an older teacher.
- In this forum thread vanislander here mentions a woman who was 69 years old and teaching in a hagwon.
- Here's another forum thread about a woman in her 60's who got a job in a hagwon (ECC) in Daegu.
According to EPIK... "Be a maximum of 62 years of age."
Equally you can try applying to universities here as well. However, you will need better qualifications for this like experience, master's degrees or a teaching license (often what you need for international schools).
Taiwan - age limit?
Most of the teachers that I remember in Taiwan were close to my age or younger. So again you will find a preference for young teachers here as well.
I did a search for a definitive age and could not find one. The only age that I found in regards to getting an ARC in Taiwan was a minimum age of 20. I did find an article about the age of retirement for teachers being extended from 55 to 60 years old.
However, it did not explicitly state the age for foreign English teachers.
This site says that several teachers were hired in international schools at the age of 60-64.
Japan - am I too old to teach?
Some forum threads say:
- This one guy was teaching in an eikaiwa at 61.
The laws in Japan regarding the mandatory age for international school teachers to retire changed. According to that page the age limits ranged from 60-70 years old.
TIPS to finding work abroad if you're older
Here a few tips to help your search.
1. Go where other teachers aren't willing to go
Most teachers are trying to get into the same big cities. There are advantages to living in big cities and also disadvantages. One of the disadvantages is that there is more competition for jobs.
So instead of being another resume in a pile you can increase your chances of finding work by applying to positions where there are fewer teachers.
You can look on the outskirts, in smaller cities or even in rural locations.
2. Public schools, international schools or universities "may" be more willing to hire older teachers compared to private institutes
I have heard some people say in Korea that if you are older and having a harder time finding a job then you could apply to a public school, but as you saw above in Korea there were two teachers over 60 teaching in hagwons.
A business orientated private institute may prefer younger teachers because of their appearance.
I worked in a lot of private institutes in China, Korea and Taiwan. Most of the other foreign teachers were around my age or even younger. However, when I worked in a public school in Korea there was another older foreign teacher perhaps in his 50's.
You may need additional qualifications such as a teaching license (most international schools) or even a master's to teach in one of these schools.
Again it's going to depend on the school and possibly the country.
3. Go there and look
3. Going there to look will actually open up more opportunities than trying to find a job from home. From the school's perspective a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Read more about flying to the country to find work.
4. Try Peace Corps
Peace corps offers a modest living stipend, housing, insurance and some benefits to work as a volunteer. There apparently is no age limit.
The advantages of being an older teacher
It's not all doom and gloom for older teachers. There are certain advantages to being an older teacher.
Older teachers tend to:
- get more respect.
- be more balanced and less fickle.
- be more responsible.
In Asia there is a cultural heirarchy that respects its elders. Even if you are only a year older than a person you would be seen as their superior. This could also be a disadvantage if you are older than all of the employees (depending on the school).
Younger teachers also tend to be more fickle. They don't have the life experience and are more subject to their emotions. As on older teacher you have been tempered so to speak so you are in a sense stronger.
Some schools will appreciate that and you can highlight in your resume that you are stable and responsible.
If all else fails get another visa
If you can't find a job for some reason then you can apply for a different kind of visa since the age limits are in fact related to the visa you are applying for.
So if you just apply for a different visa then you may have more luck.
What kind of visa?
Well, you are going to have to do your research, but I know that student visas may be a possibility. What that means is that if you get a student visa and study Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc. then that may permit you to find part time work.
That's just one example. There are indeed other kinds of visas (spouse, heritage, etc.) so you will have to research your options. Some of these are discussed more on teaching without a degree.
When there is a will there is a way.
It's definitely possible to teach abroad in Asia if you are 55, 60 or even 70+
You are going to have some limitations, but I just told you about the different ways that you can do it.
You can apply to places on the outskirts, jobs in public schools, work as a volunteer, become a licensed teacher or even apply for a different kind of visa.
Just remember when there is a will there is a way.