Where to go?
This is of course not an exhaustive list of all the different places you can go. Instead it’s a very general overview of various popular places you can teach, really more of a stop gap while the full country profiles go up.
One of the biggest teaching markets, China is an interesting place to work, it’s not as westernised as somewhere like Japan or Korea, although the big cities like Beijing and Shanghai aren't a world away. Salary and benefits tend not to be quite as good, but the cost of living is also lower.
They've cracked down on the requirements to get into China and so now you’ll usually need a minimum of a degree and two years work experience (full details in China requirements section) to work in the large cities like Beijing and Shanghai, but those requirements do change in the smaller cities.
It’s a fascinating place to travel, the Great Wall is about as great as everyone says it is, Yellow Mountain is beautiful and the Terracotta Warriors are good (terrible information though, get a guide). Whether you love scenery, history or culture, China has got plenty to offer.
The full country profile for China is up, so you can read about it in detail here.
Another of the most popular places to teach. Japan has great salaries and a fascinating culture. Like China, it also requires a degree to get a work visa, although they don’t have the work experience requirement.
The market in Japan is large enough that entry level positions are plentiful, although the living costs are high, especially if you’re in Tokoyo, which is often listed in the world's top 5 most expensive cities.
The jobs tend not to come with quite the same level of benefits you find in Korea (free accommodation, paid flights etc.) which means that the people who end up in Japan, tend to want to be in Japan as opposed to finding the best set of benefits they can.
Unlike Korea, where paid airfare is standard, Japanese companies have a definite preference for employing people who are already in Japan. Being on the ground gives you a big advantage in the number of positions you can apply for.
The full country profile for Japan is up, so you can read about it in detail here.
Along with China, South Korea is probably the biggest TEFL market. Despite being such a small country it has an obsession with learning English and there are more private language schools than you can count.
It also tends to be the best place to save money outside of the Middle East. Accommodation and airfare are normally paid for, end of contract bonuses are standard and the country has national health insurance and low tax rates.
Korea has one of the most active online communities, the waygook forums are a fantastic place to learn about Korea and ask questions.
The full country profile for Korea is up, so you can read about it in detail here.
As a country Taiwan has a quite a lot of good stereotypes, super-fast internet, incredibly friendly people, a beautiful country that’s near to China but without the air pollution.
In terms of teaching positions, the public school positions are definitely the most desirable, offering year contracts, high salaries and good holidays. Unlike many of the other countries most of the private jobs in Taiwan are part time, which means you’ll probably have to hold multiple jobs in order to earn enough to stay in the country.
Forumosa is probably the most active online community, not quite as active as Waygook but still not bad.
Europe has a thriving TEFL industry. The biggest barrier or possibly opportunity depending on which side you fall, is its preference for people from within the EU.
If you live in an EU country, you can work at any other country in the EU without a visa. This means companies in Europe tend to have a strong preference for those who are already living in the EU. The other notable thing about the EU market is its recognition of qualifications.
Often in many of the Asian countries you’ll see job adverts just asking for a TEFL certificate. There’s not much differentiation between the CELTA or Cert TESOL and an online TEFL certificate from a random website. In Europe there’s a lot more recognition of the CELTA and Cert.TESOL and having one will make a genuine difference in the quality of positions you can get.
UAE & Saudi Arabia
Without a doubt, the best money you’ll find in the TEFL industry is in these countries. Although jobs for teachers with no experience are hard to come by, salaries often stretch to $3000 -$4000 a month. On top of that, housing, flights and health insurance are usually all paid for.
The downside of all of this, is you have to be able to deal with a significantly different lifestyle, specifically in Saudi Arabia, where the sexes are segregated and alcohol and films are prohibited.
If you can deal with the fairly dramatic culture shock though it can be really rewarding. The UAE is definitely less of a shock, however most of its positions tend to be for certified English teachers rather than TEFL teachers.
Thailand’s popularity as a holiday destination flows over into TEFL and it’s an exceedingly popular TEFL destination. In part it’s this demand however that has kept salaries down and Thailand is one of the destinations with the lowest salaries. The most common entry salary is 30,000 THB (~$900), although compared to Korea or Japan its cost of living is certainly far less.
The culture, lifestyle and people of Thailand continue to draw teachers regardless of this. Ajarn is a great resource for Thailand and probably has the most active Thai based forum for asking questions.
Similar to Japan, actually being in Thailand is a huge benefit when searching for a job. Because of its popularity as a holiday destination, the schools have to do a lot of filtering for people who genuinely want to teach, being on the ground and well presented gives you a large leg up.
"Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto, Japan" by syvwlch is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
"Taipei at night, with dreamy sky" by orange tuesday is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
"Seoul, Korea" by Marc_Smith is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
"Hotel Ca' Sagredo - Grand Canal - Rialto - Venice Italy Venezia" by gnuckx is licensed under CC BY 2.0.