Top Destinations for Making & Saving Money

By John Bentley, Senior Admissions Advisor at the International TEFL Academy
Published October 10, 2013

Teaching English abroad can provide the international experience of a lifetime, especially if you love to travel and explore foreign cultures; however, teaching English abroad is not a field that will turn you into the next Donald Trump (thank goodness). 

That said, while most English teachers, particularly in South America and Europe, “break even” financially – that is, they make enough to support themselves, but don’t typically put money in the bank at the end of every month – there are countries where first-time English teachers without prior teaching experience could make enough salary to save $500-$1,000 a month or more after expenses, or up to $15,000 a year.  This is terrific for funding extra travel or for meeting other financial obligations like student loan payments. Such opportunities are found primarily in Asia and the Persian Gulf countries of the Middle East, nations where many schools also provide benefits like free housing and/or airfare.

Here is a brief overview of some top countries for making and saving money while teaching English abroad.

Teaching English Abroad: South Korea

Want to live in a high-tech, fast-moving country in the heart of Asia?  Do you love great nightlife, cosmopolitan cities and world-class barbecue?  Do you want to teach English abroad and potentially make enough money to save $1,000 a month after expenses?  How about maybe even receiving free furnished housing and getting your airfare covered?  South Korea may not have the cache of France, Thailand or Italy, but it offers a fantastic international experience, great job opportunities, and it makes a great base for travel throughout Asia. 

Salaries & Benefits: Most first-time teachers make 1.8-2.2 million Korean won (approximately $1,600-$2,000 USD) per month and receive free housing, paid vacation, health insurance and airfare costs.  This enables most teachers to save $800-$1,200 a month after expenses.

Teaching English Abroad: China

From the imperial treasures of the Forbidden City in Beijing and the sparkling skyscrapers of Shanghai, to the dazzling shopping centers of Shenzhen and the tropical beaches of Hainan Island, China is a land of striking contrasts, not to mention fantastic history, culture and cuisine. Here you can zip along on a 200-mile-an-hour bullet train one moment and five minutes later find yourself in a 1,000-year-old pagoda. China is also a land of opportunities – particularly for English teachers.  With an estimated 300 million Chinese studying English, job opportunities for teaching English in China may be nearly limitless and given that China is creating new wealth at a faster clip than any nation in history, teaching English in China is becoming increasingly lucrative.

Salaries & Benefits: Salaries may vary from 6,000 RMB ($1,000 USD) to 12,000 RMB ($2,000 USD) a month plus housing, depending on location and qualifications. In cities where the cost of living is lower, salaries also trend lower.  Either way, most English teachers could make enough to save $500-$1000 a month or even more after expenses, and receive free housing (separate housing stipend) and paid vacations.

Teaching English Abroad: Persian Gulf Nations

Combining super modern cities and high-tech infrastructure with traditional Arab-Islamic culture, such nations offer high paying opportunities and a chance to experience a region that has been a crossroads of commerce and culture since the dawn of history. While some countries (U.A.E., including Dubai and Abu Dhabi, for example) are very cosmopolitan and relatively liberal when it comes to matters like the availability of alcohol, others (namely Saudi Arabia) are very strict Islamic societies.

Salaries & Benefits: Most first-time teachers could make $1,600-$3,000 USD per month (tax-free) and could receive free housing, paid vacation, health insurance, and airfare costs. Many teachers in the region make enough to save $1,000-$2,000 a month after expenses, but the job market can be more competitive.

Teaching English Abroad: Japan

From Shinto shrines to sake bars, Japan is home to one of the richest and most fascinating cultures on the planet. And, like many Asian nations, it offers fascinating mélange of the ancient and the ultra-modern, from talking robots and 260-mile-an-hour bullet trains to singing toilets with heated seats. Cities like Tokyo and Osaka are second to none when it comes to shopping, nightlife and great eating, while in some parts of rural Japan time seems to have stood still for generations.  Tens of thousands of foreign English teachers are hired each year, and positions typically require a college degree.

Salaries & Benefits: Japan is known for its high cost of living, yet most foreign English teachers are still able to make enough to save the equivalent of $400-$800 a month after expenses and some (though not all) schools provide stipends for housing and/or airfare.

Honorable Mentions: Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand & Indonesia

These warm-weather tropical nations in Southeast Asia offer beautiful beaches, fantastic cultures and some of the best food on the planet.  They are all huge markets for teaching English abroad as well and most first-time American teachers can live comfortably and could make enough to save up to $500 a month or more after expenses.

To learn more about what it’s actually like to teach English in these countries, check out this index of more than 100 blogs, interviews and articles from actual people teaching English around the globe.

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John Bentley is a Senior Admissions Advisor and at the International TEFL Academy, which trains and certifies nearly 1,200 people a year to teach English abroad and provides lifetime job search guidance to all students and graduates. Connect with John on Google+.

Sources: International TEFL Academy