TeacherGig – everything you need to know about working as a Teacher in Asia

The 10 Best Cities to Teach English in Asia

Posted: March 15th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Places in Asia | 2 Comments »

It is apparent that at any one time, the TEFL expatriate has plenty of employment opportunities outside his or her native country. One’s qualification may be the passport to a profitable teaching job in an expansive language market which includes South Korea, Japan, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, and other Asian countries. New openings are being created as a vast majority of local speakers are eager to learn and use English. If you have a university degree or formal training and the enthusiasm to teach, then you can explore the top 10 cities highlighted below.

# 1 Tokyo

If you are visiting Asia, then Tokyo has to be your first stop over ESL teaching destination. Most schools here offer the best working and living opportunities to English expatriates.  Interestingly, recruitment goes on all year round and successful recruits get sponsorships, low cost housing, partial insurance cover, and other forms of assistance to facilitate comfortable lifestyles. Beginners also have access to on the job training, feedback, and a ready curriculum which gives them a upper hand when teaching. Therefore, you shouldn’t worry much if you don’t have ESL certification. Above all, you must have the eagerness to teach professionally and to live in Japan. On average, teachers receive about ¥250- ¥300,000 or $2,000-$2,400/ month, but this varies with the locations and schools. You can check out recruiting agencies such as aeonet.com, GABA, and Interac. These are good for beginners and experienced teachers.

# 2 Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is a commercial hub which doubles up as a tourist destiation, and certainly one of the most expensive cities to live. Surprisingly, it also has a considerable number of citizens including students who are dying to learn English.  The pay scale for ESL teachers is very high and the best thing about it is that teachers get tax free salary and free housing. The flourishing economy makes it among the favorite destinations for ESL teachers looking for a good pay and comfortable lifestyle.

In Abu Dhabi, the Ministry of Education regulates the curriculum and English is a core component of education. This explains why there are several international schools which offer professional language training. Besides that, there is also a good number of public and private schools which absorb most of the ESL teachers. Unlike in other parts of Asia, qualifications and expectations of a TEFL expatriate is high and so most teachers have TEFL certification besides their bachelor or masters degrees. Although majority of openings specify natives, sometimes, there are openings for non-native speakers.

# 3 Seoul Korea

One of the best destinations for ESL teachers in Asia is Seoul, South Korea. This fascinating city has a huge demand for native English teachers which outstrips supply. This location has abundant opportunities, the remuneration for teachers are better than other cities. Teachers also get perks such as air tickets, paid holidays, medical insurance, and free housing which are a big plus.  On average, the monthly salary can be between $1.7 million to 2.1 million won ($1,450-$1,600.

There are also a considerable number of private schools in most suburbs of Seoul.  The basic requirement for ESL teaching is a Bachelor’s degree though most private institutions prefer native English speakers. Generally, the cultural rules and social etiquette can be challenging for foreigners, but with the help of other teachers, you can quickly adapt to the lifestyle and culture of a warm people.

# 4 Hong Kong

Besides being a manufacturing hub, Hong Kong is a great destination for native ESL teachers. Sometime back, the outbreak of SARs caused a flight of teachers and consequently, this created a considerable demand for both experienced and untrained teachers. Beginners who venture into this territory may have the impression that it is impossible to find work. However, if you are a native speaker then you can land TEFL jobs easily.

What makes Hong Kong a favorite for ESL teachers is the high wages that are paid to teachers. Part time teachers can earn $30-$50/hour. Those who are employed in language centers earn $2,000/month while those brought in by the government about $4,000.  Besides the good pay, Hong Kong is an exciting city with a fascinating atmosphere and way of life. Its atmosphere is a sort of East-West blend which means the local and exotic have been juxtaposed.

# 5 Shanghai

China has one of the largest populations of people in Asia who are hungry to learn the English language. Interestingly, native English teachers from the west have been plying their trade in academic institutions in the last two decades. Cities like Shanghai and Beijing have a prosperous middle class which explains why there is an explosion of private learning institutions in all the major cities. There are new opportunities being created online and so it is easy to spot new ESL openings.

Requirements for those aspiring to teach ESL in Shanghai are not stringent and so anyone with a university degree is considered capable. Anyway, if you have received formal training and teaching experience, then you stand a good chance of finding good employment. The perks and remuneration in cities like Beijing and Shanghai are great and they include free air tickets.

#6 Jakarta

Indonesia is a populous country and it is slowly recovering from political turmoil and economic hardships that had beset it in the 90s. Even so, language schools pulled through the challenges and there is an invigorated interest in English language in cities like Jakarta. There is a considerable number of individuals and companies that hire foreign teachers (British& Americans) to teach in large schools at a pay 10 times that of local wage.

Beginners may have a difficult time which may confine them to locally managed backstreet institutions. Individuals who have received TESL training have the greatest prospects of teaching English in Jakarta. Contracts may last anywhere between 12-18 months and one can find job postings in dailies such as the Jakarta Post or the Indonesian Observer. Visas are a major requirement and fortunately, most schools apply for visa permits on behalf of teachers. Generally, schools pay between $700-$900/month and teachers receive free housing which allows them to lead relatively comfortable lifestyles.

#7 Bangkok

It is evident that Bangkok is a top ESL destination for both trained and untrained teachers. Besides the capital, there are also plenty of opportunities in the provinces. One fascinating thing about Bangkok is that jobs for native English teachers are almost guaranteed. There is also less teacher recruitment outside Thailand. One thing to note is that most private institutions and colleges with EFL departments rely greatly on native English speakers.

Most TEFL teachers have no work visa and most teachers only use tourist visas. The good thing is that colleges and universities may be willing to apply for work permits on behalf of teachers with vast experience and who can agree to sign 1 year contracts. The minimum qualification for applicants is a BA and sometimes a relevant TEFL certification is required. The only downside to a city with more teaching opportunities is the low wages. The hourly rate is 250-300 baht which is less than $6. Even so, living expenses are low which makes life affordable.

#8 Taipei

If you are looking for a destination that has ready jobs for native English speakers with college degrees, then you should venture into Taipei. Despite changes in legislation to curb immigrant flow, the demand for native English teachers who can teach for up to 1 year remains considerably high. Most private schools, cram schools, and state funded secondary schools assist foreign teachers acquire work permits.

One fascinating thing is that most people in the capital still prefer American accents. The basic requirements for aspiring ESL teachers include University diploma, work contract, and health certificate issued while in Taiwan.  The rates are not bad for beginners and may average NT$700 or $17/ hour. But, private schools offer better pay than public ones. The only problem with this capital is the stratospheric levels of pollution which only rivals that of Mexico City.

If you are looking for ESL teaching openings, then you can check in the South China Post, notice boards, and some agencies like Taiwan-Teachers which can organize interviews for teachers.

#9 Ho Chi Minh City

The most striking thing about Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh city is the characteristic youthfulness of its population. More than 50% of the population are in the youth bracket. Not only that, this vast population also has an overwhelming number of people who desire to learn English as a prerequisite for employment and, this creates a vibrant market for ESL teachers.

Although there are several opportunities for ESL teachers, most expatriates work in private institutions. There are several hundreds of teachers in Ho Chi Minh City. Most classes focus on general English, though there are classes for special needs such as TOEFL preparation or Business English. The minimum qualification for working in a private institution is a BA. A TEFL certification will certainly be an added advantage, though it is still possible to get employed without any certification, but the opportunities will be fewer and the pay less. Remember, majority of employers want to see certificates and valid documents.

#10 Kuala Lumpur

The last city that squeezes its way into the top ten cities (destinations) for ESL teachers is Kuala Lumpur. This city has the longest skyscrapers and a great number of shopping malls, and lots of entertainment galore.  It has a mixed population of English speakers who range from good to poor speakers. This city like the rest of Malaysia has a diverse culture comprising, Malay, Chinese, and Indians.

If you are British native then you stand a good chance of finding a good job because Malaysians prefer British to American accents. Unlike other parts of Asia, Malaysia has several foreign students from the Middle East who come to study English first before pursuing university degrees.  Given the widespread use of English in Kuala Lumpur, it might help if you are formally trained or if you have CELTA/TESOL plus experience at the time you submit an application to a job vacancy. The rates are competitive and the good thing is that teachers have greater flexibility when working.

2 Comments on “The 10 Best Cities to Teach English in Asia”

  1. 1 Olga F. Honea said at 12:55 am on April 18th, 2012:


  2. 2 Quiteria Guardado Baeza said at 12:25 pm on April 22nd, 2012:

    These are impressive articles. Keep up the sunny handiwork.

Leave a Reply