You expect me to believe I can teach English abroad and make that much money in only five years… pfff, yeah, right!
Is that what you’re thinking? Or perhaps…
Impossible! Improbable! Incredible!
You’d be amazed at how few ESL teachers properly leverage the power of teaching English abroad to maximize their earnings. Yes, you CAN quite easily make $300,000 in five years teaching English. What really prompted me to write this post were the stories I was reading the other day on an English-ESL website. I read story upon story of ESL teachers living in the Northeastern province of Thailand, making a meager seven or eight hundred dollars per month. Here I was thinking–wow, these guys must really love Thailand to be getting by on so little! It was impressive. But then I read the slew of complaints that came along with the hardships they endured living there… the squat toilets, the
chaotic educational system, the rising cost of goods, and the list went on and on. After about ten minutes, I sat back and looked around, wondering why the heck they even lived there in the first place! lol 😀
Now I know we’re all driven by different motives, but being in one of the countries with the highest paid ESL teachers, I thought I would share a little bit about my experiences here.
ESL, or English as a Second Language
is something taught in all parts of the globe–so the advantage is quite clear. You need have no customer base to start with; students and schools will find you if you make yourself visible and available.
Of course, many would-be teachers worry that teaching English abroad won’t allow them to lead a very comfortable life, but the paychecks available can be surprisingly rewarding . However, before I list the countries with some of the highest opportunities to build savings, I would like to provide a few universal tips and suggestions:
1. Cut your teeth at home – Try not to jump into teaching English abroad without first getting at least a semester under your belt in the United States or your home country. You need to have the proper experience and mastery of the techniques needed in order to make it easier teaching English abroad. At the very least, obtain a CELTA or a respectable TEFL certificate–but if you want to earn the $300,000 mark, you absolutely should get face-to-face instruction. Stick to classroom courses with the 40 hour teaching practicum, because many of the high-paying ESL jobs may not even consider online TEFLs.
2. Network with others – Before you head out to teach English abroad, make sure to network with others who are doing the same thing or who are teaching ESL in your home country. These people are going to be key support providers at times you need some help or encouragement. Don’t have any contacts? Join Facebook and search for ESL groups and pages such as Teaching English in Saudi Arabia. You’ll find that some of these groups have upwards of 100,000 members. If money is your motivation to teach English abroad, stick to the Middle Eastern groups… we’ll get into that a little more below.
3. Get hired before you pack – For your first gig teaching English abroad, try to have a job lined up before you leave home. This is especially the case for the higher earning countries, but not so necessary for transient countries such as Thailand. Check out Dave’s ESL Cafe. Trying to land an ESL job before getting to your destination ensures that you have people in the community willing to help you find housing and even help you get to know the city a bit before you start the work.
4. Become familiar with your destination – Don’t take for granted that you will be able to get by as a foreigner when teaching English abroad. You need to understand the customs of the country where you will be teaching and you need to familiarize yourself with the languages of the people you will be teaching.
These are some of the basics that a lot of people overlook in their enthusiasm to teach abroad. It is also possible to neglect these things in your eagerness to begin earning a good income.
Teaching English Abroad: Top Moneymakers
With all of that in mind, let’s consider which countries currently have some of the best pay for ESL teachers. I’m going to list three countries, from lowest to highest, and there may very well be countries which pay more, but the following three countries will also allow you to save more:
Though this country is garnering a strong reputation as a place that is costly to live, those who teach ESL will usually enjoy free housing and airfare and the ability to save a good amount of their salary each month as well. Private instruction is in high demand and my younger brother, who attends college in China, finds that his private teaching schedule fills up without much effort.
2. South Korea
Would you believe that ESL teachers can save a good chunk of their income–up to half of it–in South Korea? That could mean that living and working in this culturally rich and remarkably stable Asian country could net you savings of more than $15k annually. That’s certainly one good way to get a head start on retirement! There are other perks to doing this in addition to good pay – many get free housing and airfare and many receive bonuses for staying in their 12 month contract.
…And the grand winner is…
3. Saudi Arabia!
Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, U.A.E. and Bahrain are all places where ESL is in high demand, but Saudi Arabia just oozes money. Salaries are tax free and incredibly high compared to many other locations. Most teachers enjoy free housing, transportation, airfare, complete health insurance coverage, and much more.
I want you to take a look at this recent ad on Dave’s ESL Cafe. Don’t have the Master degree to quality for this position? No worries. You’ll find plenty of listings that don’t require a Master and pay similar or a tad less ($50,000-a-plenty). You can further supplement your income with private lessons and charge up to $100 per hour, depending on the level and type of English (ie private/corporate). $100 an hour in Saudi is equivalent to what a regular English teacher in Thailand makes in 2-3 days. Do the maths–$50,000+ and a healthy dose of private lessons means that making $300,000 tax-free is well within the realm of possibility in Saudi Arabia.
But what are the drawbacks?
Living in Saudi Arabia can be tough at first. The laws are restrictive, women are veiled up, booze is illegal (but both quite obtainable ::cough). You may feel homesick. But those who think of it as a stint into true cultural romanticism, into experiencing the authentic traditions of Arabia, will find it a fascinating experience. Many who go to teach in Saudi Arabia remain long-term expats. The money is too good to leave. Those who do leave, leave rather quickly.
Once there, you will most likely fall into an expat clique. There are plenty of ESL teachers in Saudi Arabia; they hang out, they party, they travel and backpack together. Saudi Arabia is also central to everything–you have Europe, Asia, and Africa a few hours away by plane. Want to check out India? Three hours away. Bangkok? 8 hours away. Paris? 5 hours away. Egypt? 1 hour away. And if you can deal with China, you can certainly deal with Saudi Arabia.
So what would I recommend?
Mix it up.
Either spend five years in Saudi, rack up your money, and move to whatever province in Thailand you want to and enjoy a life of true comfort; or go back and forth, balance your money and your pleasure between both countries. A year here, a year there. As I mentioned in last week’s post, you’ll truly be working to live and not living to work.
What more, after just one year of teaching English abroad in Saudi, you’ll have more money saved up than the average US person does at the age 50! This money will be available immediately, can be invested anywhere, and not be tied into 401ks–whose disadvantages I talk about here.
Below is a neat video I found, comparing teaching in Saudi Arabia vs. South Korea.
There are many other locations where you can earn substantial incomes from ESL work, but none like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. If you take the time to make the best plans and decisions, you can easily find yourself in a beautiful and safe location in a far off city, earning a hefty income, and receiving excellent benefits. You will be able to craft a lifestyle that suits your goals and wishes, all while meeting people of varied cultures and backgrounds.
Don’t let anyone tell you that earning bank abroad by teaching English abroad is not possible. Although I’m not an English teacher myself, I know many teachers making a great living in Saudi Arabia today.
I see them at the local Starbucks every day!
A few resources you may be interested in:
- Digital Nomad Lifestyle: How to Make $100,000 in One Year
- Interview With an Expat Female Living in Saudi Arabia
- Start a blog using BlueHost web-hosting and share your experiences with the world!
- Best dating service in Saudi Arabia
What do you think about teaching English abroad in a conservative country like Saudi Arabia? Would you do it to build yourself a nice little nest egg?
There are numerous openings for English teaching jobs abroad. If you are interested in applying, please visit the English Teaching Jobs in Saudi Arabia or English Teaching Jobs in China page, fill out the form, and a recruiter will contact you very soon!