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7 Best Places to Teach English in Asia & How to Get Started in 2023

In the aggregate, millions of teachers from the West have ventured abroad to teach English in Asia, from the Philippines to Thailand to South Korea and elsewhere. Let’s explore the 7 best places to teach English in Asia and how you can get in on the action in 2023.

map of asia

Highlights of TEFL in Asia

The ESL (English as a Second Language) industry in Asia is huge. Approximately 100,000 jobs for foreign teachers open up each year in this rapidly developing region of the world. Most recruiters have a heavy preference for teachers from native English-speaking countries (see “general requirements” section for more details). 

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The 7 Best Places to Teach English in Asia

What follows is by no means an exhaustive list of the top ESL destinations in Asia. We have selected these countries based on pay, quality of life for foreign workers, and availability of jobs.

Vietnam

Famous Halong Bay in Vietnam

Vietnam, perhaps aside from China, has the most jobs available. The young, booming country has a voracious, nearly insatiable, appetite for ESL education. You can sense the enthusiasm among young learners, their parents, and working professionals.

The US is a major trading partner of Vietnam, so there is a substantial economic incentive for the country to invest in English education for its population.

The requirements to teach English in Vietnam are:

  • TEFL/TESOL. More and more, TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) certification is a baseline qualification for ESL teachers. Check out TEFL Hero’s 100%-online, self-directed TEFL course that’s fully accredited and recognized worldwide. At only $99, it’s one of the most affordable accredited TEFL courses on the market.
  • Bachelor’s Degree. A four-year university degree in any major from an accredited school will suffice.
  • Clean criminal record. Your employer should be able to help you get the paperwork done related to your criminal history. In some cases, you might need an FBI background check. In other cases, you might be able to get by with a local check.

The average salary for a teacher in Vietnam is $1,500-$2,000/month, depending on whether you’re located in one of the big cities (Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, for instance) or a smaller city/rural area. Most employers pay on a per-hour basis, usually within the $15-$20/hour range.

Based on personal experience, as well as according to Numbeo, cost of living in Vietnam is substantially lower than in the West. It’s entirely possible to live very comfortably on less than $1,000/month, so you could potentially save hundreds of dollars each month.

The bulk of ESL positions are advertised online. Top resources for browsing jobs are:

Check out our How-To Guide to Teaching English in Vietnam.

Thailand

teach in thailand

Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok

Thailand, aka the Land of Smiles, is arguably the funnest ESL destination. Thais love sanook (Thai for “fun”) and that love is reflected in their laid-back lifestyle. The food is unparalleled. The only real drawback is that Thailand’s pay for ESL teachers is relatively low.

The basic requirements to teach English in Thailand, which are generally laxer than other destinations in Asia, are:

  • Bachelor’s degree (usually required but not always; see our blog post on that topic)
  • Criminal background check (this can be done locally in most instances)
  • Native English-speaking status (not always required)
  • TEFL certification

Pay for English teachers in Thailand varies extremely widely. The general minimum wage for a Western, native English speaker teaching at a public school is $1,000/month. If you land a job at an elite Bangkok international school, on the other end of the pay spectrum, you could potentially pul in $5,000+/month.

The cost of living for a single person in Bangkok generally clocks in at $800-$1.000/month. It is likely much lower in smaller cities and rural areas. So, even with a low salary, it’s possible to save money if you’re careful.

Great online job boards to locate an ESL job in Thailand are:

CIEE Teach English Abroad and Greenheart Travel are also great paid programs. They’ll place you in a school and help you with accommodations, visas, etc. This is particularly valuable for first-time travelers.

Check out our How-To Guide to Teaching English in Thailand

South Korea

teach english in asia

South Korea, next to Japan, is among the most highly economically developed nations in Asia. ESL in South Korea is a $50+-billion industry. As a result, it leads the region in pay for ESL teachers. It also offers highly modern amenities, including a leading medical system.

The requirements to teach English in South Korea are generally stricter than in neighboring countries, and include:

  • 4-year university degree
  • Native-speaking status
  • TEFL certification
  •  FBI background check

The pay for ESL teachers in South Korea is $1,350-$3,100 USD/month. On top of the salary, most schools also offer multiple ancillary benefits such as housing, comprehensive health insurance, travel reimbursement, etc.

Based on data from Numbeo, cost of living in Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is about $2,000/month. It’s much lower outside of the major cities.

Job boards featuring a bounty of ESL jobs in South Korea include:

Government programs that place teachers in schools across South Korea

Check out our How-To Guide to Teaching English in South Korea

Japan

japan

Japan is home to, admittedly subjectively, the most fascinating native culture anywhere in Asia, given that it developed independently as an insulated island archipelago. The country is also very highly advanced with all the modern amenities you might expect back home. Pay is extremely decent.

Requirements are similar to South Korea’s, like:

  • 4-year university degree
  • Native-speaking status
  • TEFL certification

Average salaries for English teachers in Japan typically fall in the range of $2,500-$3,500. As is always the case, pay is higher in major cities and lower in smaller ones and villages.

The cost of living in Japan is relatively high compared to other Asian countries. However, per Numbeo, it’s about 16% less than in the United States, so you can likely get by on less than you do back home (unless you live in Tokyo, the second-most expensive city in Asia).

Multiple programs exist to connect ESL teachers with rewarding work in Japan. Here are your best bets:

If you’re more interested in finding work independently and negotiating your own contract, job boards that contain Japanese job ads directly from schools include:

Check out our How-To Guide to Teaching English in Japan

Taiwan

taiwan

Taiwan is a delightful island off the eastern coast of mainland China. If you’re into authentic Chinese culture minus the authoritarianism in a breezy subtropical climate, Taiwan is where you want to be. Plus the pay is better than on the mainland.

It’s so welcoming to foreigners that 700,000+ expats call Taiwan home.

Here’s what you need to teach in Taiwan:

  • 4-year degree
  • FBI background check
  • Native English-speaking status
  • TEFL certification

The average pay for an English teacher in Taiwan is $1,800-$2,500/month.

Per Numbeo, the cost of living in Taiwan is generally a little higher than the average in Asia, with the exceptions of Japan and South Korea. If you’re frugal, you can live comfortably on $1,500/month (depending on whether your school offers free housing, which many in Taiwan do.)

Check out our How-To Guide to Teaching English in Taiwan

Philippines

philippines

The Philippines, a series of nearby islands, has earned its nickname as the “Pearl of the Orient” – stunning beaches, friendly people, the whole nine yards.  A high percentage of Filipinos speak English fluently (in fact, many other countries in Asia recruit them as teachers because their salary requirements are lower than Westerners’).

Here are the baseline requirements for a Western ESL teacher in the Philippines:

  • University degree
  • Native English speaker
  • TEFL certification

The standard salary in the Philippines for ESL work is $1,000-$1,400/month, although the pay may be much higher if you work in an international school.

Cost of living is relatively low in the Philippines. Everyday consumer goods, as well as rent, are cheap, according to Numbeo.

Start with these online job resources to locate a job:

Check out our How-To Guide to Teaching English in the Philippines

China

beijing china

China’s ESL job market is absolutely enormous. Take a look around any international ESL job boards for confirmation; as many as half are likely devoted to open ESL positions on the Chinese mainland waiting for a foreign teacher to snag.

To teach in China, you’ll need:

  • University degree
  • TEFL certification
  • Clean background check
  • Native English-speaking status

Teacher salaries in China have risen substantially in recent years in a bid to attract more (and more qualified) teachers. You can expect to make $1,600 – $6,300 USD per month, although most schools pay closer to the bottom of that spectrum.

Cost of living in China differs widely, depending on whether you’re in a major urban center (where the highest-paying jobs are located) or in smaller cities/rural areas.

To compare apples to apples, life in Beijing is 56% less expensive than in New York. Foreign ESL teacher pay is much higher than the average local salary. As a result, most teachers are capable of putting away thousands of dollars in savings over the course of a year.

Due to China’s extreme “Zero COVID” policy in which businesses and institutions are continually shuttered and residents relocated to quarantine camps, teaching English in China isn’t an advisable option at the moment. But when things open back up it should once again be a top destination.

Check out our How-To Guide to Teaching English in China

General Requirements for Teaching English in Asia

As a rule of thumb, you will have noticed some common threads in terms of universal requirements for ESL teachers throughout Asia. These include:

  • TEFL/TESOL.
  • Bachelor’s degree.
  • Native English speaker. For the purposes of most countries, “native English speakers” are defined as UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa passport holders.
  • Clean criminal background check (not applicable in all cases).

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How to Find English Teaching Jobs in Asia

Let’s run down some of the top resources to help you find an ESL position of your dreams – possibly from the comfort of your bedroom.

Job Boards

In terms of the raw number of job postings, as well as the universal nature of the site, you can’t really go wrong with ESLcafe.com, the hands-down center of the global ESL universe.

The top job boards, based on my experience, in terms of the quality of jobs and the variety, are:

Government Programs

Several government programs make getting placed in public schools easier than it would otherwise be on your own. We’ve linked to several government programs in their respective countries above, and they’re also explored more fully in the individual TEFL Hero country guides that we’ve also linked to.

Recruiters

Recruiters take some of the grind out of the job search. Their job is to connect potential teachers with schools, and they usually work on commission. Just beware that recruiters are notorious for shady business practices. Lots of them are totally legit, though – just do your due diligence and research their reputations before committing to working through a recruiter.

Check out ESL Authority’s article for more info, What Is an ESL Recruiter and When Should You Use One?

Teaching in Asia FAQ

Let’s briefly cover some of the most frequently asked questions regarding ESL in Asia.

Can I teach in Asia without a degree?

Yes. Although a degree is usually needed on paper, getting work without a degree is particularly possible in Thailand, where visa workarounds are more common. Check out our Teach in Thailand Without a Degree article.

Which country has the highest demand for teachers?

China and South Korea have the highest demand for English teachers.

Which Asian country pays teachers the most?

China and South Korea, followed closely by Japan, pay the most.

Is it hard to get a job after teaching abroad for a year?

No. Finding an ESL job in Asia, especially if you already have a year of experience, is very easy, provided you meet the basic requirements. 

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