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How to Teach English in the Philippines: Beginners Guide 2024

If you’ve been weighing the possibility of setting sail to teach English in the Philippines – aka the “Pearl of the Orient” — we’ve got you covered here with all the ins and outs, the pros and cons, of relocating to this magical Southeast Asian archipelago for a new ESL position.

About teaching English in the Philippines

As a former American colony, English is an extremely common second language in the Philippines (an estimated 14 million Filipinos speak English fluently or nearly fluently and a full 92% of the population speaks some level of English as a first or second language.)

Consequently, many of the English-teaching positions in the Philippines available to foreigners focus on more advanced instruction. The highest concentration of ESL jobs is available in the major metropolitan areas – Manila, Cebu, and Baguio.

See what countries made our list of the best places to teach English in Asia.

What are the requirements to teach English in the Philippines?

Here are the basic requirements to teach English in the Philippines:

  • College degree (usually). In most instances, a bachelor’s degree in any field will do the trick. To land a position in higher education (university or trade school), you might need a master’s degree or above.
  • Native speaking status. This generally includes UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa passport holders.
  • A clean criminal background check (in some cases).
  • TEFL certification. More and more, schools require TEFL certification from an accredited provider, which demonstrates both technical teaching proficiency as well as dedication to, and investment in, your development as an English teacher.

To earn an affordable, universally-recognized TEFL certificate on your own time within your own schedule, check out TEFL Hero’s comprehensive, self-paced 120-hour online course.

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Teaching in the Philippines: salary and cost of living

philippines peso

Let’s discuss how much you can expect to earn and how much you’ll likely spend on living expenses during your time in the Philippines.

How much do teachers make in the Philippines?

Salaries often range widely in the Philippines – from $800 to $3,000+/month — depending on the school type and location. A typical salary is about $1,000-$1,400/month, with higher pay rates typically reserved for upper-echelon private institutes and international schools.

What’s the cost to live in the Philippines?

living in manila

The Philippines is ultra-cheap compared to the West. The cost of living is low and, as a foreign ESL teacher, you’ll make markedly more than the average local will in take-home pay.

In Manila, the capital of the island nation and one of the more expensive locales, the cost of living is still super affordable.

Here’s a sampling of typical expenses for day-to-day living, as provided by Numbeo:

  • Domestic Beer (1 pint draft): $1.19
  • Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant: $3.39
  • Eggs (regular) (12): $1.66
  • Basic utilities (Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Water, Garbage) for 915 sq. ft Apartment: $93.43
  • Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre: $270.15

Bear in mind that once you get out of the city into more sparsely populated regions, the cost of living drops even lower.

In most cases, $800-$1,200/month is more than enough to satisfy your living expenses, with the excess either held in your bank account as a nest egg or, if it’s your thing, to hit the bar (after school hours, obviously).

Other lower cost of living Asian countries to teach English include Thailand and Vietnam.

Types of English teaching jobs in the Philippines

Let’s review a few of the most popular English-teaching jobs available in the Philippines.

Job type #1: Private language schools

Private language schools tend to operate at night and on weekends, to either augment English instruction in “regular” school (for kids) or as a professional development tool for working adults.

One of the major reasons that students of all ages enroll in a private language school in the Philippines is to study for one of the common standardized English proficiency tests and/or entrance exams into higher education like:

  • GRE

Depending on location, the school, and your personal qualifications, you can expect to make between $1,200-$2,000/month at a private language school.

Job type #2:  International schools

International schools, which cater to the economic and social elite, generally pay the most of any school type in the Philippines, usually within the $1,500-$3,000/month range.

However, with the greater relative pay comes more responsibility, higher expectations, and fierce competition.

As you can see from this list of international schools in the Philippines, the preponderance of these types of learning institutes is located in large urban centers where the clientele lives.

Job type #3: Public schools

Public school pay is notably lower than that of comparable private school positions, ranging from $800-$1,500/month on average. You likely won’t make much more than $1,000/month.

To compensate for the low pay, though, public schools are scattered throughout the country, including in off-the-beaten-path small towns and villages, so if a taste of the rural life is what you’re after, public schools are likely your best bet.

Job type #4: University/college

Most students in universities and trade schools are required to learn English and/or pass English proficiency tests, so there are lots of positions available for foreign ESL teachers in institutes of higher learning, especially if you have an advanced certification or an advanced degree.

Universities tend to offer the second-highest pay for ESL work in the Philippines behind international schools. Expect to earn between $1,500-$2,200/month.

Many universities also offer tangential benefits, such as free housing on campus and health insurance.

Where to teach English in the Philippines

A trio of the Philippines’ biggest cities house by far the largest concentration of ESL jobs. These are:

manila skyline

Manila, the capital city, a sprawling metropolis with around 21 million people in the broader metro area

cebu phillppines

Cebu, “the Queen City of the South,” the original capital and oldest city in the Philippines

baguio city

Baguio, a rapidly developing, “Highly-Urbanized City” (HUC) dubbed the “Summer Capital of the Philippines,” situated in the northern mountains

How to find jobs teaching English in the Philippines

teach english in philippines

Here we’ll run down some hot tips for a smooth job-seeking experience.

Where to start

If you’re currently located outside of the Philippines, online job boards are where the action is. Such is the gift of modern technology: you can browse, apply for, interview for, and accept a job in the Philippines all from the comfort of your own home. 

Here are a few online job boards to get started:

Facebook groups dedicated to ESL in the Philippines like this one are great resources for both a.) finding job vacancies and b.) sharing experiences/tips with other teachers in the country.

How to get hired

If you’re serious about getting hired, follow these steps:

  • Get your TEFL certification
  • Polish your resume
  • Get your headshot (Asian schools love, and often require, headshots accompanying applications)
  • Scour the web for job ads starting with the job boards above
  • Apply to two jobs every day without exception
  • Follow up with reminder emails on unanswered applications after a week and thank-you emails after job interviews right afterward

If you meet the basic requirements and are diligent about spreading your resume far and wide, you are virtually guaranteed to find a job after only a brief search.

What visa do you need to teach English in the Philippines?

First, you’ll need to apply for the Alien Employment Permit sponsored by your school or institution, which will remain valid for between 6 months and two years.

Once the AEP is in hand, you can then apply for a working visa.

To qualify for the working visa, you’ll need:

  • A sponsoring organization
  • A passport valid for at least six months
  • Locally-issued medical certificate
  • Locally-issued police clearance

Your school or sponsoring institution should hold your hand throughout the work permit/visa process. Visa assistance is a standard feature of almost all employment packages – but always confirm just in case, so you don’t end up attempting (and probably failing) to navigate the foreign bureaucracy alone.

What’s it like being an English Teacher in the Philippines?

Over 7,000 islands comprise the Philippines. While there are common cultural threads between them, there are also notable differences in regional cultures within the island chain.

Students, like the population more broadly, are not known for their punctuality. Arriving late to class is a standard practice in everyday life there. You’ll get used to it. For helpful tips about navigating cultural differences in Southeast Asia, check out my informative blog post.

One of the major perks of working and living in the Philippines from a convenience standpoint, relative to other Southeast Asian countries, is that almost everyone you will meet speaks some level of English.

FAQs About Teaching English in the Philippines

Let’s get into a handful of the most frequently asked questions about working and living in the Philippines as an ESL teacher.

Does my employer provide health insurance?

Some employers will provide health insurance and others won’t. Higher-end positions at universities and international schools are more likely to include it in an insurance package.

Do I need a degree to teach English in the Philippines?

In many instances, yes. However, tutoring positions, including freelance tutoring, do not require a degree.

Is teaching English in the Philippines worth it?

You likely won’t earn a fortune teaching English in the Philippines, but you will definitely make enough to live well and squirrel away some money to take with you if/when you return home.

Are English teachers in demand in the Philippines?

There is less demand for foreign English teachers in the Philippines compared to other Southeast Asian nations because a greater share of the population speaks English. 

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