As far as ESL destinations in the Orient go, you’d be hard-pressed to make a much better choice than to teach English in Taiwan – a stunning island nation marked by subtropical evergreen forests, beaches, mountains, and an ultra-modern capital in Taipei.
About teaching English in Taiwan
Taiwan is an independent (for now) island off the Southeast coast of the Chinese mainland that punches way above its weight class.
It’s highly developed economically, socially, and politically, as a modern democracy with an unmistakably Western-facing orientation (Taiwan looks to the West to buttress its independent status).
Foreign ESL teachers in Taiwan are handsomely compensated (see upcoming section on salary and cost of living) and are generally respected and revered in Taiwanese culture.
The natives are quite friendly towards foreigners from the West, which is why it’s consistently named among the top destinations for expats worldwide. An estimated 700,000+ expats have made it their adopted homes.
What are the requirements to teach English in Taiwan?
Teacher qualifications in Taiwan are more or less in line with the global standard. Here’s what you’ll (generally) need to teach English in Taiwan:
- Four-year university degree (any major). To work at a university or college, you will need a master’s degree or above; for most other positions, a four-year degree will suffice.
- Native–speaking status (taken to mean Western holders of US, Canadian, UK, Irish, South African, Australian, or New Zealand passports).
- FBI background check (minor citations like traffic violations won’t adversely affect your employability).
- TEFL certification. Increasingly, teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) certification is essential for nabbing a well-paying job. If you’re a busy student or worker but still want to earn a fully-accredited certification on your own time, consider TEFL Hero’s comprehensive, self-paced 120-hour online course.
Get Certified to Teach Anywhere!
TEFL in Taiwan: salary and cost of living
Let’s compare and contrast the salary to the cost of living in Taiwan.
How much do teachers make in Taiwan?
ESL teachers in Taiwan make $1,800-$2,500/month. For highly qualified teachers working in top-tier international schools, that figure could be significantly higher, but that’s only relevant to a small subsection of the overall industry.
On this spectrum, the pay you can expect to earn depends on:
- How well you negotiate
- Your qualifications (degrees, experience, certifications)
- The type of school
- The location of the school
Even the bottom rung of the pay ladder ($1,800/month) is likely going to be higher than what you would get teaching in Thailand or Vietnam, but will be less than what you’d make teaching in mainland China.
What’s the cost to live in Taiwan?
Cost of living in Taiwan is notably lower than in the West. But it’s also higher than in nearby mainland China (with the exception of Shanghai and Beijing) and much of Southeast Asia to the south.
Here are a few average price points, via Numbeo, to keep in mind for goods and services you’ll use in everyday life:
- Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant: $3.46
- Water (12 oz small bottle): $0.66
- Eggs (regular) (12): $2.67
- One-way Ticket (Local Transport): $0.79
- Basic Utilities (Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Water, Garbage): $71.53
- *Apartment (1 bedroom) in city center: $450-$950
*Apartment price has been edited to account for the likelihood that you’d want to live in or around the city center. Obviously, a one-bedroom is less economical than splitting rent with roommates or living outside of the city center.
If you’re careful with your money, avoid eating at fancy western restaurants, and live with roommates in the city center, you can easily get by on less than $1,000/month, especially if your apartment is subsidized by your employer, as many are.
In such a scenario, you’d save several hundred dollars, possibly a thousand, every month.
Pros/cons of living & working in Taiwan
Every wise decision hinges on a realistic analysis of the pros and cons, which every destination has to some extent. It’s also advisable to keep in mind the “opportunity costs” associated with moving to Taiwan – what you might miss out on from other host countries if you ultimately choose to go with the island nation as your adopted ESL home.
ESL in Taiwan pros:
- First-world amenities. Taiwan is notably advanced economically and socially, with a very well-developed healthcare infrastructure, modern transportation, and all of the perks of an industrialized society that you may have become accustomed to at home.
- Relatively high pay ($1,800-$2,400/month)
- Superb (and cheap) street food
- Moderate weather. Taiwan’s climate is classed as subtropical except for the southern tip which is tropical. This means that “summers are long and hot, lasting from April or May to September or October. The winters are short and mild, although snow does fall in the mountains and occasionally at lower elevations in the north.” It rarely gets blisteringly hot like Southeast Asia can but neither does it get too frosty in winter.
- Generous job benefits including health insurance, housing stipends, end-of-contract bonuses, etc. If you play your cards right, you might even get your future employer to finance your overseas flight.
ESL in Taiwan cons:
- High pollution, especially in urban centers. Air quality readings often dip into orange and even red.
- Taiwan generally has stricter requirements for teachers than neighboring countries with more flexible employers and visa-issuing authorities.
- Asian work culture is often dramatically different than millennial-era work cultures in the West, and is often hard to adjust to.
Teacher Nathan explores some of the sober realities of living and working in Taiwan that you might not get elsewhere:
Types of English teaching jobs in Taiwan
Here’s a quick rundown of the most commonly available teaching jobs that you’ll find when you search online (see “how to find jobs” section for more info about job boards).
Private Language Schools
Let’s introduce you to the Taiwanese twist on the infamous Asian “cram school”: the Buxiban.
As the nickname “cram school” implies, these private language institutes primarily focus on one thing: cramming English into students’ cerebral cortices so they can pass standardized tests which are doled out constantly to Taiwanese students and which they prepare for day and night (often literally).
Another common clientele for language schools in Taiwan is working professionals who want to up their English game for the sake of their careers.
Buxiban generally pay $1,800–$2,000/month. They frequently offer the aforementioned perks like housing stipends and various bonuses/incentives in their contracts.
Another big consideration: work hours at Buxiban usually begin in the afternoon on weekdays and end in the evening. You might also have to work on Saturdays when the students are free from work/school.
International schools are the most prestigious of all learning institutes in the ESL hierarchy – the most competitive, the most demanding, and the most rewarding (at least financially).
If you’re serious about advancing your ESL career and reaching the pinnacle of the industry, international schools are where the action is.
International school teachers can pull in – wait for it – up to $6,000/month. In addition, the schools will reimburse your full airfare and the full cost of anything associated with your visa, and they’ll even cover some forms of professional development (like trainings, conferences, etc.)
However, that extremely high pay rate comes with caveats: you’re going to have to deal with a highly-demanding administrative staff with enormous expectations.
Most public school ESL jobs open to foreigners are for high school-age students, so if teaching small kids is your preference, you’re probably better suited to a Buxiban.
But if managing and educating the budding adolescent leaders of tomorrow is more your vibe, give public schools a hard look.
For one thing, the pay at public schools slightly outstrips private school pay. You can expect to pull in $2,000-$2,500/month. You’ll also generally enjoy more freedom in your curriculum/lesson planning, including how you run your classes than at private schools that tend to run a tighter ship.
Public schools offer similar ancillary benefits as private schools, like end-of-contract bonuses and housing stipends.
Institutes of higher learning are the second-most competitive schools behind international schools. Most positions are reserved for teachers who hold advanced degrees at the master’s level and beyond.
Perhaps somewhat paradoxically, the pay at most universities for master’s degree holders ranges from $1,800-$2,200/month, which is lower than at the primary and high school levels in both public and private schools.
However, you will probably work fewer hours and enjoy more social prestige when you teach at a university or college.
Where to teach English in Taiwan
Taipei is the undisputed cultural, economic, and political center of gravity in Taiwan. The most welcoming neighborhoods in the city for expats are:
- Da’An/Dongmen (East Gate). It’s chock full of hip shopping, clubs, cafes, and restaurants. The street food on Yong Kang Street (永康街) is lit, as the kids say.
- ZhongShan. An art and business center, the district is home to multiple stunning parks. For a touch of culture, check out Xingtian Temple honoring Guan Gong, Martial God of Loyalty and Righteousness
- East District (Dong Qu). This newly developed area of Taipei is full of expat bars, restaurants, cafes, and independent boutique shops.
Because the island nation is so compact, every other major city/destination of interest — like Taichung and the beach-laden Kaohsiung in the South – are just a short bus ride away.
And since the most (and best-paying) jobs are located in Taipei, I recommend using the capital as your base of operations and exploring the other regions on weekends and holidays.
How to find jobs teaching English in Taiwan
Once you’ve got your heart set on Taiwan, here’s how to get down to the business of identifying and landing your ESL dream job (or something proximate to your dream job; nothing is perfect).
Where to start
Job Boards are the ideal job search tools because you can view and compare a large collection of open job postings at once and fire off numerous applications in one sitting.
The top Taiwan job boards are:
Facebook groups are also often goldmines – plus you can interact with other Western ESL teachers and exchange tips/experiences. For instance, take a look at Taiwan English Teaching (ELT Search).
City-specific groups on Facebook, like English Teacher in Taipei whittle down the geographic focus even further.
How to get hired
Prepare the following documents and practice the following daily habits to virtually guarantee a job offer in as little as a week (provided you have the baseline qualifications and already have an FBI criminal background check in hand):
- Build or polish your resume (use online tools to help if need be)
- Snap a professional-looking headshot
- Make photocopies of the first page of your passport, your diploma, and TEFL certificate (if you don’t already have a digital copy)
- Scour the job boards
- Send a minimum of two applications every day
- Receive interview requests
- Send follow-up emails after any interviews thanking the recruiter for the opportunity
- Receive job offers
- Research schools that maker offers (look for reviews from former teachers)
- Sign contract
- Get ready to fly to Taiwan!
It’s really very simple once you have gathered your documents, nailed your email template down, and begun firing off applications regularly. Before you know it, you’ll have a contract in hand.
What visa do you need to teach English in Taiwan?
You’ll eventually need a work permit and an alien resident certificate (ARC). Your school should take care of all the paperwork on your behalf, so make sure this is a service they provide to teachers before you accept a position.
Here’s how the process works in a nutshell:
- Enter the country on a visa-on-arrival
- Switch your visa to a visitor visa
- Apply for a work permit
- Complete health check
- Receive employer-validated ARC
Once the ARC procedure is over, you’ll then be a fully legal long-term resident of Taiwan, enrolled in the national health and dental service and eligible to open a bank account, etc. – eligible for (almost) all the perks of citizenship, minus the voting.
FAQs About Teaching English in Taiwan
Let us indulge a few of the frequently asked questions (FAQs) that often come up regarding the ESL worklife experience in Taiwan.
Does my employer provide health insurance?
Taiwan has a robustly funded and modern public healthcare system, which is open to all foreigners with the proper visa (ARC) while they’re working on the island.
Do I need a degree to teach English in Taiwan?
Yes. It’s very difficult to land a job (and to get the necessary visa) without proof of a 4-year degree. Check out where to teach English online with no degree.
Is teaching English in Taiwan worth it?
If you’re looking for a hip new country to live and work, then teaching English in Taiwan is totally worth it! Teachers who move to Taiwan enjoy a high salary and can explore the island on time off.
Can I save money teaching in Taiwan?
With an entry-level ESL job, you can save hundreds and up to a thousand USD teaching English in Taiwan. For those seeking professional careers teaching, you can save MUCH more.