Can you survive on a TEFL salary? Happily, yes and the really good news is that you can even put money away into your savings in some destinations, too! TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) is about the only job in the world that allows you to travel almost anywhere, and support yourself at the same time.
Coming up is a very general overview of what you’re likely to earn around the world as a TEFL teacher. Of course, salaries vary between countries and cities, and change quickly depending on demand.
In most destinations you’ll earn something comparable to a typical local salary — or perhaps even higher. You’ll certainly earn a salary good enough to live a comfortable lifestyle, comparable to most locals.
Here’s what you can expect to earn…
If you’re looking to save money or pay off debts back home, you’ll have to choose your country carefully, but it’s certainly possible!
There’s a huge demand for TEFL teachers throughout the region, and in Japan, Korea and Taiwan salaries are amongst the highest in TEFL (up to £2000 a month).
There are also plenty of opportunities for one-to-one tutoring, which can pay £15-£40 an hour.
Of course you should remember that the cost of living in some locations is high. Expect to pay a third of your salary on accommodation (if it isn’t included) and another third on essentials. It still means you can save a pretty good amount, if you’re careful with your spending. If not, you can guarantee you’ll have a good time while you’re there!
In China you’ll earn around £1000 a month, but the cost of living is low, and many employers offer amazing perks such as free accommodation and return airfare for longer contracts. It’s worth considering all of the options open to you, before lurching for the highest salary on the table.
Salaries aren’t so high for English teachers in Southeast Asia, but on the plus side, neither is the cost of living, so you’ll earn enough to get by and have an amazing experience at the same time. In Thailand and Vietnam you can expect a salary of around £600 a month (incidentally, the average Thai makes half that). It’s typical, and completely accepted, for teachers to take on additional classes out-of-hours for £10-16 an hour.
Make sure that you’re not paying a tourist price for everything and you’ll be able to live comfortably and even put some money away for a rainy day.
Central and Eastern Europe
Some places (like Prague) are so popular with TEFLers that the best jobs are harder to come by. But just dig deeper, as there’s a lot of need and a lot of great positions.
You can certainly make a decent salary of around £1000 a month; pretty good when a pint of the local beer might set you back a mere £1!
There are limited opportunities in Western Europe — remember where English levels are higher there will always be less demand! Positions in France and Germany may offer around £1800 a month; in Italy or Spain they may be half that, but jobs are more plentiful. Many schools offer hourly rates only, so you may need to juggle jobs.
It’s hard to generalise about Latin America as economic conditions are so varied between the countries. One thing we can say with certainty is it’s one of the most exciting regions to live in.
In a large wealthy city like Buenos Aires or Santiago you can make a decent living, with an hourly rate of around £7. At a rural school outside of the city you might earn a third of that. However, there is a low cost of living, and it’s always possible to juggle contracts schools to get by quite comfortably.
The secret’s out! The Middle Easy is currently the number one destination for earning big salaries as TEFL teachers. In Saudi Arabia an experienced teacher can earn £2600 a month, along with return airfare and fantastic accommodation; and what’s more, demand is increasing as the Saudi government pumps billions of dollars into the university sector. Be prepared for challenges however, and a huge but fascinating cultural shift.
Most positions in Africa remain on a volunteering basis, so it’s quite likely you’ll need to have the necessary funds to pay for the opportunity. But if you have the funds and you’re looking for an amazing and worthwhile trip, how can you beat an experience that will be life-changing for you AND your students?