The Six Best Countries to Teach Abroad in Asia

by Briana Aragon

Teaching jobs in Asia are known worldwide to be some of the best opportunities for teachers to take their career to the next level, or for beginners to get their feet wet in the field, or better yet for travelers to share their skills while traveling the world. However, when seeking out teaching jobs in Asia, individuals are often overwhelmed with the pure number of options. So we have put together a list of the best countries for teaching abroad in Asia to help all you aspiring and experienced teachers find your dream destination.

City skyline in Bangkok, Thailand

City skyline in Bangkok, Thailand - Photo by Briana Aragon

1. Thailand

The Kingdom of Thailand, formerly known as Siam, has a huge demand for native English teachers. The range of teaching jobs in Thailand includes everything from short to long term placement programs, summer camps, private and public schools, language schools, and the option to work with students of all ages. Bordered by Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia, this nation is a geographic treasure filled with ruins, temples, exotic wildlife, mountains, ancient forests, tropical jungles, and countless islands with stunning coastlines. Teaching in Thailand means plenty of opportunities for travel and adventure. 

Thailand’s quality of life ranks second according to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Transportation is easy to find and inexpensive. In fact, cost of living is downright cheap, with city apartments as low as $200 per month, while the average beginning teacher banks a salary of around $1,000 per month. More experienced teachers can make significantly more than that, even up to $4,000 per month teaching in a reputable private school in Thailand. Some of the more popular locations to teach in Thailand are Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Surat Thani, and Koh Samui. Though Thailand has endured its fair share of political turmoil over the years, violence is typically low, as Thais are generally a peaceful and easy going people and over 95 percent of Thais practice Buddhism. 

2. Malaysia

Located south of Thailand, Malaysia encompasses the Singaporean peninsula and stretches to the northern edge of Indonesia. Malaysia is incredibly biodiverse, not only in terms of plants and animals, but also people; the nation encompasses a rich mix of cultures and ethnicities. As the economy grows, the government is able to invest more resources into the educational infrastructure. For teachers, this translates to higher demand, less competition, and an increasing number of available teaching jobs in Malaysia. The cost of living in Malaysia is quite similar to Thailand, perhaps a bit more expensive, but not noticeably. Depending on experience, teachers can make anywhere from $1,000 to 3,000 in terms of monthly salaries. Locations in Malaysia with the most teaching jobs include Kuala Lumpur, Borneo, and Medan.

Getting silly with your students is a big perk while teaching in Thailand!

Getting silly with your students is a big perk while teaching in Thailand! Photo by Briana Aragon

3. Indonesia

Much like neighboring Malaysia, Indonesia’s economic growth has produced positive changes in the education sector. Not only are there plenty of available teaching jobs all over the country, Indonesia is affordable and gorgeous! With an incredible network of 252 million people and over 17,000 islands, it’s deemed the second most bio-diverse region in the world. Islam is the dominant religion in the area, so teachers should take care to learn the basics. Abundant in culture, there are over 300 native ethnicities speaking a variety of languages. With such a central location, it’s easy for teachers to explore all the surrounding beauty, including places like Jakarta, Bali, and Surabaya. It’s also one of the best places to save money through teaching abroad. The cost of living in Indonesia is incredibly inexpensive, and teachers make enough to save up to 30 to 50 percent of their monthly salary if they so choose. 

4. Vietnam

Like Thailand, the juxtaposition of lush tropical rainforests and miles of gorgeous coastline make this country a geographical gem full of opportunity, culture, and adventure. Vietnam’s economic growth rate is globally among the highest, which increases the number of available teaching jobs and makes it easy for teachers to find work. Vietnam even has a foreign language project in place, with the goal to have students using English in daily communications by 2020, so the demand for quality ESL teachers is high year round. There are still, however, some major disparities in both income and access to good health care in Vietnam. Like the majority of Southeast Asia, the cost of living is low in Vietnam, and teachers make a basic salary of $1,200 to $1,500 per month, or more depending on experience. Hanoi, Nha Trang, and Ho Chi Minh are the largest cities offering the most teaching job opportunities in Vietnam, but there are plenty of smaller villages and rural locations to choose from as well. 

5. Singapore

Singapore has long been an epicenter for international trade and exchange of ideas. It stands out from the rest of the ASEAN nations in terms of quality of life, which is ranked the highest in the region. As a heavily developed market economy, the education and healthcare industries are commonly among the strongest and most successful in the world, and because of this, having teaching experience in Singapore is extremely impressive on a resume.

With such a high quality economy, the cost of living is the most expensive in the region. A small city apartment costs as much as $2,300 per month and a monthly transportation pass runs around $75. For teachers, this also means a much higher monthly salary than what is available in other ASEAN nations, with experienced teachers making as much as $4,000 per month. In effect, those looking for teaching jobs in Singapore will find a higher level of both required qualifications and job competition.

Around 75 percent of the population is Chinese, and Mandarin is one of the four official languages, along with English, Malay, and Tamil. The variety of languages spoken in Singapore allows teachers to specialize in teaching more languages and subjects than just English, which results in more experience and often a larger paycheck. Foreign teachers should be sure to research the laws and customs before taking a teaching job in Singapore, as the legal system is quite strict in many regards. 

Singapore City

Singapore City with some of the famous landmarks in the background - Photo by Ian Delgado

6. Cambodia

After a long history of violent struggle, Cambodia is now a multi-party democracy focusing on promoting peace and economic improvement. Teachers looking to truly make a difference in the quality of life for students should consider teaching jobs in Cambodia. With a little over 15 million people, it is still a low income economy with its share of political corruption, however the economy is steadily growing. The largest industries in Cambodia are agriculture, construction, and tourism. The education and healthcare sectors have improved dramatically over the past few decades, but there is still a lot of ground to cover.

Great teachers are sorely needed to help Cambodia recover, improve their educational system, and bring societal standards up to meet Thailand and Vietnam. International teachers may find challenges with the low quality of schools and common lack of available resources, however. Teaching jobs in Cambodia are mostly available in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. The incredible affordability and natural beauty of this country make it a desirable location for teachers from all over the world.