The Truth Behind Your Teaching Abroad Salary

by Published

If you’ve been feeling bombarded by all the Facebook statuses, Instagram stories, and farewell party invites from friends that have decided to quit their jobs and teach English abroad, we feel you! Teaching English is becoming an increasingly popular career move, but we’ve all secretly pondered the same question, can you actually make a living? Don’t all these friends just have huge savings accounts or financial support from their families? 

A teach abroad salary might not allow you to splurge on flat screen TVs or designer shoes, but if your budget prioritizes travel, then the most important thing is that what you make will take you where you want to go.

How much is a typical teaching abroad salary?

Your teaching abroad salary will really depend on where you’re teaching, what you’re teaching, who you’re teaching, and with whom you’re teaching abroad. Factoring in the cost of living will also impact your overall teaching abroad salary. If you’re teaching in Western Europe, you won’t be making as much as if you were teaching in Southeast Asia— where cost of living is relatively low, and demand for ESL teachers is higher. 

You can expect to always be making enough to cover your basic expenses – housing, food, and a night out here and there – but you might not always have enough leftover to pad your savings account. It really depends! The average teaching abroad salary in the UAE is anywhere between $1,800 to $5,000 a month, which means HUGE savings for you since housing is generally included in your program. Whereas in Spain you’ll be making anywhere between $1,250 to $1,650 a month, with cost of living being about the same, so it’s a break even country.

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Get all up close and personal with every detail about your teaching abroad salary.

What does my teaching abroad salary cover?

Your teaching abroad salary will vary depending on whether you go abroad through a program or as a direct-hire at with a language, public, or private school. However, no matter the setup of your abroad adventure, your salary will be enough to cover your living expenses as a teacher in the city or town of your school. While you might have to make some small adjustments from your normal lifestyle in your home country, your teaching salary should allow you to live comfortably as long as you don’t make these basic mistakes:

Moving to the bigger city nearby:

It might be tempting to move to the city closest to your teaching destination out of the desire to be closer to other expats. However your wallet and school community will be grateful you decided to stay local. Just think of the money you’ll save on housing and commuting costs! 

Eating out for every meal: 

Yes, eating out is a cultural experience, but the difference between being a tourist and a local teacher is that you’re living in a new culture full-time. Pace yourself and think about the ways you’d save at home, such as cooking for yourself and eating leftovers, or check if there’s a teacher discount at your school cafeteria. 

Traveling every weekend: 

Your new homebase is a great springboard to explore a new region of the world, but don’t let your wanderlust overpower your purpose (and your salary) as a teacher. Make the effort to spend some weekends in-town to connect with your community, process the experience, and become a true local! 

Paying off debt:

If you – like so many of us – are graduating with a little more than a mountain of student loan debt, you’ll want to select a teaching placement that pays well-enough for you to cover living expenses AND start chipping away at those pesky student loans. We promise, it’s possible! 

Savings:

With the right teaching abroad salary, you should be able to make enough money to live off of, have a little fun, travel here and there, and save, save, save! If you’re just out of college, it’s important to start saving for your future, and teaching English abroad is a great way to make money, see the world, and still save a little here and there. 

[6 Countries to Make SERIOUS Money Teaching English]

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Knowing exactly what your teaching salary will and won’t cover, will take a lot of guesswork out of your budgeting process.

Can I negotiate my teaching abroad salary?

A teaching abroad salary might not compare with your Wall Street-style bankroll or 401K benefits package at your old job, but that doesn’t mean you’re going backwards in your pay grade or that your savings will suddenly deplete. When deciding whether to negotiate your teaching salary, consider the bigger picture rather than the dollar (or whatever currency) amount. 

Your #1 question should be: What is the cost of living in your host destination? Start your research with tools like Numbeo and ask friends who have taught in a similar country or region to weigh in on whether your salary offer is enough to cover an average lifestyle. 

Next, consider the benefits that your teach abroad program or employer does offer, even if not monetary. Flight costs, visa fees and processes, health insurance, and finding accommodation not only add up, but are tricky to navigate in a foreign culture. Although these benefits might not seem to directly beef up your wallet, the cost of a headache will be well-avoided. 

Finally, don’t forget to consider cultural norms when deciding to negotiate your salary. At the end of the day, you need a sufficient income to support yourself, however the experience and opportunity to travel will be the greatest riches that you take away from your decision to teach abroad.

[Save and compare teach abroad programs side-by-side with MyGoAbroad]

Fruits and veggies at at a market in Taito, Japan

You’ll still have enough to haggle with at the market.

Teaching abroad salaries in popular countries

Even if the idea of teaching English started as just an excuse for you to travel or quit another “more steady” job, get ready to join a global industry of professionals who teach English as a career and primary source of income. While salaries will often differ for native speakers and locals, you’ll find a lot to learn from both the other teachers at your school and the other expats you meet in your new destination no matter the pay grade. 

Check out some of these top destinations to both have a great teaching experience and make a solid salary. All average salaries pulled from International TEFL Academy

1. Thailand

English teachers discovered the magic of Thailand long ago and continue to hit up this beautiful and friendly locale for a teaching experience that provides a passport introduction to the rest of Southeast Asia. Average salaries range from 30,000-40,000 THB per month (approximately $850-$1,150) and provide plenty for all the pad thai, mango sticky rice, and massaman curry that you can eat!

media kids academy logo

Recommended Program: Teach abroad with MediaKids Academy

This program will connect you with local schools and provides flight reimbursement, accommodation, and a competitive salary. With a four-month contract, this program is a great way to get your feet wet in the teach abroad world. 

  • Pros: An ongoing demand for English teachers, variety of teaching environments, and low cost of living.
  • Cons: Tempting expat bubbles, expensive flight costs, difficult planning. 
  • RELATED: Read MediaKids Academy Reviews | Visit their site
  • Check out all teach abroad programs in Thailand.
black and white photo of Wall St. sign in New York, NY

Although, you’re definitely going to be making a Wall St. salary.

2. Spain

In a country as diverse as Spain, there’s no shortage of reasons to ship off on your teach abroad career. With an average salary between 1,120 - 1,500 EUR (approximately $1,250-1,650), you’ll be able to stay afloat as the Euro continues to fluctuate in strength against your home currency. Whether doing Spain’s national Auxiliares program in a public school or teaching at a language school, get set to launch your TEFL career. 

premier tefl logo

Recommended Program: Teach abroad with PremierTEFL

This paid nine-month program is full-service for an immersive teaching and host family experience. Not certified yet? PremierTEFL also offers a 180-hour online certification package to be completed both pre-departure and during your time in Spain.

  • Pros: Teach a language and learn a language, travel Europe, work with students of all ages.
  • Cons: Watch out for schools without accreditation, be selective about your teaching environment. 
  • RELATED: Read Premier TEFL reviews | Visit their site
  • Check out all teach abroad programs in Spain.

3. Colombia

Colombia is a fast-growing tourist destination, but you’ll be laughing at the weekend visitors when you’re living the fabulous vida colombiana full-time. Apply to teach in this warm and inviting country where the food, music, and beauty will supplement your teaching abroad salary with a cultural experience that is que rica! Average salaries range from 1,500,000 – 3,000,000 COP (approximately $500 – 1,000) depending on your location and school type. 

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Recommended Program: Teach abroad with TravelBud

A six month contract in Bógota is a first-class ticket to kick-off your teach abroad experience in the Colombian capital city.  With a public school placement, free sign-up, and monthly stipend of 1,500,000 COP as your teaching abroad salary, TravelBud is ready to hook you on teaching abroad in Colombia. 

  • Pros: Relaxed and fun teaching atmosphere, a diverse country to explore, a developing English language learning and teaching community. 
  • Cons: Watch the water and don’t forget to throw your TP in the bin next to the toilet!
  • Related: Read TravelBud reviews | Visit their site
  • Check out all teach abroad programs in Colombia.
stack of colorfully bound books

Depending on your placement and school funding, you might need to spring a little extra $$$ for specific supplies or books.

4. South Korea

South Korea has long been a hotspot for English teachers because of the high teaching English salary opportunities and the Korean emphasis on English language learning. Average salaries range from 2,000,000 - 2,300,000 KRW (approximately $1,800 - 2,000) per month, giving you the chance to load up on all the bibimbap you want and even save a little on the side for travels around the region. 

teach away logo

Recommended Program: Teach abroad with Teach Away 

With programs to teach either at a public school in Incheon or private schools, Teach Away has you covered and connected in South Korea. Choose the environment and age group within the Teach Away program family that best suits you for your teach abroad adventure. 

  • Pros: Great benefits packages (flights, accommodation, insurance, etc.), national and family emphasis on education, high salaries.
  • Cons: Long hours and little vacation if teaching at a hagwon or private (after-school) academy, culture shock and isolation. 
  • Related: Check out more Teach Away programs | Visit their site
  • Check out all teach abroad programs in South Korea.

5. United Arab Emirates

Get ready to spend and save as big as the Burj Khalifa tower if choosing to teach abroad in the United Arab Emirates. Including Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the average salary is as high as 6,700 - 18,500 AED (approximately $1,800 - 5,000), however the big range also accounts for teaching in more rural locales. 

edvectus logo

Recommended Program: Teach abroad with Edvectus 

This new teacher placement program partners with international schools all over the UAE to provide teachers with an immersive teach abroad experience. Each posting is unique to fill the needs of specific school, so pay attention to variety in pay and benefits.

  • Pros: Opportunities to teach both English language and other subjects to non-native English speakers, tax-free competitive salaries, low day-to-day expenses. 
  • Cons: Cultural considerations of an Islamic country, the expat community takeover of Emirati culture (about a 5:1 ratio of foreigners to locals).
  • Related: Check out more Edvectus programs | Visit their site
  • Check out all teach abroad programs in United Arab Emirates.

Remember: it’s not all about your teaching abroad salary

Man typing on laptop in office space

When you’re looking for a teach abroad placement, at the end of the day you know it’s not just about your teaching abroad salary.

Teaching English abroad can be a lucrative career move when accounting for the average teaching abroad salary, benefits, and cost of living. Be strategic when selecting a program and destination to ensure that your new position doesn’t break the bank and that you can save enough to enjoy your abroad experience in your new home and your travels beyond. Plus even though money makes the world go ‘round, it’s not all about the dolla billz! Embrace the cliché that wherever you decide to teach you’ll be rich in experiences and resumé gold.

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Topic:  Money Tips