Top 10 countries to teach English

  • English students
Published 11 months ago

At some point in our lives, many of us seek some adventure and cultural enlightenment. Maybe you have always dreamed of living in another country and having new experiences. Assuming that you aren’t a day trader nor bought bit coins back in 2007, you are going to need to support yourself while living abroad. One of the most popular options is to teach English.

James Thomas

James taught English in Japan for four years and has traveled extensively throughout Asia and Latin America. He now spends his days blogging and managing content for the web.

Having a four-year university degree and being a native English speaker already qualifies you to teach. However, there are a few hurdles to jump through, such as getting a TEFL certificate and spending a few months finding a teaching job and applying for a visa. You will undoubtedly have to be persistent and determined if you want to teach abroad. My own personal experience has sent me to teach English in Japan for four years.

Once you have made up your mind to teach abroad, the next step is to figure out where to teach. This really comes down to your preferences, interests, and goals. If you’re looking for a laid-back lifestyle and the chance to master Spanish, then Latin America is where you should look. The only downside is that you won’t be earning much, but keep in mind that teaching abroad is more than simply making and saving money. If you do want to earn a bit more while experiencing new cultures, then certain parts of the Asian continent are recommended. Below are what I consider to be the ten best places to teach English in 2017. However, this list is not exhaustive and there are probably one or two deserving countries that perhaps got left out.

10. Thailand

Teach English in Thailand

Monthly Salary: $1000 to $1400
A plate of Pad Thai: $1.50

While the teaching market in Thailand has become competitive and it will take a bit of effort to find a decent teaching gig, it makes the top ten list simply because Thailand is amazing. It might be the only place on earth that offers something for everyone. Don’t expect to pay off your student loans any time soon teaching in Thailand, but you can earn enough to pay your bills, rent (including a cozy one-bedroom apartment), and enjoy a decent lifestyle in Thailand. Students there are easy going, which is no surprise because it is a country known for its friendliness. Be prepared to enjoy amazing and affordable food as well as breathtaking nature.

9. Nicaragua

Teach English in Nicaragua

Monthly Salary: $550 to $850
One regular beer a bar: $1.00 to $1.50

There is a reason why there are few Latin American countries on this list. I am not intent on selling on you the idea of teaching English abroad so you can save money or pay off your student loans. Teaching abroad is a chance to be adventurous and really experience something unique. There is no better place to do so than in Latin America. You might be barely making enough to cover expenses, but a lack of money will be subsidized by a chance to learn Spanish, meet a lot of interesting characters and really unwind. If you tend to be a bit anxious or apprehensive by nature, then Latin America will serve you well. Recently, Nicaragua has become a popular place for Westerners to teach English. It is a country of friendly people, awesome nature, and a low cost of living.

8. Brazil

Teach English in Rio
marchello74 /

Monthly Salary: $1,000 to $1,800
A pound of rice: 60 cents

Fantastic music, great food, friendly people, laughter, little cafes, bars, clubs, the Amazon are some of the things that come to mind when picturing Brazil. Of course there is a certain element of danger in every country, just like in Brazil. Although the Brazilian economy has suffered from a recession in recent years, it remains an economic power in Latin America and a top ten economy in the world. Keep in mind that Sao Paolo and Rio can be expensive and more dangerous than other parts of the country. While you will make around $1,500 to $1,800 in the larger cities of Brazil, you can probably live more comfortably making $1,000 in a small city or rural area. If you manage to find a full-time teaching position in Brazil, then there will be plenty of opportunities for private lessons on the side if you are in a larger city.

7. South Korea

Teach English in South Korea

Monthly Salary: $2,000 to $2,500
Pint of Beer: $3

A lot of people would put South Korea in the top three and some even as the number one place to teach English abroad. However, I disagree, mostly due to the saturation of the market there. While there is still a significant demand for English teachers throughout the country, the schools can be quite picky about who they hire. Consequently, teaching salaries are about the same, if not less than they were ten years ago. That being said, it is still a fascinating and hospitable culture. On top of that, it is one of the few countries where you can actually save money teaching English.

6. Poland

Teach English in Poland

Monthly Salary: $1,300 to $2,000
One-bedroom apartment: $500 per month

While Spain, Czech Republic, France, and Italy are all viable options for teaching English in Europe, Poland makes the list simply because of its recently vibrant economy, friendly people and great food. Even better, Poland rarely comes to mind when one thinks of teaching English abroad, making it a somewhat new market to look into. And sometimes the best places are the least trendy and lesser known. You can expect to make between $1,300 to $2,000 a month teaching in Poland depending on the position and location. Some positions even offer benefits, such as healthcare, accommodation and paid time off. Another great advantage to teaching in Poland is the ability to easily travel to the other countries in both Eastern and Western Europe.

5. Saudi Arabia

Teach English in Saudi Arabia
Crystal Eye Studio/

Monthly Salary: $4,000 to $6,000
Gallon of gas: 78 cents

Saudi Arabia often tends to get a bad rap in the West. There is a large cultural gap between Saudi Arabian culture and the West. However, in general most Saudi Arabians are easy-going and emphasize hospitality. It is also the right place to be if you really want to save a good chunk of change teaching English abroad. In fact Saudi Arabia and some of its neighbors such as the UAE, offer by far the highest wages in the world. I have heard of teachers saving up to $30,000 a year in Saudi Arabia, although salaries are starting to decrease a little as competition picks up. The only catch is that the requirements to teach there and the hiring process is long and tedious, so you will have to be patient.

4. Vietnam

Teach English in Vietnam

Monthly Salary: $1,000 to $2,000
One light beer: $1

If you really enjoy the nitty gritty of traveling, then there is no better place to teach than Vietnam. On top of that, you can easily travel around South East Asia when you live in Vietnam. For instance, if you need a break from Vietnam, just skip over to Thailand for a short trip. Teaching salaries vary from $1000 to $2500 per month depending on the position, experience and luck. The low-cost of living makes it easy to save money and live comfortably. There also seems to be plenty of opportunities to offer private lessons on the side.

3. Japan

Teach English in Japan

Monthly Salary: $2,000 to $3,000
Internet Service: $37 per month

I taught English in Japan from 2007 to 2011, so my pick might be a little biased. The truth is that Japan has been in a recession with no end in sight for at least a decade. As a result, the golden days of teaching there and saving a good amount of money are no longer a realistic expectation. However, there are still job opportunities for qualified teachers, and Japan is still a top travel destination in the world. If you get a chance to visit the country you will soon realize that it is truly an idiosyncratic culture and incredibly fascinating. If you manage to find a full-time teaching position, you can expect to make between $2,000 to $3,000 per month. The cost of living isn’t too bad if you live outside of Tokyo.

2. Colombia

Teach English in Colombia

Monthly Salary: $800 to $1,500
Local Bus: 70 cents one-way

If I had the chance to do it again, Colombia would probably be at the top of my list for teaching English abroad. Are you going to save much teaching there? No, but you will enjoy your time, learn Spanish and explore a unique part or the world. Colombia might not be for everyone, just as there are parts of Asia that are not for everyone. However, if you keep an open mind, you can do very well in Colombia or anywhere in South America for that matter. Whether you are fresh out of college or are a 30 or 40 something, there are plenty of teaching opportunities throughout the country. The revitalized economy remains strong and there are a lot of young professionals eager to learn English.

1. China

Teach English in China

Monthly Salary: $1,000 to $2,500
A pint of beer: $1

I know what you are thinking. This is kind of a cliché pick and you have probably heard all of the terrible stories about air pollution in China. However, it is not something that affects the entire country and it shouldn’t deter you from venturing there. As far as teaching English goes, China is really the only place that offers everything. There are an abundance of available jobs that offer decent salaries where you can even save a bit. Best of all, China is an ancient culture rich in history, fascinating traditions, and good food. Living in China would definitely be an interesting and life-changing experience. It may not be the place for everyone, but the bulk of English teachers in 2017 are in China.

Honorable Mentions: Taiwan, Chile, Ecuador, Czech Republic, Spain, Costa Rica, Peru, Argentina, Russia, France, Italy, and India.