Popular Regions: Teaching ESL Abroad In Asia

By far, the most popular region to teach for first time TEFL educators abroad is Asia. Logging on to Dave’s ESL Café will show about 75% of jobs coming from Asian countries like China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

If you’re new to teaching, I would suggest this region as the best place to start.

They often have the lowest minimum requirements, set you up with a co-teacher, and have a more laid-back work environment.

Minimum Hiring Requirements

International Schools

International schools anywhere in the world will typically expect

  • a degree specifically in teaching
  • a valid teaching license from your native country
  • and at least 2-3 years of experience

They also tend to have highly competitive work environments. If you’re new to the field, I suggest skipping these when you’re new to the field (even if you happen to be offered a position).

Instead, public and private schools in Asia are a better place to start for new teachers.

Public Schools 

Public schools will have a specific state-defined list of requirements, typically consisting of

  • a bachelor’s degree (in any field)
  • and to be a native English speaker.

Private Schools 

Minimum requirements for private schools will vary by the individual school but will often match or be even less than the public schools. Sometimes, all you need is

  • to be a native English speaker
  • an associate’s degree or sometimes not even a degree!
A Quick Note About Private Schools…

With private schools, it’s often a gamble on the work environment, and you’re not going to know that work environment until you’re already on the other side of the world. 

You could have been hired at a state-of-the-art private institution with tons of high-quality teaching materials and a genuinely well-meaning administration, or you could have just signed onto an education mill with really nice photoshopped images and a bunch of paid-for reviews on Glassdoor. You truly don’t know until you get there. 

Chances are, if you can’t believe you just got a job offer, and it’s because of their surprisingly low hiring standards, it probably is too good to be true. Low hiring standards means they are prone to have low work-ethic standards and an unfriendly (or even hostile) work environment.

Those types of schools know you are disposable (they have such low standards that they could replace you in a half-second) and they will treat you like that. They also tend to be… “less professional” institutions and their operations could vary from being slightly sketchy to full-on illegal.

If you browse the web and happen to find a horror story about some poor ESL teacher abroad having their passport held for ransom, not receiving their promised flight reimbursement, or being stuck with a class of 40 students and no co-teacher, these are mostly from private schools.

Public schools, on the other hand, have a cut-and-dry contract that you will see before you ever board a flight and come with a lot more peace-of-mind. Also, they tend to work closely with recruiters so you’ll have more options for help finding a job and more resources for help getting out of a bad situation.

In my opinion, public schools in Asia are the best choice for first-time teachers.

Which Country In Asia?

Each country definitely has its own “reputation” in the TEFL world, and unless you do a ton of research, you’re not going to know about this until after you get there. Orrrr, you could read down to the bottom and click to download my free fact sheet which will give you an overview of the reputations of the most popular countries.

You could also download my free eBook which will give you a breakdown of the most popular teacher-placement programs, recruiters, and job boards for ESL teachers around the world. 

Free eBook!

Pros About TEFL In Asia
  • Low-key work environment: Teachers in Asia ten to be well-respected in the culture. You’ll have parents who give you gifts on special occasions and come in to ask you for advice on additional homework or extra credit for their child. Basically, it’s what the US used to be before “helicopter parents” became a thing and now every failure of a child is the teachers fault…
  • Low cost of living: Although the starting salaries for many of these jobs many not “wow” you, keep in mind that it often comes with housing assistance such as subsidized rent, a housing stipend, or even free accommodation. Pair this with a cost of living so low that you can buy a week’s worth of groceries and transportation for $50 and you’ve got yourself some serious saving potential. Plus, any money you bring with you will go much farther than back home.
  • Many options for living environments: While there’s crappy neighborhoods in every city, the vast stretch of Asia means there’s a wide variety of climates and environments there. Thailand has fantastic beaches and great weather; Vietnam and Taiwan are known for their exotic food scenes; China has beautiful mountains and some of the best historical-tourism sites in the world. Whatever you’re into, beaches, cities, mountains, there’s a country in Asia that can deliver just that.
  • Contract lengths: Contracts vary from 6 months to 1 year so if you’re looking for a more short-term adventure you still have options.
Cons About TEFL In Asia
  • Lack of interest: If you’re not genuinely interested in the culture, it’s not gonna be enjoyable. For me, personally, I could scoop up a well-paying job in China in 30 seconds if I wanted, but, I have no interest in learning Chinese, I don’t really find the customs or music interesting, and I can’t think of a single place in China that I want to go before I die. If you want to move abroad to be immersed in a culture, make sure that it’s one you actually care about.
  • Climates: Some places like Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia have a monsoon season. Just something to be aware of…
  • Political unrest: There’s areas of political unrest. Myanmar is in the middle of a genocide against the Rohingya Muslims, the Philippines are in the middle of a massive drug war, and China is slowly rolling out their very-creepy “social credit” system, so do your research on current events first.
Details On The Day-To-Day

For some insider details on the day-to-day life of an ESL teacher in Asia, check out these quick vlogs from YouTube.

As I mentioned earlier, this free fact sheet is going to give you the low-down on the reputations of the most popular countries for TEFL jobs in Asia. You’re not going to understand the “vibe” of these places yourself without doing a ton of research otherwise,  so I suggest you check it out!


Click to download the PDF and signup for our weekly informational newsletter. 

Happy travels!


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