Although the average salary for EFL teachers in Southeast Asia is significantly less than that of some other countries across the continent, the region still draws a large number of teachers to countries such as Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. While you might struggle to save a great deal of your earnings during your stay, you should still be able to live comfortably in your country of choice.
Table of Contents
Although the country's famously laid-back lifestyle attracts large numbers of foreign teachers, the average salary is generally less attractive when compared to other countries in the region. Teachers without experience can expect to earn around $1,000 per month, which should be enough to cover general living expenses, but is unlikely to leave much in the way of savings. Teachers with a high level of qualifications and experience should fare a little better, with a potential salary of up to $1,500 per month. Unlike other Asian countries, including China, South Korea, and Japan, teaching positions rarely come with extra benefits such as paid airfare and housing.
Government run public schools offer a large number of teaching positions throughout the country, although they are restricted to native English speakers who possess a 4-year degree from their home country. A TEFL certification is not an official requirement; however, it may increase your chances of getting a good job and negotiating a higher salary. Working hours are typically a 40-hour school week from Monday to Friday, in a class that could number up to 50 students. Salaries range from $800 to $1,000 per month. Privately run language academies are another big employer of foreign teachers in Thailand. Pay rates are often higher than public schools but will depend on the location and your classroom experience. Working hours can vary greatly from around 18 to 25 per week, with classes often running during the evenings and at weekends. Class sizes will generally be no more than ten per session. The majority of private academies pay by the hour, with an hourly rate ranging from $8 to $20. Depending on your hours and pay rate, your monthly income could be anywhere from $600 to $2000.
A third and potentially lucrative option is a private international school. Competition for these positions can be fierce as salaries and extra benefits are often way above those offered by other employers. Working hours typically follow a standard school week from Monday to Friday, with salaries ranging from $2000 to $3000 per month. Most positions in international schools will require extensive teaching experience and qualifications.
The local cost of living does vary from one part of the country to another, with Bangkok averaging roughly 30% higher than elsewhere. If you choose to live and work in the capital you should look for a minimum salary of $1,000 to $1,300 in order to live comfortably. You can get by on a smaller figure elsewhere, although this will greatly depend on your lifestyle.
The figure you can expect to earn while teaching English in Cambodia will vary depending on your previous classroom experience and the type of employer. As a rough guide, a teacher with no previous experience should be able to earn around $1,000 to $1,200 per month, or receive an hourly rate of $10 to $12. Most positions do not include any extra benefits such as airfares, housing, health insurance, or paid holidays. However, experienced teachers who land a job in an international school can expect a significantly higher salary and a full range of benefits.
Although government run public schools do not normally employ foreign workers, there are a significant number of privately run schools that do look to employ English language teachers. These are mainly located in large cities and include primary, middle, and high schools. Typical working hours are 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., and 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Another major employer of foreign teachers in Cambodia is the large number of private language academies that are spread throughout the country. These offer after-school English lessons to children of all ages, as well as adults looking to study in their free time. Working hours are typically from 5:00 p.m. onwards, and may include weekends.
A small number of jobs can sometimes be found advertised across various online job boards, however, the majority of employers in Cambodia prefer to hire teachers who are already in the country. This approach means you can meet the employer and negotiate your salary before committing to the post.
While the average teacher's salary is low by western standards, so is the local cost of living. A comfortable apartment typically costs in the region of $200 to $300 per month, with around $70 required to cover utility bills. Eating out and other entertainment is also very inexpensive by international standards. The low cost of living means that most teachers are able to live a comfortable lifestyle whilst living and working in Cambodia.
The average salary for ESL teachers in Vietnam is around $1,000 per month for a first time teacher. Those with more experience and qualifications can expect to bring in up to $2,000 per month, depending on the employer. Other teachers choose to work on a freelance basis which means they are paid an hourly rate rather than a steady salary. In these positions pay rates range from $15 to $30 per hour. The vast majority of available jobs are located in the two big cities of Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi, although you will find options in other towns and cities throughout the country.
Most ESL teachers working in Vietnam are employed by private language centers, either on a full-time or part-time basis. Full-time positions usually include a one-year contract with regular hours, health insurance, holiday pay, help securing a work permit, and sometimes an end of contract bonus. In contrast, part-time positions generally pay cash in hand and offer little in the way of extra benefits. Despite this, part-time teaching jobs are still popular as they provide greater flexibility in terms of working hours. It is also common practice for teachers to have part-time contracts with several different language centers at one time. Language centers can be found in every city, particularly in Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi where you will find a huge number of potential employers. A typical full-time contract involves around 20 teaching hours a week plus ten hours planning and administration time. Part-time positions are usually for three or four hours teaching per week. Many language centers run their classes during the evenings and weekends, so you might need to consider this if you like to have a busy social life.
If you would prefer to set your own working hours then you could consider working as a private tutor. It is common for teachers working in language centers to top up their salary by teaching private clients in their spare time, and many decide to go full-time once they have found enough students. One other option for ESL teaching in Vietnam is international schools; however, these are small in number and will normally require teaching experience and qualifications.
Although the average salary for foreign teachers in Vietnam is lower than in some other Asian countries, the cost of living is very low so you can expect to live a comfortable lifestyle and still save a considerable amount of your salary every month. A room in a good quality shared house costs between $150 and $250 per month, while local food is extremely cheap averaging around $2 per meal. Your monthly outgoings will largely depend on the type of accommodation you choose, how much you travel, and how often you eat and drink at western style bars and restaurants, but a figure of $500 to $700 per month would be typical.
Teacher?s salaries in Singapore are relatively high in comparison to its regional neighbors. Depending on your qualifications and level of experience you can typically earn between $2,700 and $3,500 per month. Most jobs will involve around 20 to 25 teaching hours per week, plus additional preparation time. It is worth noting that most employers expect their teachers to hold a university degree and a TEFL certification, while previous classroom experience is also an advantage, but not necessarily essential.
Although English is an official language and is used in government, business and in mainstream schools, there is still a strong demand for EFL teachers due to the large number of non-English speaking foreign workers in the country. Non-local native English speakers are also sought after by schools to expose students to foreigners and to learn new methods and perspectives. The top paying jobs can be found in international Schools, although competition for these positions is very high and you will need a university degree in English Language or Literature as well as a post-graduate diploma in education. Public schools also offer good packages that include a good salary, return flights and a housing allowance. Competition for these jobs is also stiff so you should contact the Ministry of Education and speak to individual schools directly to increase your chances.
Private language schools offer the most numerous positions and the requirements are less stringent than other options. These positions don?t generally provide benefits such as flights or housing and the pay is less generous than public or international schools. However, they do offer the opportunity to gain valuable classroom experience which should help you climb the career ladder in the future. Many teachers also supplement their income, or work full-time, giving private lessons to individual students outside of the normal school environment.
As demand for teachers is high, jobs are available at anytime of the year. Many employers prefer to conduct the recruitment process well in advance so you should look online at job boards and forums for the latest openings. Interviews are often carried out via phone or Skype, although language centers don?t always advertise so being on the ground in Singapore will open up other opportunities in that area. Most employers in all types of schools expect their teachers to be native English speakers with a TEFL certification and a bachelor?s degree. Most international and government schools require you to sign a two-year contract
Although the average salary for a teacher in Singapore is higher than many other countries in the region, so is the cost of living. Housing is particularly pricey so jobs that offer free housing or a housing allowance are a real bonus. If you choose to live a flamboyant lifestyle you will struggle to save any of your income, but by taking a few sensible measures it is certainly possible to save at least $500 a month. Eating at local street restaurants rather than those aimed at tourists will save you a packet and you will get to enjoy more authentic food for only a few dollars. Public transport is very efficient, so there is no need to have your own vehicle. The average cost of living in Singapore is around $2100 - $2500 per month.
Salaries in Malaysia are not in the same league as some other Asian countries such as China, Japan, or South Korea, with an average wage being around $1, 000 per month. However, the cost of living is relatively low so this figure can go a long way if you live a normal lifestyle. Many jobs also include accommodation or a housing subsidy which takes away one of the biggest outgoings for most teachers working overseas. After a three month probationary period, teachers are usually entitled to 18 days paid vacation per year, plus the standard 17 days of public holidays. Some contracts also include paid airfare in and out of the country, but these are relatively rare.
International schools are where the best paying jobs can be found and there are many of them across the country. These schools follow either a British, American, or Australian curriculum which provides good opportunities for teachers from those countries. There are plenty of international schools in and around the capital city, Kuala Lumpur, however, employers will typically expect a high level of qualifications and experience for these positions.
Public colleges and universities also offer plenty of job opportunities. Salaries are not as high as international schools, but the working hours and overall workload is usually considerable less. These roles normally consist of running conversational English classes that are often quite laidback compared to many other teaching jobs. Another popular option is private language schools. An online search will reveal a number of language schools that you can contact directly via their websites.
Although some teaching jobs can be secured from within your home country, most employers take their recruitment process very seriously and will want to go through a thorough interview process in person. The best approach is to compile a list of potential jobs before leaving home and then contact them in person or by phone once you arrive. Local newspapers such as The Star are also a good source of job listings. The majority of positions are located in and around Kuala Lumpur, although other areas also have options as education is a high priority right across the country. As the job market is very competitive, the minimum requirement for most teaching jobs is a degree, a TEFL certification and two years of classroom experience.
Although the cost of living is quite low in Malaysia, it will help a great deal if you find a job that includes accommodation or a housing subsidy. If you don?t have to worry about rent you can live a very comfortable lifestyle. Your monthly grocery bill should be relatively small as it is cheap to eat out at local food stalls and restaurants where you can enjoy high quality food for just a few dollars. This is also a great way to experience the diverse culture of the country and to make friends in the local community. Public transport is very affordable, with a daily pass on the buses costing only $0.30. Utility bills are also cheap at around $15.00 per month.