1. Pick a location
When choosing where to teach, ask yourself the simple question, “Why am I doing this?” If you’re trying to save money, the best place for ESL teachers in Asia is Korea. Japan pays well, too, but the high cost of living eats up much of your paycheck. In Korea, it is quite easy to save $10,000 in a year.
If your primary reason for teaching in Asia is to relax and enjoy yourself, then Southeast Asia is where you want to go. Thailand, of course, is the most popular destination, but don’t rule out places like Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. While the money in these places is less than in Korea or Japan, you can’t beat the experience of living in tropical Southeast Asia.
That leaves us with China. China can be a difficult place to figure out. I’ve met university professors in prestigious universities who make $500 a month. I’ve also met teachers working in small English academies making $1500 a month. I almost always suggest that people line up jobs before leaving home, but China is one of those places where you can do well if you just show up and start making friends with the right people.
2. Choose Your Students.
The people you teach are either going to be young learners, grade school kids, or adults.
Some people love teaching small children. They think they’re just adorable. Others are terrified by the thought of being in a room full of babies! Can you handle crying kids? If not, stay away from jobs that require you to teach young learners!
The bulk of ESL teaching jobs have you teaching grade school kids, usually a mixture of elementary, middle and high school. Teaching at this level can be an interesting experience because you have to develop teaching and disciplinary strategies for several different ages of students. It can be challenging, but these jobs are plentiful, well paid, and easy to get.
Finally, you can teach adults. These jobs are quite popular among teachers because there are no disciplinary issues to deal with. There is a downside, though. Because most of your students are business people, you have to teach before the workday starts, at midday, and in the evenings. You’ll likely start at 7 a.m. and finish at 9 or 10 p.m.
3. Get Certified
Finally, you should pick up a TEFL certification. It will help you get a job and improve your teaching. If you haven’t read it, check out my earlier post Breaking Down TEFL Programs. Before choosing a certificate, visit some message boards in the country where you plan to teach. There you’ll be able to find out which type of certificate is preferred by your potential employers.