While for many of us TEFL is a vocation, we still need to live, but right at the start we need to get something out of the way: whether you call it Pay, Wages, Salary, Stipend or Cash, let’s be honest and say we’re not going to become millionaires by teaching English.
In other words, TEFL is not about money, it’s about a great career, living and working in countries right around the world, tremendous experiences and good fun instead!
Before getting down to some figures a word of caution.
When you start looking at the salaries on offer abroad you will often notice that when you convert them back into your home currency they are a lot less than you might expect to get for a similar job in your home country.
It is important to remember, however, that the cost of living in many countries is significantly lower than in the USA or the United Kingdom and many other English speaking countries. The salary you might receive in, say, Vietnam or Romania may seem very little when you convert it to dollars or pounds, but you will find that your money goes a lot further in Vietnam or Romania than back home.
Generally speaking an entry level job abroad will pay enough to cover the basics and enjoy yourself in a new country. This means the salary will cover:
- the rent on a small apartment
- food and utility bills
- getting out once or twice a week to enjoy yourself
- a holiday in-country at the end of your contract
Of course a lot will depend on how you manage your money!
This is for an entry level job. If you have a TEFL qualification and a couple of years experience under your belt you can look around for better paying jobs and better schools. Places like the British Council along with larger schools and universities or colleges pay more.
Although there is a lot of variation, in general the best paying countries are those in the Middle East and northern Europe. Of course they generally ask for more qualifications and experience in return.
Interestingly, in many cases schools do realise that teachers from abroad will be used to a higher rate of pay. Thus it’s often the case that a foreign TEFL teacher will receive a higher salary than a local TEFL teacher. Certainly it’s not unusual for a foreign teacher to receive a very high salary compared to the local average.
Benefits & Extras
Some schools offer airfare to their teachers either one or both ways from their home country. This is normally paid at the end of the contract (either in part or full).
Occasionally a school will also include accommodation in the package; this will normally mean a slightly reduced salary however to make up for it. Sometimes the accommodation will be shared so this must be checked in the teaching contract.
It is fairly standard to have basic health cover included in teaching jobs although some teachers will take out extra insurance just in case. (See the main article about insurance in the links below.)
Many teachers supplement their income through private lessons and quite a number live off these entirely. Private lessons tend to pay more and can generate a significant income in many cases.
In some cases, teachers will end up leaving their regular school job and working on as freelance private English instructors, often taking home considerably more than the average school teacher.
Different countries pay different rates for private lessons so check out the link below for more on this.
Student Loans & Tax
Many new teachers often have the burden of student loans. An entry level job in TEFL will probably not give you enough to pay off your student loan unless you are able to negotiate a more favorable pay back rate. In many cases you may be able to defer repayment of your student loan as you will under the threshold.
Remember, however, that whilst your student loan may be deferred this doesn’t necessarily mean it is written off and after many years abroad you may find yourself returning home only to find you need to restart your payments.
Finally remember that there may be tax implications here. Even if you are offered a large tax-free salary as a teacher in Brunei or the Middle East, you may have to pay income tax on this back home. This will depend on where you are resident and the tax agreements between the two countries.
photo credit: I Am Ming via cc