How to Get a Job Teaching English in Asia

Asia is a continent with an exciting mixture of peoples and cultures. Teaching English in Asia gives you a unique chance to actually live among the different peoples of Asia, get to know them, and experience their cultures. So how can you get a job teaching English there? Let's take a look.


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    Have the proper qualifications to teach. Just being a native speaker of the language is enough to get you a job at some schools. However, these will be the bottom of the barrel "backpacker" type of schools, that will hire anyone with a white face that speaks English. The pay will be very low, you'll have large classes of unruly kids with no supervision, and academic support or materials will be few or non-existent. There will be no work visa, and indeed, if the school doesn't want to pay you, they may even report you to the local authorities for working without a permit, and have you deported. If these kind of working conditions appeal to you, go ahead, pack up your backpack, and ignore the rest of this article. For the rest of you, there are certain qualifications that will make it easier to find a decent job.
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    Get a college degree. In Asia, qualifications are everything. You need to have the paper if you want to get a job. It can be in any subject, but one in education, English, linguistics, or something similar is a plus. If you have qualified or certified teacher status, then great. You'll start off even higher on the pay scale. Masters in any subject? You're qualified for the higher paying jobs at universities, International schools, government jobs, or in the Gulf countries. You will find those rare few teachers that are teaching without a college degree. They've had to pay their dues, and start on the lower end of the scale, at backpacker level or near it.
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    You have a degree? Great! Do you have qualified or certified teacher status? If so, skip to the next step. If not, then you'll need a teaching certificate. Sure, as a native speaker with a college degree, you may be able to find a teaching job, but it won't be one you'll want to tell your friends and family about. So invest your time and money in a proper certificate course, either a CELTA or a Trinity College TESOL certificate (see warning below). At the very least, you will be a candidate for a decent teaching position, instead of someone a school will look at only if no one better qualified applies.
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    Next piece of paper you'll need is a CV. Write it up in Word format. Highlight any pertinent experience you may have had, especially if you are new to teaching. Remember, in Asia, qualifications are everything, so highlight any seminars attended, presentations given, certificates, awards, etc. As for references, just put down "supplied upon request", and then have at least three ready when they are requested.
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    If you can, have a couple of letters of recommendation handy from someone other than family or close relatives. You have professional references? Don't leave home without them.
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    Ask your employer exactly what they need for a police clearance, and get it before you leave your country. Most countries now ask for a police clearance in order for you to get a work visa. This makes sense, because wouldn't you want to know who it is coming in to your country to teach your children? A police clearance is extremely difficult to get when you are overseas. Save yourself a bunch of headaches, and get it before you leave. For those more adventurous types who will look for a job once they reach their destination of choice, see what is required before you leave, and bring it with you.
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    Do some research on whatever country you are interested in before applying. What is the political and economic situation? Are they stable? Is the country prone to earthquakes, floods, and natural disasters? What is the general standard of living in the country? At the very least, check out the CIA World Factbook for an overview. Go to Dave's ESL Cafe, ( and read the postings on the "International Job Forums", and post any questions you may have there.
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    Search the Internet for job openings. The most popular site is probably Dave's ESL Cafe, at There is also,,, and many others you can find through Google.
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    If you are adventurous, fly out to your country of interest. Find a cheap hostel or guesthouse to stay. Then hit the pavement, stop in at schools, and hand out your CV. More than a few people have found jobs this way. The advantage to this is you get an instant read as to what the school and students are like. If you are taking this route, see if you can observe a class before you sign a contract. Also, they may ask you to do a demo lesson, so be prepared to show your best.


  • Vietnam teaching jobs pay well, but they pay in Dong. (Yes, that's not a dirty joke, it's the real name of the currency.) There are problems transferring money out of the country. For example, you can only receive money from Western Union, not send any out. If you are going to teach in Vietnam, first make sure you have an account with an international bank, such as Citibank or HSBC, before you go. That way you can deposit your pay in Dong, and withdraw it in another country in their currency.
  • Be prepared for culture shock. It's a different country with a different culture you are going to. Things aren't going to be like home. The language , the food, everything will be different. How different will depend on which country you go to, and where you live. So keep an open mind, try different things, meet some locals,and don't be one of the crowd of expats sitting in a bar whinging about how things suck.
  • China is probably the easiest country in Asia to get a job. If you are a white face that can speak passable English, you're likely to find some school that will hire you. That doesn't mean you'd want to work there. Do your homework, and see if you can contact any of the former or current teachers at the school.
  • Be wary of any school in China That asks you to come in on a "L" tourist visa, because they can convert it to a "Z" Foreign Expert visa. It used to be that way a few years ago, but now you have to show up with your Z visa in hand.
  • Be aware that not every school in China that says they can get you a working visa can actually get you one. They have to be an officially registered school to be able to do this. If they are not, then you are likely to get a year long tourist, or "L" visa, instead of the Foreign Expert "Z" visa.
  • The Dong is not a transferable currency, even in neighboring countries. So if you are thinking of leaving Vietnam with a suitcase full of Dong, that you will exchange across the border or at home, it's not going to happen. The only way to exchange Dong into another currency is on the black market, and the exchange rate will only be a fraction of what it's worth. That's because there is no use for Dong outside Vietnam. Chinese Renminbi, on the other hand, is as good as Euros or the US Dollar, and can be readily exchanged anywhere.


  • If a school is constantly advertising for teachers, it is not a good sign. Be extra cautious when applying to such a school, and do your homework.
  • You only want to teach adults? You don't want to teach children? Unless you have a lot of previous experience, specialized knowledge, or loads of qualifications, more than likely you're going to start out teaching the kiddies. They are the biggest market out there.
  • Approach any jobs in Korea with extreme caution. While some have had enjoyable experiences teaching there, most have not. The money is good, and you should be able to save a decent amount, but everything you have to go through to get it hardly makes it seem worthwhile.[1][2]

Things You'll Need

  • A bunch of passport sized photos on the proper colored background for visas, and whatnot.
  • Enough money to last you for the first couple of months, at least until you get your first paycheck, and get settled into your new life. You may have to buy necessaries such as kitchen utensils, furniture, pay the deposit on an apartment or for Internet service, etc. Don't think you're going to be able to go to Asia to teach without any cash, and that everything is going to be all right. It won't.
  • A good attitude. Just because you're a native speaking westerner doesn't mean that you are in any way superior to the locals. It's quite the opposite. It's their country, and their culture, so they have the advantage over you.
  • To be respectful of local customs and culture. Do some research before you land in the country to see what's OK and what's taboo. (Such as patting children on the head in Thailand. A definite no-no, no matter how cute they are.)
  • To know that every girl you meet will not find you attractive or instantly want to sleep with you, just because you are a Caucasian from a western country.
  • Realize that teaching English is not just something you do to make money to support your interests or vices, but a career.

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Categories: Living Overseas | Teaching