How to Make $50,000+ A Year Teaching English Abroad

How to Make $50,000+ A Year Teaching English Abroad

People say that teaching English as a foreign language is essentially working for pennies, like this doofus in the Telegraph, who calls it ‘slavery’ and says that ‘’no one with a scrap of ambition’ would choose to be an English teacher, which is cringe-inducingly off the mark. 
Unfortunately, that guy probably went out to Italy in the early 70’s and had a vastly different experience of what TEFL is like today. The truth is that while TEFL will always attract some undesirable types, and there are some ‘dregs’, this is a tiny minority of those who choose to teach. What’s more, teaching English abroad is a solid career choice for ambitious, hard working people. With a little elbow grease, passion, and experience, you can do very well for yourself.

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Alright, the main reason you’re here. How to make $50,000 a year teaching English. You’re likely calling “bullshit” at this moment, and trust me, so would I if I was in your shoes, but none of what I’m about to tell you is out of reach for anyone! As it goes for anything, hard work and desire can get you pretty far, if you know how…
So before I start, let’s do some math. We’re looking at $50,000 : 12 months = $4,166 a month, $961.53 a week, $192.30 a day (5 days a week) and $24 per hour (if we’re working 8 hours a day). Now there’s a few people probably wondering “How in hell am I to make $24 an hour!?” well luckily for you, this is a fairly common hourly rate in some countries, we’re not talking about the Middle-East here (partly because you could make upwards of $80,000 a year there) but more Eastern Asia, parts of Europe and even some corners of South America.

Get more info on the Countries with the Highest Salaries

But of course it’s easy to add up numbers and make it sound luxurious. So I’m going to put your money where my mouth is and break down how you’re going to pull in this wage.
Bear in mind that while $50k might not sound a lot of money for a stable career, teaching in foreign countries usually results in a much lower cost of living than say, New York. While living in Vietnam, I was spending between $500-700 a month including rent, you can do the math here. So $4166 a month is MORE THAN enough to live very comfortably and put away a lot of savings for the future. Here’s how you do it, step-by-step.

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1. Get A Good Teaching Certificate

Hate to break your bubble at #1 but a $100 GroupOn certificate won’t even get you through the door of a reputable school.
Begin with at least a 120 Hour TEFL or TESOL certificate, or better yet, head for a CELTA to start your journey. You’ve got to spend a bit of money, to make a bit of money.

2. Bat High! Apply for Universities, Private Schools

Yes, you probably will need some experience for higher paid positions, but there’s no reason that if you’re skilled you can’t start off on a good salary. To do so, you’ll need to showcase what transferable skills you have developed which work well in education. This might be things like time-management, responsibility, high ethical standards, and a hard-working attitude. One of the best ways to demonstrate your ability is to get a high grade on your teaching qualification. A Distinction in your certificate shows you’re a serious teacher.
Go for some high end, but not unattainable, jobs to start with. Do your research on the place, find the best schools, go in person, give CVs, and don’t, just don’t, use a generic cover letter.
– – –

Avg. Salary: $2,000 x 12 = $24,000 per year
Avg. Hours per week: 20 hours


3. Get Into Teaching English Online

There are a bunch of good online companies to teach for now. Some of the major players include 51Talk, Topica Native, and English First. They use a Skype or Skype-like platform and you essentially teach within this online world. It’s comfortable, simple, and straightforward. Just make sure you have a good internet connection. The max salary for online teaching is very, very attractive – if you can get it. Up to $30 an hour and more has been reported by many online teachers.
Another bonus with TEFL online, you’re often given lesson plans in advance, so that cuts down your prep by a lot. You can also work around your schedule, a lot of schools in Asia have 2 hour lunch breaks, use this time to your advantage.
– – –

Minimum: $20 per hour x 15 hours a week = $300 x 52 weeks = $15,600 per year

Current Total: $39,600


4. Private Classes

Use your network, dig up private classes, hit networking events, meet people and see how much money you can make. The most lucrative private classes are usually Business English or exam preparation. If you can work your way into a big company, you could be well compensated and get experience being a Business English Trainer (quite a nice job title, right?) I once managed to find myself teaching the CEO of a petrol company in China. He usually had to leave the room every 10 minutes to answer a call, but apart from that he was an excellent student, and the great compensation didn’t hurt either!
– – –

Avg. Salary: $25 per hour x 5 hours per week x 52 weeks = $6,500

Current Total: $46,100


5. Use your Teaching powers for other means

Can you write? Can you edit? Can you speak? I’m assuming so, if you’re an English teacher. Hone your craft using online platforms like Upwork, Freelancer, to name a few, you can choose to write teaching content, like syllabuses, songs, course materials, or even move into blogging for companies like Matador Network or Go Overseas.
If you’re a good curriculum writer, it pays handsomely. I’ve had friends who’ve made a big percentage of their living doing this, and even doing voiceover work and acting!

4 articles a month at $100 per article x 4 = $400 x 12 = $4,800

TOTAL: $50,900


So there you have it. This goes without saying, this will require hard work. I’ve added up an average of 40 teaching hours per week, sure you’re going to be tired, but this is working 8 hours a day, Monday to Friday. Your weekend may be replaced with evenings of lesson prep, the occasional private lesson or teaching english online, but that’s not really so bad given that you’re working for yourself and your teaching is essentially running your own business.
Which leads me onto the most important point: the most important thing for making serious money teaching is to treat it like a business. You’re not an employee or a worker, you’re a professional running your own small business. Treat it with that mindset and you’ll realise that yeah, to make the profit, you have to do the work. It’s kind of similar to driving Uber. If you do it halfheartedly and don’t put in the hours, you won’t get the rewards. Likewise, if you go for it, you’ll do really well.

It’s worth saying though that for a lot of these figures I chose the minimum number. You can get jobs in language centres, very often, that pay much more than $2000 per month, and if you’re in the Middle East, your English teaching salary could be over double this. Naysayers will always tell you you can’t do this and come up with all sorts of reasons to justify their opinion, but there are teachers out there pulling in millions of dollars. There are ESL teachers making more than CEOs as well. This teacher makes $120k a year. A job for penniless scrubs? I don’t think so. If you take your job and your business seriously,  you can work hard and put in the effort without compromising your lessons and teaching quality. It won’t be easy, but it can be done.

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