TEFL In Asia

Whether it’s Manga, Chinese philosophy, the arts of flower arranging, or the prospect of saving up to $1000 per month that draws you, you are not alone: Asia is the number one EFL destination in the world. But there are just as many different experiences of teaching in Asia as there are teachers, and conditions, requirements, and salaries vary widely.

General Information: Teach English Abroad, Teach English In Seoul, Michael Turton’s Teaching In Taiwan Page
Blogs: TEFLTastic for Japan; EFL Geek, The Daily Kimchi and A Geek In Korea for Korea.
Jobs: Korean Job Board at ESL Cafe, China Board, TEFL.com

And don’t forget the relevant TEFL Logue Posts:
Korea, EPIK
JET Program, Nova*, Interac, AEON, Westgate, GEOS and a comparison
Recruiters: Should I use one or all they all crooks? By TedKarma

A BA is almost always required for legal work, though if you don’t have one and are determined to find a position nonetheless, Asia is probably the region that gives you the most legroom. While starting with a TEFL course will certainly give you more of a foundation than starting without one, for the majority of entry-level jobs in Asia it is not required. Some schools have their own introductory training which lasts a few days and outlines a specific format they want you to follow.

In Korea and China, university work is a possibility – in Korea these jobs come with nice perks like several weeks of holiday, and an MA or several years experience are almost always required. In China there are also university jobs with higher requirements, but also entry-level jobs at universities teaching conversation classes.

Another sometimes surprising requirement: many job ads request a picture with your application. In some countries this is common fare for all job applicants and is not specific to English teachers. My opinion is that this practice, wherever it is done, makes possible discrimination based on race, ethnicity, or some other physical characteristic – and I think there are plenty of people who agree with me. Certainly there are individuals involved in hiring who do not use it in that way but rather to assess whether a candidate can present themselves professionally. In any case, there is often no getting around it, so if you want a job, you’ll need to dress up and say cheese.


It’s common for a job package to include a flat, and often your return flight is reimbursed upon completion of your contract. Wages tend to be at the very least enough to live well locally. In general, Korea remains the best location for saving money (some teachers report saving up to $1000 per month), and according to Teach English Abroad, Vietnam is not a bad bet for saving a bit either because of low cost of living. Whereas Japan and Taiwan also used to be known for vast savings, this now seems to level out with increasing cost of living;

In many Asian countries there is a substantial difference in the cost of living between cities and rural areas, so, keeping in mind you’ll be there for a year, chose your location wisely.

In Korea, you may end up in a private language school or hagwon, a public school, or a university; teaching kindergarten-aged children is another possibility. Stay tuned for more on these.

Japan is known for a handful of companies or programs such as Interac and the JET program, which allow you to interview at home and then be placed in one of their many locations.

Job Scams
In this age of the Internet, Asia is no stranger to job scams. The best advice is to be aware of this and be alert: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Perhaps the main theme is that an employer can misrepresent the school or conditions online, you commit to the job, and then arrive and find out that reality is quite different – your housing differs from what was promised or the pay structure works in a way so you end up making less than you initially understood . More generally, it’s said that employers look at contracts in a very different light in Asia than in the west. They may be adamant that you stick to your part of the bargain but lax about their side of the deal.

All this said, don’t let all these disclaimers stop you from researching opportunities in Asia. Many teachers return year after year, and some like it so much they start a life there. For first-hand info, stories and advice, check out the sites above.