02 August Teaching English in Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Vietnam & Thailand
More than 1 billion people are learning English worldwide today. As a result, there are huge opportunities for English teachers. And with demand for native English-speaking teachers as high as ever, the editors at Internationalliving.com/au explore teaching English opportunities in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.
Thousands of people have already used the fact that they speak English fluently to become English teachers and are using that simple skill to explore Southeast Asia and earn an income along the way.
Earning $3,000 a Month Teaching English in Cambodia
After losing his job and having difficulty finding work, Melbourne native, James Donaldson was at a stage where he wanted to experience life in other countries.
“My savings were modest, so I knew I’d need to find a way to earn money to cover my travel expenses along the way,” says James. “Having read about work opportunities on various local expat and job websites I was confident about picking up work as an English teacher in Cambodia. I expected to grab some kind of lower level job but landed a position at a school that pays a fair whack compared to the local cost of living.
“I’ve been here for over a year and earn enough to lead a good lifestyle—including travel around Asia—with cash left over to save a bit in the bank. Before moving here, I had no idea how simple it can be for a Westerner to find a teaching job right off the bat.”
You’ll find a wide range of teaching positions available in Cambodia but the capital city, Phnom Penh, is home to the most opportunities due to demand from local middle-class families who favour language institutions that employ Western expat teachers.
“Having a university degree in virtually any subject almost immediately increases your potential pay grade but the best way to increase your take-home pay is by gaining a recognized teaching certification which combines theory with practical classroom experience,” says Amanda Roberts, from Queensland, who also teaches full-time in Phnom Penh.
Amanda says, “If you want to work at one of the better schools you will need to be able to offer the whole package. A well-established candidate can earn $3,000 or more a month, an inexperienced teacher might make half that. Even so, it’s attractive either way, thanks to the low cost of living in Cambodia. I rarely spend more than 50% of my take home pay and it’s not for want of trying.”
Living The Dream Lifestyle By Teaching English in Tropical Vietnam
Sharyn Nielsen and her husband, Tim, always knew they wanted to see more of the world so, after a lot of research and having obtained teaching English qualifications, they packed up their lives and hit the road. They’ve now been to 130 countries and have no plans to stop anytime soon.
“Our first stint in Vietnam was in 2011,” says Sharyn. “After travelling around Asia for a year, I applied for and obtained a three-month contract at a private language school in northern Vietnam. Tim picked up work once we got there by simply asking around.”
You need a work permit to teach legally in Vietnam. Both work permit and visa rules change on a regular basis, so having support is a bonus. Currently, you need an authenticated degree; a Police check, a medical examination and an ESL teaching qualification.
When they’re not on the road, the couple base themselves in Ho Chi Minh City and securing teaching work when they’re back in town is never a problem. Sharyn explains “I have two years’ experience, teach about 17 hours a week and earn around $2,000 per month. Tim has slightly less experience and earns around the same for a few more hours. We live well and still manage to save all his salary. Best of all, we’re not spending our savings.”
The couple rent a spacious, a fully furnished and air-conditioned, modern, two-bedroom apartment for less than $900 per month, within walking distance from the city centre. The rent also covers Pay TV, WiFi, a cleaner two days a week, a gym and secure parking.
“Vietnam has been good to us and teaching English has played a big part in helping us achieve our dream lifestyle,” says Sharyn.
Teaching English abroad doesn’t have to be confined to a classroom, though. With online classes you can set your own hours and it can be done from anywhere in the world.
Teaching English in Thailand— Turning Conversation Into Cash Online
In 2012 Dani Leis quit her job and left for Thailand with nothing but a single bag and a dream to start a new life. She obtained her TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) certification and, in 2013, Dani became an online tutor.
“Most intermediate and advanced students can read and write English, but they need conversation practice,” says Dani. “So I developed my own particular teaching style, launched my own website and began to offer conversation practice.”
Now, students from all over the world talk to her for 30 minutes at a time over Skype. She works with business people, artists, professors, non-native speaking English teachers, students and travellers.
“When working for yourself there are no boundaries, you can do it the way you want. I have no alarm clock, no agenda and no itinerary. I sleep when I’m tired and wake up when I’m rested.”
Dani Lives in Ban Pong Noi, a village outside Chiang Mai. The second largest city in Thailand, Chiang Mai retains its small-town feel.
“Chiang Mai is a little slice of heaven. It’s a university town full of creative people, art and culture. I often go into the old city to listen to live jazz. I usually spend my day off in the mountains taking in the beauty of the forests and getting a two-hour Thai massage in a lovely forest spa for about $5.”
“Many people want to escape the ‘wage-slave life’ and Thailand is a great place to be a digital nomad as overheads are low here,” she says. “I don’t really want to work full-time anymore. I don’t do this work to get rich. I wanted a different lifestyle, to work less and live more. I’m doing that now.”