Teaching in Southeast Asia
This varies considerably throughout Southeast Asia and also between schools. As a minimum you will need a TEFL/TESOL qualification. This can be obtained in 3-6 months from many reputable websites - 120 hours is the standard minimum and should include a day/weekend of classroom practice.
A TEFL/TESOL/CELTA and a university degree is now a requirement for getting a work permit and therefore to teach English in Thailand, and many teachers have left for neighbouring countries because of this. You will also need the same qualifications to teach in Laos in the international schools or language centers. A humanities degree, teaching degree and/or experience teaching will increase your opportunities and salary potential but are not specific requirements for teaching in Cambodia or Vietnam. They are two top destinations to teach English in Southeast Asia as the requirements are more relaxed and visas easiest to obtain.
In Thailand, teachers can expect to start on around $1000 per month full time, and this can increase with experience, promotions, and with further qualifications. There is also the potential for negotiation and for bonuses after completion of your contract. This is comfortable providing you are outside of Bangkok, and may allow you to save for some trips around the region. The school year runs from May-March with breaks in October and April. The start of the school year is the best time to look for jobs in Thailand, although schools will hire all year round.
In Cambodia, a full time teacher can earn $1000 upwards, going up to $1500 for teachers with teaching degrees, or a lot of experience. There are exceptions, such as JPA in Siem Reap, where qualified teachers can earn around $2500 a month, but this is not 'the norm.' The terms in Cambodia start in September and March, although schools hire all year round.
Related article: How to teach English in Cambodia
In Laos, you can earn $800-$1300 a month/or $10 an hour teaching in the international schools, most of which are based in Vientiane. Experience is preferred but not required, although will increase your salary expectations. This is comfortable to live in laid-back Laos.The school year typically runs from August-June.
Vietnam offers the best salaries, coupled with some of the lowest living costs. This is our number one choice for teaching English in Southeast Asia. In Hanoi or Saigon you can expect to earn $1500-2500 for full time (considered around 20-25 hours per week) providing you have a TEFL and university degree. You will earn less without a bachelors degree but it is still possible to teach unlike in Thailand/Laos. Because full time is only 20-25 hours a week, there is the potential to also teach private lessons for $20-30 an hour, increasing your salary options even further. Schools in Vietnam hire all year round.
These vary from country to country and from city to city, and also depend greatly on lifestyle. In most towns and cities you can get a room in a shared house for as little as $150 a month. A small studio apartment starts at $100 and can go up to $500 or $600 a month for a one or two bedroom luxury apartment with a kitchen, cable TV, cleaning and laundry.
You will need to pay for energy bills which are mostly electricity, and the amount will largely depend on air-con usage. This can be anywhere from $30-100 a month.
You can get very cheap street food from as little as $1 all over Southeast Asia and low-mid range restaurant prices can be anywhere from $3-15. Cheap vegetables and local ingredients can be obtained from markets, and there are supermarkets in most cities offering a varying range of home comforts (particularly in Cambodia.)
Drinking and socialising is far cheaper in Southeast Asia than in Western countries, with beers starting from 50 cents, wine $2+ and cocktails $1.50 upwards. This can soon add up though, and lots of people find that it's not as cheap as they thought when the lower wages are taken into account. Teaching English in Southeast Asia is one of the best salaries you can earn here, but living in major cities can take a big bite out of your salary.
Most of Southeast Asia still has pricing tiers for locals and foreigners where you will pay considerably more for things than local people do. This can be addressed somewhat by learning some of the language and haggling effectively to set yourself apart from the 'tourist foreigners'. You should bear in mind though, that you get paid two or three times as much as local teachers, even doing exactly the same job, at the same school.
Related article: What to pack for Southeast Asia
Thailand has the most complicated visa/work permit rules. The process includes a lot of paperwork and it is preferable to work at a school that will sort all of this out for you. Be sure to ask specifics of what the school will do for you when interviewing and get it in writing.
Cambodia has the least complicated visa rules, you buy an ordinary/business visa as you enter the country and then renew it for 3/6/12 months through a travel agent or at an embassy. A work permit is also required and costs $100 per year. Note: this runs from January-December so if you arrive in December you will need one for both that year and the next one.
In Laos, you can enter the country on a 30 day tourist visa and then purchase a business visa from within the country for $280 for a year. If you are lucky, your school will help provide this, but usually it is up to the teacher to pay for and organise.
For Vietnam, you can either pay for a 3 month business visa ($90-130) and then renew it from within the country (working casually), or apply for a year long work permit (most schools will help you with at least the process, if not costs) to work for the major schools and language centres.
Related article: Visas for Southeast Asia
Jobs are better applied for directly with a school than through a hiring scheme which takes its own commission placing you. Roles can be best found by going directly into schools or contacting them from abroad and arranging Skype interviews. A lot of schools in Southeast Asia are almost completely unreachable via email (even if they have one) and it is better to contact in person or by phone. If you can move to the city you want to work in and then apply for jobs, you will be in a stronger position for negotiation and research on the school and surrounding area.
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