Colin Ashby always knew he wanted to travel abroad. There was just one problem: His bank account disagreed. So he found a work-around. “When I decided to teach English abroad, I didn't have a ton of money, and I was still in debt,” he explains.
“So I knew working abroad was the only way I could travel in a more long-term way.”
Ashby packed his bags and headed off to Thailand, where he worked as an English teacher, making up to $1,248 per semester.
If that doesn’t sound like a lot to you, consider this: Due to Thailand’s low cost of living, he was actually able to save up half of his income each semester. He even started up a blog, Rebel With a Plan, detailing his adventures.
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He isn’t the only one who can do this, either. If you want to travel the world, experience a foreign culture in depth, potentially make a ton of money, and get out of debt at the same time, then teaching English abroad may be just the thing for you.
How Much Can You Make When You Teach English Abroad?
The International TEFL Academy provides a chart with the approximate monthly earnings and cost of living for many countries, such as the six below. These amounts may not look like much, but remember, you’re in it for the adventure.
- Earn: $850 – $1,150
- Cost of living: $550 – $800
- Earn: $1,600 – $4,000
- Cost of living: $800 – $2,000
- Earn: $2,250 – $2,600
- Cost of living: $1,700 – $2,600
- Earn: $1,400 – $1,600
- Cost of living: $1,400 – $1,600
- Earn: $1,100 – $2,150
- Cost of living: $1,100 – $2,150
- South Korea
- Earn: $1,800 – $2,000
- Cost of living: $650 – $950
How to Teach English Abroad
I sat down with Megan Lee from GoAbroad.com to talk about the nitty-gritty of teaching abroad. Her top recommendation? Get a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (or TEFL) certificate. This will set you back about $1,000. However, not only is it required for many jobs, but “getting a TEFL is a really wise investment because it makes you more confident as a teacher, and it does right by your students,” says Lee.
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You can get a TEFL certificate from a wide range of schools both online and in person, but buyer beware: These programs vary in quality, so it’s up to you to vet the program. To help you sort out the good ones, Goabroad.com maintains a list of its top TEFL program recommendations.
After you’ve gotten your certificate, many schools will even help you find a job. Lee recommends teaching abroad for a full year to get a proper work-travel experience.
How Much Does It Cost to Teach English Abroad?
Whether you’ll come out of the experience in the black or the red will depend on the country you choose to teach in. Costs of living and teacher wages vary by country. However, you’ll likely make the most money in parts of Southeast Asia and the Middle East, where teachers can earn several thousand dollars per semester.
Ashby suggests putting together a realistic budget before you go, keeping in mind any start-up costs or moving expenses. “A lot of people who teach abroad end up blowing their money every month on shopping, alcohol, and travel,” he says.
“Make a plan for your money so [your spending] doesn't get out of hand.”
After you find a company, make sure that you understand your contract. Some jobs will pay for your airfare and housing. Many employers will also pay you a bonus for completing your contract.
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Ashby’s last tip is to get your finances in order before you leave. “Usually people think things will just ‘fall into place.’ Don't do this. Make a plan for any debt you may have so you don't get behind on payments.”
Don’t Let Debt Be a Barrier
As for Ashby, he had a blast teaching English abroad. Not only was he able to pay off his debt, but he got to see the beautiful sights of Thailand and make a ton of new friends.
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If travel is important to you, debt doesn’t have to be an obstacle. By thinking outside the box and planning appropriately, you too can get out to see the world for cheap.