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American Teachers Teaching Abroad – Financial Benefits In 2024

In a previous article, we discussed the benefits for foreign teachers who come to teach in the United States. Let’s turn the tables and discuss the advantages for you who are already a teacher in the USA and want to teach abroad. Your first reaction might be, “No, it’s not for me!” But then it’s time to think again!

Teaching abroad can be a transformative experience for educators. From student teaching abroad to getting a job at an international school. There are more opportunities than ever to become a teacher in a foreign country.

How Do I Teach Abroad?

The first step is deciding where you want to teach. Which country has always fascinated you? What have you always wanted to see? These answers are as personal to you as your reason for teaching, but knowing exactly where you want to go is important. Otherwise, you could potentially have an unhappy experience. Research the culture of the country, the climate, and the political atmosphere. No matter how exotic a place may look, the most important thing is its safety.

teaching abroad

The U.S. Department of State has great advice about health, safety, and even current travel warnings for certain countries. Once you know where you want to teach, you need to see what that country offers for American teachers.

A deeper understanding of the costs associated with relocating and teaching abroad, your income potential, and effective money-saving strategies will empower you to plan your financial journey confidently.

Apply to a teaching program.

Teaching programs ideally suit recent graduates looking for experience before becoming teachers. Most programs are for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), and countries are actively seeking native English speakers who are young, talented, mobile, and eager to teach. While every program differs, most run for one year and offer a monthly salary, some benefits, housing accommodations, travel assistance, and vacation time. One of the best parts is that most places don’t require you to know the local language. So, therefore, your possibilities are endless.

Or Apply directly to teaching jobs that are not through a program

When doing this, you need to pay closer attention to the requirements of that country. Most jobs are by contract (usually a year) and salaried, and many still provide the amenities that teaching programs offer, such as housing, airfare, vacation, and benefits. You apply to these jobs like any job in the United States. 

Once you’ve secured your teaching position, you must be authorized to travel abroad. Because you’re going to be working in another country, you don’t just need a passport but also a Visa. This can be a complicated process, and every country has guidelines for issuing visas. So pay close attention every step of the way. Some countries also require immunizations and vaccinations before they issue a visa. All will require you to set up a meeting at their embassy in the United States. The Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs offers country-specific information for Americans travelling abroad.

What Can I Teach Abroad?

The subjects taught in schools in other countries are as varied as in the United States, and what you teach will depend on your job. You may apply to international teaching jobs based on your interest or your employer may ask you to teach a certain subject. The subjects in high demand vary by country, but English is always in high demand.

Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) is the most common area teachers abroad go into. Native speakers of English are the most sought-after for TESOL programs, though your country of origin may factor into your desirability. Many European countries prefer British English, so you’ll compete for TESOL jobs with teachers from the United Kingdom. Just something to keep in mind. Regardless, if you’re a native speaker of English, you have already fulfilled one of the fundamental requirements for most TESOL programs in other countries.

Understand Your Initial Start Up Costs

Of course, working abroad has advantages, but it also costs a lot. Before signing an ESL job contract, it’s important that you, as a future ESL teacher working abroad, have saved enough money to afford your new vocation.

  • Understand Your Initial Start-Up Costs – How much does it cost to teach abroad? Get insights into your initial expenses when embarking on your teaching adventure.
  • Land a Higher Wage or Salary With TEFL Specializations – Learn how to boost your income potential and financial security.
  • Apply For ESL Teaching Programs to Save Money, and Get Free Airfare and Housing – Learn about ESL teaching programs and how all-expenses paid teaching jobs can save you a lot of money.

Being financially responsible while living and teaching abroad is a good and essential idea. It ensures your financial stability and shields you from unexpected financial crises. By managing your finances wisely, you’ll have a fulfilling international experience and the means to save for future goals or additional travel adventures!

Land a Higher Wage or Salary With TEFL Specializations

Pay typically increases depending on the amount of education a teacher has. Teachers with master’s degrees or doctorates can earn more than those with bachelor’s degrees. 

The same goes for ESL teachers and TEFL. Certificates or specializations in specific subject areas or skill sets can increase a teacher’s value, which can be directly reflected in their hourly wage or salary. 

Everything you need to get TEFL Certified

Earning your TEFL certification is the first step every aspiring ESL teacher must take toward landing their first job teaching English abroad. Far more than just a necessary qualification, English teaching certification programs will equip you with a fundamental toolkit essential to success in the early days of your TEFL job abroad. 

What is TEFL?

TEFL stands for “Teaching English as a Foreign Language.” It is the most commonly used acronym for this broad field of global education. But there are a few others you should be familiar with from the outset.

You will see many programs offering TESOL certifications or degrees. The technical difference is that TEFL implies teaching English to second-language speakers in a non-English-speaking country. In contrast, TESOL implies teaching English to second-language speakers in a native-English-speaking country. This difference has become largely etymological, though, and TEFL and TESOL degrees are accepted interchangeably by most employers.

ESL stands for “English as a Second Language” and is often used by students of the language.

  • TEFL teachers will learn to research overseas destinations and organizations and address common difficulties and challenges in international work environments. Learn more about specializing in Teaching Abroad.

Apply For ESL Teaching Programs to Save Money and Get Free Airfare and Housing

How do I Save Money Teaching Abroad?

Moving to a new country to teach English is no mean feat. Job hunt aside, you must find a place to live and sort out visas and health insurance.

The good news is that ESL teaching programs offer all-expenses-paid English teaching contracts for teachers teaching English abroad. This means your employer will cover your major expenses.

Major expenses include:

  • Housing (either accommodation or a housing stipend provided)
  • Airfare (either paid in advance or reimbursed)
  • Medical insurance (either wholly or partially covered by the employer)
  • Visa cost reimbursement
  • Paid vacation time ️

A teach-abroad program is usually run by private language schools, government and non-government organizations, and educational institutions. 

They were primarily created as an immersive opportunity for ESL teachers to travel to a foreign country and teach English, experience a new culture, and provide teaching support to English-learning students. These programs can vary in duration and typically offer generous benefits, like free housing and airfare.

How do I get Free Housing and Airfare?

Many top teaching programs offer free housing, airfare, insurance, work visas, and sometimes even transportation allowance.

The added benefits vary from program to program. However, housing and airfare are the biggest costs when teaching abroad.

Higher Salaries and Benefits by Teaching Abroad

Remember that to earn the highest salary, you’ll most likely need a bachelor’s degree or higher, a TEFL certificate, and some previous teaching experience. 

Working at an accredited International school generally pays better than at local public or private schools. If you are a certified teacher, it´s highly recommended that you check out international schools. You can go through an agency like Search Associates or ISS.

If you’re teaching with a bachelor’s degree and a TEFL, you can still make decent money, depending on where you’re teaching. In general, expect higher salaries in South Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Middle East, and English-speaking countries like Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. Salaries in Western Europe are average, and the lowest salaries are found in Central and South America, Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and Africa.

It’s also important to consider how many hours per week you’ll be teaching. Places like Japan and South Korea have long teaching schedules, while European countries offer lower salaries but fewer teaching hours.

Teachers trying to save money should compare their monthly salary with the cost of living in their new country. A website like Numbeo.com can help with this. 

How to Determine How Much Money to Save Before Going Abroad

First, ensure you know everything in your contract and what you must pay for. Write down expenses that you’ll need to cover.

Then, you check the cost of living in the city where you’ll work. To make the transition easier, save at least 2-3 months’ rent and expenses before you go. If you want to save money, make sure your salary exceeds the cost of living in your new country. This will help keep your teach-abroad finances in check! 

Converting Money and Bank Accounts

Another money matter when moving abroad is international banking and converting money. If this is your first time abroad, don’t rely on banks to convert your salary because you might lose a lot of money in fees and high exchange rates.

The best way to convert your foreign salary to your “home” currency is to use Wise (formerly called Transferwise.) Wise has the lowest exchange rates of any currency exchange and has great features to help you convert, store, and use local and foreign currency.

If you still need to pay off student loans or other expenses back home, using Wise is a great way to get the cash you need in your account.

Paying Tax Abroad and at Home

So, to remind you, paying taxes is essential to teaching finances abroad. The US is one of only two countries that double taxes its citizens abroad! 

Teach abroad programs sometimes pay their teachers a stipend instead of a salary. In some cases, this stipend isn’t taxed. You’ll have to check with the program.

You will be taxed there if you are in another country long enough to be considered a tax resident. However, if you are an American citizen or green card holder, you must file your taxes yearly with the IRS.

Smart Moves to Finance Your Exciting Living as a Teacher Abroad

So, how do teachers finance all their travels during school vacations and between teaching contracts? The secret is that they supplement their income. Set up a passive income stream before you go abroad or supplement with private lessons once you’re abroad and you’ll be able to be one of those traveling teachers.

Here are two ways to use your skills as an English teacher to start a teach-abroad side hustle:

  • Teaching English online is a great way to earn extra cash during after-school hours, weekends, days off, or holidays.
  • Work as a private tutor – Chances are, people in your new country are looking for private English classes. You can set your rates and choose your schedule and what you teach. Try teaching conversation lessons (low prep), Business English if you have the required skills (pays well), or small group kids classes.

Disclosure: This information is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as financial advice. Please consult with a qualified financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

bill wallace author teacher retirement plans

About Author

Bill Wallace blends his academic background in Literature with his ventures in International Business and finance. His professional journey took him across Europe, especially in Spain, where his passion for writing evolved. Since then, armed with his literary finesse and investment acumen, he has been crafting financial content for teachers worldwide. More about me.

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