Teaching ESL Abroad as a Career: A Good Choice?


Is Teaching ESL Abroad a Good Career Choice?

An English as a Second Language teacher doesn’t exactly fit into the category of a “serious” job where you make “serious” money. However, I would argue that it actually has a lot going for it and it’s a great choice for someone with their eye on retiring early and/or not living a traditional kind of life.

To figure out how an ESL teacher, on an ESL teacher abroad salary could possibly retire early, read this book, The Wealthy English Teacher: Teach, Travel, and Secure Your Financial Future.

Now, let’s get back to the original question. Is teaching ESL abroad a good choice for a career? The short answer is that it’s pretty decent, especially if want a life of adventure and travel, and not things or security. For the highly-qualified, there are some high-paying ESL teaching jobs so it’s not all budgets and frugal living either. Check out the following reasons why it might work for you:

Why you should consider Teaching ESL Abroad as a Career:
It’s not physically demanding

Sitting at a desk for the entire day is hard on the body, as is doing heavy physical labor. Teaching is neither of these things as you get a good mix of sitting, standing, and walking around. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find an ESL teacher with carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow or other such occupational injury.

If you have some physical limitations that prevent you from either sitting, or standing the entire day, ESL teaching abroad might be an option for you to consider.

It’s not mentally demanding

For example, today in my first class I played some Settlers of Catan, and then took my students out for a coffee and a chat. Not all days are like this-we were just having a “party” day of sorts. Second class involved guiding the students through a survey activity about their high-school memories and then my last class of the day will involve some review of future tense verbs. It’s not rocket-science and you’ll have plenty of mental energy leftover at the end of the day.

I met a number of teachers during my time in South Korea who had worked in some high-stress career for years. They were burnt out and came to teach in Korea because they wanted a mental break. And it certainly was that.

It’s not demanding on my time 

I really don’t work that much at all. I consider my job more of a 1/4 time job, but with full-time pay. Not everyone is as fortunate to get this kind of gig, but even those with heavier teaching schedules often have plenty of free-time to get other things, such as a blog or online business up and running. For tips on how to get the same sweet job that I have, check out: How to Get a University Job in South Korea: The English Teaching Job of Your Dreams.

Teaching ESL Abroad doesn’t stress me out

There truly is no English-teaching emergency and my time outside work really is my own time. I leave work and generally don’t have to give it another thought until I get into work the next day (assuming I prepare for things a week or two ahead of time). Stress is a huge enemy of productivity and general health and well-being and I love that I essentially have none.

Sure, some teachers always seem like they’re in a tornado of chaotic activity. They are the disorganized ones. Anyone who is a reasonably organized person with the lesson prep and paperwork will find it very stress-free.

Travel opportunities when teaching ESL abroad

A lot of the bloggers I follow have a dream about traveling the world and experiencing other places. I’ve been doing it already for the past 10 years, getting paid while I do it! Asia make a far better travel base than North America when it comes to short, cheap flights.

What do you Think?

Leave a comment below and tell us what you think. Is teaching ESL abroad a good career choice? Why or why not?



  1. Having taught English in Europe (Portugal, Germany, Bulgaria) for 6 years in the 1960s/70s I would agree that it can be very enjoyable, depending n your establshment and students – just like any other teaching job, in fact. But I think you downgrade the job if you describe it as 1/4 time and a bit of a doddle. I had a professional qualification (PGCE in TEFL) before I started to teach, and I worked a full-time job. Germany was pretty dire, with classes of 40+ unmotivated 10-12-year-olds; Portugal I enjoyed as it was mainly evening classes for adults and very varied; Bulgaria was very stimulating as it was with highly motivated, highly intelligent teenagers, under the Socialist regime. Did I make money? I lived comfortably and in fact in Germany saved enough money to put down as a deposit on my first house in England (which cost £9,600, in Oxford!).

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