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How to Choose the Right Job Teaching English Abroad – Part II

Posted By in Teach English, What I've Learned | 2 comments

How to Choose the Right Job Teaching English Abroad – Part II

In this post, I’m covering some essential questions that will help you choose the right job teaching English abroad, and help you to filter the soul-sucking nightmare jobs from the fulfilling opportunities to teach and travel. Part 1 of “How to Choose the Right Job Teaching English Abroad” can be found here.

choose the right job teaching english abroad

Can I have an outline of the work schedule?

For most jobs teaching english, you can expect to be working the standard 40-hr week. That said, in a few job interviews, I was told that the working hours would be from 9am-7pm. In other cases, teachers were required to arrive an unpaid 1 1/2 hrs. “early” for work each day. If you factor in the time to get to and from work, you’re not going to be left with much free time with these kinds of schedules. It’s also important not to assume that that the job is Monday to Friday, if the school hasn’t specified. I’ve known teachers who ended up working exhaustingly long days on just Saturday and Sunday, or working for a few hours per day from Monday-Saturday. Unusual hours might be perfect for some people, but this is the kind of information that you want to gather in the early stages, so you can take it into consideration when you make your decision about where to teach.

When looking over your contract, watch out for the school’s policy on “overtime” hours. Amazingly, some schools don’t pay for overtime work. Other schools will pay you, but the contract is written in a way that allows them to demand that you work overtime whenever they want, and for as long as they want.

choose the right job teaching English abroad

How many teaching hours will I work per week?

It’s important to differentiate between “teaching hours” versus “general work hours”. It’s normal to be at the school from 9-5, but you definitely shouldn’t be teaching classes that entire time. Most English teachers will tell you that 30 hours of teaching per week is about the maximum you should agree to, 25 hrs. is more comfortable, and 20 hrs. is ideal. Teaching well requires a lot of energy, and you’re not doing yourself or your potential students any favours by committing to more teaching hours than you can manage.

Aside from how tiring teaching can be, consider that you’ll need the non-teaching work hours to prepare for classes and plan lessons. The more you’re required to be in the classroom teaching, the less time you’ll have for prep, and the more likely it is that you’ll have to take your work home with you at the end of the day.

Is housing provided? If not, will I have assistance acquiring housing?

Free housing seems to be relatively common when it comes to job offers in South Korea, but is not typically provided in other countries. If housing is provided, ask to see some pictures and clarify if the housing is private or shared. Having a roommate may not be a problem for you, but, again, you probably want to know in advance if you can expect to have a place to yourself or should anticipate having 1 or more roommates. If housing is your responsibility, the school should offer to provide assistance with finding a place. As you can probably imagine, if your school is located in rural Thailand, you can’t exactly just search kijiji for an apartment. You’re going to need help from someone who speaks the language and knows where to look.
choose the right job teaching English abroad


Is health insurance provided?

This is an aspect of contracts that I personally tended to overlook because healthcare is publicly funded in Canada, so I rarely had to think about medical expenses before I started traveling. Find out if the school provides health insurance, because if not, you may want to include private travel insurance in your budget.

Will I have paid vacation days? Can I decide when I take my vacation?

If you’re hoping to travel around during your teaching year, then vacation time is going to be an important point to discuss with your potential employer. Many schools advertise “10 days vacation”, but in reality, these 10 days are national holidays on which the schools are closed. That means you can count on an odd Monday or Friday off here and there, but no real vacation beyond a long-weekend.

Some schools offer vacation at a fixed time during the year, like when the students have an extended holiday between terms, for example. In this case, you do have vacation days, but you have no choice about when you take them. This isn’t a problem for most people, but it’s something to consider if you were planning to take time off when friends or family come to visit, or if you’re hoping to travel during a specific season.

choose the right job teaching English abroad

Can I sign a contract before arriving?

When you make the big decision, it would be best if your future employer can email or fax you a contract, which you can then sign and send back. Why? It’s easy for the school to tell you about the hours, pay, vacation time etc. in the interview, but you can’t count on any of it until you read and sign the contract.For example, against my better judgment, we took a chance and came to Thailand without signing a contract beforehand. When we were eventually presented with our contract, our vacation time turned out to be less than 20 days, instead of the 30 days advertised in the job listing. Always get the terms in writing before you travel across the world for a job.

Finally, I want to clarify that I don’t want to leave anyone with a bad impression of teaching English abroad. In fact, I generally think that teaching English can be a really fun job and a fantastic way to travel and see the world. I’m not suggesting that you ask all these questions because all schools and agencies are out to scam or take advantage of unsuspecting foreign teachers. In reality, there are some pretty unpleasant teaching jobs out there, some ok ones, and some great ones. Why not be selective, ask a lot of questions, and be one of the lucky people who scores an amazing job?

What other questions do you recommend asking before accepting a teaching job?



  1. JustGolda October 8, 2013

    Good list! I am currently teaching with a Canadian school in China. Next year I am hoping to get another teaching job elsewhere so this was a helpful list to consider. Thank you!
    My recent post Almost home…whatever that means

  2. mandi December 21, 2015



  1. How to Choose the Right Job Teaching English Abroad -Part I - [...] So talk to a current teacher – it can be surprisingly informative. Part II can be found here.…

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