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teacher making money and saving money teaching abroad

Teach Away | The Vault Vol. 4

If you’re considering teaching abroad but have financial concerns getting in the way, you’ve come to the right page. Having a deeper understanding of the costs associated with relocating and teaching abroad, your income potential, and effective money-saving strategies will empower you to confidently plan your financial journey.

This month’s blog round-up is your comprehensive guide. We cover:

  • Tip #1: Understand Your Initial Start-Up Costs. How much does it cost to teach abroad? Get insights into the initial expenses you’ll encounter when embarking on your teaching adventure.
  • Tip #2: Land a Higher Wage or Salary With TEFL Specializations: How can I make more money teaching abroad? Learn how to boost your income potential and financial security.
  • Tip #3: 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 isn’t just a good idea—it’s essential. It not only ensures your financial stability but also shields you from unexpected financial crises. By managing your finances wisely, you’ll not only have a fulfilling international experience but also have the means to save for future goals or additional travel adventures!

Tip #1: Understand Your Initial Start-Up Costs

How much does it cost to teach abroad?

esl teacher teaching abroad and making money

Teaching English abroad can be one of the best financial decisions you make as a young professional—once you start working! But before you begin earning a steady income from teaching English, there are financial costs involved in moving countries and starting up somewhere new.

Prior to signing an ESL job contract, it’s important that you—as a future ESL teacher working abroad—have saved up enough money to afford your new vocation.

But before your head starts spinning with numbers and questions, don’t worry. We’re here to guide you through the associated costs, so you can create a functional budget and begin saving money for your adventure.

As a new English teacher in a foreign country, here are the start-up costs you can expect:

  • TEFL/TESOL certification
  • Passport, visa, and/or work permits (plus additional documentation like transcripts, background checks, and even medical records.
  • Transportation costs to move abroad
  • Daily living costs (before your paychecks start coming in)

TEFL Certification

The first cost on your journey is a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) – a certification that enhances your teaching qualifications, and one that most countries require. The gold standard of TEFL courses are 120-hours which can cost around $1,000 USD. This certification can be obtained through online courses or in-person classes, with online courses being a more cost-effective option. This is a one-time fee and your certification never expires.

Passport and Visa Fees

Next, you’ll need to cover expenses related to documentation, including your passport, visa, and work permits. Some countries may require additional documents like transcripts, background checks, and even medical records. These documents often come with application fees.

Moving and Traveling Abroad

Transportation costs to relocate to the teaching destination can be a significant expense. Some countries may cover airfare for ESL teachers, but in many cases, teachers need to pay for their plane tickets.

Daily Living Costs

Before you sign that ESL job contract, it’s crucial to have enough savings to support your new adventure. ESL teachers may not receive their first paycheck immediately, so it’s crucial to have 6-8 weeks of living expenses saved up, as well as an emergency fund. Daily living costs include meals, transportation, rent, apartment deposit, cell phone expenses, and entertainment.

Read the full article and learn more about the initial costs involved in getting started teaching abroad, as well as tips on how to reduce these costs.

Tip #2: Land a Higher Wage or Salary With TEFL Specializations

How to land a higher wage teaching abroad

You can make money teaching abroad, but did you know there’s a way to make more than the average wage?

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

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. 

One way to become a TEFL specialist is with OISE University of Toronto’s TEFL certificate specializations:

Teaching English to Arabic Speakers

  • Teachers will learn to overcome specific L1 interference (first language interference) when teaching Arabic speakers. Learn more about specializing in Teaching English to Arabic Speakers.

Teaching English to Korean Speakers

  • Teachers will learn to overcome specific L1 interference (first language interference) when teaching Korean speakers. Learn more about specializing in Teaching English to Korean Speakers.

Teaching English to Mandarin (Chinese) Speakers

  • Teachers will learn to overcome specific L1 interference (first language interference) when teaching Mandarin Chinese speakers. Learn more about specializing in Teaching English to Mandarin Speakers.

Teaching English to Young Learners

  • TEFL teachers can specialize in working with children by learning methods of integrating ESL pedagogy into classrooms for young learners. Learn more about specializing in Teaching English to Young Learners.

Teaching Test Preparation Courses

  • Teachers will learn to prepare students for the English language exams commonly required by schools, business, and governments. Learn more about specializing in Teaching Test Preparation Courses.

Teaching Business English

  • Teachers will practice designing and implementing Business English lessons appropriate for all cultures. Learn more about specializing in Teaching Business English.

Online Teaching and Learning

  • ESL instructors will learn about online teaching strategies in order to overcome the challenges of an online setting. Learn more about specializing in Online Teaching and Learning.

Learner-Centered Lessons

  • Teachers will learn to give their students control over content and language output, developing them into more independent learners. Learn more about specializing in Learner-Centered Lessons.

Teaching Abroad

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

Read the full article and find out more on how to earn more with OISE TEFL’s certification specializations.

Tip #3: 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 have to find a place to live, sort out visas, and health insurance.

Good news is for teachers teaching English abroad, there are ESL teaching programs that offer all expenses paid English teaching contracts. This means your major expenses will be covered by your employer.

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 ️

First, what’s an ESL teaching program?

A teach abroad program is usually run by private language schools, government and non-government run 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 some very generous benefits – like free housing and airfare.

That leads us into our next question: How do I get free housing and airfare?

A lot of the top teaching programs offer free housing and airfare, and so much more, like insurance, work visas, and sometimes even transportation allowance.

The added benefits vary from program to program, but some of the biggest costs to consider when teaching abroad is housing and airfare.

Countries That Offer Free Housing and Airfare

Teaching programs like the JET Programme in Japan or EPIK in South Korea typically provide subsidized or free housing as part of the teacher’s benefits.


South Korea

  • Contracts often include return airfare, fully furnished housing, paid holidays, contributions to health insurance and a bonus upon completion. Many contracts also include pension contributions, which can be or reclaimed as a lump sum when you leave the country (depending on the country you’re returning to – check with your employer!)
  • Factor in a low tax rate and low cost of living, the lifestyle South Korea offers its English teachers is hard to beat. Why not check out South Korea’s government-run EPIK program for more information


  • In Taiwan, the public school system provides the best potential for savings thanks to additional benefits such as performance bonuses and a housing allowance


  • Some international schools and programs in China have offered teachers free housing and flight allowances as part of their employment packages.


  • While not as common as in some other countries, there have been instances where international schools in Thailand offered housing and airfare assistance to teachers.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)

  • The UAE, particularly cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, offer competitive teaching packages that often include free housing, airfare, and other benefits.


  • Qatar has invested heavily in education and offers competitive packages for teachers, including housing and airfare.


  • Kuwait has attracted foreign teachers with competitive packages that may include free housing and airfare.


  • Bahrain, like some other Gulf countries, has offered teaching packages that include housing and flight allowances.

This opportunity to pay off debt or save up for future life goals makes teaching abroad with all expenses paid a great option for recent graduates, future homeowners, career changers who don’t want to take too much of a salary hit and, well, anyone who wants to explore the globe without breaking the bank! 

Learn more about all expenses paid English teaching jobs abroad.

Read our past Vaults!

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