Saturday, March 6, 2010

How Much Money Can I Make Teaching English?

How Can You Answer That?
How much money you can make is, of course, a very difficult question and the answer is somewhere between nothing and a moderate amount of money. Clearly if you volunteer to teach somewhere, your motives are not financial and you aren't going to make money. If you want to make money, you probably won't volunteer and nor will you go to China to teach. You'd head to Kuwait, the UAE or Brunei.
Important considerations are your own inclinations (are you a miser or a spendthrift?), the standard of living you can attain in the country you plan to teach in and the value of one currency relative to another.

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Miser or Spendthrift?

The issue of your own inclinations is one that will haunt you where ever you go. If you generally spend all of your income, you'll probably continue to do that even if your income is doubled. If you earn a lot, there are temptations like travel, good restaurants and domestic services. If you can live on a shoestring and save, you'll probably continue to do that regardless of where you end up.
Local Standard of Living
How do you judge whether you are being offered a good income or not? Your standard of living relative to the rest of the population in a country is a significant factor. You can look at other jobs in that country to see what they are offering by searching the internet and by speaking to people who've taught there before. That will help you to establish if it is a fair income for that country. The next question becomes can you afford to work there? If you discover that you're going to be getting 4500 RMB (around US$650) a month to work at a school in China, you may well be horrified until you learn that you can rent a furnished apartment for 230 RMB and feed yourself for 120 RMB a month. You'll have discretionary income and will be able to travel within China and enjoy a good local standard of living. However, if you have a mortgage back home that you need to service, you will have trouble doing that and may not be able to afford to live and work in China.
International Currency Issues
The currency issue is a much thornier one. If you look at what you can earn in some of the higher paying countries like Kuwait, UAE and Brunei, you'll still want to know what you can actually do with this money. For example, if you get an income of 15,000 Dh teaching in the Arab Emirates, you'll want to know how much food, housing and utilities will cost you and how much you will have left over. If you choose to live outside big cities like Dubai or Abu Dhabi, the cost of living will be lower and your income will be more significant. You will probably be able to send money home to pay the mortgage if you want to, or you'll be able to travel the world during your holidays. However, it's still tricky as you'll find yourself measuring your income in the currency of your home country.
Traps for the Unwary
Teachers sometimes sign contracts for a limited number of hours per week and are assured that when they arrive, they'll be given extra hours. When they arrive the extra hours fail to materialize. Pay coming in late can be another problem. A contract sometimes promises a gratuity at the completion of the contract. There are many anecdotal stories like this from China and Korea and probably from other countries as well. Be wary of promises that are made that don't appear in the contract!
Teaching in an English-speaking country.
To make a reasonable living in an English-speaking country is not easy today. Many jobs are casual and short term. They are often paid at an hourly rate that is not huge. Teachers move between jobs and may have two or three jobs going at one time. As student numbers fluctuate, teachers are sometimes asked to move on. Securing a permanent full-time position brings in a regular income, but it is often fairly meager. There are some well paid jobs to be had, but they can be difficult to obtain as many teachers want them.
Can You Make Money?
You'll never get rich teaching English, but you can make a living and you can travel the world. You'll make friends around the globe; a real bonus when you're on holidays and looking for accommodation for a few days. You can also expect international visitors to swing your way every so often. English teachers don't do it for the money, they'll never be rich, but many find it to be a rewarding career!


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