Top 5 Countries to Use Your Teaching Degree

A teacher with Australian students. Australian Embassy Jakarta via CC BY 2.0

Got a teaching degree? Here's how to pay off your student loans while travelling the world.

New North American teachers face a dilemma: Long summer holidays seem made for travel, but low pay rates, crippling student debt, and competition for teaching jobs make it seem impossible to escape your local area.

The solution? Teach abroad.

When I finished my Bachelor of Education in 2014, I had more than $20,000 in student loans owing—and that's with the help of scholarships. The lure of travel was strong, but there was no way I could afford it. I needed a job.

With a degree under my belt, I didn’t want to settle for less money than I would make teaching at home, so ESL jobs were out. So I started investigating countries that would pay me top dollar for my teaching qualifications and still give me the flexibility I wanted.

Here is my shortlist of the top five places for teaching abroad.

1. Australia

Imagine spending your weekends with koalas and kangaroos while living and working in Australia. Teachers in Australia make upwards of $62,000 AUD and have plenty of time to spend surfing and snorkelling over the six-week Christmas holidays.

Expect to earn: Upwards of $62,000 AUD.

How to get the job: A one-year working holiday visa is relatively easy to get if you're from Canada or most European countries and are under 31. However, you are only allowed to work for any one employer for up to six months. Two of the major agencies that help overseas teachers are Leading Out and anzuk. They will find you temporary teaching jobs that can last from a day to the six months that a working holiday visa allows.

Another option is to apply for a General Skilled Migration visa as a teacher. In that case, you will need to prove your qualifications to the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL). If you’re hired by a teaching agency or school, they’ll help you to sort out your visa application.

Teacher tip: The new school year starts every January.

2. New Zealand

Looking for a location that allows you to spend every weeknight on the beach and every weekend hiking through some of the most breath-taking mountains on Earth? New Zealand’s gorgeous islands, made famous by the Lord of the Rings series, are the perfect location for you to live and teach. The New Zealand education system also offers excellent opportunities; in 2015, New Zealand young people ranked above the OECD average in reading literacy, maths and science.

Expect to earn: Salaries in New Zealand start at $47,000 NZD.

How to get the job: Immigration New Zealand is actively recruiting for new teachers and you can register your interest on their website. The teachers most in demand are secondary teachers of English, Business or STEM subjects. Young teachers from a variety of countries are eligible to move to New Zealand on a working holiday visa.

Teacher tip: Most vacancies for the new school year occur between September and January.

3. The United Arab Emirates

Dubai and Abu Dhabi are world-renowned as glistening, cosmopolitan tourist destinations in the heart of the Middle East. These cities can be prohibitively expensive for many travellers, but international teachers enjoy competitive benefits packages that allow them to enjoy their luxurious surroundings and new culture, as well as do more travelling during school holidays.

Expect to earn: Teachers in the UAE can expect to make at least $32,000 USD each year, but contracts often also include free flights and accommodation, plus an end-of-contract bonus.

How to get the job: Schools will help you with applying for a visa and regularly advertise in newspaper sections like Guardian Jobs or through recruitment agencies like Teach Away. There can be strong competition for these jobs, but they’re a great chance to save money and see a new part of the world.

Teacher tip: Be sure to read up on the UAE’s morality laws. Strict punishments apply for drinking without a license, public displays of affection, eating in public during Ramadan, or any LGBTQ relationships.

4. Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is one of the richest countries in the world and they reward their teachers handsomely. Teaching jobs at international schools in Saudi Arabia can be among the most generous: $36,000 USD tax-free, plus free flights and accommodations, usually in a gated community specifically for expats. If you can abide by local laws and are interested in experiencing a completely different way of life, making friends from all over the world, and earning a lot of money, Saudi Arabia may be the place for you.

Expect to earn: $36,000 USD tax-free, plus free flights and accommodations.

How to get the job: Recruitment companies like Teach Away and Teach Anywhere post many job opportunities. Once hired, you will need your university degree, a letter from your new employer, and a copy of your employment contract to get a work visa.

Teacher tip: Saudi Arabia has even stricter morality laws than the UAE; women are prohibited from driving, should keep their hair and bodies covered at all times, and may have difficulty interacting in public or leaving the country without a male guardian.

5. The United Kingdom

Living in London is a dream for many travellers. You could make it a reality by earning £28,000 ($37,000 USD) or more in a London school. London is home to world-famous free museums and is just a short flight away from top European destinations. Because the UK generally has a strong currency (and 13 weeks of school holidays throughout the year), teachers find themselves travelling all over the world during their time off.

Expect to earn: UK teachers make £28,000 up to £47,000, depending on experience.

How to get the job: Young people aged 18 to 35 from Canada, New Zealand and Australia can apply for a two-year Youth Mobility visa. This visa allows visitors to work or study anywhere in the UK for two years. A wide variety of teaching agencies exist to connect overseas teachers with short-term teaching jobs, but you’ll receive better treatment, and pay, if you apply for jobs yourself a few months before you arrive. Qualified teachers of all ages and subjects are in high demand. You’ll need to apply for Qualified Teacher Status online.

Teacher tip: Thrifty travellers sometimes choose to live and work outside London, earning a a slightly smaller paycheque, and paying significantly lower rent—while gaining better access to a major airport and weekend getaways.

What does the next year of your life look like: Weekends outdoors, surfing and hiking? Exploring a glistening metropolis? Experiencing a completely different culture? Wherever you decide to go, your new life as an international teacher will also come with a salary that lets you keep travelling the world.

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Published in Work Abroad
Kirsten Horton

Kirsten Horton is a Canadian living in London, where she has taught since 2014. In the past three years, she has visited 10 countries on four continents, paid off a good chunk of her student loan, and married a handsome Brit.


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