If you're planning to teach English in Taiwan, or even just considering it, let this article become your new ultimate reference. This is the most up-to-date guide yet. Taiwan tax laws, immigration laws, and the general environment are constantly changing and improving. It's important you get the latest info before you go.
First off, what's teaching English in Taiwan like?
That's not simple to answer, as everyone's experience will be different. Let's look at Taiwan in more detail over the next section so that you might get a better insight.
English in Taiwan
Taiwan, like a lot of Asian countries, puts a large emphasis on education within its culture. There are "cram" schools everywhere. These are essentially language/maths/science/art/music/you-name-it schools that kids (and adults) attend in the evenings or afternoons, after their regular school or work has finished.
Newcomers to Taiwan often find themselves surprised how much time young children and even adults spend on their studies.
This has resulted in a booming market for studying English, and Taiwanese automatically assume native speakers are the best to teach it. Demand for teachers from native English-speaking countries is high (and pretty competitive too).
This means that if you're qualified (more on this below), you can find a job with decent pay, low hours compared to western jobs (20-30 hours per week) and in some cases a lot of opportunity for career advancement.
The Living Environment
You can find a lot of diversity in Taiwan, whether it's the cultural metropolis of Taipei, the extremely convenient and active capital city, the more rural countryside of ChangHua, or somewhere in between. There really is something for everyone in Taiwan, and living costs are comparably low countrywide.
Even in the more expensive Taipei, it's possible to save over $500 USD per month, and significantly more outside the city.
Ask anyone who has been what they think of Taiwan, and they'll mention the people. Taiwanese really are unwavering in their friendliness and helpfulness towards foreigners. They lack the shyness that might prevent other Asian nationals from helping you. If a Taiwanese person sees you in need, they'll step forward and help.
This is particularly useful when you first arrive and have trouble reading the Chinese menus or catching the bus!
Taiwan wasn't named "Beautiful Island" (Isle de Formosa) by the Portuguese for nothing, it really is a beautiful place, with some breathtaking experiences. Even the cities can capture the imagination, and then there's the tourist spots:
Taroko Gorge River - Hualien
Kenting - South of Taiwan
Taipei - Capital of Taiwan
The Food and Culture
Perhaps one of Taiwan’s most precious things is its food. Taiwanese could talk about food for a long time, and even the news likes to report on local restaurants.
It's a food lover’s paradise, and you'll find great food from all over the world. They even have great European and Western food.
The night markets are something special as well.
While Taiwan might be a little less westernized than some other Asian countries (Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia), it is like a hidden gem. English teachers may flock to Japan or Korea, but the ones who choose Taiwan embrace their secret discovery, and many of them stay for a long time.
Due to the inherent friendliness and relative innocence of the country and its people, it's a lot easier to fall in love with the place in a short period of time.
How To Teach English in Taiwan
Now you've got a better insight into the country itself, how do you go about getting a job there?
The first thing you'll need to do is make sure you meet the requirements. Since most jobs you'll find are for cram schools, we'll start here.
In order to qualify for a work permit to teach English in Taiwan (which in turn qualifies you for a resident visa), you must be a passport holder from a native English-speaking country. This means The UK, US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, or South Africa.
This is a legal requirement and unfortunately isn't negotiable, regardless of your English ability.
You'll also need to hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited University. It doesn't matter the subject you took, as long as you have a copy of the certificate (in English).
A TEFL or equivalent qualification isn't required for the work permit, but it IS highly recommended. The better qualified you are, the more hirable you are. Many places will hire you with an introductory or online TEFL, but a CELTA or Trinity Cert TESOL will open even more doors (and get your application higher up the pile).
You can view a list of places we recommend for getting qualified here.
As for International Schools or government-run Elementary and High Schools, you'll need a teaching license from your home country, such as a PGCE, or State Teaching Certification.
Most cram schools pay an hourly rate. The starting rate varies from around 550nt to 600nt per hour, and pay rises can see you go as high as 700nt.
You should be wary of schools offering a higher rate, as it usually means they are compensating for something else, such as lack of support, teaching materials, or poor teacher retention.
You should also remember to consider the whole picture when checking pay rates; is there any support offered? Any western management? Will you follow a syllabus or have to design your own? How much holiday allowance is there?
Other factors you should consider are listed here.
New teachers tend to do best in large schools with multiple branches and western management. The benefits of this are almost intangible.
Here are the companies that we recommend:
Hess - Hess is the largest chain of schools in Taiwan, with over 500 teachers employed. They even have their own publishing arm and book stores.
It’s a great entry company to work for as a beginner. You’ll be given excellent training, have supportive western management, and will benefit from having many other western coworkers.
There are also schools all over Taiwan, making it easy to find a position.
Shane - Shane is another large chain, with similar advantages to Hess (western management, excellent support and training), and an equally large number of schools throughout Taiwan.
Shane is also a British English school, so if you’re from the UK, they’d love to have you. They do not exclusively hire people from the UK though. Any suitable candidate is welcome.
Kojen - Just like Shane and Hess, Kojen is a very large chain with a great reputation. It also has good training, western management, and a great working environment.
Giraffe - “English is a beginning; character is forever”. The Giraffe philosophy is one that enables them to create an active and engaged learning experience, allowing kids to learn with a passion. If you’re an equally passionate teacher, Giraffe will want to hear from you.
American Eagle - With over 40 schools throughout Taiwan, American Eagle is another well managed chain. This is an institute that closely follows the American educational system, creating a “first language” learning environment.
The above five schools all offer planned curricula as well, making them the ideal choice for inexperienced teachers.
What’s also excellent about them is that they are more than just “cram schools”. While many language schools exist purely to help students pass their exams and meet parental expectations, these five provide English immersion environments.
They understand that English is more than just memorizing sentences. This makes your role as a teacher much more rewarding, and your qualification more highly sought after.
This is where a lot of misinformation comes from. There are many websites and forums that will claim the best way to get a job is to turn up in Taiwan and walk into schools or check local job boards. This is usually a bad idea.
There are dozens of people who try this, and few of them find a good job. Typically a school wants someone with experience, commitment, and good references. A lot of “walk-in” teachers are unreliable and in many cases unqualified, which has made schools wary of these types.
The few schools who WILL accept teachers off the street tend to rely on this as their only means of hiring, and generally just want a foreign face to show off to parents. This isn't the type of school you want to work for.
Besides, there are other issues; what happens if your tourist visa expires before you secure a resident visa? What happens if the school you find won’t sponsor you for a work permit? What happens if they don’t pay you?
It’s always going to be more prudent to get a secure offer (contract signed) from a reputable school before you go.
Applying For Positions
There are several ways of going about this. You can contact schools directly, or you can go through a recruitment agency. Since recruitment agencies are free for you to use (they get paid by the schools), there is no problem in going through them.
They always have good relationships with the top schools, have a proven track record of hiring decent teachers, and will be able to give you a more neutral opinion on any job offers you get.
Ignore any negativity you might have read online about going through recruitment agencies. They have your best interests at heart – if you don’t like your job and leave, they don’t get paid.
They WANT you to like your job. We explained more about this here.
Here are five reasons a newcomer should choose a recruitment agency:
- They have access to a wider variety of job positions.
- In many cases they were (or still are) teachers themselves.
- Recruiters are very knowledgeable about the position and country you’re going to.
- Good recruiters will make sure you are 100% satisfied with the contract terms.
- Their recommendations about candidates are trusted by top schools. If they like you, so will the school.
If you want to talk to us about helping you find a job in Taiwan, you can do so here.
Top Tips For Interview And Selection Processes
Once you've applied for positions or to an agency, there are still some things you’ll need to do to demonstrate that you’re a worthy candidate. As explained earlier, it’s a competitive industry and you need to prove that you’re the best for the job.
1.) Remember what job you’re applying for. Keep your emails and cover letters polite, professional, and with good English!
2.) When asked to include a photo, make it a professional looking photo. It doesn't have to be passport-esque, but try not to start sending in photos of yourself on the beach or down the pub. Do feel free to show that you have a friendly nature and good personality though (more on this here).
3.) Keep the practice of good etiquette going throughout the entire process, during the interview, in every email you send, and so on. Every communication should be appropriate.
4.) Make your CV/Resume highlight your good points (tips here).
5.) Research Taiwan and have good reasons on hand why you want to go.
6.) Research the job/school and have good reasons for why you would be suitable.
7.) Double check the application process, make sure you meet the requirements and include ALL required documents.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the average living cost in Taiwan?
This really depends on where you stay. Taipei is the most expensive part of the country, but even there the living costs are relatively low. You can get by on 20-30,000nt (including rent, food, entertainment) a month.
It all depends whether you prefer to save money, or experience as much as you can.
Outside of Taipei the costs are a lot lower. Rent is cheaper (and for bigger apartments too), food is cheaper, and there is less to do, which makes saving even easier.
How long is the average contract?
It differs per school/institution, but the average contract is usually 12 months long. This is a great length for your first contract. It’s long enough that you really get to experience the country and culture, but short enough that time will fly by, and before you know it, you’ll be ready for the next stage of your life (or signing a new contract!)
What Is The Teaching Experience Like?
The majority of jobs involve teaching children, but there are still a large amount of adult jobs. Many schools will also offer classes to both. The better schools (such as those mentioned above) will provide you with extensive training and support for working with young learners, and you will usually have a Taiwanese classroom assistant to help as well.
The teaching experience, like most teaching jobs, can be very rewarding and enjoyable. Taiwanese children are good natured and easily entertained. They are also curious about foreigners and will naturally like you.
Is It Easy To Travel Around Taiwan and The Rest Of Asia?
Taiwan is a great base for travelling around the rest of Asia. Everything is 2-3 hours away, and there are quite a few low-cost airlines around now. There are several opportunities during the year for time off to travel, such as Chinese New Year (a 7-10 day break). Admittedly airfares can be more expensive during this time, so it’s important that you choose a school with decent holiday allowance.
Again, the larger schools with western management mentioned above will offer more holiday leave, typically 2 weeks in the first year (in addition to all national holidays).
As well as travelling around Asia, you’ll find great experiences travelling around Taiwan itself. The High Speed Rail on the west coast makes it very easy to get from one end of the country to another, and even the most inaccessible parts of the country are not incredibly difficult to get to.
Teaching in Taiwan is an amazing experience and something you’ll remember for the rest of your life. It’s important though that you think it through carefully before you go, do your research, and prepare thoroughly.
Using a recruitment agency is a great way of not only finding a job, but getting all the advice you need. It also means that you can continue to work (or study your TEFL, CELTA etc) while someone else does the hard part of matching you with a position.
It’s no small commitment to decide to head to another country for a year or more, but with Taiwan, the commitment becomes enjoyment very quickly.
If you’ve got any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. Every comment gets read and replied to here at TEFLOne.