Cost and Profit of Teaching English Abroad

As my date of departure draws nearer, I’m focusing more and more on preparations and planning. As I’ve said before, my intent with the BLOG/VLOG is to share my journey, start to finish. The course I’ve chosen begins on July 23rd. Already, there is much to be done and many circumstances to be considered. So, let’s get started!

Let’s kick it off with a look at what I consider to be the biggest factor in planning to teach English abroad – money. If you are like me, you’ll be asking yourself: How much is this going to cost? How much of that do I already have available? How much more will I need to come up with? When will I need it by? How much will I earn? And, in addition to those questions, you might want to ask yourself: What will I do if it takes months or longer to find a job?


In order to address all of financial concerns, I created five budget spreadsheets – Current, Transition, First Month, Unemployed and Employed. Depending on your own financial resources, you may not feel the need for a detailed forecast of budgeting. Regardless of your circumstances, I highly recommend taking the time create budgets for at least a few of the scenarios if for nothing else, to have a better idea of what is to come.

The Current budget is my right now budget. In it, I list all of my monthly bills and expenses along with my monthly income and resulting savings. Once I made my final decision to teach abroad, I revised this budget, whittling down as many expenditures as possible to maximize my monthly savings. Since that seems pretty common sense, and will vary from person to person, I won’t include my own Current budget in this BLOG. Just know that before you look at where you are going, you need to look at where you’re at.

My Transition budget is an open-ended (not monthly) accounting of all expenses I will incur in my transition from living in the U.S. to teaching in Vietnam. Personally, I consider this the most critical budget of them all. As you’ll see in the spreadsheet on the next page, I have not only included the itemized costs, but also the timeline and method for payment. You may also notice that wherever there is a variable cost range, I choose to lean towards the higher amount for safety.

Though I haven’t included it in my Transition budget, you may also wish to include methods of payment (visa, PayPal, cash, wire transfer, etc.) for each expense. And, if you are so inclined, you might add in source of funds to cover each expenditure (credit, savings, loan, etc.). Knowing what you’ll need to spend, when you need to spend it, and how you’ll cover it are key in effectively planning for and managing your transition. Through careful research of the country you plan to enter, the school you plan to attend, and all associated requirements for entry and self-sufficiency, you should be able to come up with a comprehensive Transition budget of your own.


With respect to my First Month budget, my goal is to accurately document all anticipated expenses during my time in the 4-week TEFL/TESOL course. I think it is important to separate this budget to address the specifics of that unique month which will undoubtedly differ in both expense and income from the months that follow.

For me, knowing what that first month will feel like, what resources it will require, gives me a sense of peace. I like to be prepared and I do not like surprises. Besides, your first few weeks in a new country, undoubtedly overwhelmed by culture shock and unexpected eventualities, is NOT the time be working off the cuff. In my opinion, you should have all your ducks in a row BEFORE jumping in the water!

Depending on country, school and circumstance, yours may be quite different. Regardless of the similarities or differences, I stand by my belief that having a realistic First Month budget is a prerequisite for traveling to teach English abroad.


I consider the Unemployed budget a critical consideration. Most schools and alumni reviews suggest, at least in Vietnam, securing a job is not difficult. Many say you can expect interviews and demo classes within a few days after certification and a solid position within the first couple weeks of searching. In my phone interview with Ninja Teacher, the representative assured me that even though I haven’t taught English before and only hold an Associates Degree, I should have no trouble finding a position within the first 30 days.

Though I appreciate the accounts of others and the encouragement of the school, I remain skeptical. In my mind, the reality is it may take several months to secure employment if I am able to secure it at all. That said, I believe it is very important to take a realistic look at life in country without work. Whether this is the case for you or not, you should at least consider what you will do if it takes a month or two to find employ.

Below is my Unemployed budget. It shows that, even without a teaching position or additional income, I can survive with a modest, but comfortable life in Vietnam. For me, that is a huge relief and an additional motivator for making this move. I will be cutting it close, but at least I know I can make it for as long as I choose to stay.


My final budget, Employed, shows my projected monthly budget with teaching income. Obviously, this is the goal. Not only does this scenario insure my comfort and self-sufficiency, but as you can see, it also affords me the opportunity to work on debt reduction while building savings.

As with all factors, I tend to overestimate expenses while underestimating income. I believe it is much better to be safe than sorry. With respect to the teaching income, my research has showed that hourly pay ranges from as little as $15 to as much as $25. Likewise, hours worked per week tend to range from as little as 10 to as much as 30. I’ve tried to construct this budget at the lower, most reasonable target for both.


In summary, with nearly three months to go before I even enter the country, I have created budgets for the expenses I’ll incur in the transition, my first month in country, my monthly budget without employment, and my monthly budget with the additional income of a teaching position. Additionally, I’ve updated my current monthly budget to optimize savings and cover initial expenses.

In all honesty, I would have discounted this endeavor as unachievable if any of those budgets proved unrealistic for my means. I understand that situations vary. Some people have ample savings to support such a drastic change in life. The cost of living varies from country to country and city to city. The cost of certification various by school and program selected. And, the lifestyle I’m willing to accept may not match the lifestyle you seek. Regardless of those differences, I know that completing these budgets as I have has helped me make my decision and grow more confident in it day by day. I can’t help but believe similar efforts will do the same for you. I’m not suggesting that my approach is perfect. Rather, I’m suggesting that going through a similar process yourself, in a way that suits your specific situation, will assist in both your decision making and underlying confidence in those decisions.

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