Teaching is a rewarding profession. Sure, the pay isn't all that great compared to some other occupations, but it certainly has its perks. The benefits are good, and sometimes there are discounts that can be taken advantage of. It's also one of the only jobs where one can get the summer off. Most importantly, teachers help to pave he way to the future, contributing knowledge that will help others better their lives.
If teaching is a career that you want to embark upon, you have many choices. One of the biggest choices that you will have to make is where you want to teach. Teaching in your home country can be seen as a patriotic undertaking, and of course, you can stay in your comfort zone. Teaching overseas, however, can appeal to the call of adventure, and teaching in Asia is one way that many young college graduates pay off their debt and see the world. Which will you choose?
Teaching in Asia: It's All About Money
If you decide to teach in Asia, chances are that you will be teaching at an English language institution, such as Web or English First. Companies such as these offer decent salaries, and depending on which country you are living in, you might make enough to live like a lord. In China, for instance, foreign English teachers make about three times as much as the average Chinese person, and get paid more for doing less work than their Chinese coworkers.
Making good money right out of college is an appealing choice, especially when many graduates will find themselves underemployed with loans to pay off. In comparison to teaching in America, teaching in Asia has a low barrier of entry for English-speaking foreigners, so one can avoid having to go through additional education or the credentialing process.
There is also the thrill of being in a new environment that beckons teachers to take the plunge into Asia. Experience in a foreign land and among different cultures can look good on a resume, and it is a great way to get some classroom experience without having to jump through hoops.
However, there are downsides to teaching abroad for those that are really interested in making a career in education. Teaching in language institutions like EF (English/Education First) is all about the money. Your experience will depend upon which branch that you end up teaching at, but the company and other companies like it mainly care about how much money they can make from students and parents rather than preparing them for the real world. Business is about making money, but as an educator, I felt that students were being short-changed in order to get them to sign up for more classes.
Unless you are teaching at an international school or local government school (the former of which pays well, but may require a teaching credential from your home country), your experience as an educator might not be too relevant to your career path. In some cases, foreigners are just used as “dancing monkeys” and living advertisements rather than real teachers. This makes Asia more of a young person's game, although experienced retired teachers from the West may find it affordable to live in Asia while making additional money. It would be a welcome break from the rowdy kids in America.
Teaching in America: The Wild, Wild West
Compared to teaching in Asia, teaching in America will have a higher barrier of entry, with the exception of some private schools. In my personal experience, although private schools may not require credentials, they just about always require membership in some sort of organization, including religion. This, coupled with my disillusionment with American society, drive me to teach in China for a year.
Depending on the Asian country that you want to teach in, teaching in America may come with benefits that are not available overseas, such as retirement and insurance. The pay will also be higher, but this comes at the expense of having to take the time and money to get credentialed, and residing in a nation where the costs of living are likely higher. If you are looking purely at finance, then you will certainly want to keep these things in mind. A higher paycheck does not always result in more wealth if you are spending the majority of each month's earnings just to survive.
Being able to teach adults was also a major upside to teaching in Asia compared to America. A person teaching adults in the States will likely be forced to pursue a doctorate to teach at the college level, or they will be teaching remedial education. Kids are nice, but they can be too rambunctious for my tastes. If I had to choose, however, I'd still choose Chinese kids over Americans, since in my experience, they are better-behaved. Your mileage may vary though.
Being back in the States isn't all bad, however. Creature comforts are more readily available in the West, especially given that it is the country and culture that I know. This might have little to do with teaching directly, but life outside of your job should be taken into account as well. As far as the American classroom is concerned, there is also more room for creativity among students. Freedom of expression is cherished more in the West, and is likely a better atmosphere for teaching the humanities.
Whether you want to teach in Asia or America, realize that your role as an educator is vital. Some are drawn to teach for the money, some for the chance to travel, some for the vacation, and others to help budding minds of all ages. Whatever your reason for entering the classroom is, you will want to make sure that you are in an environment best suited to maximize your abilities as an educator. America may be better for some, while Asia may provide better opportunities for others. It may even be a good idea to learn about multiple educational systems and teach in both!