Teach English in Taiwan: What You Need to Know
|View of Taipei.
Many questions arise when you are preparing to go teach English in Taiwan. What if I cannot find a job? Can I find one before I go? Will I need an English teaching certificate? If so, which is better, TOEFL or TESL? Where is the best place to live?
This article answers some of the most commonly asked questions posed by first time teachers including:
- Do I qualify to teach?
- How do I get a visa?
- Do I need a teaching certificate?
- How much money will I make?
- How much tax will I pay?
- What kinds of jobs are available?
- Where should I live?
Please note that since some of these answers are time specific (laws governing visa requirements and taxation change occasionally) important points should be double-checked using the links provided at the end of the article.
Do I Qualify to Teach?
The first question anybody should ask is, “Do I qualify to teach English in Taiwan?” The answer to this question is 2-fold.
First, almost anybody who speaks English fluently can teach English in Taiwan. But, speaking English is not the only requirement to legally obtain a teaching visa. Many people live in Taiwan and teach under the table without visas. This is possible for anyone who speaks English fluently, though it carries deportation risks if you are caught.
If you want to teach legally you must obtain a visa, which in turn enables you to obtain your Alien Resident Card (ARC).
To qualify for a teaching visa, you must have:
- A degree from a recognized Western University.
- A passport that is good for at least six months from the entry date, from one of the following recognized English-speaking countries: United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and South Africa.
- A 90-day visitor visa. For more information on obtaining this visa, keep reading.
How Do I Get a Visa?
If you are planning to work in Taiwan, do not tell immigration. This is very important. Tell them that you are traveling. You must do this because of a strange glitch in Taiwan’s visa laws. Although the 90-day visa can be legally changed into a work visa after you find a job, if you tell the immigration office that you plan to work in Taiwan they may deny you the visa and tell you that you need a working visa. The problem is that in order to get a working visa, you need proof of employment (a contract with a school).
Do not let telling this fib worry you. Taiwan’s bureaucracy is as flawed as any, and runarounds are common. This is an everyday practice and most teachers enter the country this way. It is not illegal. It is just working with an imperfect system, the same sort of imperfect systems you will find across the world, in reality.
Do I Need a Teaching Certificate?
As a note, teachers with Education degrees are given preference for teaching jobs, and teaching certificates (TEFL) are now generally preferred as well to demonstrate your competency to teach. Not surprisingly, people with postgraduate education (MA’s and PhD’s) have a much better chance of landing better-paying jobs, such as University teaching positions, which generally require a minimum of a Master’s Degree.
How Much Money Will I Make?
The normal starting wage for an English teacher in Taiwan is NT$600 per hour. At the time of writing that was approximately US$20 per hour, but exchange rates change, so check your favorite online currency converter. Some schools will start teachers at up to NT$700 per hour. A very few long-term teachers make in excess of NT$1000 (US$32) per hour. Most teachers work at least 20 hours a week and some a few hours more, so your wages can add up to $1600-$2000 a month in a private school. Public schools pay more but often require an M.A.
I believe that It is important not to accept a wage less than NT$600 per hour. If you do so you are both short-changing yourself and all other teachers by contributing to the deflation of teaching wages.
How Much Tax Will I Pay?
ReachToTeach is an experienced recruiting firm who provide detailed information about the latest tax laws in Taiwan for foreign teachers.
What Kinds of Jobs are Available?
There are several kinds of teaching positions available in Taiwan. They are as follows:
This is the most common employer of English teachers. Buxibans are privately owned after-school schools for children. They are generally open between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. These schools will offer a teacher up to 30 (and occasionally more) teaching hours per week. Full-time work at a buxiban is considered 25+ hours per week.
Probably the second most common employers of English teachers are Kindergartens, which are unfortunately illegal. The law states that children are not allowed to learn English before Grade 1. Kindergartens are occasionally raided, and teachers occasionally deported, but for the most part schools know in advance about raids (through connections), or will have a plan in case of a raid. Kindergartens generally operate from 8 a.m. to 3:30 or 4 p.m., but starting and ending hours may vary. Kindergartens, despite their illegality, are commonplace and often are able to give teachers work permits through association with a buxiban.
Many teachers prefer private students because the money is good and they are less stressful to teach than large classes of children. The hourly wage tends to be better as it is negotiated directly with the student or the student’s parents. The best paying jobs that I have ever heard of were private lessons for small groups where teachers made more than triple the average teaching wage.
Teachers generally find private students by advertising on the Web, handing out business cards, and through personal connections.
Public school teaching jobs are harder to come by and generally better than other buxiban and kindergarten jobs. They usually offer above average pay, better benefits, and are tax-free (though this is not always the case.) Some have been known to offer half-pay for summer holidays. Public Schools are generally open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and usually offer teachers more hours than other jobs. Although some public schools require a teaching degree, most positions are open to any native speaker with a BA degree, or preferably an MA degree with experience.
These are very coveted and hard-to find jobs, generally filled by long-term expatriates. They normally pay much better than average wages and require a minimum of a Master’s Degree. The hours are extremely variable, including weekends.
Where Should I Live?
Most English teachers decide to live in one of Taiwan’s four major cities on the West coast because they are the most accommodating to English speakers: Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung. Many teachers would prefer to live on the East coast in the cities of Hualien and Taidong because of their proximity to the mountains and beach which provide fabulous scenery. Work, however, is hard to find in these cities. Many people also live in small townships and villages. While cheaper than the cities, these places are generally harder places for non-Chinese speakers to live because there is very little English practiced.
The differences between the four major cities are as follow:
Taiwan’s capital, and home of the world’s tallest building Taipei 101, is probably the most accommodating city for English teachers. English is more commonly spoken here than anywhere else in the country. It is also the epicenter of Taiwan’s publishing industry as well as the arts and music scene.
Being the largest city in the country it is also the most expensive to live in, and being the most accommodating to English speakers, it also has the most English teachers and, thus, fewer available teaching jobs than other cities. This is not to say it’s difficult to find work here. Based upon my experience, it is just not as easy as elsewhere.
Located a few hours South of Taipei, Taichung is also attractive to teachers because it is very accommodating, English is spoken fairly commonly, and the foreign community is mostly located in a small area of the city, which is packed with foreign restaurants, outdoor cafés, and bars. Again, because it is so welcoming to foreigners Taichung has a higher population of teachers than other cities. Therefore, work is somewhat harder to find than in cities to the South.
In recent years the population of teachers has grown quickly in Tainan. The smallest of the four major cities, Tainan is Taiwan’s oldest city, a former capital, and cultural center. Tainan is full of parks and temples and Taiwanese tradition. Of the four major cities, Tainan is probably the easiest place to find a job. However, life here is more difficult for non-Chinese speakers because English speakers and restaurants with English menus are harder to find.
Probably the best pick for the new teacher to Taiwan, Kaohsiung is Taiwan’s second largest, and Southernmost, major city (which places it closest to Taiwan’s biggest beach/surf town, Kenting). Kaohsiung is a growing metropolis. In recent years the government has gone to great lengths to beautify the city. The population of teachers has been growing rapidly due to the relative ease of life and abundance of work here. Also, Kaohsiung’s airport, which just became international in the last few years, has made it an easy place for foreigners to land.
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