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Teach English in Malaysia

Experience a New World with Western Comforts in Southeast Asia

by Emile Alexander Dodds

Skyline of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Skyline of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which is spectacular at night with its famous twin towers.

English teachers are definitely in demand in Malaysia, although not as much as in China, Vietnam, Thailand, South Korea, or Japan. Don’t expect to arrive on Friday and find a job by Monday as you can in some places. You need to put in a bit of an effort, starting before you even get here.

I very much doubt that you will be able to secure a job before you get here, although some schools advertise on the Web. Malaysian employers will want to put you through a full interview and then consider carefully before employing you. What you can do is to start compiling a list of schools, language centers, and colleges that you can call when you get here (see below).

You should reckon on taking about a month to find a job here. During that time, a cheap hotel or guest house will run you $15 - $20 a day, and you can eat for about $5 a day.

Check the newspapers every day for job listings, especially The Star and look on Most places do not mind if you just call up and ask for a chance to come in and talk to them. They will expect you to bring a copy of your resume and to dress smartly, which means slacks, a shirt and tie (Malaysians don’t usually wear jackets due to the tropical climate).

There is quite a variation in the salaries offered for English teachers. The British Council and the international schools pay the best. Colleges and universities are surprisingly not the top payers.

Jobs here will give you good experience as you are likely to be teaching foreign students as well as Malaysians. Most language teaching centers have computer labs and modern facilities.

Getting the Visa

Waterfall under a bridge in the countryside of Malaysia.
Waterfall under a bridge in the countryside of Malaysia.

Getting a visa is reasonably straightforward, yet time-consuming. You are likely to have to wait three to six months before getting approved by immigration, although the government is taking steps to speed this up. During that time, you will be on a social visit pass, and you may have to leave the country and reenter via Singapore or Thailand if the process takes over three months.

Generally, immigration will not entertain applications from teachers under 25 years of age and they are unlikely to be happy if you have spent time in Israel. Israeli citizens will definitely not be able to get a work permit. Teachers from countries where English is not the native tongue may also find it difficult to get a permit.

Choose your job carefully because it is not always easy to change jobs. Technically, you must leave the country for six months before taking up a position with a new employer although there are ways around this.

Other Jobs

As Malaysia is a fast-developing country, there is a lot of work for engineers, IT specialists, and architects. But as with many other countries, English teachers are always in most need. Teachers of other subjects can find jobs in the various international schools in the main cities.

Some expatriates manage to set up a thriving restaurant, pub, or café. If you are thinking of trying your hand at this, it would be a good idea to get some experience working in a local hotel first to get an idea of the fickle local tastes.

Living in Malaysia

The capital of Malaysia is Kuala Lumpur, or KL, and this is basically where the jobs are. KL is a modern city with skyscrapers, modern highways, shopping malls galore and plenty in the way of entertainment. However, it is still a developing city, so it has its share of slums and all the problems associated with a developing city: overcrowded buses, poor service in some shops, and a whole host of things that don’t work properly. English is widely spoken, sometimes well, sometimes badly. There are four daily English newspapers, three or four TV channels that feature mainly English programs, and plenty of English radio stations. Malaysians prefer to use British English, so Americans may have to adapt accordingly.

The Malay majority are moderate Muslims; they don’t drink alcohol or eat pork. Religion is a sensitive topic, along with sex and politics. The Chinese and Indian minorities generally get along and Malaysia is known for its harmony and stability. The one thing everyone agrees on is food and Malaysians spend a lot of their time eating. You can even find plenty of places to eat at four in the morning.

If you live in Malaysia you will probably have to work hard, but you will be exposed to all kinds of different cultures. On weekends, you can travel around the country and visit the islands. You can get to Singapore and Thailand easily by bus, train, or plane. Language is not a problem. Basically, you can experience a whole new world without giving up the "Western" comforts to which we are accustomed.

Recuiting Firms and Language Schools in Malaysia

Reach To Teach is a recruiting firm with job placements in Malaysia.

Teach Away is another recruiting firm that places teachers.

British Council

Related Topics
Teaching English in Asia: Articles, Programs, and Jobs
Living in Malaysia: Expatriate Resources

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