The late 1990s was the Golden era of English teaching in Asia. South Korea led the way, offering North American graduates round trip airfare, free housing, $2,000 a month in salary and an extra month’s bonus pay upon end of contract. Japan was a close second, offering the same money, less benefits, and a free-wheeling culture at the top of the global economy.

Soon after the Japanese economy tanked, the English teaching industry collapsed as well.

English teaching in Asia: 2017 status

The Asia teaching market is saturated: too many teachers, stagnant salaries, and higher expectations. In China, licensed North American teachers are in high demand. Fresh graduates from Ivy league colleges are in huge demand, as many are willing to work for intern stipends.

As a result, the days of backpacker teaching have passed. Fortunately, for those seeking cash for ‘teaching’ in the style of the Golden Years, the Internet has provided.

Teaching English online in 2015

Recollections from a teacher who taught online for money in 2015:

Teaching English online: the basics

Aside from housing (a quiet controlled space), laptop and wired internet, you need a headset, video cam and clean background. Skype over wifi is very shaky for cross-country video conferencing, unusable for video conferencing.

Teach English to Chinese kinds using SKype

Teach English to Chinese kinds using SKype

If you have no teaching qualifications, it’s easy to say that you do. Just put it on a resume. If you can talk to little kids in a native accent, you can get the job. A few employers I’ve dabbled with in the past year include VIP Kid and Talk915. Another great option is the Facebook group Online ESL Reviews.


Impressions after one month full-time

I made enough to survive, but just barely. You will earn enough to survive, but just barely. You will risk your mental health.

In most cases, you work for China-based operations. Other teachers were from the Philippines, some Africans, Russians, you name it. They pay via Paypal and I’ve never had an issue with pay. It’s legit.

Classes are 25 minutes long. Most of the students are Chinese kids between 3-6 years old, with a few surly teenagers mixed in. Moms often sit in on lessons and flirt with you. It’s a lot of pressure. You get a 5 minute break between classes and then do it again.

Teach little Chinese kids as their moms watch you

Teach little Chinese kids as their moms watch you

It’s really hard. This Reddit post captures the horror succinctly enough:

Am burnt out from the dead-ended nature of teaching Chinese kids English everyday…

I cannot live without this job. It is in theory pretty sweet; I get to make my own hours, the classes are not intensive and the pay is about 10.50 USD per 25 min class. I never had too many payment issues, etc. It is just that this sucks to do everyday and I am not happy, but need it to survive.