Teaching English in Taiwan – A Beginner’s Guide
Bryn from Uniprep school in Taiwan has written this guide to teaching English in Taiwan for us.
Teaching English in Taiwan: a Beginners Guide
Are you a recent college graduate looking for an opportunity to travel, work, and learn abroad? Or, are your student debts forbidding you’re from taking a gap year?
Consider teaching English in Taiwan, a beautiful, lush, modern, democratic country.
Having lived and worked in Taiwan for 7.5 years I’m here to teach you some basics about pursuing work in this country.
Job opportunities in Teaching English in Taiwan-
Unlike many of the ESL seeking countries in East Asia, Taiwan has a myriad of jobs available for recent college graduates. The variation is limited only by your imagination. Do you want to teach preschool? Or work in an after-school program?
Perhaps adult and university teaching jobs are more to your liking? If you know where to look, you can even find work coaching soccer. Likewise, if you have the necessary credentials, you could pursue employment at one of Taiwan’s public or international schools.
Taiwan is also unique in the amount of control you have over your work. Should you choose to pursue Chinese lessons, you could opt for less than 20 hours of employment a week. Conversely, if your goal is to make as much money as possible, you could work up to forty (although expect to mix and match).
Finally, unlike South Korea for example, Taiwan’s visa law allows you to work at more than one school at a time (preschool in the mornings, Buxiban in the afternoons).
What’s a Buxiban?
A Buxiban is a cram school, or an afterschool program catering to all ages. Typically elementary schools end class at noon, forcing working parents, to hire a babysitter, or in this case a Buxiban to tutor their kids.
Most ESL work in Taiwan is centered on the Buxiban. There are also Buxibans for adults, although finding work in these is more difficult. Expect the quality of your Buxiban to vary widely from school to school – as some cater to wealthy students, while others attract lower income families.
You may also wonder which Buxibans are the best to work for in Taiwan but this is very difficult to assess. The reason for this is that each branch of a specific ESL chain has its own management and that’s where the problem lies.
What’s my main recommendation?
Make sure you take a thorough interview with the branch you’re planning to join, get a feel for their management and teaching methods.
What kinds of teaching jobs are there?
Another term you should know is “kindy” which, you guessed it, is short for kindergarten.
Teaching kindergarten falls into a legal gray area in Taiwan. While not expressly illegal, it is considered to be illegal employment, which could result in deportation. However, some feel it is the most satisfying and rewarding work available, and therefore it is often pursued by foreign teachers.
ARC Alien Resident Card – and its desirable older brother the APRC – are terms you will quickly become familiar with in Taiwan. In order to stay in Taiwan, it is important to pursue this year-long visa. Acquiring this important document will also allow you to utilize the NHI.
Taiwan’s NHI or national health insurance is fantastic. It is cheap, provides more than adequate coverage, and clinics are widely available. Typically your boss will pay half your NHI and the rest will come out of your salary.
Wages for teaching English can vary wildly according to how much you work. It’s fair to assume that you should be making around 20 USD an hour. I’d advise that you pursue a job giving you a minimum of 25 hours a week, providing about two thousand USD a month. 60,000 NT or 2000 USD dollars is enough to save money, pay bills, and live well with a low-cost vacation every six months.
I’d also advise you find work that provides an expendable income, as vacation days and cancelled classes will hurt your pocketbook if you’re living paycheck to paycheck.
Some teachers in Taiwan who choose to work 40 plus hours a week will make as much as 5 thousand USD a month. This always seemed ridiculous to me. Who moves to East Asia to spend every waking moment in a basement Buxiban? I advise you find work that is a balance between enjoying the beauty of Taiwan and work.
What do you need to teach in Taiwan?
The main requirement for teaching in Taiwan is a bachelor degree or four-year college equivalent; therefore pack several sealed copies of your transcripts and diploma. A teaching degree is definitely a plus, but being a communications major with a good attitude will get you just as far.
Likewise, a TESOL certification can be to your advantage. Although, having received considerable teacher training personally, I have never had an employer ask about my certification.
For jobs in Taiwan, an online course is ok. You can see here what online TEFL courses we recommend.
However, you’ll need a criminal back ground check. If you have a record of violent, sexual, or other serious crimes, you will not be hired or granted a visa. If you’re American, apply for your FBI back ground check early as processing takes a long time.
Finally, you’ll need to get a health check done at a local hospital. This will scan you for HIV, syphilis and tuberculosis; testing positive for any of these will greatly hurt your chances of receiving a visa. It does not scan for illegal drugs – although I’d strongly advise you avoid these in Taiwan, the death penalty is still applicable.
Taiwan is a unique and beautiful country, with something for everyone. If you’re into hiking, technology, art, surfing, nightlife, or martial arts Taiwan is the place for you!
Likewise, unlike South Korea and China – whose visa regulations are oppressive, and whose horror stories are numerous – Taiwan’s regulations are loose enough to allow you a lot of flexibility in lifestyle. Likewise, Taiwan is a liberal, gay and foreigner friendly, country.
Whether teaching English in the vibrant capital city of Taipei, the ever pounding cultural heartbeat of Tainan, or the Pacific kissed shorelines of Hualien or Taitung, teaching in Taiwan is a rewarding and beautiful life experience.
Bio: Bryn Thomas is a Master of Asia Pacific Studies from National Cheng Chi University in Taipei, Taiwan. His research focus is traditional industries and privatized education and currently works for UNI-Prep Institute. He has over ten years of ESL teaching experience and is an avid practitioner of Ju Jitsu.
If you want to read more about teaching English in Taiwan, check out our interview with Ciaran.