Assuming you've done your homework and read some of our job application and interview tips, you will likely receive your first job offer! The most impending question you'll have is, "Should I accept?"
We've dealt with a large number of schools in our time placing teachers in Asia. You'll find some excellent schools that offer an abundance of support and benefits...and you'll find some not so good schools as well. To a teacher on the receiving end of an offer, it's sometimes pretty hard to find out more about your particular school. This article is going to cover the things you need to consider when making your decision, and how to do proper "due diligence".
Question One: Salary
How much you'll be earning is a big one. Usually being an English teacher in Asia pays very well, and saving money should be reasonably easy. That said, if you don't look at other factors and only focus on the final sum, you could risk setting yourself up for a mistake. You definitely need to look at the bigger picture, which we'll go into in the rest of this article.
When you do consider the salary though, here are some things to look at.
How does the salary compare with the average for the country? You can usually find this out by doing a few forum checks or Google searches, and often this information is readily available. Also, look at average living expenses in the country of choice to figure out whether or not you'll be able to save. You should probably drill this search further and check out your CITY of choice as well, as capital cities will have higher living expenses.
Is the salary per hour or per month? Some positions will pay you hourly and others offer a standard salary. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. If the position is hourly pay, is there a guarantee in place to ensure you still earn something if your hours drop too low? Many of the schools we work with have this in place.
Is holiday paid or unpaid? This isn't usually the deal-breaker with taking a job, but it's definitely good to consider. Flights home can be costly, so if you are being paid while you are abroad, that will be a very good perk (though not essential).
Question Two: Support
An often overlooked factor is the level of support provided by schools. This isn't just in terms of providing a curriculum. Many schools provide teaching materials and a lesson plan, but do they offer any more support? Do they meet the teacher at the airport, help them find accommodation, give them training when they arrive (and on-going), or help them meet friends? This is a huge factor in getting settled in and avoiding culture shock.
You'll definitely want to give serious consideration to any jobs with this kind of a support system in place.
Question Three: Bonuses
Some schools might start you off on a lower salary than the average for the country, but there will often be bonuses provided to make up for it. This can be pay rises every 6 months rather than annually, performance-based bonuses like student retention, contract completion bonuses, or even a flight reimbursement. There are some schools and companies that we work with who are willing to reimburse your flight out to your country. Like we said earlier, you need to look at the bigger picture.
Question Four: Management
This is similar to the support system, but independent enough to be a separate question. Many schools, large chain schools in particular, have a head office and management system. Management positions are usually occupied by fellow foreigners too, the vast majority having been teachers previously. This is great for several reasons:
- Having a native-English speaker as a manager has many, many perks.
- Having a westerner who understands you culturally is beneficial.
- They've been in your situation and can give you excellent advice.
- There's a strong chance that you can become a manager one day too. Great for career advancement!
Don't underestimate the benefits of being able to call up your head office and speak to someone who originates from your home country with any issues you might have.
Question Five: Culture
The culture of the country/city that you are heading to is massive. Many teachers head straight to the Middle-East, chasing the largest salary. A lot of them end up reapplying for positions in Asia a few months later. They hadn't looked at the bigger picture. While countries like Saudi Arabia might offer great salaries, they don't offer the best lifestyle. Cultural differences are vitally important and Asia is generally considered the best place to teach English abroad. Locals are friendly, the cost of living is low, there are many other expats to meet and get along with, and the culture is more accessible than other regions.
Equally important, even small countries will differ from city to city. Take Taiwan for example. Many teachers choose Taipei and have a great time there. If they wanted to save more money though, they'd be better off choosing ChangHua or Hsinchu, where the cost of living is generally lower and there are fewer western conveniences to spend money on. It really depends on what your needs and goals are.
Question Six: Legal Issues
Most schools are pretty good at this, but not all. If you need a visa, work permit, or other license to work in a particular country, you NEED to check whether or not they will provide it. You don't want to arrive in a country only to find out you are working illegally and risk getting fined, deported, and banned from the country.
You also need to find out whether you'll be offered a formal contract. This should be a no-brainer, so make sure there is one for you to sign.
Question Seven: School Reputation
One other thing you need to consider is the school's reputation. How long has it been around? How many branches does it have? It's not always a case of the more schools the better, but having many branches is a good sign of success.
When searching around the Net, do make sure to take any complaints with a pinch of salt. It only takes one person with a bad experience to hold a grudge and write how bad a school is on a forum. There might be a thousand people who loved working at the school that never thought to leave a glowing review! (Usually people take to the Internet to vent or complain rather than praise). If you're not sure whether to trust a school, go back and review questions two, three, four, and six. Then go with your instincts.
Summary: Look At The Bigger Picture!
It should be clear to you by now that salary definitely isn't the only factor when reviewing a job offer. In many cases a high salary is there to cover up other failures or a lack of support. Do your due diligence where possible, ask questions where appropriate (from more than one source), and bear in mind that the larger chain schools are usually the best starting point or stepping stone into a new country.
If you're still in doubt about a school, ask to be put in touch with some of their teachers. Moving to a new country is a big deal and you want to be absolutely sure of everything before you go.