109 | Exploring International Teaching Opportunities | Scott & Rob

109 | Exploring International Teaching Opportunities | Scott & Rob

Scott, a math teacher in Santiago, Chile, and Rob, a blogger at Getting Canned, share their experiences teaching abroad, including the financial and lifestyle benefits, and the how-to for making it happen.

  • Scott Barrett, Brad’s brother, completed a bachelor’s in psychology, then earned his masters for free through the New York City Teaching Fellows program, then taught for three years in the city.
  • When Scott finished his education, he had about $30k of student debt.
  • It’s difficult to save money, or even just make ends meet, earning just a teacher’s salary. What strategies did Scott use to optimize his finances?
  • Rob, a former systems analyst who lost his job in 2008, found overseas teaching opportunities in the summer of 2010, after two years of unemployment.
  • General requirements for teaching English abroad:
    • From an English-speaking country
    • A bachelor’s degree, of almost any sort.
  • How did Scott learn more about teaching abroad, and what was his process for finding a job?
  • There is a very wide range of compensation for teaching in the U.S. ($30k – $200k), but teaching at the middle and high school level is often on the low end of the range.
  • Rob’s compensation for teaching in Taiwan was about $18 an hour, but he also received free room and board, with a 20-hour-a-week schedule.
  • A lower cost of living – including health care – is a huge benefit when considering compensation abroad.
  • Scott accepted a job teaching middle-school math at a top-tier international school because it offered an excellent compensation package:
    • Salary
    • Quality of life
    • Relocation assistance
    • Local housing
    • Travel assistance for visiting home
    • Resigning bonuses
  • Many top-tier international schools are taught entirely in English.
  • Finding a job at a school similar to Scott’s is very competitive. What gives someone an edge?
  • Rob recommends teaching English abroad for someone that’s almost reached financial independence.
  • Scott’s take-home pay has doubled compared to his salary in Virginia; he now saves about 80% of his income.
  • Traveling within Asia can be very inexpensive.
  • Where does Scott recommend for teaching abroad?
  • Scott and his wife are planning to take a sabbatical year next year to spend time in Europe and Asia.
  • How do Scott and Kristen plan to optimize travel expenses?
  • Rob recently moved back to Taiwan to teach and travel, after about four years working a corporate job in the U.S.

Listen to Brad and Jonathan's thoughts about this episode here.

Links mentioned in today's show:

Search Associates

International School Services

International TEFL Academy

Trusted Housesitters Full Disclosure: We earn a commission if you click this link at no additional cost to you.

Getting Canned

International Teacher’s Life


JL Collins NH

“Long Term Unemployment” – Getting Canned

“The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement” – Mr. Money Mustache


Your Financial Resilience Toolkit

Affiliate Disclaimer

ChooseFI seeks to uncover helpful services that help you be financially resilient. However, we may receive compensation, at no cost to you, from the issuers of some products mentioned in this article, including from CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Opinions are the author’s alone, and this content has not been provided by, reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of these entities. See our disclosures for more info.

Save on Existing Loans

Save On Living Expenses

Save & Invest

Financial Emergency Prep

16 thoughts on “109 | Exploring International Teaching Opportunities | Scott & Rob”

  1. Hi! International (licensed) teacher here. I’ve taught in Kuwait, Beijing and am now near Shanghai, and all jobs were supplied for free via teachaway.com (no fee required like Search Associates, and my colleagues often use SA and teachaway.com equally). This resource is huge—no in-person interviews required, the site offers listings for ESL and licensed teachers, and once you fill in the very thorough application, you can apply to dozens of jobs with one click! (I’m not paid by them in any way—just think they’re an important resource to add :))

    • That was one aspect of job searching that I loved about teaching English. It was as job searching ought to be. In my experience, you would send them your resume and maybe a copy of your college degree. There was no hours spent filling out dozens of fields in a Taleo database which contains everything that is already in your resume. As someone who has taught in different countries and regions, how much variance in salary did you see?

  2. This was a great show. I wish I would have considered this as an option years ago. My wife does teach with vip kid and loves it. She works about 20 hours a week and its a good steady side income. She started a website about it at http://teachwithvipkid.com and would be a good source for those considering this option. Keep up the good work. thanks

    • Thanks appreciate it that you enjoyed the show. I was no spring chicken when I was overseas teaching..I was around age 33 to 37. I think if you are doing the online thing it can qualify as your own business income which can set you up to be able to contribute to retirement accounts. Of course, check with your accountant on setting it up properly.

  3. Thank you for having Rob and Scott on the show to share two perspective on international teaching. I really enjoyed this episode and will use it as a beginning for my own research. Teaching at an international school could be an exciting option for me in a couple of years.

    • Rob here…thanks Sara. It’s definitely an exciting direction to take life. One nugget I wanted to drop on the cast I forgot to mention is an unexpected takeaway from world travel. Of course, when you visit other cultures and countries you fully expect to learn about them. But what I didn’t expect was to learn and understand more about my own American culture when looking at it differently from an outside perspective.

      If you’re researching the outlook on teaching feel free to hit my blog and download the free teaching in Asia guide I wrote up. (Shameless plug end) . Thanks again and wish you the best.

  4. Another link mentioned in this show was “Dave’s ESL Cafe” (eslcafe.com). It’s a great job board for both the credentialed/experienced teacher, as well as the fresh college grad with no professional experience at all (working or teaching). The site offers three job boards to narrow your search – China, Korea and International (plenty of Latina American and Middle Eastern jobs on this one). I used this site to land a teaching gig in Honduras, and while not the most lucrative location, I was still able to save money each month due to having very few living expenses, paid room and board, and round-trip airfare paid by the school.

  5. I began my teaching career abroad, living two years in Prague and three years in France. It was a great foundation when I came back to the states and got certified to teach in MA. As the guests mentioned, teacher pay is very unequal in the US, and even sometimes within states. In many high-paying districts, teachers can earn six-figure income after about 12-15 years of experience. This information is all public record; you just have to search “salary schedule + town name” and you’ll find it. I really enjoyed the conversation and it has me missing the experience of living abroad. It’s the ultimate slow travel!

    • Hey Eric,

      Do you ever think about heading back abroad? I really missed Taiwan the past four years of working in the corporate world, which is why I went back. It feels great to be back and live that simpler life at a fraction of the cost of American life. It’s hard to explain it, but in some parts of the world somehow life is just less complicated.

  6. It was wonderful that you Mentioned VIPKIDs online teaching, I have been with them for a year and they are a wonderful way to support FI either from the US to side hustle, but they also support Nomad Teachers.
    You do need to have a bachelors (in any field), teaching experience / certification and TEFL / TESOL (but if not they will train you in TESOL VIPKID).
    I believe and work for this company and this is a direct referral link
    ( https://t.vipkid.com.cn/mkt/landing/personal?referralToken=1596884950df5a0aab3acad7fc249d8d&refereeId=13311077 )
    to the company application and people can also send me questions to:

    [email protected]

    • I would love to hear from any accountants out there, but I want to say that my understanding is, that if you teach online, you can consider this income to be income for your US-based business. This means you could live anywhere to keep cost low, while earning a US-based salary to keep earning social security credits and contribute to an IRA or solo 401k which is huge. Can any accountants chime in on this one? I’d love to have a post contribution from a professional on this one. Maybe we can work something out. Thanks.

  7. What do use for an address in the US for your brokerage accounts? I’m not talking about receiving statements, I’m talking about legal residency requirements dictated by the Patriot Act?

    • Your legal address will be wherever you are living, so it would be your overseas address. The biggest issue that will likely arise is non-US residents cannot purchase mutual funds or have managed accounts, but residents of most countries can still purchase ETFs and stocks.

  8. I’m glad ChooseFI did this episode. I’ll be 62 in March and will go overseas to teach English sometime this year. I’m still weighing a couple of training options in South America. I’ll be able to save my SS and military retirement to help make my Golden Years a bit more comfortable. I’m looking at this as a working vacation.

  9. Thank you all for the great podcast. We just learned about FIRE and ChooseFi about about a year ago. This is our 13th year living/working international. We work for an organization, Quality Schools International and are currently in Shenyang, China. Working international has allowed us to become debt free and helped us on our path the FI.

Leave a Comment