You know you want to you know you want to travel and you’re thinking about teaching English. Amazing! That’s where I was in December of 2017 when I decided to blindly take a TEFL course in hopes of creating a new life for myself. Now, nearly two years later, I’ve lived in 3 different countries teaching English abroad, both in person and online.
After receiving my TEFL certification, I had two options: teach English online, or move abroad to teach English. Regardless, I knew I wasn’t going to do it in the same old city I had been living in for the past five years. So that’s when I made the call: I moved to Cambodia to teach English.
I fell in love with teaching ESL to children, and that’s why I’m still here today teaching English online.
In this blog, I will tell you about what I’ve experienced on both ends in terms of job security, income, personal connection and preference. Hopefully it will help you decide whether you want to travel abroad to teach English in-class, or rather, set up on an online platform and bring your classroom around the world with you.
So here we go: the pros and cons of teaching in-class abroad vs. teaching online.
Pros: Teaching abroad in-class | Connecting with the students
- In a classroom, you really get to know the students. You get to spend more time with them. It’s just the truth.
- I spent roughly 10 hours a day with the same 25 students. Now, we all know that if you spend 10 hours a day with anyone, you really get to understand who they are.
- You get the chance to learn all of their quirks, little signals, emotions, how they started their day, what they ate that day, and other contributing factors that make it easier to teach them properly and effectively.
- You get to sit down and speak with their parents. I had the opportunity to talk to the parents in-depth about the children’s goals, dreams, and things we had to work on. I built a trusting relationship with the parents, which made my job a whole lot easier.
This is not to say you cannot connect with students online. You can certainly connect with students online, especially if they are your regulars! That said, I would be lying if I didn’t say I really miss giving students real-life high fives, not just over the screen.
Pros: Teaching English online | Flexibility
- Let’s go back to when I said I was working roughly 10 hours a day in Cambodia. Yep, I would get to school around 6:00am and leave around 5:45pm.
- You’ve heard it before. Obviously a huge benefit of teaching English online is that you get to choose your own hours.
- On the platform I’m on, I get to pick my own schedule – so I have the opportunity to get what I put into it. Sometimes I spent 8+ hours a day, tweaking my profile, creating live videos, and trying to attract new students. That’s my choice. If I wanted to work just two hours a day, however, I could.
- You can just close your hours if you need some time off or if you’re planning on travelling to a place that you know will have weak WiFi.
The downside of this is that if you’re booking regular students, you might lose them if you have an inconsistent schedule. The most successful teachers on online ESL platforms have their schedules open during consistent hours, so it’s clear to the students when that teacher could be booked.
That said, you don’t have to do that if you don’t want to! If you want to have close your time slots, you can do that at any time. This would be a huge perk while traveling, especially if you were planning to travel to a place that has weak WiFi.
Cons: Online | Waking up for peak hours
- If you really want to succeed as an online teacher, you need to be available when the students want to learn – easy, right?
- Since I live in Canada, I wake up at 3am to be online at the peak hours for students in Beijing. I stay awake for 4 hours then I sleep during the early afternoon and I’m back online from 5pm-9pm which is the other batch of peak hours.
If I were to be living in China, or even Australia, this wouldn’t be as much of an issue. Since I’m on the other side of the pond, I’ve really had to adjust my sleep schedule and lifestyle around the job.
Pros: Online | Location flexibility
- You can work from anywhere you want as long as you have a good Wifi connection. Enough said.
Pros: In-class | Culture experience
- Teaching abroad in Cambodia really gave us a good insight on the Khmer culture and what it was like to work abroad.
- We were able to really immerse ourselves, learn some of the language, get to know family dynamics, meet local friends and travel outside the country when we had our specified time off.
- We built a community and were able to feel like we were really contributing to the country we were living in.
I think if I had taught English online the first time I was living in Cambodia, I would’ve felt like I was missing the experience of getting to know the country and would’ve felt like less of a “local”.
Hey, that’s just me.
Pros: In-class | Job security
- One of the reasons we chose Cambodia to teach English is because we were qualified to teach there without a 4-year bachelor degree.
- We both have college educations and TEFL certificates, but Nick went to trade school and I went to art school, so we have diplomas and tickets rather than bachelors degrees.
- The requirements are changing in China all of the time. There are constantly rumours about the Chinese government cracking down. If the rumours prove true, and a 4-year bachelors degree is ever required for the platform I teach on, I will lose my job.
I think you can understand why that would be unsettling.
- The rules are also very specific and strict on online platforms and they vary. There’s little empathy for when you need to cancel a class during an emergency. You may even get put on the bad list if your wifi keeps dropping out. This would not be ideal whilst travelling, especially if you’re going to new places where you’re unsure about the WiFi.
Generally speaking, when you’re teaching in-class, you will sign a standard contract. As long as you abide by the contract, you will not have to worry about losing your job. Online teaching platforms do not always provide that type of security for you.
Pros: In-class | Income security
- If we’re comparing my wage in Cambodia vs. my wage online, I put in many less hours for my pay now (teaching online) than I was putting in in-class (teaching abroad).
- You get what you put in when it comes to online teaching, but I always knew what my paycheck was going to be in Cambodia.
- Since I’m new at online teaching, I don’t have a regular clientele, so my wages will vary each month. They will likely vary forever.
Especially being a new teacher, I frankly worry I will lose students and one day wake up with no bookings. It is a possibility, especially with the online market becoming more saturated.
Although this won’t necessarily happen, it was nice to know what my monthly salary would be each month so I knew I could make rent.
Pros: Online | Income
- The income can really be a pro or a con, depending on where you live.
For example: In Cambodia, I was making 1,200 USD/month and working 10 hour days. To make the same amount now, I would only need to work about 19 hours a week.
That said, 1,200 USD a month isn’t enough to live in Vancouver, so I do need to get full-time online teaching hours, which is easier said than done.
Remember, we’re talking about SE Asia vs. Canada here which is a huge jump in cost of living.
This would be a whole different ballpark if you’re considering teaching in-class English in a country like South Korea or Japan.
So what wins?
I don’t regret teaching in-class. Teaching in-class is what made me fall in love with teaching English. If you’ve never taught before, and you’re seriously considering teaching ESL for a while, I would really recommend teaching English abroad.
That said, I’m working on building a consistent clientele online so I can work from anywhere in the world, and have time to work on other things like this blog and our YouTube Channel.
Right now, I’m teaching English online on Palfish and it has been wonderful so far. I’ll be doing a write-up on the Palfish requirements and how I got accepted onto the platform very soon.
If you’re interested in teaching in Palfish, you can apply using my referral code: 02851747 or by clicking this link.
Disclaimer: If you use this referral code, I will receive a bonus at no cost to you.
As always, you can reach out to us on Instagram @notluxxe. We take pride in responding to every single DM.
Want to move abroad but you’re broke AF? Read this article to find out how we did it. Trust me – we were in the same boat.
Does teaching in Cambodia appeal to you? It did to us! Find our blog: How to move to Cambodia and teach English