Being offered a position teaching English in your dream country opens an exciting, life-changing chapter in your life. However, it doesn’t come without its drawbacks–one being, the teaching contract or agreement.

Teaching contracts or agreements can be overwhelming and confusing. Most people are not sure what to look for, and it may be difficult to determine if you are getting a good deal. No matter how long you’ve been teaching, asking an employer to thoroughly explain a contract can be quite intimidating. You may have questions about the probation period, or when you’re allowed to take vacation. If you’re offered reimbursement for your flight, when does that exactly happen? You’re probably hesitant to ask such questions as you might come off as rude, or too direct.

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It has happened that teachers take a job abroad, only to be scammed and end up without pay for their hard work. This article will detail the most important, need to know sections of your teaching contract or agreement so it doesn’t happen to you!

Teaching Salary

Before taking a job abroad, you should have an idea of the average teaching salary for your preferred country to ensure you’re being offered a fair salary.

Additional Benefits

Some schools provide a free apartment or housing stipend. When comparing salaries across countries, make sure to take this factor into consideration. One country might have an incredible salary base, but the cost of living might be too high to bear. Another country may offer more modest pay, but with all your living expenses paid, you might end up with a better deal. Therefore, in addition to doing research into the salary, look into the cost of living of your country, too, to make the most well-rounded decision.

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If your payday isn’t noted in your contract, ask your employer to include it. Knowing your pay day will ensure that your payment is on time each month. It has happened where teachers are consistently paid weeks later for their work, however employers will follow what’s stated directly in your contract.

Knowing your payday also helps you to budget more efficiently. It makes it easier to determine how much money you will need when relocating to a new country. When I first started working, I didn’t realize that having a monthly salary meant working an entire month without pay. After two short weeks, I needed to ask my parents to send cash. So much for being the independent adult I thought I was becoming. Thanks, mom and dad!


Free Apartment

In some countries, especially in Asia and the Middle East, it is common for employers to provide free housing.

If a free apartment is included in your contract, make sure to ask about the details. You may think you’ll be living in a comfy one bedroom, when really you’ll be living with 3 other roommates. You might live right on campus, or the school might choose an apartment for you.

Your apartment might be considered middle class, or it might be a converted, old storage closet right in the school building. Which do you think is more likely? You might like the idea of living on campus for convenience purposes, but this too doesn’t come without downsides. Living on campus might mean you must abide by certain rules, or even curfews on your days off. Some schools will provide the apartment, in addition to the utilities, and others may have to pay for water, heat, and electricity separately. Some schools might offer fully furnished apartments, while others offer the bare bones of a bed frame. Ask to see pictures of any housing that the school is offering.

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Housing Stipend

If you aren’t offered a free apartment, you might be offered a housing stipend. This is also common in Asia and the Middle East. Stipends are fixed, so you know how much extra you are willing to pay for your accommodations per month. It allows you the flexibility to choose your own apartment, however it might also be up to you to find that apartment.

Again, be sure to do your research on living costs before accepting a stipend agreement. Without knowing how much the average accommodations cost, you won’t know if the stipend will significantly help you or not. Most stipends only cover a fraction of your rent, so you should expect to pay at least a portion, monthly.

Some schools provide assistance with finding a place to live. They might hire an agent, or help you directly, but you should know if the agent’s fees and deposit for the apartment are your costs to bear. Finally, find out how you’ll be receiving your stipend, and when. It might be added to your salary, or paid to the landlord directly.

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Time Off

Most employers will include government observed vacation days, but it’s important to ask a few questions before taking a job. Though you may get vacation, employers may not allow you the time off to take it, especially during high season.

Are you able to go home for Christmas? Can you take all of your days at once, or is there a limit to how many days you’re allowed to take at one time? Are vacation days assigned by your boss? Do teachers who’ve been there longer get first picks?

Asking about vacation before starting a position might seem awkward. But, if being home during certain times of the year is important to you, or you already have a vacation in mind, you need to ask.

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Some ESL positions will offer to reimburse you for the flight costs to and from the country where you will be working. However, it’s important to know when and how you will be reimbursed.
Some companies require you complete the contract before they reimburse you. This can be anywhere from 6 months to 1 year before you see any money.

Some schools might pay upfront for your flight to the country, and then pay for your return when you are ready to go back. However, this should be clearly stated in your contract. In addition, some schools may deny flying you to your desired destination after completing your country. For example, if you are flying to the country from Latin America, because it’s where you completed your TEFL course, but want to return to the U.S after your contract, they may refuse to pay for your flight insisting that they will only pay for a trip back to Latin America. Make sure that what’s agreed upon between you and the employer is clearly stated.

Make sure you are aware of any allowance limits on your flight, or any sort of restrictions on where you can fly after your contract is completed.

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Terminating Your Contract

You might be so excited to take a teaching position across the world, that the last thing on your mind is leaving early. However, make sure to pay attention to the portion of your contract that deals with early termination. It isn’t unusual for schools to include an “early termination” fee. Fees might be as much as your yearly salary, putting you in a sticky situation should you have to leave the position earlier than planned.

Check the company’s policy before you sign anything! There may be restrictions on working for any other company in the same industry, or you might need to give advance notice up to 3 months before quitting. Is there any reason they might be able to sue you?

It may seem unfair to have these clauses in place, but they’re actually meant to protect the company from teachers taking advantage of the benefits without actually having to work the agreed upon time frame. But, you also need to protect yourself. If the position really isn’t the right fit, you want to know you have the option to leave, without having to pay an absurd amount of money.