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5 Great Tips for Negotiating a Higher Salary as an ESL Teacher


 After considering all of your options for teaching abroad, you have a potential employer interested in your CV. It is a great place to work and you love the area in China where they would like to place you. But what about the salary? Teaching abroad comes with an array of perks but can also present some new challenges.

The last thing you want on your new adventure is to be strapped for cash and living on endless bowls of rice. It is thus, important to ensure that the salary you receive is worth the experience of teaching English abroad. Here are 5 great negotiation tactics to employ when discussing your salary with potential employers:

1. Location-based salaries

Most Asian countries offer great salaries compared to the countries in Central and South America, although the cost of living may be higher. Since countries like China and Japan place a high value on learning English that ESL teachers generally receive great compensation for the skills. This makes teaching positions highly competitive in countries like China, and thus difficult to negotiate your salary.

Therefore, base your negotiations on the area you will be teaching. If it is a highly sought after area, such as a beach location, you may be limited as to how much you will be able to negotiate. Assess your geographic location before asking for a higher salary. Sometimes you might need to accept a slightly lower salary in order to be placed in your desired location if you can live reasonably well.

2. Experience speaks volumes

Don't undersell yourself, your qualifications or experience. Schools and institutions generally require that ESL teachers have a TEFL or CELTA certification in order to teach English abroad. These programs provide individuals with the skills and knowledge required to teach English as a second language. Having this type of qualification can give you more room for negotiation since it demonstrates your dedication to the field of teaching.

Advanced degrees or several years of teaching experience give you more opportunity to negotiate since you bring more knowledge, skills, and experience to the program. It is unlikely that you will be granted a higher salary if you do not have tangible reasons why you deserve it. 

3. Consider your benefits

It is important to remember that your salary is not the only compensation you may be receiving. In addition, many programs offer a variety of benefits for their ESL teachers. In addition to your monthly paycheck, some programs also offer benefits like housing and transport allowances, paid vacation days and free airfare.

Consider the additional benefits you are receiving before thinking about negotiating your salary. You might find that all the benefits you receive cover a lot of your living costs, allowing you to use your salary for travel or extracurricular activities, and leave you with some to save.

Add the value of these benefits to your salary and you'll notice how much you are actually receiving, although not in the form of actual money. If your employer is not open to negotiating your salary, enquire about additional benefits such as language classes in the local dialect or even to pay a portion of your housing costs.

4. Be willing to compromise

 Sometimes companies cannot afford to pay their employee more, after covering all the company's expenses (which includes your salary and benefits). If you are willing to compromise on a salary with the agreement to negotiate again later on based on your performance, it will show your employer that you are willing to work hard for the extra cash.

5. Learn about the work culture

It is important to remember that certain practices common in western countries may not be culturally appropriate in some eastern countries. It may be culturally inappropriate to negotiate a higher salary, especially if the job market is particularly competitive. Familiarize yourself with the work practices in the country in which you will be working before you begin to negotiate. 

6. Bonus tip: Do your research

Conduct research about the living costs and income levels of the country in which you will be teaching. Doing your homework in advance can prepare you for negotiations, providing you with the reasons why you deserve a certain salary.

Negotiating your salary can become a point of contention and can be a daunting task, however, it can be necessary. You should neither overvalue nor undervalue yourself as an educator. Be fully prepared when approaching your employer to negotiate your salary. 

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27 January 2023

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