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Get Paid To Teach English Abroad Or Volunteer —Which One Is Right For You?

Posted by Emily Henkel on 10/13/20 7:00 AM

ILP Adventure

You know you want to teach English and travel around the world, but should you do that as a volunteer or as a paid international teacher? 

While there are a few different teaching abroad opportunities out there, I was so happy I found International Language Programs. Mostly, I loved the price at first, then all the countries I could travel to, and the fact that they have two separate ways that you can live abroad: Get hired as a professional teacher and their volunteering programs. Out of all the  programs to teach English abroad I found, this was the best fit for me. 

So if you know you want to teach English in another country, you're set — ILP is the way to do that! If you're wondering if the paid program or the volunteer program is going to be best, keep on reading.

A Bit About Both Programs

Just so you know right off the bat, the volunteer programs are shorter, you're teaching less hours, and get more vacation time in a shorter semester, about three to four months long. You always have weekends off (Saturday and Sunday) We have programs all over the world with lots of opportunities! We also have one location where you aren't teaching English. In Romania, you're helping out an orphanage instead.

The paid program looks for individuals who are a bit more qualified. You're typically teaching slightly more hours (but always will have Sundays off). The contracts are longer than a volunteer semester (6-12 months). You're also set up with vacation time.

How Competitive Are They?

Volunteer positions are not as competitive as paid positions. We currently send hundreds of volunteers every semester (which means more opportunities) whereas we currently only send a handful of full-time teachers to Asia. If you have your eye on a certain country for the volunteer position, we suggest applying early (along with the paid teaching abroad programs).

How Are They Similar? 

Both programs allow you to live abroad in a foreign country, make a difference by teaching English abroad, and give you time off to travel around see even more. Neither program requires you to speak the local language. Both programs set you up with at least one fellow teacher, so you're not over there totally on your own (the volunteer program sets you up with a group of 4-20+ other volunteers, while the paid program is at least one other teacher). We even have some overlapping locations between both the volunteer and paid programs!

Those are the two programs in a nutshell, now to really dive deep into the differences between the volunteer program and the paid teaching programs.

international english teaching program

Available Countries For Teaching English Abroad

Volunteer Program 

There are two types of volunteer programs — the exchange program and the humanitarian programs. Here's the difference between the two

  • Exchange Programs: China, Thailand, Russia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Montenegro, and Mexico.

  • Humanitarian Programs: Dominican Republic, Haiti, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Romania, Vanuatu, and Uganda.  

Paid Program

We currently are basing our paid teaching abroad programs in Asia: Taiwan and Thailand.

programs to teach English abroad

Experience + Requirements

Volunteer Program

Volunteers are typically 18-25 years old (exceptions are sometimes made for people over 25). You must be a native English speaker and have a USA or Canadian passport (or a green card). 

You do not need to know the language, have any university credit or degrees (or even be in school), or have any teaching experience for the volunteer program. Basically, volunteering with ILP is a great way to give you experience and build your resume! 

Paid Program

The requirements differ for each country in order to teach internationally and be paid for your time. Here's a quick breakdown of each of the country's requirements: 

Taiwan: Must be at least 20 years old, be a native English speaker (and a resident of America or North America), and must have an AS or BA in any emphasis. You must have a physical diploma from their university (however, you can apply before you officially complete your degree). Read about compensation here. 

Thailand: Must be at least 20 years old, be a native English speaker (and be a resident of North America), and must have a BA in any emphasis. You must have a physical diploma from their university. Our Thailand program prefers teachers who have volunteered with ILP and are familiar with our teaching method, but it's not required. Get info about compensation here. 

China: You must have a Bachelor's degree. If your degree is in English or Education (with any emphasis) you do not need any teaching experience and you do not need a TEFL certification. If your Bachelor's degree is in any other field, you are required to also have either two years of professional teaching experience or receive a TEFL certification. Get info about compensation here. 

teach English abroad

Hours You Teach + Lesson Planning

The Volunteer Program 

You will not be teaching more than 20 hours a week. Volunteers are also responsible for planning their own lessons — time for that varies from person to person: some volunteers are pretty quick while others are more methodical and take more time. All in all, you will essentially be working part-time while living abroad. Volunteer teachers always have Saturday and Sunday off. 

Don't worry, you don't have to have any teaching experience to volunteer with us. All volunteers are required to complete a training that walks you through teaching internationally with the ILP method. 

The Paid Program 

You will teach 30 hours a week and lesson plan for about 10 hours so think of it as working full-time. Also, it's common for teachers to teach on Saturdays, it just depends on your school. But you will always have Sundays off! 

If you're wondering about how to teach English in a foreign country, don't stress. You will go through some training materials before departure and will complete a level of training once you arrive in-country. It's typically a mix between online training and in-person training before leaving/after arriving. 

ILP adventure

How Long You Go

Volunteer Program

You will go for one semester at a time, which is typically between three or four months abroad. We have three semesters a year: Fall, Spring, and Summer (so if you want to teach abroad in the summer, you'd be better set up for the volunteer program). Exact departure dates vary per semester, but here's a general outline: 

  • Fall semester: Mid0August to mid-December
  • Spring semester: Early to mid-January to the end of April/early May
  • Summer semester: End of April/early May to mid-August 

Quick heads up — Russia and China have different departure days; Talk to your ILP representative for China/Russia's specific timeline, but essentially the spring semester starts a bit later and ends a bit later and there is not a summer program. There also is not a Summer Semester for Montenegro. 

Paid Program

The paid teach abroad programs are longer slightly longer, but typically around 1 year. The length and extension opportunities vary between our countries:

Taiwan teachers go for six months or a year and can extend up to be there longer. The six month contracts start from January to June, then from July to December. So doing two of these six-month contracts equals a year (which is what the school prefers). 

Thailand teachers go for one year, and can also extend for one year. Usually departures are in May and come back at the end of April. 

international English teaching program

Days Off + Vacations Days

Volunteer Program

You will have scheduled vacation days (around two weeks spread throughout the semester) that the school gives you. You do not get sick days off; if you are ill during your semester, you will need to work with your ILP group and Head Teacher to see who can cover your classes. 

You're planning your own vacations and will need to travel in groups of three or more (that's only for the volunteer program, not the paid teachers). Your vacations will need to be approved by our ILP directors, but our volunteers have traveled all over the world. Get a peek at what countries we love visiting on our blog

Paid Program

The allowances differ with each of our locations for the paid program. 

Taiwan allows one to two extra paid leaves each semester depending on what school you go to. You will get time off on the weekends (maybe Saturday and Sunday or just Sunday) and holidays to do some traveling. Past teachers have loved traveling all over Taiwan and nearby nations. 

Thailand allows 15 extra paid leaves for the whole 1-year contract. That includes sick leave. You will be allowed to travel when you're not teaching on the weekends and when there aren't class for national holidays. Past teachers have loved traveling all over Thailand, as well as visiting countries like Vietnam, Japan, and the Philippines. 

Programs to teach English abroad

Can Married Couples and Males Go?

Volunteer Program

Yes! males can go to these countries and married couples can go to these

Paid Program

Yes! Males, females, and married couples are accepted in Taiwan and Thailand. 

Neither program is a good fit for couples with children; you and your spouse will both be teaching on similar schedules and will be living with other teachers (always in your own room, but you will probably be sharing other space). 


Have more questions?

Contact our professional program representative proteaching@ilp.org or office@ilp.org for more info on our volunteer program (or just give the ILP office a call at 801-374-8854). 

Ready to apply? We thought so! 

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Topics: All About ILP + Volunteering


*Because of the worldwide pandemic, travel options are limited and frequently changing. You'll need to do additional research as resources + activities shared in this post may or may not be available at the time of your trip.

ILP volunteers — work closely with your Program Manager who can help you understand current country entrance requirements which will determine what countries you can visit during your semester. 



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We are ILP, a Utah-based non-profit org that has service abroad opportunities for college-age volunteers. We love travel so we're sharing all our tips for making the most of your time living abroad + seeing the world, and how to do it all on the tiniest budget.

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