Teaching English in Taiwan was my first experience of teaching English overseas, and is a country which I've returned to many times. It's a good country to live in, and a good place to learn Chinese. Although not as easy as it has been in the past, it is still possible to find work teaching English fairly quickly, and - depending on your lifestyle - to save money.
Most of the TEFL jobs in Taiwan are in Greater Taipei: that is Taipei City, and the surrounding New Taipei City (which stretches from the very urban Panchiao, Yong Ho and Chung Ho, to some beautiful countryside areas). However, there are many jobs in central and southern Taiwan, and these are sometimes the easier jobs to get, as most people want to live in Taipei.
If you approach your job search seriously, your chances of finding a TEFL job in Taiwan are good. Some language schools offer full-time hours, others simply can't offer a lot of hours, and some teachers take a second job [which is legal] to save money. Having a regular job and finding privates is another alternative, and can pay well. It just takes time to build up a network of private students.
Having TEFL experience helps, as does experience teaching English, especially to children, although new teachers can still find work here.
If you are a student of Chinese, or if you just need time to do you own thing, the low hours may be a blessing. Read about the experiences of two teachers. Teaching English in Taiwan and a teacher's opinion of the differences between teaching English in Korea and Taiwan
Taipei 101 Shopping Mall
TEFL certification is not generally required for teaching English in Taiwan - although a few schools ask for it. In general it won't directly help your employment prospects, although it will make a difference at one or two of the better schools. Indirectly training will, of course, help. It can show you how to teach, and give you ideas for the classroom, which will make you a better teacher. Being a better teacher can help you to make more money over time - as well as have a more enjoyable experience. A degree - or a higher diploma which is equivalent to a pass degree - is required to get a work visa. Most schools prefer to see the original copy of your degree, and transcripts.
Most schools pay by the hour, and the pay is usually 500-700NT per hour. If you are a new teacher expect to be offered around 600NT an hour. As in many other countries, this payment is for class preparation, and correction of homework, as well as teaching the class. Classes are usually 1, 1.5 or 2 hours in length. The amount of hours you can be expected to be given varies a lot from school to school. Of course, most schools want you to be teaching a lot of hours, but severe competition between language schools, and a dropping birthrate mean that your hours - at any single school - may be quite low.
In the past, teaching English in Taiwan meant 24-30 hours a week. While some schools still have these kinds of hours, many other schools will be struggling to give you the 16 hours a week. This is not so serious if you don't mind taking a morning kindergarten job, and teaching private students at the weekends.
How much money you can save depends on the lifestyle you like to lead. Tax in Taiwan is quite low. However, in your first year you will usually have to pay 18% - although 12% or this can be reclaimed at the end of the tax year. From your second year tax will be deducted at 6%. National insurance contributions are low - usually the schools will sort this out for you.
For more detailed tax information go to Information for Foreigners the official Taiwan government website (in English). There is a useful English language helpline for any questions you may have. It's a good idea to always check the information there, as things do change, and a lot of online information related to things like tax can easily become out-of-date.
It is possible to save money in Taiwan, which is basically quite a low cost country - although nothing like Thailand or Indonesia. If you want your own apartment, like to go out to pubs and clubs, eat in western restaurants, buy imported food and drinks at Taipei 101 or similar shopping malls, then you are unlikely to save very much, but you could have quite an enjoyable life.
Shiding - A village in New Taipei City
Private Language Schools - Buxibans
Most people who teach English in Taiwan, do so in private language schools - buxibans in Chinese (literally - cram schools). There are two types: the large chain schools and the smaller independent schools which might have a single school, or just a few branches. If you have no teaching experience and/or are applying from abroad, then the large chain schools could be a good place to get your first job teaching English in Taiwan. They will also provide you with basic training. The pay will not be the highest, but the relative ease of getting the work, the security of having a job before you go, may make it worthwhile.
For most people, teaching English in Taiwan means teaching in a buxiban. These vary a lot in size and quality. A well run small language school is probably one of the best places to work.
The large chain schools are often franchises and the conditions can vary a lot. This can be both good and bad. Meet the franchise owner and trust your feelings towards them. Some are helpful and organized, and some are most definitely not. It's always a good idea to ask to speak to other teachers. A good school will be quite happy for you to do this. It's a good idea, if at all possible, to stick out the first year of your contract. If you break your first year contract, you will make it more difficult to find quality work in the future.
Smaller independent language schools generally pay more than the big chain schools, and can provide a less restrictive teaching environment. Again, buxibans vary a lot. Meet the owner and other teachers, and make your own judgement. The larger chain schools sometimes provide useful training.
Public and Private Schools
The pay is generally higher in these schools, but the hours expected for a full time position can be from 8.30 in the morning to around 5 o'clock in the afternoon.
ESL Jobs in Universities in Taiwan
It has become difficult to find jobs teaching English in Taiwan in the universities. All universities now require an MA, and almost all want it in TESOL, applied linguistics, or English literature, and in a great many cases they also demand a PhD.
Tertiary level experience, and publications in TESOL journals are also preferred. The pay is slightly better than private language schools, but usually for less hours, and paid holidays. Positions are sometimes advertised online, but the best way to find a job at a university is to write to the institutions directly, asking if they are looking for English teachers.
Remember that your MA must be legalised in the country in which you took it. For example, I took my MEd in England, and I needed to have the degree certificate and transcript notarised in the UK, then legalised by the FCO, then sent to the Taipei Representative Office in London to be stamped again. Check with the Taipei Representative Office in your country for details.
The easiest way to find ESL jobs in Taiwan is to apply to the many online ads for English teachers. Tealit has one of the best selection of job ads for Taiwan. However, most of the advertisers there, expect you to be in the country. The best way is to apply directly to the schools you are interested in when you are in Taiwan. Where possible, avoid job agencies. Agents charge the schools for finding teachers. Avoid any agent who tries to charge you to help you find a job.
Many schools will expect you to give a demo class to see if you can teach. Private language schools hire all year, but the best time to be looking for work is in the late summer, before the autumn semester starts. The second best time would be just after Chinese new year, which is usually in February.
If you do decide to arrive in Taiwan to look for work, try to get a visitor visa - this can be changed to a work visa by a school. If you look for work while on a visa free stay, you will need to leave Taiwan, probably to Hong Kong, to get a work visa. Bring about $2,000-$3,000 with you while you are looking for work. I've done this on less money, but it's more stressful.
Finding accommodation in Taiwan is not too hard, but there is a language barrier - if you don't yet speak or read Chinese. There are many hostels which are okay for a few weeks. These can be found on any internet search. However, finding longer term accommodation is a little harder. Tealit [see the link above] has some expensive accommodation options. Notice boards outside local schools are good, but you need someone who can read and speak Chinese.
A good option in Taipei is Tsuei Ma-Ma, a volunteer run accommodation finding service. It's located at 2nd floor, No 2-3, Lane 269, Roosevelt Rd, Section 3, Taipei. It's closed mornings and weekends. They charge a small fee, and give lists in Chinese and English. Many of the landlords using the service speak a little English. Their telephone number is (886)-02-23658140.
If you plan to teach English in Kaoshiung, then check out the Yahoo Group Kaoshiung Living. They often have apartments advertised, as well as many other things, sometimes including teaching jobs.
For many teachers it is a choice between teaching English in Taiwan, and teaching English in Korea Most teachers I've met say that Taiwan gives a better quality of life, but Korea pays more. For a comparison of living in both countries, see the comments of a teacher who taught in both countries below. In many ways teaching English in Taiwan may be perfect if you only want a job which pays for your living expenses, and then gives you a lot of free time to pursue your own interests; whether learning Chinese, martial arts, writing your book, developing your website or anything else you're passionate about.