This article intends to help you to navigate the rocky landscape of TEFL pay scales, so you can avoid falling down any crevices along the way.

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Money. We all need it. We all want more of it. But the unfortunate truth is that maximizing your pay in the TEFL industry is tricky because, unlike in other industries, there is no one clear path to financial gain.  

To start off, let’s try a classic gap-fill activity, from an English classic, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a (1) ____ in (2) _______ of a good fortune must be in want of (3) ______.”

You may know this quote – and if you have put (1) single man (2) possession (3) a wife then congratulations, you get 100% in the English Literature test! Yay!

However, for the purposes of our topic today, I would like adapt it to:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a (1) TEFL school in (2) need of good fortune must be in want of (3) great teachers.”

In other words, all schools have some method of attracting and retaining these great teachers (i.e. people like you!) and in order to maximize your own pay, you need to find out what these systems are and how to make the most of them.

Pay Scales in Schools

Because there is no single regulator to the private language school industry, every school is entitled to create their own pay scales. Some of these are based on the teacher’s qualifications, some on type of class taught, some on quality of work, some on years of service, and others on a combination of all of the above. In order to maximise your money, I would suggest you make it your mission to find out how the school you are interested in working for operates. Each type of pay scale has their pros and cons:

(a) Pay scale according to teacher’s qualifications:

Pro: If you already have a higher qualification e.g. Young Learners or DELTA, then fantastic.

Con: You might have to fund your own further studies to get a higher qualification.

Pro: Some schools part-fund staff members to study for higher-level qualifications, and that could be you. Remember, if you don’t ask you don’t get!

Con: If your school part-funds you there may be the catch that you must then stay at the school for a year following the completion of your qualification.

(b) Pay scale according to class type:

Pro: It is good to add another string to your bow as the higher paying class types are typically 121, Business English and ESP.

Con: Be prepared for the extra preparation involved in tailoring your lesson to a single student’s needs or learning a new subject area.

Pro:  The school may offer many of the higher-paying classes in their courses.

Con: There may be a longstanding staff member who is already teaching the higher-paying classes. If this is the case, you should formally express your interest in teaching them to the DOS e.g., in a job interview or appraisal, ascertain how long you might need to wait and then decide if you want to wait that long.

(c) Pay scale according to quality of work:

Pro: If your school gathers evidence of teaching quality e.g. student feedback questionnaires, it can be relatively easy to show that you deserve a pay increase for this reason.

Con: Some students do not fill feedback questionnaires properly and this can unfairly drag your score down. 

Pro: If you are a great teacher, anyone who observes your lessons will be able to see this!

Con: The finance department do not observe your lessons, so you will need hard evidence to prove that you are an excellent teacher. Ask your DOS how you can evidence this to give yourself the best chance.

(d) Pay scale according to years of service.

Pro: It is likely you will get paid more, at the rate of inflation, which means your pay will be higher compared to the previous year.

Con: In real terms, the rate of inflation affects the price of everything so you would not actually be earning more overall. To get a ‘real’ pay increase you would need to get a pay increase which is higher than the rate of inflation. This may involve some negotiation and depend on the company’s profits.

(e) Pay scale according to a combination of factors.

Pro: Multiple sets of evidence will be used to calculate your pay increase, which means it should be fair.

Con: It can be difficult to understand how the different evidence combines to reach the figure you are given. If you have questions, make sure you ask.


Every school is different. If you are a new starter, it is a good idea to use your ‘do you have any questions for us?’ wisely at the end of your job interview to establish how you can progress financially within the organization. Once you know this you can put an action plan into place for yourself, knowing that if you jump through hoop A, B then C, you can get to your end goal of more money. Knowing your worth is the first step. Having the courage to ask is the second. Then all you need to do is to follow your plan!

If you have any further insights you would like to share, I would love to hear from you so please do put a comment below.

Good luck!

All the best,