If you’re looking to escape to a tropical paradise that's rich in cultural diversity, then becoming an English teacher in Malaysia could be for you. From some of the most beautiful beaches in Southeast Asia to lush green jungles and amazing local cuisines that will tantalize your taste buds, Malaysia has something to offer everyone. So, if you want an unforgettable experience teaching English abroad, read on to learn how you can teach English in Malaysia.
There are several avenues open to you if you want to teach English in Malaysia. Let's take a look at some of the options:
Depending on your qualifications and teaching experience, you could end up securing a job teaching English at an international school in Malaysia.
There are many international schools in Malaysia, particularly in Kuala Lumpur. Here you'll find the Garden International School, Alice Smith School, and International School of Kuala Lumpur to name a few. These schools will typically follow British, American, Canadian, or Australian curriculums. Many of these schools require that you have a PGCE or a teaching license and at least 2 years of teaching experience. However, you may be lucky depending on your degree and experience.
Teaching at a college or university is another route you could take when looking for a teaching job in Malaysia. Colleges may be better than universities as you could qualify to teach A-levels depending on your degree and teaching experience. They usually pay better than universities too.
If you want to teach in Malaysia, it's good to know that there are many world-renowned private language schools here such as the British Council and International House. There are also some independent language centers such as Stratford International Language Centre, English Language Company (ELC), ELIT Language Centre and Erican Language Centre.
If you have experience in preparing students for IELTS, that will be huge a bonus as many language centers offer IELTS preparation courses. If you don’t have any previous teaching experience in IELTS, you could try to gain some knowledge online about the exam and this may help you score your dream teaching job in Malaysia.
Teaching Business English could also be an option, and centers such as Wall Street English offer Business English courses and pay teachers a higher salary for teaching them.
Because many Malaysians already speak English fluently due to the country's cultural diversity, there may not be as many teaching jobs here as in other countries like China, Japan, or Vietnam. As a result of this lower demand, finding a teaching position can be quite competitive. You'll be expected to hold a TEFL certificate, a BA degree, and possess 3 years of teaching experience in most cases. If you hold a PGCE or MA in education it will also be a bonus.
However, for qualified EFL and ESL teachers, this presents a great opportunity. Plus, there are still a lot of expatriates from all over the world working various jobs in Malaysia, especially from South Korea, who want to improve their English. Chances are that if you do secure an English teaching job in Malaysia, it’s likely that many of your students won’t actually be Malaysian.
Teaching in Malaysia can either be lucrative or just enough to get you by financially. It all depends on your experience and where you work.
The average monthly salary of an expat teacher in Malaysia can vary depending on experience and educational background. Typical salaries can be anywhere between RM4000 to RM10,000 (about $1,000 to $2,300).
Those who are looking to live in Malaysia should also be aware that a foreigner’s salary is taxed at 30% for their first 182 days in the country. After 182 days, you will be considered a tax resident and be taxed according to that scale, which is typically 21-24% for teachers. This could be a great way to save money as the extra money you pay can be claimed back at the end of the tax year.
While not always guaranteed, the benefits for those teaching English in Malaysia can include health insurance, free airfare, paid annual leave, sick leave, and, although less common, subsidized accommodation.
Some employers offer to pay into an Employees Provident Fund (EPF) account. This is a mandatory savings and retirement account for Malaysian citizens, but those who employ expats also have the option to pay into an EPF account. Do keep in mind that this will deduct a further 9-12% of your monthly salary while your employer will also pay another 9-12% on top of what you pay into the account.
The great thing about having an EPF account is that you will get all of this money back once you plan to leave the country and all it requires is a visit to the EPF office. It could be a good opportunity to let some cash build up while you're here and then get your free money at the end of your stay!
It is highly recommended to ask about these benefits when applying for teaching jobs in Malaysia. They really could be the deciding factors when it comes to choosing the best teaching job for you.
Certain criteria need to be met to get a teaching job in Malaysia, although most of them are the same as those you would face in other countries.
You will need to have completed a TEFL certification with a minimum of 120 hours of study time to find a job in Malaysia. So, make sure you do a 120-hour + TEFL course!
Check out some of the best online TEFL courses here.
A bachelor's degree is another requirement to secure a job teaching English in Malaysia, but it can be in any subject.
Holding a bachelor's degree and TEFL certification are specified by immigration and the Ministry of Education so there aren't many ways around them.
The good news is that many teaching jobs posted do not have any specific language requirements and many will accept English teachers who are not from native English speaking countries as long as they can show that they are fluent in English. However, citizens from the USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa are favored.
Unfortunately, finding teaching jobs in Malaysia is not simply a matter of showing up. Immigration regulations have become tighter and typically jobs must be posted online for at least 30 days for Malaysians only. Basically, your employer needs to show that a Malaysian citizen is not readily available to do the job.
This means that you will need to apply for teaching jobs in Malaysia while outside the country. However, many employers are happy to do interviews over Zoom or Skype these days.
Once you've been hired, your employer will take care of the visa process which will take the weight off your shoulders, but don’t pack your bags just yet as waiting for your employment pass approval to come through takes some time. From being offered a teaching job in Malaysia to actually stepping foot in the country can take anywhere from four to six months.
It is possible to come to Malaysia first, test the waters, and possibly even do some face-to-face interviews for teaching jobs. Unfortunately, you will then have to leave the country once the visa process starts and wait until you receive your employment pass approval letter.
If you are from a country that does not require a single entry visa to enter the country, then you are free to live in another country besides your home country until your employment pass has been approved and you can re-enter Malaysia.
You'll find many of the teaching jobs in Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur. This also happens to be home to many of the language schools in Malaysia. However, there are several locations where you can find jobs.
For those who have completed a TEFL course and have the right qualifications, teaching jobs in Malaysia are readily available and not just in Kuala Lumpur. You may also be able to find work in the foodie haven of Penang, among the colonial architecture of Johor Bahru, or even in the divers’ paradise of Sabah.
How much you enjoy teaching in Malaysia will depend on where you decide to live and there is something to be gained wherever you decide to go. Once you've got your TEFL certification the world is your oyster. Let's take a look at some of the options:
The bustling capital city of Malaysia provides the most opportunities for finding teaching jobs and the majority of those jobs are based in and around its center. You will also find English teaching jobs in surrounding areas such as Cyberjaya, Subang, and Petaling Jaya.
There is a huge expat community here and you will get to meet many other expats from all over the world who work in various sectors. Lush recreational rainforests, waterfalls, and mountains fit for hiking are also less than an hour away if you want a brief escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
While Kuala Lumpur is the most expensive area to live in Malaysia, it can still be very affordable. It is important to note that once you move outside the city, salaries will become lower and job opportunities will be less frequent.
The island state of Penang offers sandy tropical beaches and lush tree-covered mountains as well as a wide range of activities. Its colorful capital city Georgetown has a charm that can’t be matched with its famous street art, colonial buildings, and quaint little cafes.
It also provides a similar lifestyle to Kuala Lumpur in terms of its thriving expat community, vibrant nightlife, and level of comfort, but at a slightly lower cost. Here you will find some international schools and English language centers that hire expats.
Just on the border with Singapore, Johor Bahru is Malaysia’s second largest city. It is best known for its delicious local food, theme parks, and shopping.
Because it isn’t a major tourist destination just yet, the cost of living here is considerably lower than in Kuala Lumpur. With Singapore being just a short distance away, it makes for an attractive place to lay down some roots for a year or so for teachers in Malaysia who are teaching English abroad.
Malacca is a picturesque seaside state about a two-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. While English teaching opportunities are more limited here, there are a few international schools and English language institutes that occasionally hire expats with a bachelor's degree and a TEFL certificate.
Situated on Malaysian Borneo, Sabah and Sarawak combine to make up East Malaysia. Rainforests and serene diving spots are abundant here and the cost of living is much lower than mainland Malaysia. While teaching opportunities can be scarce, there is some potential to earn a decent salary.
Generally, there are more teaching opportunities in Sabah than in Sarawak, which can pay handsomely if you’re lucky enough to find them. For example, there are some schools in Kota Kinabalu in Sabah that occasionally look for English teachers and are willing to pay very competitive salaries. Finding these gems may feel like you have won the lottery so they are worth searching for!
As far as TEFL jobs in Malaysia go, working online could be just as financially rewarding and it's entirely possible to live the digital nomad lifestyle in Malaysia.
Citizens of various countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, and South Africa can stay in Malaysia visa-free for up to 90 days. This is ideal if you teach online for a company based in China as the time difference isn’t too extreme.
Many expats in Malaysia are digital nomads and those who do choose to move here tend to stay away from the major cities and live in more regional places like Penang.
It can be difficult to find English teaching jobs posted online, but finding and emailing language centers or international schools can prove to be successful.
Make sure you email the right person by going to the school's website and finding their careers page. Typing the school name and the word “career” can also easily bring you to this page so that you get the right contact details.
It’s always important to understand the culture of the country where you plan on teaching English and being an English teacher in Malaysia is no different. Here are some useful things to know about teaching English in Malaysia.
You will mostly be teaching students from other Asian and European countries who are expats or children of expats. This can be an advantage as there may be fewer students with a common first language in the classroom and it will provide them with more reasons to practice their English.
Malaysian students are generally respectful and friendly. Because cities such as Kuala Lumpur are so culturally and ethnically diverse, any cultural faux pas are usually forgiven quickly or not even noticed.
As with most teaching jobs around the world, it’s important to dress modestly. Most schools ask that women wear mid-length to long sleeves and long skirts while men are expected to wear closed-toed shoes and long trousers. If you’re not sure what to wear to your interview, business casual is certain to be a good choice.
While Malaysia, and in particular Kuala Lumpur, is well-developed, living costs are still reasonably low, especially for expenses such as food and transportation. For instance, you could eat at a mamak (an Indian Muslim indoor food stall) for as little as RM5 to RM15 ($1 - $3). As for groceries, you could easily get away with spending as little as RM100 ($20) per week in a local supermarket.
Public transport in Kuala Lumpur is cheap, comfortable, and reliable, but it may not always get you from A to B. Luckily, e-hailing apps like Grab are popular and less expensive than you might think.
For a decent apartment in a good area, you can expect to pay RM1,500 to RM2,500 ($320 - $550) per month. The cost gets much higher if you decide to stay in a more central location with a spare room.
As mentioned above, the cost of living in Malaysia tends to go down as you move further away from the larger cities such as Kuala Lumpur, so teaching opportunities in more provincial areas that pay well are very sought after.
Life in Malaysia is very comfortable, to say the least. Supermarkets and restaurants cater to various tastes, whether they be Western, Middle Eastern, or East Asian. Of course, there are also countless local Malay, Chinese, and Indian cuisines on offer.
What's more, Malaysia has a wealth of natural beauty for you to explore from the tourist hotspot that is Langkawi to the beautiful coral reefs of Tioman, Redang, and East Malaysia. There are plenty of places to visit and ways to spend your time off without ever having to leave the country. And if you do have the desire to explore further afield, Kuala Lumpur is a hub for international travel and you will have a plethora of opportunities to take short breaks in neighboring countries.
For nature enthusiasts, there are countless hiking trails through stunning rainforests as well as beautiful coral reefs to explore. If you’re more of a city slicker, then you’re in luck as Malaysia’s capital city Kuala Lumpur hosts some of the best rooftop bars, malls, and fine dining restaurants in Southeast Asia.
As well as being a modern country with great food, natural beauty, and advanced infrastructure, Malaysia is a very safe country to live in. It truly has something for anyone looking to teach abroad.
The monthly pay can range from RM4,000 to RM10,000 (about $1,000 to $2,300) and depends on where you teach, your previous experience, and how many hours per week you are offered. It's always important to ask about your teaching hours before being hired. If you’re lucky enough, salaries can be even higher than this.
There is a demand for English teachers in Malaysia, but it is not as high as it is in Thailand or Vietnam. However, if you are an experienced teacher with a bachelor's degree and have completed a 120-hour TEFL course, then you could stand to score a teaching job and get paid a decent salary.
Generally speaking, it is difficult to teach English in Malaysia without a degree as having at least a bachelor's degree is part of the criteria set out by Malaysian immigration. There are some ways around this, but you could end up with a much lower salary and have a lot more issues if you choose to stay here and want to renew your visa.