Volunteering vs. Paid Teaching Positions: Making the Right Choice

 | Teaching House Nomads Blog

Teaching English abroad has become a popular endeavor for many globally-minded individuals. Whether you're taking a gap year, seeking a career change, or just looking to immerse yourself in a new culture, teaching English offers countless opportunities. However, it's vital to understand the fundamental differences between volunteering and securing a paid position, as this choice can significantly impact your overseas experience.

Volunteering to Teach English Abroad

Volunteering entails offering your teaching services without expecting monetary compensation in return. 

Pros of Volunteering

  • Cultural Immersion: Volunteering often immerses you deeply into a community, providing genuine cultural experiences that might be more challenging to access as a paid teacher in a cosmopolitan area.
  • Personal Growth: Giving selflessly can be a profound experience, leading to significant personal development and a sense of fulfillment.
  • Networking Opportunities: The volunteering realm can introduce you to a community of passionate individuals, paving the way for lifelong friendships and potential future collaborations.
  • Flexibility in Commitment: With various short-term and long-term opportunities available, you can choose how long you wish to commit.

Cons of Volunteering

  • Potential Financial Strain: Without a regular paycheck, supporting yourself abroad can be challenging, especially if the program doesn't cover living expenses.
  • Limited Resources for Teaching: Often, volunteer teachers find themselves in environments lacking textbooks, technology, or even basic classroom amenities.
  • Lack of Professional Development Opportunities: Unlike some paid positions, volunteer roles might not provide structured training or avenues for career progression.

Paid Teaching Positions

Securing a paid teaching position means entering into a formal contract with an institution or government program where you receive a salary for your teaching services.

Advantages of Paid Teaching

  • Stable Income: A monthly salary ensures that you can comfortably support yourself while living abroad.
  • Opportunities for Professional Development: Many institutions offer workshops, courses, and training to help you hone your teaching skills.
  • Benefits: From provided accommodations to health insurance and, at times, covered airfare, the perks of a paid position can be numerous.
  • Longer Commitments: With contracts typically lasting a year or more, you get ample time to deeply immerse yourself in the local culture and community.

Key Factors to Consider When Making a Decision

  • Personal and Professional Goals: Consider why you want to teach abroad. Is it for cultural exchange, professional growth, or perhaps both?
  • Duration of Stay and Commitment Level Desired: Think about how long you plan to stay. Short-term stints might favor volunteering, while long-term plans could lean towards paid positions.
  • Financial Needs and Implications: Assess your financial situation. Can you afford to volunteer, or do you need a stable income?
  • Desired Level of Cultural Immersion and Local Community Involvement: Determine how deeply you want to engage with the community.
  • Availability of Resources and Teaching Support: Consider if you need structured support and teaching resources for your teaching journey.


Teaching English abroad is undeniably a transformative experience. Whether you choose the path of volunteering or a paid position depends on various factors, all personal to your journey. Remember to align your choice with your aspirations, and embrace the adventure that awaits. Whatever route you take, the impact you'll make and the memories you'll gather will undoubtedly last a lifetime.

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