Teaching English in Indonesia

By | December 22, 2016

The Republic of Indonesia is a country in Southeast Asia. It is an archipelago made up of around 17,500 islands and with a population of around 238 million people; it is the world’s 4th most populous country. It shares land borders with Malaysia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea. Other adjacent nations include Australia, Palau, the Philippines and Singapore.

Almost all of Indonesia is tropical and the temperatures are similar throughout the year. The country has 2 seasons, a dry and rainy season. In the rainy season, Indonesia is prone to monsoons and tropical storms. Therefore, the country is pretty hot and humid all year round.

The locals are very welcoming, their culture is interesting and the landscape is very diverse. For these reasons and more, many people decide to teach English in Indonesia.

Read more about Indonesia from Wikipedia.

Why Teach English in Indonesia

Bali Beach

Bali Beach image courtesy of Wiki Images.

First of all, one of the biggest attractions for TEFL teachers in Indonesia is that it is very famous for its natural beauty with many exotic animals, beaches and lush rainforests. Not to mention the diverse and rich culture!

English is a very popular language in the country and over the years, the government has tried very hard to get the people to learn English. At the moment, the government is afraid that the people are forgetting the official language called Bahasa Indonesia and they are now trying very hard to revive the language in fear that it may die out as more.

However, many Indonesians want to learn English and see it as a way to better both themselves and their country. As a result of this, there is a big demand for native qualified (those with a degree and a CELTA, TEFL or TESOL) and experienced English speaking teachers in the country.

Where to Teach English in Indonesia

The largest island in Indonesia called Java is where you will find most teaching opportunities. This island is home to the bigger cities of Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Bandung and the nation’s capital, Jakarta.

Bali is a very popular destination for English teachers in Indonesia because of the thriving tourism industry and beautiful beaches. However, the competition for jobs is usually much higher in Bali than in other areas of Indonesia.

Types of Teaching Jobs in Indonesia

Public Schools

Indonesia was a former Dutch colony (and British for a few years!) and after they received independence at the end of World War 2, the government decided to replace compulsory Dutch lessons with English lessons. All students have to learn English from a young age.

More often than not, there isn’t a lot of funding available for native English teachers in public schools and you probably won’t find yourself working in one.

Private Schools

The Famous BromoPrivate schools often have a higher budget that can afford native English speaking teachers. There are 2 types of private schools: ones that teach the Indonesian curriculum (that required English to be taught) and private international schools that teach an international curriculum (where English is also taught).

The salary is quite high at private schools, but you’ll need to be properly qualified and experienced to be offered a job at one.

Language Schools

Language schools are where most native English speaking teachers will find the most opportunities for work in Indonesia. They offer classes of varying ages and students usually attend classes outside of their work or normal school hours. Therefore, you can have both young and old students of all levels in one school.

As the classes usually happen before or after work or normal school hours, you will be expected to work either very early in the morning or later in the afternoon and into the early evening.

Private Lessons

A number of teachers in Indonesia supplement their income by doing private lessons with students. This method of working isn’t practical as a full time job, but a few students can certainly add to your weekly salary.

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Teaching Requirements and Qualifications

To teach in Indonesia you will need to be well qualified. This means that you will need at least a TEFL, TESOL or CELTA certificate as well as a degree. The government makes these requirements and schools are bound by them. You might find very low paying teaching positions with no contract, but you will be working illegally in the country and a foreigner breaking Indonesian law is something that the authorities won’t like!

Expected Salary and Living Costs

[sociallocker id=”1073″]Salary

The amount of money you get paid can depend on a lot of things. It depends on what city or town you are teaching in, what school you work for and what type of teaching job you have. But as a general rule of thumb, you can expect to earn anywhere between $1100 and $1800 per month.

Like most places, the more qualifications and experience that you have will mean that you earn a salary in the higher end of this pay bracket.

Living Costs

The cost of living in Indonesia is particularly low. Even in the bigger cities, you could afford a fairly decent lifestyle and the ability to save a few dollars every month.

A fairly decent apartment in the city is going to cost you around $300 – $400 per month, if you find other teachers to share with, the cost will go down.

Local transport is very cheap with prices starting at less than $1. Moreover, a meal in a cheap restaurant can be less than $2.

For more information, take a look at Numbeo.[/sociallocker]

Visa Requirements

My Dream HouseYou will need a work permit to teach English in Indonesia. If you are a native English speaking TEFL teacher, you will only receive a work permit if you come from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and the US.

You will need to get a work visa which is known as KITAS. This will need to be arranged by your employer after they have offered you a contract for work. To obtain this visa you must provide a number of documents. You will need a passport with at least 18 months left on it, a signed CV, list of references and work experience, copies of your certificates and qualifications.

You will also need an unusual amount of photos too, a total of 25! This includes sixteen 4x6cm photos, five 2x3cm photos and four 3x4cm photos. All of which must be on a red background!

Click here for more information.

Jakarta sunsetThere is one problem that you want to be mindful of. Usually, you will be given a 12 month visa. But in order to leave the country, you will need an exit visa. This visa is issued by the same immigration office that issued your work permit and original visa. To get this, you will need a letter of permission from your employer.

There are stories of employers falling out with teachers and making it very difficult for them to leave the country. They might ask you to pay for it, or they might even refuse to give permission. In this instance, you are advised to go to your embassy to provide you with assistance to help you to leave the country. It must be noted, however, that this practice isn’t rife and most teachers end their contracts successfully.

Read more about this here.

How to Find a Job Teaching in Indonesia

Indonesia - BaliIndonesian schools often recruit foreign TEFL teachers online and you will find many jobs advertised on the internet. Moreover, you can also find work after arriving in the country. Many schools advertise in local newspapers and jobs boards. Don’t forget the old fashioned way of finding a job also works very well! Put on your nicest clothes, grab your CV, get a list of schools and go out and find a job.

Usually schools employ new teachers around the year. The year ends in June and starts again in July. There is a break around December for the Muslim holiday of Eid.

Teach English in Indonesia

Teaching English in Indonesia has many advantages. You can find a relatively high paid job, work in some of the most picturesque locations in the world, save a few dollars and experience a diverse culture. However, you will need to have a good TEFL, CELTA or TESOL certificate as well as a bachelor’s degree. You should also be mindful that Indonesia is a strict Muslim country and doesn’t care much for foreigners breaking their laws, whether it is immigrations laws, drug laws or something else.


Although I have never worked in this country, every effort has been made to ensure that this information is correct. This blog post has been written after extensive research online, interviews with teachers who have worked or are working in the country, and local schools have been contacted. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. If you have worked or are working in Indonesia, we would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment and share your experiences with us.

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13 thoughts on “Teaching English in Indonesia

  1. Dave Weston

    Hi William I am thinking of doing a course in Cambodia but would like to teach in Indonesia would I have to get a degree or would the course qualification be enough to find work.

    Regards Dave

    1. William Lake

      To work legally you will need a degree and a teaching qualification. However, you might find schools that are willing to employ you on a non-contractual basis without a degree, but you would be working illegally in the country.

  2. Emrah

    Nice article William, although I would like to point out that Indonesia is not a strict muslim country at all. There are bars, there’s alcohol, promo girls wearing miniskirts etc. But you are right, when you say as a foreigner or even Indonesian for that case that the law has no compassion unless you have a lot of money of course and you can pay for the compassion. The laws of this country are not sharia or muslim laws, Thailand has the same consequences for drug offences and they are predominantly budhist country. I just want to say Indonesian people are the most tolerant people I’ve ever met in the world, no matter what your religion is. I have been here for nearly 2 and a half years teaching English. My Indonesian wife fell pregant while i was working for a course centre so I left that job and then started teaching privately from home. However since the volcano blast and all the toxic dust covered our city and house, it wasn’t safe for my newborn baby so we moved to Bali and am in the process of getting everything ready to take my family to Australia. I purchased ESL books from Cambridge University, complete courses from beginner to advanced including Audio cd’s, DVD’s, Flashcards, Workbooks, Student books and Teachers books. They are brand new and in class I copied them to use with the students, I never used the original. However now I am going back to Australia I am wanting to sell them. If there are any teachers in south east asia who want to purchase excellent quality ESl complete course for the cheapest price you will find anywhere please email me on emrah.yalpur@yahoo.com

    1. William Lake

      Thanks for the information Emrah. I’m sorry about the volcano and I wish you good luck to take your family to Australia.

      1. Emrah

        I’m sorry for the late reply William, I just saw it now, I received no email notification, thanks mate 🙂 I wish you best on your journey as well 🙂

  3. Dave Weston

    Hi William, Would there be a chance of finding a school that does not require a degree in Bali, I am thinking of doing a TEFL course in Cambodia, however would like to work in Bali if possible as my partner is from here. If not I would be prepared to work Cambodia or Vietnam your opinion would be appreciated.
    Regards Dave

    1. Emrah

      Dave maybe William can give you better advice, but I would like to share my experience with you and maybe it can help. In Indonesia there are laws, but very rarely laws are enforced. Unless your a foreigner caught with drugs and you can’t pay bribery money that is something totally different of what I’m talking about here. Schools like EF and other private english course centres make their money from building a reputation that they have Native teachers. So if you have white skin you make money for them, doesn’t matter if you have experience or not. I worked for Ef and had no experience or qualification but they negotiated a price with man power immigration to sign my work permit that took a couple of months. So answer to your question for Ef no you don’t need qualification or degree. But you are wanting to teach in Bali. I was in central Java where there are not a lot of foreigners like in Bali. So there was easy to get a job. I moved to Bali and I can’t even get a job here without qualification because there is such a huge list of applicants on waiting list. That’s my experience I hope it helps, by no means let my comment stop you from trying or applying for jobs in Bali, but you may find it easier in Java to get English job especially you don’t have degree….

  4. mark dullea

    Let’s be clear-if you want to be employed ‘legally’ then the degree is the main thing here-this isn’t Vietnam or Thailand…in my experience, having lived there for 8 years-working in both International schools and colleges, nobody is much interested in the CELTA [thank god] or any other 4 week course-my MA in English enabled me to get a KITAS to teach ‘English’. My friend’s BA in physics enabled him to teach ‘Physics’ in another school…a 4 week TEFL course might satisfy the kiddie language school bosses….but it won’t cut the mustard with immigration-unless you have an English degree.

  5. Pig Boy

    Ireland is also one of the countries the Indonesian authorities include in their list of English speaking countries.

  6. David RK James

    Hello William, that’s a very comprehensive article you have written!!

    Whenever I apply for TEFL jobs in Columbia for example I always check the Foreign Commonwealth Office website just in-case then contact the British Embassy (In this case it was Bogota) to go direct and check visa requirements etc.

    I know that TEFL Org UK had a few general guides about visa requirements and I noticed a recent post for multiple Indonesia TEFL teaching positions which I am very very excited about!!

    Thanks for the inspiration and keep up the hard work!
    David 🙂

  7. Sharon Pulungan

    I’m australian and married to a indo man we have been thinking of moving to Sumatra and I was wanting to do a tesol course to bring in some extra rp. Do you know if there is international schools in the Medan area.

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