Teaching English in Malaysia

By | December 27, 2016

Malaysia is located in Southeast Asia. Thailand borders it in the northwest, Indonesia to the south, and the Philippines a short distance across the South China Sea in the northeast. Malaysia completely surrounds Brunei and Singapore and it is a culturally diverse country with many different races and ethnicities calling it home.

There are basically 2 parts to Malaysia, with 11 states in the peninsula of Malaysia and two states in the northern part of the island of Borneo. Surrounded by water, the country is home to some of the most beautiful and fantastic beaches in the world.

Malaysia is also an extremely contrasted country, with one of the tallest skyscrapers in the world; the Petronas Towers overlooking traditional Malaysian houses made of wood and build on stilts.

Malaysia is full of surprises, different cultures, natural wonders and man-made beauties.

Why Teach English in Malaysia

Pulau Kapas Beach

Pulau Kapas Beach. Image courtesy of WikiMedia.

With so many different people living in Malaysia, there are so many different types of types of food to choose from and lots of very colourful festivals throughout the year.

Most Malaysian people are very laid back and friendly with other cultures whether visitors or other residents.

Malaysia is one of the regions richest and most developed countries in South East Asia and it continues to grow each year. It has fantastic infrastructure, lots of attractions and is a regional centre for Asian business.

With this in mind, English is very important and there is a real need for well qualified and experienced English teachers.

Where to Teach English in Malaysia

All of the major cities, especially Kuala Lumpur, are home to many language and international schools. English teachers with the appropriate qualifications (usually a degree and a TEFL, TESOL or CELTA certificate) will have no problems finding a job in one of the bigger cities.

Types of Teaching Jobs in Malaysia

Private Language Schools

Petronas Twin Towers | Kuala Lumpur

Petronas Twin Towers | Kuala Lumpur

Private language schools are where most TEFL teachers will find work in Malaysia. There are schools all over the country and they usually accept applications all year round.

All private language schools have different standards and some might require a bachelor’s degree and some kind of teaching qualification like a TEFL, TESOL or CELTA, but some might have lower standards. Usually, the schools with the higher standards pay the most.

International Schools

Usually, International schools are the best paying schools in Malaysia. They usually offer a British style curriculum for both children of expatriates and locals. There are a number of international schools, but to work in one you will need to have good qualifications and experience.

Public Schools

perhentian islands, malaysia

Perhentian Islands, Malaysia

There are some opportunities for native English speaking teachers to work in public schools and universities. The salary is usually less than private schools, but your teaching hours will be relatively short and you will often have more free time. You could top up the smaller salary with private lessons when you’re not teaching in school.

Private Lessons

A number of English teachers in Malaysia will take a few private lessons to top up their salary each week. However, unless you have been in the country for a long time and have steadily increased the number of private lessons that you are teaching, you shouldn’t look at this as your primary income. Usually, teachers take a few students for private lessons when they are not in school.

Teaching Requirements and Qualifications

To work in Malaysia as a TEFL teacher, you will need to have a degree and a teaching certificate of some kind. An internationally recognised TEFL, TESOL or CELTA would be the minimum. However, as the job market is quite fierce in the country, you would be in a much better positions if you had a master’s degree, especially if it was in an educational related field. Moreover, a DELTA would also make you a preferred candidate for most jobs.

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Expected Salary and Living Costs

[sociallocker id=”1109″]Once you find a teaching job, you can earn anywhere $600 and $2800 per month, depending on your qualifications, experience, the school and where you are working. Usually international schools will pay the most, but they will require better qualifications and more experience than other schools.

You are often provided with paid holidays and in some cases you might get medical insurance and accommodation allowance.

You will have to pay tax on your income and complete and annual tax return form, but the school will pay the income tax monthly on your behalf.

The cost of living is relatively low in Malaysia and you can live quite comfortably on around $1000 per month. If you have more expensive tastes, you’ll need to budget a little more.

Again, the cost of living can vary depending on your location, but a decent 1 bedroom apartment will cost around $400 per month inside cities, and a little less outside.

Local food and transport can be very cheap, but if you like a drink or two, then beer is very expensive when compared to other countries in the region. However, the price is still less than most western countries. On top of this, western style restaurants and food in supermarkets can be quite expensive too.

If you live a fairly modest lifestyle and you have a good job with a high salary, you could expect to make some savings every month.[/sociallocker]

Visa Requirements

Batu Caves

Batu Caves

You’ll need a work permit to work in Malaysia and this is done when you are already in the country. The school that you are working for will apply for it on your behalf. However, the working permit is only good for the school that applies for it; therefore it isn’t easy to change jobs.

You will have to supply a number of different documents in order for the permit to be processed.

Visit the Official Portal for the Government of Malaysia for non-citizens if you need more information.

How to Find a Job Teaching in Malaysia

BLESSING | sunset of Kuala Lumpur skyline |

Kuala Lumpur Skyline

A number of Malaysian language schools advertise for teachers online, however it is rare for them to offer a job without interviewing the applicant in person. Therefore, you might find jobs advertised on our jobs board, but you’ll probably have to attend an interview in person.

What you can do before you arrive in Malaysia is to get a list of schools that you can contact after you have arrived. Then contact each school or visit them in person and enquire about vacant positions.

Moreover, you can check the local newspapers to see if there are any teaching jobs for native English speakers being advertised. Usually, jobs are available throughout the year, so there is no best time to arrive.

For more information about the cost of living in Malaysia, take a look at Numbeo.

Teach English in Malaysia

Malaysia has its own very unique lifestyle and culture that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. You can spend your spare time eating lots of different types of food, speaking to people that have many different beliefs and visit some very beautiful landscape and man-made buildings.

You will have good job security, a pretty good standard of living and the major international airport in Kuala Lumpur will give you the opportunity to visit other Southeast Asian countries for a reasonably cheap price with Air Asia.


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 Malaysia, we would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment and share your experiences with us.

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