Michael A. Turton

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Teaching English in Taiwan

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Introduction Getting Hired
Pay and Benefits Where to Work
Schedules & Workload Getting Along in the System

One unbeatable advantage of universities: recreational facilities.

Pay and Benefits
Base pay for instructor (MA) is $52K (Taiwan) a month.  A PhD makes between 10K and 20K more. 

This pay scale is identical for all schools public and private; I make as much as my counterpart instructors at NTU. Thus, there is no financial incentive for good professors to move up in the system.

My daughter reading in front of the library at Chaoyang. 
By contrast, were I to quit the university and pull down thirty-five hours a week @ 600/hour in a cram school, I'd be making 84,000 a month, with identical taxes and benefits. However, I'd be working a lot more hours. Private universities generally pay better than public ones; public ones have better retirement and better access to resources such as grants. Students practice an activity.
After one has been there a year (Feb to Feb) one gets a bonus equal to 1.5 months salary at New Years (less if one has been there only a semester).  Thus, pay is actually 13.5 months over a year.  At 52k a month, that works out to $702,000.  The NT is around 33 to the dollar, so that works out to about US$21K annually.  The pay is crap, in other words. As a prof in a four year college in the US, you can make two to three times as much.  Some private schools do not give bonuses, so be sure to ask if there's a bonus at your school. Early morning fog and smog smother the rice fields and small factories of Taliao outside the grounds of Fooyin University in southern Taiwan.
However, this is not the actual pay you will make. Overtime is practically mandatory, especially for instructors. This will offer 10K a month at least.  Additionally, there are opportunities in the adult continuing ed programs, weekend classes and various other forms of work. Some school pay extra for administrative work. 


A local high school. This "combined" high school offers both academic and vocational tracks. Like many local high schools, it has a foreign teacher. The shell of a building on the right is actually a cultural site, the home of a prominent 19th century figure. The high school's beautiful campus was rebuilt after almost total destruction in the 1999 earthquake.
Further, there are odd jobs such as editing or teaching in local elementary schools (some of which have cooperative relationships with local colleges) that can push real income higher. I have a lucrative side business in translation and editing which in some months exceeds my income from teaching, but few who come over will have the necessary Chinese skills. Students practice a dialogue in class.
A spare teacher's lounge.
Night class accounting students grapple with English grammar. An important benefit of a PhD is that not only do you get higher pay, you also have a smaller workload.  Many schools require only 9 hours of PhDs, whereas instructors must do at least 11.
Students check their electronic dictionaries for a difficult word. Many of the smaller schools trying to upgrade to university status are desperate for foreign PhDs and will pay them more than the system specifies. Try and bargain for things like housing and employment bonuses. Universities are adept at finding ways to get you money under the table to offset the fixed salaries.
Former professors rest in their new retirement home.... Remember, they need you more than you need them, because they can't find foreigners as easily as you can find another job.
A university proclaims its freedom from SARS. Other financial benefits, with the massive exception of health, are nonexistent.  Health benefits are exceptional and as a foreigner the more odious aspects of the system will not be revealed to you (see the section on Health in Living in Taiwan). Taxes are low. There is retirement pay, but it is barely enough to light a cigar with.
The cafe at Chaoyang. Many schools provide housing cheap or even free to faculty. Check and see if yours does.  Internet access is par for the course.  Some have cheap day care.  Day care is expensive, like everywhere, and university day care can be a real boon. 

Remember that if you are in a school outside of Taipei, you will need personal transportation in the form of a car or motorcycle. 

Students grab breakfast at one of the restaurants on campus.
Of course, there are benefits that only a college can provide: weights, a pool, a track, a library.  These amenities are a lifesaver.  At Fooyin my wife and I ran five times a week and swam every day.  Other amenities (a drama department, music department, etc) will vary with the size and mission of the university in question. Libraries will have access to electronic texts and will also be part of the interlibrary system on the island. The school bookstore will also be able to purchase things at a discount for you. A campus bookstore.
An important benefit: teachers are genuinely respected in this culture (unlike the US, where learning is held in contempt) and one will enjoy a certain social status here. The spanking new campus of Kaoshiung National University.
Pay generally comes in two lumps on each paycheck. Approximately half your pay comes in one lump calculated for office hours, research, and other work. A second lump is for your teaching hours. 

Base hourly rate is $575 for instructors (for higher ranks it is more), less than the crummy cram schools outside the school gate.

Overtime pay (time and a half) is usually paid for anything over 11 or 12 hours for instructors.

High school students in an intensive language program of a university language center. In recent years universities have been opening centers like this on every campus as cash cows exploiting the exploding English market. Competition is fierce. They are NOT subject to Ministry regulations and you may teach as many hours as you like (they may also hire BAs). Pay is generally twice the hourly rate of $575 for instructors; pay for this one was $1,200.

Be careful: it is common for schools here to tell instructors that they are receiving a benefit free and then charge them for it. CHECK YOUR PAYCHECK CAREFULLY and ask about anything the seems untoward. 

And watch out for those promises! Make sure everything you get is legal. As a friend warns:

Another thing that happened is that my boss (whom I actually like a lot because of his general mannerisms and politeness, irrespective of whether or not he is always trying to pull a fast one) had hired an American guy who had a Masters degree in Aromatherapy and put him down as a Ph.D. on the condition that the Aromatherapy guy would promise to complete successfully a Ph.D. course.  My boss gave him many assurances that this would be fine.  After a while the government (according to my colleague) rescinded their permission for the MA-holding foreigner's  appointment and demanded back that amount of salary that he had received in excess of his non-professional status. When he protested to my boss on the basis that my boss had assured him everything would be fine, my boss replied that he (the foreigner) should be glad the government did not ask more by way of compensation.


A professor revvs up for class with tea and half-awake conversation.
Finally, there is one other crucial benefit: research funding and monies for paper writing. After you have been at a school for a while, you can start applying to the NSC. Research funding provides funds for assistants, equipment, and renumeration for oneself. Many schools pay you just for trying. Additionally, papers published in peer-reviewed journals abroad also generate a payment from the university. This can be a good source of side income. Two students advertize a horror movie on campus. 

Introduction Getting Hired
Pay and Benefits Where to Work
Schedules & Workload Getting Along in the System
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