If you’ve ever spent time really travelling and not just blitzing overseas shopping malls with your entire Singaporean clan in tow, you would have noticed that there’s a proliferation of young people working as English teachers, dive instructors and yoga teachers. Many of these people come to a new country for a year or two of what they hope will be a very long vacation. Jobs are fairly easy to find and usually pay at least a living wage.
The best thing about these three jobs is getting qualified is often just a matter of attending a course which usually lasts from a few weeks to a few months, and can net you a salary that’s likely higher than what a cleaner or security guard in Singapore earns, even in a country with a much lower cost of living. If you’re thinking of doing the same, here’s a guide.
While working as an MOE teacher in Singapore might not be the ideal job to many due to the long hours and mountains of admin (many of my friends who are teachers complain about having to bring work home on a daily basis and work through weekends), getting an English teaching qualification so you can teach people for whom English is a second language is a whole different story. With the right qualifications (and obviously a native-level command of the language) you can find work as an English teacher in Japan, Korea, Thailand or elsewhere.
I’m not going to lie—if you are Asian, you’ll be at a disadvantage in many countries, because many schools will hire Russians and Italians to teach English over you, just because they look the part. Still, it is by no means impossible, or even difficult, to get a job if you’re willing to put in the effort. Other than a university degree, you’ll need one of the following qualifications to get the better jobs.
CELTA – This is the holy grail of English teaching qualifications. The British Council in Singapore conducts the course, which takes about a month full-time, for a whopping 5,900 SGD. If you’re graduating from uni or quitting your job and serious about getting your CELTA certificate, a much better option would be to head to Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Phuket, where you get to do the same course at US$1,600 (2,212 SGD). If you need accommodation too, the cheapest package in Bangkok includes the full course, 27 nights of accommodation plus breakfast, lunch and dinner on weekdays for US$2,100 (2,903 SGD)
Trinity TESOL – Together with CELTA, this qualification is one of the two most recognised in the world. You can either get a certificate or a diploma, depending on how much time and money you want to invest. At the moment the official Trinity course is not available in Singapore, but you can spend 4 weeks in Khao Yai, Thailand and get it for 2,299 USD (3,178 SGD), including accommodation and meals.
TEFL – The minimum requirement for most jobs is a TEFL cert, which can take 2-6 weeks to obtain and are usually a bit cheaper than CELTA. TEFL certs are given out by many organisations, some of which are quite dodgy. You can get a TEFL diploma in Singapore by attending a 6 week course at the cost of about $2,700. You can even find online courses that charge a few hundred, but be wary that employers might not be that impressed.
Other random TESOL courses – Usually a 16 week course that you can take in Singapore for anything from $2,000 to $5,000 at various centres, depending on the centre. Again, lots of dodgy courses online.
Work on that golden tan while travelling around the world and moonlighting as a dive instructor. What a way to earn money while indulging in your hobby every single day. You don’t even have to have tried scuba diving before to sign up to become a dive instructor these days (although it’s obviously recommended). Many dive schools in Southeast Asia now offer zero-to-instructor courses that are almost like apprenticeships, meaning that in 3 to 6 months of almost daily diving you get certified as a full-fledged instructor.
PADI – In Singapore, you usually need to work your way through the PADI Advanced Open Water and PADI Rescue Diver qualifications as well as log a certain number of dives before you can take the PADI Divermaster course. The Divemaster coures alone can set you back around $1,600 to $2,000, but the whole process could take you years since you’ll need to spend time and money getting your basic certifications first. On the other hand, head to Ko Tao in Thailand for a PADI Divemaster Internship and you can go from a total beginner to a divemaster in 2 to 6 months, with the added benefit of being able to go on as many dives as you like. The typical cost of a 2-month zero to divemaster internship on Ko Tao is around 120,000 baht (5,000 SGD) to 150,000 baht (6350 SGD) and includes accommodation and food.
SSI – PADI tends to be the first choice of dive instructors, but SSI offers courses that are slightly cheaper. The quality of your course depends heavily on how good your own teacher is and not whether you’re taking the PADI or SSI one, so don’t worry too much about which organisation to get certified with.
Whether yoga to you is a hardcore workout in a heated room at the behest of an iron-fisted instructor or meditating for hours every day, there’s no doubt that it’s big business in the present day. If you’re one of those people who’s found zen in a yoga studio, you might be thinking of becoming a certified yoga teacher. You don’t need a cert to teach but it certainly helps you get your foot in the door, especially as some yoga schools are open to hiring graduates from their own teacher training course. Yoga teacher training courses these days generate a ton of income for the industry, and many practitioners get multiple teacher training certs just for fun. Yoga teacher training courses usually welcome everyone from beginners to experienced practitioners, obviously because they earn more money that way.
Yoga Alliance-accredited 200 hour teacher training: Many yoga schools in Singapore offer this, and costs are usually in the $3,600 to $4,000 region. However, many people head to India, particularly Rishikesh, where you can find well-regarded 4-week teacher training courses for a fraction of the price at under 1,200 USD (1,660 SGD), including accommodation and food for a month. That’s less than many people’s monthly living costs in Singapore, so if you have a month to spare this can be a good way to live. Other popular and inexpensive destinations include Chiang Mai and Pai in Thailand.
Are you thinking of getting any of the above qualifications? Tell us why in the comments!