How to Recognize a Scam Agency Recruiting for Teaching Jobs in Asia and Avoid Them

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As a former English teacher with seven years experience of teaching in Asia, one thing that makes me angry when I get online are the huge numbers of scam agencies recruiting for teaching jobs in Asia. They prey on the young, naive and ill-informed, and offer high-paying jobs in Thailand, Japan, Korea and China.

When the teacher arrives in country, however, the job is either nowhere near how it was portrayed as being or the salary is a fraction of what they expect. Or, if the job is exactly as was sold to them, the teacher soon finds out they could have applied for the job themselves and be making a 30 percent higher salary — a percentage now going to the scam agency every month for a ‘finders fee’.

If you are one of the tens of thousands of new teachers planning on moving abroad to teach English, here are the signs to look for with any teaching agency recruiting for teaching jobs in Asia — signs that should tip you off something about this is a scam.

No university degree or certification required – When I see any online recruiter saying “No university degree or certification required to teach in Asia”, my red flag immediately goes up. That’s because in almost every Asian country nowadays, you must have a university degree at the very least to be able to legally get a job teaching English, and many countries are now also demanding TEFL certification.

If a teaching agency or recruiter tells you a degree or TEFL certification is not required, in most cases you can guarantee they are lying. As for what type of job you will end up in – one of the lowest paying teaching jobs in the country, with no benefits, no paid vacations, no health insurance and, in most cases, you’ll also be working illegally.

If you don’t have a university degree or TEFL certification and want to teach English in Asia, the smartest thing to do would be to get qualified and then start looking for your dream job.

An agency asks for a fee – Never, ever, ever pay a teaching agency or recruiter a fee to find you a job. The school always pays the ‘finders fee’ for the teacher, so when you pay as well the scam teaching agency gets paid twice. Don’t sign up with any agency that requests a fee, they are a guaranteed scam outfit that will rob you blind.

They want you to arrive in country without a visa – If you are hired through a legitimate recruiter, you should have all the information necessary to get a valid visa at an embassy of the country you will be teaching in before you even get on the plane. If you don’t, you are being scammed.

Without this visa, you will not be able to obtain a work permit in the country you will be teaching in once you arrive and start working, so can all but guarantee you will be working illegally. In some countries in Asia, being found teaching English illegally can mean imprisonment, a fine of several thousand dollars and deportation.

They provide ‘jobs that are never advertised’ – One of the biggest lines the scam agencies use is the one that talks about them recruiting for jobs that are never advertised. In reality, just about anywhere in Asia, most teaching jobs are advertised or they are filled by word of mouth from other teachers and not through scam agencies. That is particularly true when it comes to jobs in language schools – schools that hire the vast majority of western teachers in Asia.

Your best bet is to travel to the country you want to teach in and find your own job by yourself. That often requires nothing more than dropping your resume off at a few private language schools and accepting one of the job offers you will invariably get.

Agencies who are recruiting for EPIK in Korea – To me, one of the biggest signs an agency is a scam, or at least heading in that direction, is when they recruit for EPIK in Korea, EPIK stands for English Program in Korea, and is one of the most popular programs for western teachers wanting to move to Korea to teach English. It is also a program you can apply for online directly, without the need for a recruiter or an agency doing the work for you.

Be aware too, EPIK themselves have said, if you apply to their program through a recruiter or an agency, not only will your application take longer than if you just did it yourself, but you will also have less chance of being placed in the area of Korea you really want to live in. Avoid agencies who are recruiting for EPIK and just apply with them yourself.

Any agency running their own online TEFL certification program – The vast majority of online TEFL programs are worthless. This is because they do not include at least 8-10 hours of observed teaching practice, which is required by the education authorities in most Asian countries and almost always required by any decent school.

The minute you see an online agency or recruiter telling you they run an online TEFL certification program and you can sign up for their course right now, for several hundred dollars of course — run.

In most Asian countries, any teacher can move to the country they want to teach in and find a job themselves within no more than a week, or apply for jobs online and be hired legally with all the legal paperwork provided for them before they even leave their own country.

There is no need to sign up with a recruiter or a teaching agency in the vast majority of incidences. Not unless you like being paid less, and treated as nothing more than a number to shove into the next available teaching job.