Teaching English in Thailand

By | October 4, 2013

Thailand is located in Southeast Asia and is home to about 65 million people. It shares a border with Burma (Myanmar), Laos, Cambodia, and Malaysia. Thailand went through very quick economic growth during the late 80s and early 90 and is now an industrialised country. As a result, Thailand is home to many international companies that have set up offices in Thailand.

Moreover, the country is a very popular destination for tourists all over the world. As a result of this economic expansion and very high levels of tourism, many Thais are interested in learning how to speak English. As a popular destination for expats to live, there are also many native English speakers that are looking to teach English in Thailand.

Thailand is right in the middle of Southeast Asia and it is famous for its beautiful beaches, historic culture, delicious food and diverse landscapes. If you’re interested in travelling around Thailand and want more time there than just a short holiday then teaching English can be a great way to do this.

Why Teach English in Thailand?

There are many reasons why people choose to teach English in Thailand. Firstly, the cost of living in Thailand is very cheap when compared to western countries and you can earn a decent salary that will give you a fairly good lifestyle and it might also allow you to save a little money each month too.

Many teachers decide to teach in Thailand for just one year before moving on to the next place and just as many make Thailand a long time home for a number of years.

This tropical country is hot all year round and offers a very relaxed way of life. Even if you work in the hectic capital city of Bangkok, you will find that you will have a lot of free time to explore this beautiful country.

Where to Teach English in Thailand?

Although Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand, offers the most opportunities for English teachers, it isn’t the only place where you will find teaching opportunities. You will find a variety of opportunities all over Thailand.

Types of Teaching Jobs Available in Thailand

Private Language Institutes

Teaching English in Thailand

Bangkok Sunset
Image courtesy of WikiMedia.

Private language institutes are one of the biggest employers of native English speakers in Thailand and can be found all over the country, but most of them are in Bangkok. There are large national and international chains of language schools and also smaller independent language schools.

These schools offer a range of different courses including IELTS and TOEFL. They also offer academic courses and English for specific purposes, e.g. business and tourism.

You can be teaching all sorts of different students that are taking various different courses. This includes young students (under 18) looking to improve their skills. Sometimes you’ll be teaching university students that are looking to improve their chances of finding a job, and you could also be teaching adults who study English for a number of reasons.

These schools are open 7 days a week and nearly 52 weeks a year. If you find yourself working in a private language school, you could be working all kinds of unusual hours.

International schools

International schools are located all over Thailand, but they are most likely to be found in the bigger cities. These international schools offer a curriculum that is solely taught in English and they often follow the American or British syllabus.

To work in one of these schools, you will often need more than just a teaching certificate (TESOL, TEFL and CELTA). You will probably be expected to teach more than just English and will therefore need a recognised teaching qualification to be able to work in these schools. As a result, however, they are often the most highly paid teaching positions available in Thailand.

Primary and High Schools

Primary schools and high schools are now the biggest employer of foreign teachers in Cambodia. The government started hiring native English speaking teachers in the 1990s to give students help with their speaking and listening skills by exposing them to native speakers.

Thai schools are usually very big and the class sizes can also be very large. You’ll be expected to teach English to large classes and this often isn’t easy, even for experienced teachers.

Moreover, you’ll have different classes throughout the week and a lot of these classes will be repeated but with different students. This drastically cuts down on any preparation that you need to do.

The working hours are very good because schools are not open on the weekends and the working day finishes at 4 or 4:30pm.

You will find that public schools have varying conditions. Some might be modern and offer all the mod-cons whereas others will be very old fashioned and quite dated.

Universities

Karon Beach, Phuket, Thailand

Karon Beach, Phuket, Thailand
Image Courtesy of WikiMedia.

There are both government run and private universities in Thailand. As would be expected, your salary would be much higher in private universities and more often than not they are better equipped than government universities.

The requirements for working in a Thai university are also much higher. You would definitely need at least a bachelor’s degree and in some cases you might even need a master’s or a PhD.

Moreover, recent graduates should not expect to find a job in a Thai university and only older looking and more experience teachers will be offered positions.

Private Tuition

A number of teachers have private students to supplement their income. Only a few, however, use this method as their main income. The reason is that students can cancel at the last minute, leaving you without any pay at the last moment. On the other side, your students will come to you so you don’t need to spend any time and money travelling.

You’ll need to find a nice quiet space to do private tuition. You shouldn’t invite your students to your home for private tuition classes because you need to consider the safety of yourself and your students. If you’re a male teacher and you’re inviting young females to your home, you might find that an innocent English lesson could lead to all sorts of problems.

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Teaching Requirements & Qualifications

Thailand, unfortunately is quite a xenophobic place and white skin is revered in the country. If you are a native English speaker but have African roots, then you will find it much harder to find a job in the country. Often Thai employers won’t employ you and sometimes Thai students will not study with you. This is a shame, but it is a fact of life in Thailand.

Thailand Jungle Village

Thailand Jungle Village
Image Courtesy of WikiMedia.

For most teaching jobs you will need at least a bachelor’s degree. Although having a degree doesn’t automatically mean that you are a better teacher, it is a sign that you have attained a certain level of education. If you have a master’s degree, this would be even better. You might find some schools that are willing to employ you with no degree, but you’ll undoubtedly earn a lot less and there will be fewer opportunities.

You don’t always need a specific English teaching qualification such as a CELTA, TEFL, or TESOL to work in Thailand and indeed there are many teachers working in Thailand that don’t have one. Having said that, the standards in Thailand have improved a lot over the years and you find that there are many more opportunities available to you if you have a some kind of TEFL certificate. Moreover, you’ll also be in a better position to apply for jobs at the higher paying schools in Thailand.

Experience isn’t always necessary either. There are some schools that will employ newly qualified teachers, and there are others that will require that you have experience in teaching and preferably that this experience comes from teaching English in Thailand.

You’ll find that schools that don’t require experience will often pay less than those that do. After teacher’s have gained some experience, it’s quite normal for them to be looking for better teaching positions that pay more.

There seems to be a lot more men living in Thailand than women and as a result women teachers can often be in high demand. This is especially true when looking for teaching jobs where you will be teaching younger students.

Expected Salary & Living Costs

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The expected salary for teachers in Thailand can vary considerably. The first thing is your location. You’re much more likely to earn more money in a big city than in the countryside or smaller cities and towns. Moreover, it also depends on the school that you’re working for and finally your experience and qualifications will also affect the amount you get paid.

Taking into account a wide range of salaries that you can expect, it can be anywhere from $700 – $2500 per month. Those at the lower end of the scale will be unqualified and inexperienced or working outside of the bigger cities. Most qualified and experienced teachers should find themselves somewhere in the middle of this pay scale. Finally, those at the higher end of the pay scale will probably be working in schools that are very picky about the teachers that they employ.

If you’re earning a salary that is at the lower end of this pay scale, don’t expect to save any money. You’ll probably be spending virtually all of this on your living costs. If you earn a salary in the higher end of the pay scale you can easily save money.

Cost of Living

When compared to the west, Thailand can be a cheap place to live. However, a teacher will not be able to afford a luxurious lifestyle, but you will have it relatively easy.

The cost of living can vary considerably from place to place. Local food can be very cheap at just a dollar or two for a meal. If you eat western food, your food costs will increase quite dramatically.

Transportation is quite cheap in Thailand and most big cities have tuk-tuks, taxis, and other forms of public transport that can be very cheap.

A decent apartment will cost you at least $200 a month plus bills. The price will increase with the quality, but you’ll get a lot more for you money than you would anywhere in Western Europe or the United States. Most foreign teachers will opt for an apartment because they are a lot cheaper than houses, but you can find some decent house shares with other foreigners for around the same price. Remember, that these prices will vary from place to place.

For a more specific run down of the living costs in Thailand, take a look at Numbeo.[/sociallocker]

Visa Requirements

Bangkok Statetower Image courtesy of WikiMedia.

Bangkok Statetower
Image courtesy of WikiMedia.

The visa requirements for Thailand have got quite strict over the years. To work legally in Thailand you will need to apply for a work permit from the Department of Labour. You will need to provide some specific information about your employer and most schools will help you with this. After you have your work permit, you can then apply for a one year visa.

There are many teachers working in Thailand illegally that don’t have a work permit. They often have to leave the country and re-enter to get an extension on their visa because without a work permit you will only have a maximum of 90 days. In some cases you might only even have a 2 week or 1 month visa. It used to be that foreigners could just leave the country for a few hours and re-enter Thailand for a new visa, but this practice is now getting harder to do.

For more specific information visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Kingdom of Thailand.

How to Find a Job Teaching in Thailand

There are many places to find work teaching English in Thailand and a number of schools actively recruit online and carry out the entire recruitment process online. Some TEFL and TESOL courses also help you to find placements and it is very possible to secure a position before you even arrive in Thailand.

Take a look at some online jobs boards and teaching forums to see what kind of jobs are being offered online. Before you accept a job, do your research about the school. There are many teaching forums that will tell you about other people’s experiences working in a particular school. Make sure that the school has a good reputation for both students and teachers before accepting any position.

Another way to find jobs teaching English in Thailand is the good old fashioned way of knocking on doors and asking for a job. Prepare your CVs and get a list of schools and visit them. Always ask to speak to the director or principal of a school and always follow up your visit with a telephone call. Try to get the direct contact number for the person responsible for hiring teachers otherwise your application might get ‘lost’ and your visit will have been for nothing.

Teaching English in Thailand

Thailand is a very popular destination for many people that are looking to teach English abroad. It is a tropical country and a very beautiful place to live. Many people love the lifestyle that you get from living in Thailand and enjoy their experience there.

Some parts of Thailand, especially Bangkok, are very modern and you’ll have all the same things that you have at home. You can live like a westerner in Asia or you can try to live like a Thai. Obviously, living like a local is much cheaper, but most people find a comfortable blend somewhere in the middle.

Disclaimer

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

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4 thoughts on “Teaching English in Thailand

  1. Bee

    These are really great tips! They are seriously spot on for Thailand. I would completely agree that a degree does not make you a better teacher, and in fact you can often get around the degree requirement to teach in government schools in Thailand. TEFL does not necessarily make you a better teacher either, but any sort of degree or certification can give you the *appearance* of being highly qualified which is often enough to get your foot in the door.

    I have written a bit specifically about my experiences and general advice for teaching English in Thailand on my blog, if you’d like to have a look! There’s a lot about the “culture” of teaching in Thailand (Bangkok specifically)

  2. Bill

    William – This is a great site, very informative. I have a couple of questions, feel free to send me an email if you have time.

    1. Is there an advantage to gaining the CELTA instead of a TEFL certificate? (I am native to the USA and have a four year university degree. On other sites I have read that the CELTA is better to obtain after someone has a couple of years experience).
    2. I see that you can take classes and obtain these certificates in the host country. Does this help in finding jobs quicker, easier?
    3. Does a TEFL/CELTA certificate hold more credibility with employers if it is obtained in a native English speaking country like the UK, USA, Australia, etc…?

    Thanks for your insight.

    1. William Lake

      Hi Bill,

      1. This is open to debate! I would prefer a CELTA because they are accredited by the University of Cambridge. You have to be wary with some TEFL’s because some are accredited and some not.
      2. Sometimes the company will help you to find jobs when you’re finished. It will help insomuch that you would have already been in the country for 4 weeks at least and you will have a head start on somebody who has only just arrived!
      3. A CELTA can only be completed in schools that are accredited by the University of Cambridge and therefore it doesn’t matter where you do it. With regards to a TEFL, you need to check the company offering the course, and do some research to see if it is any good or not!

      Good luck!

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