I’ve been teaching English in Thailand for five years now, and as cliché as it sounds, it’s been a life-changing experience. Aside from how much I enjoy it and how it’s helped me to grow on a personal level, it’s provided the pathway for me to stay in Thailand long-term and continue to train and fight. If I hadn’t taken that step, this blog wouldn’t exist. Since I set it up, this has been the subject that I’ve received the most questions about, so it’s about time I wrote a blog post on the ins and outs of how to do it yourself. So, here it is. I’ve listed the most common teaching-related questions and answered them to the best of my ability. If there’s anything I’ve missed out, feel free to let me know in the comments section.
What Qualifications Do I Need?
Be a Native Speaker
Most employers require native English speakers, preferring applicants from the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa. However, it’s still possible to get work if you don’t hold one of those nationalities, and even if English isn’t your first language. Those who speak English as a second language, even with a very high proficiency, will have more difficulty finding work, but may be able to secure jobs, sometimes teaching both English and their first language. To do so, they may be required to take a TOEIC (score of 600+ required) or IELTS exam (score of 5+ required). These jobs are harder to find, but they’re out there.
A Bachelor’s degree (in any field)
Some international schools require a degree in a specific subject and sometimes a Master’s degree, but most regular teaching jobs simply require a bachelor’s degree in no specific field. You will be required to provide the original certificate in order to apply for a work permit.
A TEFL/TESOL/CELTA certificate.
Any one of these certifications will allow you to teach English as a second language in Thailand. Most employers require teachers to have undertaken a minimum of a 120-hour course. When you first get started, all the acronyms can be confusing, and it’s hard to know which course you’ll need. To make things easier, I’ll explain the difference between them below
- TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign Language
This qualification is generally intended for teaching non-native speakers in their own country. In order to take a TEFL course, the only requirement is to be a native speaker of English.
- TESOL – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
TESOL is an umbrella that encompasses both TEFL and TESOL together in the same qualification. Entry requirements for TESOL courses vary depending on the provider, but minimum requirements for candidates are to be 18+ years of age, a native English speaker and have a high school level of education. A bachelor’s degree may be required for some courses, but previous teaching experience is not.
- CELTA – Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults
The Cambridge CELTA certificate a high-level certification and is the most reputable and widely recognized qualification for a foreign language teacher. Unlike TEFL or TESOL, it is a standardized course, which means that the course content is the same regardless of where it’s taken. Therefore, prospective employers will have a good idea of what training candidates with this certificate have. This qualification is well-suited to those who are looking to teach English long-term and make a career out of it. For those looking to do a ‘gap year’ as an English teacher, this certification is not required. This is a more intensive course, therefore candidates would benefit from having some prior teaching experience beforehand. It includes at least 120 hours of study over a minimum of four weeks and at least 6 hours of teaching practice with students.
A Police Background Check from your Home Country
This isn’t always required, but it’s a good idea to get one before you make the trip out to Thailand because some employers may ask for it, and getting one after you’ve left the country can be quite a hassle.
How do I get Qualified?
TEFL and TESOL courses can be taken both online and in classrooms. I’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both options.
It is entirely possible to gain your teaching qualification from an online course. These courses can take as little as three weeks to complete and are entirely flexible, making them ideal for those who work full-time. They are also relatively inexpensive in comparison to classroom courses. However, the main disadvantage of such courses is the absence of teaching practice. Without practical application of the knowledge and teaching techniques acquired on the course in a real situation, it can mean that the first time that you step into a classroom is on your first day of work. This can be rather daunting to those unfamiliar with this line of work. However, for many jobs in Thailand, previous teaching experience is not required. So, if you’re already fairly confident, this may be enough for you.
Perhaps the most beneficial way of gaining a teaching qualification is by studying in a classroom. This can be done in your home country, either with weekend courses coupled with online study or full-time study for around three weeks. It can also be done abroad, either in Thailand or elsewhere. When studying a course in a classroom abroad, accommodation is usually provided. In this case, the agency providing the course will usually provide aid in finding teaching jobs once the course is over. Some of them even include job placements as part of the course. This is a great option for those who are find the idea of the entire experience slightly overwhelming, as it takes out the worry of having to find a job yourself. One drawback of this is that the candidate usually has no choice in the placement, meaning that they could end up working anywhere in Thailand. If you have few restrictions or preferences regarding where you’d like to be, this is a great option for you. Job placements such as these usually require you to work for the school for a minimum of one semester, after which you have the option of either finding another job elsewhere or continuing with the same school. See here for a list of some of the companies that offer practical courses in Thailand.
This is the route that I took, and the thing I liked most about it was that it brought people together. If you take one of these courses, you’ll be with a group of around twenty other people who are in the same situation as you. This is a great way to make friends and travel buddies as well as professional connections. I made some lifelong friends on my TESOL course.
If you’re interested in taking this route, you might want to check out TEFL Heaven’s Thailand Internship for April 2017. You can also get a discount of 50GBP (2500THB) if you enter the discount code ‘EMMAUNDERTHEROPES’ when you apply.
Do I need to Speak any Thai to Teach?
Proficiency in Thai language is not required in order to teach English. In fact, many schools prefer for teachers not to use Thai at all in order to create an environment that forces their students to use English. The ability to speak at least a small amount of Thai is beneficial for understanding mistakes students make and eliciting vocabulary meanings, but is not required for work.
What Kind of Teaching Jobs are out there?
The most common teaching jobs in Thailand and those provided by course placements are within government schools. This involves working Monday to Friday with weekends and evenings off. In most cases, foreign teachers are accompanied by Thai teachers in their classrooms, who usually sit at the back and are there to provide help in classroom management or bridging the language gap when required. Class sizes in these schools are often rather large, typically ranging from thirty to fifty students. This can make for a difficult teaching environment, but these schools do have the advantage of long semester breaks (although they are often unpaid). Some schools provide summer school teaching work, so it is still possible to earn during that time. Facilities in these schools are minimal, with classrooms generally using blackboards and chalk and lacking air conditioning. Many of these schools operate special English programs, which mean that a portion of classes will involve teaching higher-level students in air-conditioned classrooms with better facilities.
In these schools, students may learn some or all subjects in English, rather than Thai. Class sizes are usually smaller than in government schools and proficiency in English is higher. Teachers are generally required to have a bachelor’s degree in any field, but a degree in education or the chosen teaching subject is preferred. Before securing a job in an international school, candidates are often required to do a teaching demo. Once they are hired, it is common to undertake a probationary period of a few months before securing a contract.
Private, Internationally Accredited Schools
Those with a degree in education and previous teaching experience in their home country are eligible to work in private, internationally accredited schools, such as the American School of Bangkok or Bangkok Patana. These jobs are akin to high-school teaching jobs in the West and usually involve teaching British or American curriculum. Students at these schools usually include children of foreign expatriates or those of mixed nationality. Thai students with a very high level of English may also attend if they pass an entrance exam.
Private Language Institutions
There are numerous private language institutions throughout Thailand, particularly in Bangkok. The most popular ones are British Council, Wall Street English, AUA and Inlingua. Some teach only adult students, while others cater to various age groups. They usually involve smaller class numbers, sometimes with one on one classes, and require teachers to work in the evenings and on weekends, when students come to study after they’ve finished work or school. Teaching materials are often provided, therefore a smaller amount of lesson planning is required. These institutions may also offer part-time work.
It is also possible to teach lectures at universities in Thailand, although these jobs usually require teachers to have a Master’s degree and always require teaching experience. These jobs are less likely to be advertised and are therefore best acquired through networking.
Teaching jobs in Thailand are not limited to schools only, as many businesses employ foreign teachers in order to aid communication between them and their international customers or suppliers. This may involve conversational English as well as business English and is a good option for those who would rather teach adults. These jobs are slightly more difficult to find than other teaching jobs and are more likely to be found through an agency, a language institute or word of mouth. For that reason, it is usually more realistic to have some prior teaching experience in Thailand before landing this kind of job.
Teaching without a work permit is illegal in Thailand, which makes freelance teaching a difficult option. It is possible, but it’s best to do it once you have been in Thailand for sometime and somewhat established yourself as a teacher. One way to do this is to work part-time in a corporate or language institute position that provides a work permit. This would take care of the legal paperwork while leaving free time available to do private tutoring. Many employers have a clause in their contract which forbids teachers from doing any other kind of work while under their employment, which is an important factor to consider.
How Much can I Expect to Earn?
Of course, this depends entirely on what kind of teaching job you’re doing. Most government schools typically pay 30,000 – 40,000 baht per month. International school salaries can range from 45,000 – 75,000 baht per month, but with a Master’s degree, can exceed 100,000 baht per month. At private language institutions, salaries range from 40,000 baht to 60,000 baht for full-time positions, while some pay by the hour. Private, internationally accredited schools provide the highest-paying jobs, with salaries usually around 100,000 baht per month including housing allowances and benefits. Freelance and corporate teaching is usually paid by the hour and is therefore more negotiable.
What’s the Cost of Living Like?
While the cost of living in Thailand is certainly much cheaper than in Western countries, this is a hard question to answer because it varies from person to person and depends on the lifestyle choices of the individual. My first teaching job was a government school position, where I was paid 30,000 baht per month as well as a 4,000 baht per month housing allowance. I lived in a tiny apartment with air con but no hot water, and while I was quite happy and comfortable at the time, even managing to save a little each month, it was a short-term solution and definitely not something I’d want to do now.
I highly recommend reading Ajarn.com’s ‘Cost of Living’ page, where expats in Thailand have written detailed accounts of their work, incomes and expenses and what kind of lifestyles those allow them to have.
How Do I get a Visa and Work Permit?
Your employer will process the application for your Non-Immigrant B visa and work permit after the terms of your employment have been agreed. With the right employers, this can be a very easy process with most of it being done on your behalf, but it can be long and drawn-out in some cases, so it’s a good idea to enter the country on a 60-day visa to give yourself as much time as possible. If you enter the country on a tourist visa, you will need to leave the country on a visa run to change it before you start work. Your employer should guide you through this.
When’s the Best Time to Go?
It’s possible to find teaching work all year round in Thailand, and if you’re not too picky, you won’t have to worry about being here for months on end without finding anything. Even if you are, you’ll be able to find something to tide you over until you find the right job to suit you. The best time to apply is during the semester breaks, which for most schools, fall in April-May and October-November.
How Can I Find a Job?
The best online resource for teaching jobs in Thailand is Ajarn.com. Others include Jobs DB, Teaching Thailand, Dave’s ESL Cafe and Asia Teaching Jobs.com. It’s also worth checking the following Facebook pages and groups:
For more information, you can listen to my interview on the Muay Thai Guy Podcast, where I talked about my own personal experience of teaching in Thailand, and how I manage that while training and fighting.