Interview with Thailand English Teacher, Johnny Ward

Teach English Abroad
Johnny Ward, Thailand English Teacher
Johnny Ward, Thailand English Teacher

How long did you teach English in Thailand?

I first arrived in Thailand in February 2007 and left around May 2008 but my first month or so was taken up by studying my CELTA diploma, I was employed almost immediately after completing that so I taught for around 15 months in Thailand in total

Please tell us about your job?

The job was great! The company I worked for, AUA, are a renowned language school throughout Thailand with branches in every city. The students ranged in age from around 15 to 30 and the class size probably average about 15 students. The working hours were the real highlight! I taught Tuesday to Friday 5pm-8.20pm and Saturday 9am-4pm, this gave me almost every day free to explore the country, study the language etc

Have you taught English in other countries?

Yeah, I have taught in Korea and that was a brilliant experience too – the cash was excellent and Korean students really appreciate being taught. The working hours in Korea are much longer than my awesome hours in Thailand so that took a bit of time to acclimatize too, but after that I only have positive memories J

How did you find your first teaching job?

I booked a one-way flight to Thailand and then pretty much ‘freestyled’ it from there! I had just finished my CELTA when I was applying so it was really just a case of me identifying the best places to teach and contacting them directly

How easy is it to find English teaching positions and is it necessary to have teaching certificates or training to find employment?

This can be a tough question to answer. Let me break it down:

if you have no degree, no TEFL and no experience – it will be very tough to get a job in Thailand (and illegal!)

if you have a degree and no TEFL – it can still be quite tough (and still illegal as you need a degree AND a TEFL for a work permit in Thailand) but you can find work in less reputable schools and if you’re willing to teach a class of around 40 students and get underpaid then you can find work – but who wants that stress?!

if you have a degree and a TEFL – easy street! You can find a few places you want to work and undoubtedly you will get a couple of interviews and before you know it you’re a fully fledged English teacher

if you have a degree, teaching qualification from your home country or education related masters – they’ll be fighting each other to get to you!!

How did you get your first work visa?

If you work for a decent school they should sort this out for you. I made a quick trip to Laos and the school filled all the paperwork out (which was a mountain of forms) so it wasn’t too painful for me. You need all copies of your degree, TEFL certificate and all the rest but it’s not too bad.

Is it possible for teachers to arrive without a work visa and look for a job?

For sure! This is pretty much what I did! Remember those qualifications though or you could run into hot water :S

What is the cost of living in Chiang Mai, Thailand?

Very cheap and very awesome! I earned around 25000 Baht a month, doesn’t sound much but it was more than enough for a cracking lifestyle. Rent in a decent serviced apartment is about 4k, you can get 3 deliciously delicious Thai meals for about 100 baht a day total, motorbike and petrol costs a couple of grand a month. The real cost is the traveling and partying – that can (and does) eat your money!!

How much money can the average teacher expect to save?

Again it’s tough to say because the salaries can vary so much. The average salary in Chiang Mai is 25-30k per month and BKK is around 40k per month. I managed to save around 70k in just over a year which was more than enough for the airfare to my next adventure (Bangladesh – crazy place but that’s another story :P). Also, generally when you complete your 12 months at your school you get a bonus of around 30k which helps a lot. Also, because my teaching hours were so small you can work 2 jobs and earn 40-50k per month and then save 200k+ in a year but you’d be sleeping teaching and sleeping again and who wants to do that when they’re living the dream in a foreign country!?

Are there many opportunities to earn income on the side?

When I arrived in Thailand I was a backpacking novice and I would have said no, aside from private tuition of course. But now, 3 ½ years on and still traveling I would certainly say yes – one of my friends is a freelance writer, writing posts for the Times (UK), Bangkok post etc. Another one of my friends works for an NGO, traveling around Thailand which is great. Also, you can earn (a little) money from maintaining a travel blog which is what I’m starting to get into now and hopefully that will help me travel a little bit further for a little bit longer (check out my stories on

Do you recommend Thailand for other English teachers?

Absolutely! I couldn’t recommend it any higher, I had such an amazing time, met brilliant people, saw awesome things. Thai students must be the best in the world – easygoing, respectful, upbeat and fun! The quality of life is second to none with delicious food, breathtaking scenery, opportunities to travel on your doorstep, Thai people are so nice too. I only have positive things to say about it!

What advice would you offer for others thinking of teaching English Abroad?

I would say get that degree and get your TEFL (preferably CELTA) – after that, the world is your oyster and you can go to any country, I mean literally almost ANY country, in the whole world and you can have a good job within a month, there’s not many qualifications or jobs that can guarantee that sort of freedom! I would also like to say, don’t be scared – just take the plunge, you most certainly will regret it if you don’t!

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