Thailand has long been an immensely popular destination for tourists and backpackers, drawn by an exotic culture steeped in history, a friendly population and a climate that remains hot all year round. There are plenty of things to do and see, the nightlife is vibrant, the cuisine quite exceptional and travel within the country is very affordable. Thailand is a country where English teachers can find plenty of job opportunities and also enjoy a good lifestyle in their free time.
There are abundant English teaching positions in Thailand and, unlike most other parts of Asia, it is even possible for non-native speakers and those without a first degree to find work. Of course, schools which offer positions to such individuals may not always be the most reliable or offer the best salaries, but more about that later. Most people simply get on a plane and start looking for work once they arrive. If you start off in Bangkok, have a little experience and perhaps a TEFL qualification, it’s highly likely that you will find work in just a day or two, if you arrive during the peak season. The busiest time of the year for applications is March – May and the quietest time is December – February.
Jobs in Bangkok with salaries under THB 30,000 (US$840) per month are easy to find. Jobs in the THB 30-40,000 (US$840-1,120) per month range are more competitive while anything over THB 40,000 a month is ultra-competitive and you will be competing with numerous applicants armed with extensive experience and an array of teaching qualifications. In truth, the amount you can earn will largely be limited to the hours you want to work. Some people are happy to get by on a salary of THB 25,000 per month and make the most of their free time. Others choose to work every hour possible during the peak season, taking on a couple of different jobs as well as private students, and can earn anything from THB 50,000-80,000 (US$1,400-2,240) per month. Highly experienced and qualified teachers can earn a monthly salary of around THB 60,000-70,000 (US$1,680-1,960) teaching just 15 hours per week at a good university, whereas a Director of Studies may earn anything from THB 100,000-150,000 (US$2,800-4,200) at a top school in Bangkok.
The qualifications required to teach in Thailand mostly depend on where you work. In a country where corruption is rife, well-connected schools can obtain a work permit for just about anyone, meaning that it is possible to for fluent non-native speakers of English and those without a first degree to find work if they are diligent. For the majority of schools, however, applicants are required to have a first degree, and some schools prefer teachers with a degree in a relevant field, or those with an education background. Getting a job at one of the better Thai universities, such as Chulalongkorn or Thammasat, will in all likelihood require that you have a Master’s degree and for some positions, even a doctorate! Preference will be given to those with a degree in English or a related field. Little value is placed on TEFL qualifications in Thai universities.
The age limit for teachers seeking a work permit in Thailand is 60 although it has to be said that many schools have a preference for younger applicants, especially in the 25-35 age range. Female teachers face some cultural stipulations that western men do not. Many schools require female teachers to wear skirts and no pants or sleeveless blouses, and footwear that doesn’t reveal too much of their heels or toes. It’s often best to simply go with business-like attire. Female teachers may also be asked to do additional kinds of work that males are less likely to be required to do, such as taking care of and teaching younger children. Women may also be required to take on a baby-sitting or secretarial role in addition to their teaching duties. This can be frustrating for Western women who travel to other parts of the world precisely because they don’t want to accept the stereotypical female roles. Salary scales can also differ. It has been known for some schools to pay female teachers as much as one third less than their Western male counterparts.
Unlike many other countries, language schools are no longer the main employers of English teachers in Thailand. The highest concentration of such schools can be found in and around Bangkok, ranging from big international chain schools such as ECC, AUA, Inlingua and Siam Computer to small, privately run schools which may have just a single branch. Language schools offer various courses, from general English to test preparation courses like IELTS and TOEFL. There might also be academic English courses offered and some other niche market courses like English for a Specific Purpose.
The better language schools are generally well-run and reliable, and most contracts will stipulate 25 teaching hours spread over a 5-day week. In reality, you will likely be asked to teach more than this during busy periods, but the additional hours will be paid at overtime rates. However, some schools expect a six-day working week with up to 36 teaching hours. Unless you are being offered an exceptional salary, you may want to avoid such positions as you will almost certainly find this kind of schedule over-taxing for any extended period of time. Your intended lifestyle will also have a bearing when considering job offers from private language schools. You will more than likely be expected to work both Saturdays and Sundays and your classes on any given day will probably continue late into the evening. Most schools offer 2 weeks paid holiday per year.
In the late 1990s, high schools surpassed language schools the main growth area of the English teaching industry in Thailand. It was recognized that although Thai teachers were able to coach students to a reasonable level in reading and written English, native-speaking teachers were required to improve listening and speaking skills. However, class sizes in Thai high schools tend to be very large, often around 50 students, so good class management is just as important as teaching skills. Those who have a background teaching in private language schools will certainly need to adapt their classroom techniques accordingly. However, unlike private language schools, your weekends are almost always free, which is great for an active social life and gives you the opportunity to travel or teach private students. Most schools require teachers to be on site by 7.30 AM, but you can usually get away by 4.30 PM, thus avoiding the worst part of rush-hour. You will also be entitled to 12 weeks paid holidays per year.
University positions vary according to the institution and the faculty you have been assigned to. In many cases, classes will be fairly small, and the teaching program and textbooks used will be very similar to those found in most international language schools. In some universities, however, you may find yourself lecturing on subjects such as language acquisition techniques rather than teaching. Generally speaking, contact hours will be very light, around 10-12 hours per week, which leaves you with plenty of time for class preparation and grading.
Short-term teaching contracts can be found at a number of summer camps which run from mid-March to mid-May. Experience teaching children will certainly be an advantage for such positions and you should be prepared to work a long day. There is usually very little classroom-style teaching involved. Instead, students follow a program of activities with English as the medium of instruction. Such positions can often be quite exhausting but also a lot of fun.
Almost all teachers who stay in Thailand for the longer term will acquire private students. On average, they charge THB 500 (US$14.50) per hour, which is pretty good when you consider that the average monthly income in Thailand is only THB 7,000. If you can attract students from higher income families then you will certainly be able to charge more and, to some extent, Thai people equate the amount charged to the quality of the lesson and/or teacher, so don’t sell yourself short.
Thai cuisine includes a number of rice and noodle dishes, with a variety of seafood, meat (especially chicken), and vegetables. Many dishes are very spicy and quite hot for some palates as they often include copious amounts of chili. Peanuts and coconut milk are also predominant. Most people acquire a taste for Thai food and soon identify their favorite dishes. If, however, you prefer more simple western food there are plenty of international restaurants throughout the country. Thailand is also a very vegetarian-friendly country.
You will never be at a loss for something to do in Thailand. As well from the excellent opportunities for travel and sightseeing, you will find a vibrant nightlife that includes both traditional shows and western-style bars and nightclubs. Shoppers have a choice of ultra-modern shopping malls, quaint markets and road-side stalls offering a variety of knick-knacks. There are also abundant opportunities to participate in adventure or water sports. With so much to do, it’s important that you consider job offers carefully so that you are able to take advantage of all that Thailand has to offer.
TEFL English teaching job listings in Thailand. New positions are added regularly so check back often.
A general overview of what to expect teaching English in Thailand. Read More
The cost of living in Thailand is very reasonable, particularly if you are able to adapt to a more ‘local’ lifestyle. Read More
Information on visa requirements to teach English in Thailand. Read More
A good overview of the culture, customs and traditions of Thailand. Read More
After taking his CELTA training, TEFL teacher Johnny Ward, taught English in Thailand for 15 months. He shares information on finding a teaching position, living in Thailand and more in this interview. Read More
Amanda Dorough shares here experiences working and living in Thailand. She covers everything from finding a job, quality of life and travelling around Thailand in this interview. Read More