Teaching English in Thailand: How to Get Started

To find the best teaching jobs in Thailand, you have to filter through all the bad jobs first. Start here to put yourself ahead of other teachers.
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Picture the scene. You’re an office drone, and it’s a rainy Tuesday afternoon in February.

You’ve just spent the last four hours reciting a scripted telephone conversation to indifferent leads.

You’re counting down the minutes until you can take a toilet break for the sheer variety it brings to your day, but your supervisor is eyeing you warily and warming up his cattle-prod.

Surely there must be more to life than this, you think.

You remember your last vacation in Thailand—the sun, the sea, the wavering palms. And then you hit upon an escape plan.

You can go teach English in Thailand. You get to spend all year round in a tropical paradise, and you get to give a leg-up to some needy kids to boot.

What could go wrong?

A cursory glance at some of the teaching groups and forums online will quickly reveal that yes, quite a few things can go wrong.

Unscrupulous employers, visa problems, unsatisfying and frustrating work—these are some of the problems that you could face if you’re not prepared to teach English in the Land of Smiles.

Thankfully, I’m here to show you how to get started teaching English in Thailand, the requirements and qualifications you’ll need, how to find a job, how to secure visas, and much more.

Qualifications to Teach English in Thailand

Teaching in Thailand is an extremely diverse field, covering a wide variety of positions and requiring different qualifications.

But there are a few basic qualifications that all legal positions—the kind that would be advertised on the popular teaching forums—ask for.

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Bachelor’s Degree

A Bachelor’s Degree is a basic requirement to qualify for certification from the Teacher’s Council of Thailand, which in turn is a basic requirement for qualifying for a work permit.

As a result, it is the most recurring basic qualification in many positions.

A group of graduates throwing their graduation caps in the air.
Your university or college degrees must be from a recognized institution, and higher diplomas or associate degrees are not accepted.

Immigration or the Department of Labour may require the original copy of your degree and the transcripts, so pack them along just in case.

TEFL/TESOL/CELTA Certificate

You must have a TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA certificate to teach in English in Thailand, although there are no legal requirements to hold one.

The most common certificate is still the TEFL.

For most people who come to Thailand to teach, they pick a TEFL over a CELTA. If you want to get your TEFL, it’s better to get the certificate in Thailand rather than taking an online course.

Online courses don’t always fill the minimum 120-hour requirement. So you could find yourself with a TEFL that holds no weight. Getting your TEFL in Thailand helps you experience what it’s going to be like teaching Thais.

You can get your TEFL from TEXT-and-TALK Academy, the only TEFL academy in Bangkok to be accredited by the Thailand Ministry of Education.

You could also get the Cambridge CELTA, or Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults, and it might net you a higher salary at some language schools such as ELS International or ECC.

The TEFL, though, is still the most widely recognized certificate in Thailand.

TOEIC/IELTS Certifications

If you’re a non-native English speaker, you need a TOEIC score of 600+ or an IELTS score of 5+.

You can take a TOEIC test in Thailand by calling Thailand’s Centre for Professional Assessment hotline number at (02) 2607061. And you can take the IELTS through the British Council.

MEd/PGCE

If you’re serious about making a career out of teaching in Thailand, consider gaining a proper home-country qualification first.

With a Master in Education, a Post-Graduate Certificate of Education, or a Qualified Teacher Status, you can get a job at one of Thailand’s international schools, entitling you to a much more lucrative salary and steadier job prospects than you would without.

Having a little home-country experience under your belt is even better, although this could be a time-consuming and potentially expensive process.

Here are two programs you can look at:

If you simply can’t wait to start working in Thailand, there are a few fully-accredited online Master’s courses out there which you can study while working at a local government or private bilingual schools.

Criminal Background Check

You may have to hand in a Criminal Background Check Certificate from your home country when applying for a visa, especially at an embassy or consulate outside of Thailand.

British citizens can do so at UKCRBS. For American citizens, it’s a little more complicated.

While some consulates may be content to accept local or state criminal background checks, you may be safer getting an FBI Identity History Summary Check.

A comprehensive guide on how to do so can be found on International TEFL Academy.

If you’ve already spent a long time in Thailand, it’s also possible to acquire a police clearance certificate from the Thai police. A guide on how to do so can be found on PCS Center.

Moving to Thailand

Once you’ve handed in your notice and committed to moving to Thailand, there are a number of things you should prepare.

Documents

As mentioned above, you may have to submit original copies of the following documents:

  • your degree and transcripts
  • TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA certificates
  • home-country criminal background check
  • passport photos

Visas

The visa you need generally depends on your status. If you’re lucky enough to have a job lined up your employer may send your documents ahead of time, allowing you to apply for a Non-Immigrant B Visa from your local Thai embassy.

These documents should include:

  • a letter of acceptance from your employer
  • a letter of approval from the relevant overseeing Thai government agencies, such as the Office of Basic Education Commission
  • your employer’s license and business registration

Most likely you need to apply for a Single-Entry Tourist Visa, which can then be upgraded by your employer once you’ve arrived in Thailand.

A man sitting at the airport looking out of the window at an airplane taking off.
Arrive in Thailand on a tourist visa, but make sure you get a work visa and work permit after landing a teaching job in Thailand.

This gets you 60 days in the kingdom, plus the possibility of a 30-day extension. That’s more than enough time to land a job and convert your visa at a local Thai immigration office.

You can also work on a number of other visas, including the Non O (Marriage) Visa, if you have a work permit.

Where to Stay

Which Bangkok neighborhood you choose to stay in while job-hunting depends on where you want to work.

Bangkok has the best-paying jobs and largest variety of positions, so it’s a good place to start if you have no particular destination in mind.

You can find inexpensive places across the city, although prices tend to be higher in the popular expat areas of Sukhumvit, Silom, and Sathorn.

At first, rent a serviced apartment or hotels, which offer monthly rentals, as opposed to condos.

Condos tend to offer bi-yearly or yearly contracts. And you don’t want to be tied down to one particular area in case you happen to find a promising job on the other side of town.

If you lack your own transportation, it’s best to find a place close to mass transportation, like the BTS or MRT. Whatever you do, do not underestimate Bangkok traffic.

Our guide on renting condos in Bangkok is an excellent starting point for finding places to rent, with a wide range of properties.

You can also find a few slightly pricier monthly rentals on Airbnb. But keep in mind Airbnb is still considered legal in Thailand only when you rent for more than 30 days.

Basic Expenses

There are several excellent budgetary guides online that should give you a rough idea of how much to put aside before flying over to Bangkok. Two of them are cost of living in Bangkok and cost of living in Thailand.

You can also use our free Thailand cost of living calculator to determine how much you’ll spend each month.

Accommodations

This can be as cheap as you can handle, depending on what you’re willing to sacrifice.

A comfortable, well-located apartment costs you around 8,000 baht to 15,000 baht per month, depending on the area. Some rentals require an upfront deposit, usually one or two months’ rent.

Living Expenses

Expenses shouldn’t be too high if you’re sensible. Local Thai food is very cheap. Expect to pay between 40 baht and 100 baht or so for a meal.

Clothes and other essentials are usually a little less than their Western counterparts.

Transportation

Transportation in Bangkok is cheap. Tickets for the BTS and MRT rarely exceed 50 baht per trip, and taxis and motorcycle taxis and are inexpensive.

You shouldn’t have to put aside more than a few thousand baht–maybe a little extra if you suspect you have to travel far for interviews.

Around 20,000 baht per month allows a single person to live comfortably in Bangkok.

Finding a Job

Since the rise of social networking, finding a job as an English teacher in Thailand has never been easier.

Below are a few popular ways you can find work as a teacher in Thailand–and finally, how to create a resume that will get you noticed.

Websites

The first port of call for most aspiring teachers in Thailand is ajarn.com, a comprehensive jobs listing website, blog, and community hub for the teaching scene in Thailand.

Ajarn hosts hundreds of jobs from employers ranging from government schools to international schools in Thailand, and offers job seekers the chance to upload their resumes for perusal by employers.

Other popular sites include Teaching Thailand and the similarly-named Ajarn Job Space. Positions can also be found at generic jobs sites such as Jobs DB and Craigslist.

For teachers seeking work at international schools in Bangkok, a full list of schools and their available positions can be found at International Schools Thailand.

You can go to jobs fairs offered by companies such as Search Associates and International Schools Services, which usually include recruiters from a number of schools across the world.

Social Media

Several Facebook groups often post teaching positions, too. Teaching Jobs in Thailand is an active group, currently boasting some 40,000 members.

The group admins also have a sister group solely for those seeking online teaching jobs at Online English Teacher Jobs.

Other positions can be found on the slightly smaller Teachers for Thailand page.

In Person

An effective way to land a job in Thailand is to simply show up in person with a crisp, clean copy of your resume.

Many schools don’t advertise their positions online and would rather avoid having to go through the hassle of writing up a job ad.

Showing up in person can be effective if you want to teach English at language schools, as they almost always require positions on an ongoing basis, and as they tend to cluster together in a mall you can hand your resume in to five or six schools at a time.

Resumes

It’s standard practice for most employers to ask you for an up-to-date resume and letter of introduction when applying for a position.

On your resume, include your teaching experience—even if it’s helping out at a local school—and relevant qualifications.

There’s a particular demand at many schools for subject teachers, particularly in the STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics) areas.

It’s not uncommon for schools to take a chance on a less-experienced teacher with experience or qualifications in those areas.

You can include your introduction letter in the body of your email application. Keep it brief, clear, and simple. The person reviewing your application may not be a fluent English speaker.

Make sure that you stress what position you’re applying for, what experience and skills you can bring to the role, and what qualifications you currently hold.

Many schools prefer that the focus be on fun for the students, so it’s a good idea to point out how you make your classes enjoyable.

It’s a common and controversial practice for employers to ask for a photo with your resume. Your photo should be a professional headshot, against a plain white or blue background. In your photo, dress formally.

Right or wrong, appearance is of the utmost importance in Thailand, particularly for teachers.

Preparing for Interviews

Obviously, it depends on the school, but job interviews veer towards the informal, and are more of a get-to-know-you session at many schools, even internationals.

A man shaking another man's hand.
Prepare for a Thai school interview with as much thoroughness as you would an interview in your own country.

Show up well-dressed. It probably won’t be necessary to don the full suit, but at the very least you should be wearing formal, clean, and ironed business-wear.

Avoid showing up sweaty or smelling of beer or cigarette smoke at all costs.

Make sure you have any documents that your potential employer may require:

  • original copies of degrees and transcripts, plus photocopies
  • neat copies of your resume, complete with photos
  • passport
  • relevant qualifications

You can also impress your potential employer if you bring samples of your work—assignments your previous students have done or textbooks you’ve used and enjoyed.

Demo Lessons

If the school is interested in you, they often ask you to return to do a demo lesson. This may or may not be with an actual class of students.

I once had to do a seventh-grade math lesson, complete with group-work activities, to an audience of just two slightly bored middle-aged office workers as part of a demo lesson.

Either way, this is your chance to strut your stuff, so make it fun, keep it simple, and try to project an air of confidence and professionalism.

Most experienced teachers have a few guaranteed fallback activities that always produce a good result with students.

Your demo class is not the place to experiment, so wheel out what you know works, and remember that it should be enjoyable.

If you’re teaching actual kids, your employers will be watching their reactions closely. You want them laughing, smiling, and getting out of their seats. Eye-rolling and yawning is a bad sign.

On the Job

When looking for work as a teacher in Thailand, there are many things to consider to make sure you get the most out of your experience.

Contracts

At most schools, your teaching contract lasts one year, usually from April or May to the end of March or April the following year at schools which follow the Thai calendar.

International schools and universities may follow the Western calendar.

A few less-scrupulous schools have been known to only offer 11-month contracts, not paying their employees for the April break.

Not only does this equate to a full month without salary, it means that you have to cancel your Thai work permit and lose your visa at the end of each contract. Then you must start the whole process again if you re-sign with the same school. It’s generally bad all round.

Unless you have other pressing reasons to sign with that school, it’s probably best to avoid any schools which don’t offer 12-month contracts.

Teaching Hours

Standard full-time teachers usually teach for around 15 to 20 teaching hours per week.

A woman writing on the whiteboard.
Consider how much time you’re willing to spend in the classroom each day before signing a teaching contract.

It may not sound like much, but remember that this does not cover prep/grading/extracurricular activities and so on, not to mention that teaching itself can be physically demanding.

Four hours of classes a day can be exhausting. Avoid any contracts which stipulate 22 or more teaching hours per week.

Working Hours

Again, these vary, but most schools expect you to be on campus for between eight to 10 hours a day, and sometimes more at internationals.

Extracurricular Activities

Most schools have some form of extracurricular activities, such as sports, extra classes, or camps. Be wary of what you commit to when signing your contract.

You may regret agreeing to come in Saturday and Sunday mornings unpaid, for example.

Contracts with excessive extracurricular hours are probably best avoided. You’re entitled to have a little time to yourself.

Leaving Campus During School Hours

This varies from school to school. Some schools have relaxed attitudes towards what their teachers do in their off-hours during the school day.

Some schools are restrictive, insisting that teachers stay within the campus grounds from clocking in to clocking out.

Personally, I wouldn’t sign a contract with a school which deprives its teachers of their right to wander across the road for the occasional cup of coffee or lunch.

Visas and Work Permits

Good schools handle everything to do with the documentation you need to work legally in Thailand.

They may even have a member of staff whose job is solely dealing with just that. This includes preparing all the necessary paperwork and paying any necessary fees.

Decent schools cover the costs of at least one of the two, usually the work permit. Bad schools don’t offer to pay a penny towards either, and leave you to fend for yourself, with the exception of handing you over their end of the paperwork.

Terrible schools don’t provide any assistance with either whatsoever, and are happy to hire you illegally.

Some teachers prefer to work without a visa or work permit as they feel it gives them the freedom to up-sticks and move whenever they want.

But this means they have to do repeated, expensive, and risky visa runs to the nearest border crossing, during which they may be denied re-entry, leaving them stranded outside Thailand.

If you work illegally you have absolutely zero legal recourse if your employer decides to withhold your salary for a month.

And you risk jailtime, fines, or deportation if immigration decides to perform a spot-check on your school.

Don’t work illegally. If your employer offers no work permit or visa help, look elsewhere.

Vacation Time

Under Thai law, you’re entitled to paid sick leave and personal days. You can take up to 30 paid sick days, although for three or more consecutive sick days employers have the right to request a doctor’s note.

After your first year of work, you also get a minimum of six paid personal days. And you get 13 days off for national holidays.

When signing a contract at a school, make sure they offer both paid sick leave and at least five paid personal days.

Class Sizes and Student Skills

When it comes to class sizes, smaller is always better. Smaller classes give you more time to tend to each student’s needs and let you to develop a better relationship with them.

Generally, the more students pay for tuition, the smaller the classes are. International schools may have classes with as few as 15 students, while Thai government schools could have as many as 50 or 60.

Student skills also vary greatly. You may find that the level of English among most Thai government school students is extremely low compared to international school students, who are more conversational in English.

It’s a good idea to ask about class sizes at the interview stage.

School Facilities

Again, the better the school, the better the facilities. Expect Thai government schools to be basic at best.

Government schools may have fan-cooled classrooms, outdated technology, and lack of basic supplies.

International schools are fully air-conditioned and kitted out with innovative equipment like interactive whiteboards and laptops for every student.

At the very least, from a teacher’s perspective your school should have a good and easily-accessible wifi connection, an air-conditioned staff room, and should offer the basic tools needed to do your job.

Be wary of schools which expect you to supply everything yourself.

Salaries

Salaries at schools in Thailand vary widely.

Salaries at government schools have not moved with the times, and many are still paying the same 32,000 baht to 40,000 baht per month range they have been paying for over a decade.

While it’s possible to subsist on these kind of wages, especially outside large cities, you should consider that you are more than likely be living paycheck-to-paycheck and have little left over in case of emergencies.

For those without teaching qualifications, private/bilingual schools tend to pay slightly more, usually between 40,000 baht to 60,000 baht per month, and so are a much safer bet.

International school salaries vary widely. At lower-tier schools, salaries tend to lie in the 60,000 baht to 80,000 baht per month range, while at top-tier schools you can expect to make 100,000 baht plus.

Now, on to You

If you want a teaching job in Thailand the first thing you’re going to need is a bachelor’s degree. The next thing you’ll need is a TEFL.

Although you can have a bachelor’s degree in any field and from any college or university, you should get a TEFL from a Ministry of Education recognized school like Text & Talk Academy.

The academy is now taking enrollments for their next TEFL course. Head over to our TEFL page to find out how you can get your TEFL from Text & Talk Academy and start teaching English in Thailand in just a few months.

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