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 some 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 think back to your last holiday in Thailand—the sun, the sea, the wavering palms. And then you hit upon an escape plan. You can go teach 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?
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- 1 Qualifications
- 2 Moving to Thailand
- 3 Finding a Job
- 4 Preparing for the Interview
- 5 On The Job
- 6 Contracts
- 7 Visas and Work Permits
- 8 Now, on to You
A cursory glance at some of the teaching groups and forums online will quickly reveal that yes, actually, quite a few things can go wrong. Unscrupulous employers, visa problems, unsatisfying and frustrating work—there are few terrible scenarios that don’t seem to have afflicted some poor sap while pursuing their dream teaching job in the Land of Smiles.
Thankfully, we’re here to clear a few things up and talk you step-by-step through the process of landing a good job in Thailand.
Teaching in Thailand is an extremely diverse field, covering a wide variety of positions, and requiring all sorts of different qualifications. However, there are a few basic qualifications that almost all legal positions—the kind that would be advertised on the popular teaching forums—require.
A full Bachelor’s Degree—preferably four years—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 probably the most frequently recurring basic qualification in many positions.
A TEFL/TESOL/CELTA Certificate is frequently cited as a necessary qualification by many employers, although there is no legal requirement to hold one. Of these qualifications, the Cambridge CELTA, or Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults, is the most highly-regarded, and can net you a higher salary at some language schools such as ELS International or ECC.
But the most common certificate remains the TEFL. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a school that only accepts CELTAs and not TEFLs. So for most people who come to Thailand to teach, they still 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. And 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.
For non-native English speakers (e.g anyone not a citizen of the USA/UK/Ireland/Australia/New Zealand/Canada), a TOEIC score of 600+ or an IELTS score of 5+ will be required. A TOEIC test can be arranged in Thailand by calling Thailand’s Centre for Professional Assessment hotline number at (02) 2607061. And the IELTS can be arranged via the British Council.
If you’re serious about making a career out of teaching in Thailand, it may be wise to consider gaining a proper home-country qualification first. With a Masters in Education or a PGCE, or Post-Graduate Certificate of Education, plus QTS, or Qualified Teacher Status, you will be in the running to get a job at one of Thailand’s many 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 note that this could be a time-consuming and potentially expensive process.
- The Nottingham University PGCEI, a British postgraduate teaching certificate. Note that it does not in and of itself provide you with full Qualified Teacher Status.
- Framingham State University Master of Education Programme, an American school which offers a comparatively cheap MEd programme.
Criminal Background Check
You may be required to provide 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 be preparing ahead of time.
As mentioned above, you may be required to produce original copies of a number of documents for your visa/work permit/interview purposes. These include:
- an original copy of your degree certificate, plus transcripts. You may need to get in touch with your university’s registration office if you’ve misplaced any of these. It’s sensible to have a few photocopies and color scans on hand as well, just in case.
- original copies of any other relevant certificates (TEFL/TESOL/CELTA/Masters).
- a copy of a recent home-country criminal background check may be useful.
- professional-looking passport photos—get a generous stock and preferably have a few digitized, as you’ll be using a lot of them.
What visa you’ll require generally depends on your status. If you’re lucky enough to already have a guaranteed job lined up and waiting, your employer may post you the necessary documentation ahead of time allowing you to apply for a Non-Immigrant B Visa from your local Thai consulate/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 OBEC Office of Basic Education Commission, and your employer’s license and business registration.
However, most likely you will need to apply for a Single-Entry Tourist Visa, which can then be upgraded by your employer once you’ve arrived in Thailand. This nets you sixty days in the kingdom, plus the possibility of a thirty-day extension. That’s more than enough time to land a job and convert your visa at a local Thai immigration office.
Note that it may be possible to work on a number of other visas, including the Non O (Marriage) Visa.
Where To Stay
Where you choose to stay while job-hunting will largely depend on where you want to work. Generally speaking, 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.
If you lack your own transportation, it’s best to find a place close to a 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 different properties. You can also find a few slightly pricier monthly rentals at Airbnb.
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, including right here on Thailand Starter Kit.
This can essentially be as cheap as you can handle, depending on what level of modern luxury you’re willing to go without. A comfortable, well-located apartment will range from around 8,000 baht to 15,000 baht per month, depending on the area. Some rentals require an upfront deposit, usually two months’ rent.
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. Around 20,000 baht per month will allow a single person to live reasonably comfortably in Bangkok.
Transportation in Bangkok is cheap. Tickets for the BTS and MRT rarely exceed 50 baht per trip, and meter 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 will have to travel far for interviews.
Finding a Job
Since the rise of online social networking, finding a job as an English teaching in Thailand has never been easier. Below are a few popular ways you can seek out work opportunities as a teacher in Thailand–and finally, how to create a resume that will get you noticed.
The first port of call for most aspiring teachers in Thailand is ajarn.com, a comprehensive jobs listing website, blog space, and general community hub for the teaching scene in Thailand.
Ajarn hosts hundreds of jobs from employers ranging from government schools to international schools in Thailand, as well as providing job seekers with the option of uploading their CVs for perusal by employers.
For teachers seeking work at international schools, a full list of schools and their available positions can be found at International Schools Thailand. Another option is to attend the 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.
There are several Facebook groups which frequently post positions. Teaching Jobs in Thailand is a very active group, currently boasting some 40,000 members. The TJT admins also have a sister group solely for those seeking online teaching jobs at Online English Teacher Jobs. Other positions can be found at the slightly smaller Teachers for Thailand page.
A surprisingly effective means of landing a job in Thailand is to simply show up in person with a crisp, clean copy of your CV. Many schools require positions which they do not advertise externally, and appreciate not having to go through the hassle of writing up a job ad.
This can be particularly effective at language schools, as they almost always require positions on an ongoing basis, and as they tend to cluster together (e.g in a mall) you can hand your CV in to five or six schools in a single sweep.
It’s standard practice for most employers to require an up-to-date resume and letter of introduction when applying for a position.
Include any teaching experience—even if it’s helping out at a local school—and relevant qualifications. There is a particular demand at many schools for subject teachers, particularly in the STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics) areas, so it’s not uncommon for schools to take a chance on a less-experienced teacher with experience or qualifications in those areas.
Your introduction letter can be included in the body of your application email. Keep it brief, clear and simple. Remember that 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. Remember that 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.
Note that it’s a common—if controversial—practice for employers to ask for a photo to be submitted with your resume. Your photo should be a professionally-taken headshot, against a plain white or blue background, and you should be dressed formally (i.e shirt and tie for men, clean-cut and shaven, hair tied back for women).
Chances are your potential employer does not want to see you and your bros smashing some beers in Phuket while wearing Singha vests, so keep it neat. Right or wrong, appearance is of the utmost importance in Thailand, particularly for teachers.
Preparing for the Interview
Obviously it depends on the school, but job interviews veer towards the (relatively) informal, and are more of a get-to-know-you session at many schools, even internationals. It’s rare for there to be “stages” as there are at many employers in Western countries.
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.
Ensure that 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; and any other relevant qualifications.
It will also impress employers if you can bring along any samples of your work—assignments your previous students have done, textbooks you’ve used and enjoyed using and so on.
If the school is interested in you, they will often ask you to return to conduct a demo lesson. This may or may not be with an actual class of students. Your humble correspondent once had to conduct 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 to speak, so make it fun, keep it simple, and try to project an air of confidence and professionalism. Most experienced teachers will have a few guaranteed fall-back activities that always produce a good result with students.
Remember, your demo class is not the place to experiment, so wheel out what you know works, and remember that it should above all else 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
At most schools, your contract will last for one year, usually from April/May to the end of March/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 eleven-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 will have to cancel your work permit and lose your visa at the end of each contract, meaning you will have to start the whole arduous 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 particular school, it’s probably best to avoid any schools which do not offer a full twelve-month contract.
Other things to consider in your contract are:
Standard full-time teachers usually teach for around fifteen to twenty
contact hours per week. It may not sound like much, but do 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 an excessive (twenty-two plus) number of weekly teaching hours.
Again, these vary, but most schools will expect you to be on campus for between eight to ten hours a day (and sometimes more at internationals). Consider how much time you’re willing to spend at the school per day before signing.
Most schools will have some form of extracurricular activities, such as sports, extra classes or camps. Be wary of what you commit to when signing your contract.
However, you may come to 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 a pretty laissez-faire attitude towards what their teachers do in their off-hours during the school day, whereas others are pretty restrictive, insisting that they 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 god-given right to wander across the road for a decent cup of coffee or a nice lunch occasionally.
Visas and Work Permits
Good schools will 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 will cover the costs of at least one of the two, usually the work permit. Bad schools will not offer to pay a penny towards either, and will leave you to fend for yourself, with the exception of handing you over their end of the paperwork (and that begrudgingly). Terrible schools will not provide any assistance with either whatsoever, and will be happy to employ you illegally.
While 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, it will also entail having to do repeated, expensive and risky visa runs to the nearest border crossing, during which you may be denied re-entry, leaving you stranded outside Thailand.
It also means you have absolutely zero legal recourse if your employer decides to, say, withhold your salary for a month, and you risk imprisonment/a fine/deportation if Immigration decides to perform a spot-check on your school. Don’t do it. If your employer offers no work permit or visa assistance, look elsewhere.
Under Thai law, you are entitled to both paid sick leave and personal days. You can take up to thirty paid sick days, although for three or more consecutive sick days employers have the right to request a doctor’s note.
After the first year of employment, you are also entitled to a minimum of six paid personal days. You are also entitled to thirteen days off for national holidays.
When signing a contract at a school, you should ensure that they offer both paid sick leave and a number of paid personal days (at least five is a good start).
Class Sizes and Student Ability
When it comes to class sizes, smaller is always better. Smaller classes give you more time to tend to each individual student’s needs, and allow you to develop a better relationship with individual students.
As a general rule, the more students pay for tuition, the smaller the classes will be. International schools may have classes of as few as fifteen students, while Thai government schools could have as many as fifty or sixty.
Student ability also varies greatly. You will find that the level of English among most Thai government school students is extremely low compared to international school students, who will more than likely be conversational in English at the very least.
It’s a good idea to inquire about class sizes at the interview stage.
Again, the better the school, the better the facilities. Expect Thai government schools to be basic at best (fan-cooled classrooms, outdated technology, lack of basic supplies) and international schools to be fully air-conditioned and kitted out with cutting-edge equipment (interactive whiteboards, laptops for every student, and so on).
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 be able to provide the basic tools needed to do your job (whiteboard markers, stationary, textbooks, the use of a computer and printer). Be wary of schools which expect you to supply everything yourself.
Salaries at schools in Thailand vary widely. It should be noted that 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 will more than likely be living paycheck-to-paycheck and will have little left over in case of emergencies.
For those without teaching qualifications, private/bilingual schools tend to pay slightly more generously (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.
Text & Talk Academy is taking enrollments for their next TEFL course. Head over to our TEFL page to learn more about Text & Talk Academy.