Thailand is a wonderful Southeast Asian destination, with Bangkok being it’s vibrant capital city. Thailand boasts excellent nightlife, restaurants, a year-round warm climate, and ancient temples. Top this off with fun, parade-loving people, and sun-soaked beaches, and you’ve got yourself a great place to live.
If you’re hoping to move to Thailand, teaching English has probably crossed your mind. Given the low cost of living, the Asian nation is an accessible and relatively lucrative option compared to teaching English in Western countries. The average salary here is approximately $715-$1000 USD/ £570-£795 per month. Seeing as many schools will house you for free, and that you likely won’t be living in Bangkok anyway (as those jobs are a lot harder to come by), this leaves you with enough income to live comfortably and travel the country widely.
But there are a variety of different ways to go about teaching English in Thailand, and it can be hard to know which option is right for you. Below, we’ve outlined everything you need to get started.
Though programs take a fee (typically around $2000 USD/ £1600, depending on whether your contract is for one or two semesters), they’re often a good idea in that they:
Help take care of the visa process. To teach English in Thailand, you’ll need to first apply for a Non-Immigrant Visa “B”, and then transition it into a work permit. Getting this sorted requires a lot of paperwork - both on your end, and by the school. This process is also increasingly difficult to do without being in the country. Paying a program to help take care of this task is well worth it.
Place you in a school. Programs will place you at a private language school or public school, where you can instruct at the kindergarten, elementary, or secondary level. Good programs should allow you to list your preferences for where you’d like to teach, and will even allow you to request placement with a friend or significant other.
Provide free housing. Top programs will arrange free housing for you near the school you’re placed at.
Act as a support system. Most programs offer an array of support services, such as Thai language classes, teaching orientations, and emergency medical aid.
Can find you a job with minimal qualifications required. To apply, all you’ll need is to be a native English speaker, and to have a Bachelor’s degree (there are even some programs that can find you a job without a degree). The key here is that TEFL or TESOL certification isn’t necessary, while it will be if you try to look for a teaching job on your own. That said, certification is definitely a plus, and even recommended. If you’ve got a Master’s degree, or extensive teaching experience, some programs offer an alternative teaching track that offers higher salaries.
In general, you’ll be teaching about 25 hours a week, though you’ll be expected to participate in meetings, planning, and after-school activities. For reference, the Thai school year begins in May and ends in March, with breaks in October and April.
Something interesting to note, is that while it’d certainly help you with your daily life in Thailand, most schools prefer that you start with little-to-no knowledge of the Thai language. This is so that their students get a fully immersive English-learning experience.
If you’re interested in a program, here are four of the best:
- CIEE (this program has a standard option, as well as a professional option for more experienced teachers)
- Geovisions (this program has options for non-degree holders)
- Greenheart Travel
Prefer to take a risk and not go through a program? You’ll likely need TEFL or TESOL certification, a Bachelor’s degree, and some teaching experience. You might also need to physically be in Thailand to apply for positions. If you’re interested, two job directories that might help are Ajarn and Teaching Thailand.
Teaching at a university in Thailand not only means fewer contact hours (10-12 hours/week), but an air of prestige that can help you get supplementary work while you teach.
In most instances, you’ll need a Master’s degree, but at the very least, you’ll need a Bachelor’s degree, TEFL/TESOL/CELTA certification, and prior teaching experience. Getting a university job is a lot like getting any other job - you’ll need to look for job postings (the sites listed above can help) and send an application.
As far as pay goes, though some university positions pay closer to $1100 USD/ £875 per month, most positions don’t pay much more than those at the primary or secondary level. And if you’re not willing to live in Bangkok, your options are limited, as almost all respectable Thai universities are located there (with the notable exception of Chiang Mai University and a couple of others).
The cost of living in Thailand is notoriously cheap. The exact cost though depends, of course, on where you’re living. However, it’s safe to say that you can probably get by with under $1000 USD/ £795 per month in most regions (including rent).
For instance, estimated prices include:
- Rent per month, for a one-bedroom in city center = ~12,500 baht or ~356 USD/ £290
- Lunch at an inexpensive restaurant = ~60 baht or 1.75 USD/ £1.40
- Taxi, per mile = ~16 baht or .50 USD/ £.40
- A domestic beer = ~53 baht or 1.5 USD/ £1.22
- Internet, with unlimited data = ~621 baht or ~17 USD/ £14.4
These prices are estimates only. Once you arrive in Thailand, you’ll be able to see for yourself the cost of living in your placement area. To put the cost into perspective in terms of your home currency, use an online currency converter.
If you’ll be funding your bank account in Thailand from yours back home, consider using an international transfer service like TransferWise to save money. This will not only help cut out expensive international transfer fees (money is sent by local bank transfers in both your home country and Thailand), but will also give you the actual mid-market exchange rate. That means you’ll end up with more money to spend during your time in Thailand.
With this guide, hopefully you’re on your way to bringing smiles to the faces of all the young students you’ll be teaching English to.
If you’re still looking for more useful tips for teaching in Thailand, Go Overseas has a great blog post on the subject. For more information on the cost of living, we suggest checking out Numbeo. If teaching English at a university is your goal, you can take a look at this handy article as well.
Good luck in your search!