Why and How to Teach English in Thailand

Teach English in Thailand

Looking to have the ultimate teach abroad experience in a country rich with culture and amazing natural beauty? Look no further than Thailand. While Asia is one of the hottest regions for ESL teachers in general, there are so many reasons why Thailand, in particular, should be your top pick when it comes to teaching destinations abroad.

In recent years, Thailand has placed an increasing emphasis on the importance of English language learning in classrooms, meaning many more opportunities for native English speaking teachers are opening up throughout the country.

So, if you’re considering teaching English in Thailand for the first time, keep reading to find out the qualifications you’ll need, where the best places are to find work, and what you’ll need to get your visa in order.

What types of English teaching jobs are available in Thailand?

There are a few different options. Most positions are as ESL instructors in private language institutes or English teachers at private international schools.

While it is technically possible for overseas teachers to land a job teaching at a Thai public school, these positions are usually reserved for certified teachers with a wealth of teaching experience behind them.

Where exactly can I teach English in Thailand?

The majority of jobs for ESL teachers in Thailand are in larger cities such as Chiang Mai and Bangkok. Bangkok is the capital and economic hub and a popular choice for ESL teachers wanting to live in a modern, metropolitan city. Chiang Mai is northern Thailand’s major city, and has many opportunities for teachers.

If you feel the need to escape to a more remote and tropical teaching destination, the islands of Phuket and Phi Phi offer more and more opportunities for teachers wanting to work in Thailand. Phi Phi is known for its amazing beaches and relaxed island living and also has a low cost of living, making it easy to live comfortably on a teacher’s salary with some basic budgeting and planning.

Due in large part to their popularity, larger cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai have a more competitive job market for English teaching positions. It is possible to land a teaching job in the more rural areas of the country, but these positions are less common for teachers coming from abroad.

Do I need a degree to teach English in Thailand?

If you want to teach English in Thailand, you’ll need a Bachelor’s degree, but don’t worry about your major – all fields are considered for ESL teaching positions.

To teach in a private or international school, educators will need to be a licensed teacher in their home country and hold some teaching experience. International schools will usually teach a North American or British curriculum and will want to hire experienced teachers to teach a variety of English-medium subjects, not just ESL.

Do I need a TEFL qualification to teach English in Thailand?

Having a TEFL certificate will definitely set you apart from other candidates. The demand for TEFL-qualified teachers in Thailand is increasing by the day and, as a result, a TEFL certification is quickly becoming more and more of a minimum requirement for many hiring schools.

It is important to be aware that there is no central accreditation body for TEFL. Choosing a TEFL course through a trusted academic provider, such as a university with a specialization in education and foreign language teaching can go a long way in ensuring your TEFL certification will be recognized and trusted by potential employers in Thailand.

Do I need to have experience to teach English in Thailand?

Due to the popularity of Thailand, having previous teaching experience in your home country is becoming more of a necessity in order to land a job in an international school. Positions in ESL schools are great options for recent college grads, as the only requirements are a Bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certificate. Previous teaching experience is not usually required!

What are the visa requirements to teach English in Thailand?

Thailand has specific requirements for expat teachers. If you do receive a job offer you will need to apply for a visa in order to enter the country.

Teachers must first obtain a non-immigrant B visa, which you apply for before entering Thailand. Once you’ve obtained your B visa, you can then enter Thailand and apply for a work permit. This may be a lengthy process, but it will be worth it. Your employer should also be willing to help you with this process. Schools that frequently hire teachers from overseas will play a role in assisting you with your visa paperwork, making the process much easier.

What’s the best way to find English teaching work in Thailand?

Going through a recruitment agency is, by far, the best way to get hired for teaching jobs in Thailand. Ensure before you jump on board that the agency you choose to work with is reputable and works with well-established school. Beware of job recruitment agencies that charge teachers fees for placement; this is a red flag and legitimate agencies will not do this.

When is the best time of year to look for English teaching jobs in Thailand?

The best time to find a job is usually at the beginning and the end of each school semester. Peak hiring occurs around mid-April to May and again between October and November. Job openings for English teachers are generally quite common during these times, so it is best to try to schedule your job hunt around the school calendar.

How much money can I make teaching English in Thailand?

Although salaries for ESL teachers in Thailand can be lower than teaching salaries back home, this is balanced by the low cost of living throughout the country. Teachers can expect to earn around $1000 – 1200 USD per month, which is more than enough to live a comfortable lifestyle with basic Western necessities.

Teachers may not be able to apply a large portion of their salary towards high-end travel plans or massive student loans, but traveling within Thailand or to neighboring countries and saving a decent nest egg for your return home is more than achievable with some careful planning.

How many hours a week will I work teaching English in Thailand?

Teachers working in Thailand can expect to work anywhere from 35 to 40 hours a week, five days a week. This includes classroom hours and time for preparing lesson plans.

What kind of benefits do English teachers in Thailand get?

Benefits can vary depending on the job position and individual school. Generally, private international schools will provide teachers with the most competitive benefits packages, including health insurance and paid sick days. It’s also becoming more common for public government schools to offer their foreign teachers some form of healthcare insurance.

Looking to teach abroad in a country with great weather, friendly locals and a well-established market for ESL teachers? Thailand may just be the right place for you to start your English teaching adventure in Asia!

Still mulling your options over? If you’re feeling unsure about how to jump start your teach abroad job search, check out this free guide to teaching abroad, created by ESL job experts from Teach Away and the University of Toronto TEFL Online.

Christie Van Tol

Christie Van Tol

After a stint abroad in Italy while studying for her Bachelor’s of Arts in English, Christie decided to get TEFL certified and moved to Spain for a year to teach English! Christie now works as the Course Coordinator for the University of Toronto TEFL Online course, where she helps others realize their own dreams of teaching abroad.


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16 comments and teachers' experiences of Thailand

Note - Some of these experiences were shared before the article above was written

  1. Anonymous

    Some schools will try to not pay you all the money that you are entitled to so always go to a school that is reputable. Make friends with Thai teachers as they are, on the whole, really eager to help you to settle in and teach you about their culture. If you wish to buy something always try to take a Thai person with you as it will save you lots of money as the Thai shop/stall owners overcharge the foreigners.

  2. Anonymous

    Thai Universities are the only universities in the world that I know of whose salaries for foreign ESL teachers have not increased in nearly thirty years.

  3. Ann

    If you want to teach in Thailand and enjoy the experience, just make sure you have completed a decent 4 week TEFL course. You will learn how to spot the cowboy schools, how to apply for the best jobs and what to say at the interview. Oh, and you’ll learn how to teach too! I know a number of school directors who are still bemused by the number of newbies who are applying for teaching positions and they don’t have a TEFL certificate. If you don’t have a TEFL there are still plenty of Thai school directors who will employ you. This however should signal an alarm bell. You’ll get the jobs no ones else wants, teach in overcrowded classes, work 6 days per week including weekends and you will earn a low wage. That is of course assuming that you do get paid.

  4. Anonymous

    The education system in Thailand consists of private, fee paying schools, and government run schools, which are now unfortunately the poor option in every respect. If there is any way, Thai parents pay the fees of a private school. This leaves the poor and orphaned children at a severe disadvantage, so if you are considering teaching English as a native speaker in Thailand, you have the opportunity to really make a difference for some young lives. I teach on a voluntary basis at my local village school in Chiang Mai and am aware that many other schools would eagerly welcome native English speakers. The hitch is of course money! You don’t need much to live here, you can happily live on £100 a month, but you will need to support yourself or get a sponsor.

  5. Anonymous

    I have taught English in Thailand on three different occasions and whilst the experience was mostly good the work permit system is ridiculous. Before you leave to go to Thailand ensure that the company will get your work permit (and cover all associated costs) as part of your contract.

  6. James

    I think anyone planning on teaching in Thailand, or actually teaching would recommend the website http://www.ajarn.com. I, and many of my colleagues have found it an invaluable resource. Also, try their forum http://www.ajarnforum.net, a forum full of people teaching in Thailand who’re more than happy to offer you their advice and their knowledge gained by their experience.

    The current visa and work permit situation is a mess. Different parts of the system are making different rules independent of each other. An attempt to grant work permits only to qualified, experienced teachers that can provide a criminal background check, while commendable, has not been organised properly making it a very unstable place to try and teach legally in. Many experienced and qualified teachers have left deeming the process disorganized, confusing and not worth the low status and wages offered for teaching in Thailand. Generally, teaching in Thailand can be fun and fulfilling although schools and agencies often have a higher commitment to making money than educating students. Student behaviour in the classroom can be a problem and foreign teachers are often not given the full support necessary to provide effective classroom management.

  7. Anonymous

    Thai parents tend to send their boys to private or international schools to learn English, but send their girls, by and large, to the local Thai schools. Therefore, if you are teaching at a kindergarten or primary school, expect your class to be heavily unbalanced in terms of gender – ratio in my class is 16 boys to 4 girls! Often, the parents themselves do not speak English, so communicating with them about the child’s progress, homework assignments, etc. is challenging.

  8. Mandy

    I taught in Thailand on three separate occasions. The last time my boss did not get me a work permit as promised (be wary of any Thai “promise”) and I had to leave early – he then failed to pay me for the work I had done – even though I had never missed one day etc. It was very disappointing.

  9. Chris

    While teaching in Thailand can be a hugely rewarding experience, the scams and pitfalls abound just as much they do in Spain or anywhere else in Europe or S. America. Fortunately the reports are about isolated incidents, and the chances of falling victim are are as rare as getting run over in Reading. Unfortunately, the ajarn forum is not the useful source of info it was once, and far too much scaremongering goes on by people who have nothing better to do than live in cyberspace. In this new Thailand TESOL forum at http://nittayo.org/tesol_discussions you can get some responsible, first-hand, up-to-date help and really feel part of the community.

  10. Steve John

    Stay away, it’s false promises and irregular payments. Have waited three months for wages and now wage is two months late again. They’re wasting Thai money employing farang. The school system is not for the benefit of the children.

  11. Kevin

    I totally agree with you John. I wasted three precious years of my ESL career “teaching” in Thailand. What a waste of time! I’m teaching in Malaysia now. Yes, the government rules and regulations here are strict but they won’t cheat you in Malaysia… ever. I have a totally different view of Islam now. They really practice what they preach. Lots of genuine hospitality here too. No phony smiles. Real people. I’m VERY favorably impressed with this country.

  12. Anonymous

    If you are thinking about teaching in Thailand, have a flare for adventure and love new cultures…DO IT. I taught in the South for 1 year and it was the best year of my life. Like every country there are scams and bad experiences, but do your research prior to getting there. In my opinion the South was the best to live in because everything was cheaper, I was very close to islands and amazing towns, and your away from ex-pat central of Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

    Yes the pay is relatively low, but I played hard, travelled everywhere and lived a very comfortable lifestyle.

    Also, GET A MOTORBIKE they are so much fun and the only way to see the country. I could literally leave my school on my bike and in 20 minutes be at a waterfall in the jungle. They are essential to experiencing the country. Yes they are dangerous, and please be careful on them. I just always expected other drivers to do something stupid and was ready to swerve or stop to avoid them.

    The school system can be frustrating but the kids are sweet (depending on the age). My school paid for all work permits, visas, always on time for the monthly salaries, covered all health and dental insurance, and paid for my flight there. You can find these schools, put the hours in researching online and it will pay off.

  13. Ken

    Thailand is like the class clown – rarely organized, always cracking jokes, and prefers to do things the easy way or not at all. I taught ESL for 6 months at a private school and I have never met such dysfunction!! Thai’s expect you to know what they do. If your given a task and require directions, they will make fun of you in their language. This is true at my school in Phetchaburi. The teacher NEVER knows about meetings or events until the absolute last minute. In addition, Thai’s LOVE to gossip. If you live in a small town, remember the saying “Small Town, Large Hell.” Most Thai adults I’ve meet have the maturity and professionalism of a 13 year old and when they don’t get their way, they whine or get angry. Most important – THAI’s are ALWAYS right and you are ALWAYS wrong. NEVER Challenge a Thai teacher or director in private or public. It will end horribly and I speak from the experiences of others.

  14. Brian

    Thailand can be rewarding if you are willing to accept that (other than in the best private schools) not much in the way of education goes on. Having taught in private, and government schools I much prefer government schools. Private schools never fail anybody, I mean, how dare they tell the parents that their child is intellectually disabled, or lazy, when they pay money for grades. The whole system is a complete failure and will never change. If you can accept this, then you”ll enjoy life in Thailand. If you can’t find work you aren’t looking and the cost of living is so low it’s easy to save a lot of money. Thailand ranks 42nd in Asia in English for good reason.

  15. Anonymous

    Here are my two cents.

    I teach at a small university in Isan. I am one of two foreign English teachers. I am a native speaker and the other is a Filipina, who speaks perfect, although accented English.

    The English department teaches a small group of students..around 150 or so, and additionally, has the responsibility of teaching any English courses to the Business students, Agricultural students etc. The place is shockingly amateurish.

    No lesson plans…ever. No direction. No guidance for curriculum. No course outlines. “Up to you” really means “up to you!!!!!” If you like al fresco teaching, this is the place.

    I arrived as a replacement for a fired teacher. I was given the name of the courses I would teach, period. Go to it big boy. I was frightened to death of making a poor impression and not working up to standards. Ahh, but wait, there are no standards. Hot diggity dog! Stand back, because I have been waiting a long time to have my say about what I would teach, and how I would teach it.

    It took the students some time to get used to doing things my way. Being on time, ( a Thai universal character flaw) was a struggle. No talking, eating, putting on makeup or cheating, especially cheating was tolerated, and, I do not allow texting or cell phone conversations in my class.

    I have had some students for two terms now, things have worked out just fine.

    As for the “big teachers”, I don’t bother them, and they don’t bother me. I smile and give the same baloney they give me right back. Everyone is real happy.

    Government Teachers in Thailand have a good gig. Sleep, watch movies on the internet. Play Facebook and of course eat Sum tum (papaya salad) as often as possible during the day.

    Great place Thailand.

  16. Jeff

    I think that the advice that everyone has posted about so far on this thread has filled in many many valid points and thus, I will not repeat the bedrock principles that others have already mentioned. However, one thing that the most recent writer quickly mentioned was not exactly on target. Brian wrote about how “If you can’t find work then you aren’t looking”. This is VERY untrue for a most, tried and true but (perhaps shadowed) reason that is not always talked about when giving advice for people who considering moving (unless they research it), or worst, after they’ve already moved to the country. What is this reason?

    Racism towards dark skinned foreigners.

    I would like to shed some truth and bright light for all non Caucasian foreigners who are seriously considering on making the move to Thailand to teach. My story I’ll lay out here is by no means to reflect on EVERY non white foreigner, but I’ve lived here long enough to understand the ‘signs and symptoms’ when racism has happened or when it’s about to happen. Sorry if this appears to be a ‘short story’, but I want everyone to be fully aware of what to expect when you come here as a foreigner and are specifically of a darker skin tone and plan to work.

    For a short introduction, I’m an American Hispanic male, have a crystal clear accent, am from the northeast part of America, have lived in the U.S all my life, and am most obviously a U.S passport holder. As for credentials, I have a B.A, plus the TEFL certificate and am from a native English speaking country. All the stated basic essentials for getting started with a teaching job right? How wrong I was. When I first got here, it took me seven, yes seven months to actually get a job. Why? No matter how many times, how many places I applied to, most of my applications went totally unanswered even when I tried to do follow ups. I had even seen, when viewing job ads some years back, how the recruiters will openly write things like, Only Caucasian applications will be accepted, or only white South Africans.

    Then, after some months had gone by and still no jobs hashed out, I finally learned the news. After reading through forums and via word of mouth (as disheartening as it was to read and hear at that point), I discovered the unfortunate news: I learned it was a cold reality that many employers here in Thailand judge a hire on their skin tone. They value those who fit into the category of ‘blonde hair blue eyes’ or in the case of Thais, those who have very light skin. Why? They think that those who have fair skin are more successful and richer than those who have dark skin (who they deem as lower and poorer). I was even told personally by a Thai who is also the same complexion as myself, that she too, despite being a Thai, has also been discriminated against for the same reason. I’ve visibly watched during interviews or just in public how Thais will be all smiles and look at white foreigners as if they’re gods. Yet when it comes to a dark skinned foreigner, they will immediately change their tone and perception. I’ve gotten questions like, “Do you speak with any kind of accent?” or “Where are you from”? Even believe this. At one of my schools I worked side by side with two other American guys. I had been working at this school for a little over a month when at one point, (most notably AFTER being hired and going through all the motions), the school director deemed it necessary to demand to see my passport to verify that I was a native speaker. Did she request to see the other two Americans passports? Of course not. To her there was no doubt they were Americans. Absolute total BS! Suffice it to say I quickly gave my letter of resignation to the agency that I’d been working through for this school and got out of there. I have NEVER been accustomed to this kind of treatment before and was not going to stand for it then. Unfortunately, I HAVE had to learn to live with this ‘doctrine’ that has clearly been present before I moved here, and will most certainly, by my prediction, be here long after I decide to leave the country. No matter what, with some Thais they get certain stereotypes and ideas in their head and refuse to believe anything else and that’s it. i.e. Like a subconscious idea that “Oh you have dark skin there’s no way you’re from the U.S”.

    Understand this guys. Some people of Thailand are stupid, ignorant, or both, in this very very truthful but VERY blunt aspect I write in the next sentence: Thais judge EVERYONE on appearance and looks.

    However, many may wonder the big question; “Well what happened with your work situation?” Well, luckily I did finally get hired after those seven long months, worked my way through two government schools (high school level and certainly not recommended from my experience), but eventually got into a great great private school right in the center of Bangkok and working with primary students. I’ve worked here for just about three years now and the treatment has been extremely good and accepting and the job, a great and very rewarding one. In conclusion, I’m not trying to scare people into thinking: Oh no, it’s going to be the most life threatening situation ever; trying to get a teaching job in Thailand. No no. I can now say with my currently going on 3 years job, it’s certainly NOT impossible to gain employment as an English teacher in Thailand as a non white. Just be aware that it could be openly much more difficult and there could be short (or in my case) longer periods of time where you cannot find work because of the color issue. I did tell about this story just as some food for thought, (also undeniably as a small warning though), but certainly wish the best of luck for those who do choose the path to want to try their hand at teaching in the Kingdom of Thailand.
    Good luck to all!

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