Working smart, not working hard

Making the most of your teaching time

posted on 8th December 2011

The following was an interesting observation from a teacher who has a friend with no degree but is still managing to earn 70,000 baht a month as a teacher in Thailand. Have a read of the full story first.

I thought some of you would be interested in this as I see a lot of crap about teachers on a 35k or 40k pittance or expect that's all they can aim for out here.

A mate of mine who moved into my condo last year has been over here for 3 years. He's 25 years old, has no degree and works as a teacher in Bangkok.

Anyway, his working week breaks down like this. His Mon-Fri job is as a homeroom teacher in a kindergarten. They have to be on site from 8-3:30, but only teach a one hour lesson during the day, the rest of the time they need to be with the students while the Thai teachers do their conditioning. Lunch is followed by ‘sleep time' for two hours, when the teachers can play on their computers or do whatever they want.

Through a standard agency, the teachers earn 35,000 baht a month for an 11-month contract, with an extra month of summer school if they want it (for the same pay) In other words there are no ‘dead' months when the teachers earn nothing.

He's been at the school for almost 3 years but about two years ago some parents wanted him to come and play with their son in his playroom using English as the language of communication. 500 baht per hour was quite an attractive deal because the work was Monday to Friday and the house was only around the corner from where he lived.

About a month later the child's parent wanted the same deal as the kid. So since then he has been ‘playing' with the kid for an hour before giving a more serious lesson to the parent. Two hours a day for an extra 1000 baht- five days a week. That's an extra 20,000 baht per month and he's back in his house for 6pm and has the whole evening to himself.

About a year ago he took on some Saturday work which is actual teaching in a language center. He was paid 600 baht an hour for six hours work. This added up to an extra 14,400 baht per month on top of the 65,000 baht he was already earning during the week. I've since heard though that he gave up on the Saturdays because he valued his weekend too much and was happy with earning 55K

He married his Thai girlfriend whom he met while she studied in Australia and they moved over here together three years ago, so he has his visas based on that. She usually takes home between 40-60k depending on commission, so they live quite a good lifestyle on 130-140k p/m. They are both in their mid-20s.

A total of 21 teaching hours per week, if playing can be counted as teaching, home by 6pm everyday, and Sunday free every week. And a very handy 70k per month.

I often see people complaining or thinking that they can only get some 30-40k a month pittance and thought people would be interested in the reality of how people can help themselves and do okay, despite being a, wait for it.... ‘degreeless Tefler'.

Interesting thoughts, but I have always said it's not about working hard, it's about working smart. The work is out there but you need to look on teaching as a business - and you are the product. By all means enjoy your work but utilize your time in the best way possible.

Years ago, I worked for a language center that specialized in preparing Thai students to go and study in America. The students came to us for a one-month intensive English program to study reading, writing and speaking skills.

From Monday to Friday, I taught six hours a day. I did the morning session from 9.00-12.00, took an hour for lunch and then did the afternoon session from 1.00-4.00. It was a sweet deal. The pay rate was about 300 baht an hour so that meant I earned 36,000 baht for the weekday work alone. Keep in mind that this was 1995 so 36,000 baht went a lot further than it does now.

However, I was always keen to bump up my earnings and the language center ran evening conversation classes from 6.30-8.30pm mainly for office workers and business people. I decided to take on a conversation class just two nights a week. This extra two nights of teaching got me another 4,800 baht per month - but I wasn't working smart. To my mind I had two and a half hours of dead time from when the daytime classes finished at 4pm and the evening class started at 6.30. And then when the evening class finished, I would get home about 9pm, exhausted from such a long day and generally fit for nothing. I actually felt it was that two and a half hour break that was tiring me out more than anything else. And let's not forget that whenever you find yourself with a long break, that's when you will often kill time by walking around shopping malls and spending money!

I decided to ditch the evening classes at the language center and teach private students at home. I signed up students to study from 5.30-7.30 and charged them 500 baht an hour.

So not only was I earning more money - but I was in my own home with the teaching day finished at 7.30pm. That's a huge difference to 9pm, when the evening is nigh on over.

Teachers should look on themselves as a business. You are the boss. You are in control. Decide how much money you realistically need to earn a month - and then find the easiest and most comfortable way to earn it.

I never wanted to work on the weekends. I have always hated the idea of working a six-day week and for the most part, I never did. But if working six days a week doesn't bother you and you need to do so in order to reach your financial target, then go for it. Every teacher will have their own strategy. Just make sure that you are utilizing your valuable time to its fullest potential.


I am a non-native speaker and I do make a little more than 70K a month from teaching, but I work 7 days a week, non-stop and with extra classes in the evening at home. I agree it is possible to get more than 40K easily, but I would not call teachers losers who do not make more. People have different priorities in their lives, some people value their weekends or free time. The best thing would be getting a job in an international school which would reward you well, 70K up. But that requires proper qualifications. If you do not have them, then you have to work extra, in the evenings or the weekends to reach 70K.

First of all I have to question why this guy doesn’t have a degree, do his employers know this fact?  I sometimes see teachers here aged 25-30 and I just think ‘what are they playing at?’  Not exactly carving out a career.  Most people wouldn’t consider sitting around on the floor with young kids all day a job, and it certainly isn’t teaching.  Here is someone clearly getting by on his youthful looks, though why a 25 year old man is trusted to take care of someone else’s young children and a 50 year old man isn’t, I have no idea. Common sense would have it the other way round surely.  Older teachers here can often not have to work too hard as investments and pensions are their main source of income. The wage from teaching is just spending money.  They also don’t have to worry about developing their CV.  I certainly wouldn’t like to be 30 year job hunter dragging around a CV that says I have been an unqualified child minder for the last 7 years.

This is Thailand. People break the law everyday. All of us do. We’re buying fake merchandise, watching copied DVD’s or drinking in clubs past the legal closing time. Some people I hear are even paying for sex.

The biggest qualifications a TEFL teacher in Thailand can have are: being normal, being a hard-worker and being reliable. We even have non-native speakers teaching English. I didn’t go to uni for three years to earn 65k a month. The degree just helps with me getting a work permit.

I have no problem with teachers being successful without the proper credentials. Do your own thing and stop worrying about what other teachers are doing. Yet, on the other hand, I do have a problem with teachers with degrees working for anything less than 40k a month. C’est la vie.

At the end of the day, take care of yourself. I’m happily living here in Thailand. I work hard, and I’m yet to be affected by what other teachers are doing. (Four years now)

I can see Dave’s point but that’s in an ideal world, which we’re not in. I’m not going to get drawn into the in’s and out’s of the system it really is just complicated. I believe the truth of the matter is that there are many excellent teachers in Thailand who don’t have degrees, who provide a good service to the schools that are unable to meet the funding of a fully degree’d up teacher. Let’s face it the schools are either unable to afford that level of pay or on the private sector side of things the school is basically a business. The fact there is why pay for a degree teacher when you can pay a lot less for a degree free one and put more money in your bank account.

I don’t think it’s a case of people deliberately going around breaking the law I think it’s more a case of people wanting to be able to do a good job but red tape surrounds the issue. Finally what is a real teacher? if two “teachers” one with a degree and one without both teach their classes with enthusiasm, dedication and sincerity and the children are happy and learn to speak English and are given a fair crack of the whip. What’s the problem? I am a teacher with a degree and I would rather teach here than be back in the UK facing the prospect of being spat at, knifed or punched. At least here your efforts are appreciated and are accepted with the grace they are given.

No work permit, not paying taxes, and very difficult without a Thai wife and an “O” visa to save on the border runs and bypass the rules that real teachers face.

Also nice to see that we can freely complain about the problems with enforcement of the rules and then also we freely become part of the problem by breaking them at our convenience and leisure.

Nice to see that crime pays and is supported by

Fetch more comments

Comment on this Article

Please enter the text you see:

TEFL and TESOL Training Courses
Schools that need Teachers
Your questions answered. Can't find an answer? Ask Ajarn!

Most recently answered question:

What do female teachers wear?

View Answer

About was started as a small hobby website in 1999 by Ian McNamara. It was a simple way for one Bangkok teacher to share his Thailand experiences and pass on advice. The website developed a loyal and enthusiastic following. In 2004, Ian handed over the reins to Phil Williams and 'Bangkok Phil' has run the ajarn website ever since. has grown enormously and is now the most popular TEFL site in Thailand - possibly even South East Asia. Although best-known for its vibrant jobs page, Ajarn has a wealth of articles, blogs, features and help and advice. But one principle has always remained at Ajarn's core - to tell things like they are and to do it with a sense of humor. Thailand can be Heaven or Hell for an English teacher. It's always been's duty to present both sides of the equation. Thanks for stopping by.