Talkin’ bout my situation
Everyone's situation is a little different
A section of the ajarn website for those teachers looking to embark on a teaching career in Thailand and have so many questions and no real answers. It's also a section for those that can't be arsed to look through the 'your questions answered' and 'newbie guide' parts of the website - or any of the other thousand ajarn web pages lovingly put together over the last decade or so. E-mail us with your situation if you don't know which way to turn and all your friends (at least those staying back in your hometown) think you are absolutely nuts.
Erika from England
I was recently offered a job teaching at a preschool in Bangkok. They have offered me 50,000 THB a month. and I am wondering if that would be a comfortable salary? I was hoping for 60,000 to be honest and thought about asking them to negotiate with me. The director told me she was 'super impressed' with me and my qualifications and the school is well known and respected. I have read your cost of living section and 50,000 seems to be ok from what you and other teachers seem to have stated.
The director told me that 50,000 was the net salary and then she said something that what they send to the government will say something else because they pay for the tax. If the contract states 50,000 are they required to honor that?
I also want to live in a central area close to the school, so I am not sure what an apartment would run me. Please let me know. I am currently back home and I don't want to accept something I will regret when I get to Bangkok.
Hi Erika. Your questions are all 'financial' in a sense, and financial questions are nigh on impossible to answer. You've already had a look through the cost of living section and as you can see - no two teachers are ever the same! One guy can earn 40,000 baht a month and live well and another guy can earn appreciably more than 40K and appear to be struggling. Of course that's how it is in all walks of life where salaries and spending are concerned - not just in the teaching profession.
50,000 a month would afford you a decent standard of living in Bangkok. 60,000 would be even better. But let's not get carried away - 50K ain't a fortune. Bangkok has got a lot more expensive over the past ten years or so. Everyone wants i-pads, mobile phones, wi-fi connections and an extra dollop of cream on their Starbucks latte etc. Years ago, all a teacher had to worry about was rent, food, what to do on a Friday night and where to go for the odd weekend away. Nowadays there is far more vying for the baht in your pocket. I think it's a fact that's often overlooked when people are planning a Thailand teaching career and working out the numbers.
Your main expense is always going to be accommodation and I recommend you don't spend any more than 10,000 a month on a place to live (plus you'll have utility bills on top) I think many teachers will say that you'll find something decent for less than 10K and they would probably be right. Rent is always 'dead money' You don't want to live in a ridiculously cheap apartment because that's always a false economy, but it's always nice to have a decent pad to go back to after a hard day in the classroom. You're thinking very smart as well when you say you want to live close to your work. I never think you want to live so close that all the students can wave at you every time you pop into seven-eleven for groceries but you don't want those two-hour commutes in the rainy season either.
Oh, and if the director says that you should receive 50,000 baht a month nett, then that's what it should be.
Freddy from Nicaragua
Hi, I'm Freddy from Nicaragua in Central America. At the moment I am living in Pattaya with my wife and looking for a job as a native Spanish speaker in order to support us both and of course be able to stay in Thailand with her. Unfortunately, I'm having no luck whatsoever finding opportunities to teach Spanish. In the past, I taught English in a high school in my hometown and after that for a few years in Costa Rica. Then I moved to the USA and lived there for about 12 years. All I want is to live in Thailand with my wife and my wonderful son. I'm grateful for any help you can give me.
Hi Freddy. I've lived in Thailand for over twenty years and I've heard some terrific Thai Spanish speakers - so they have obviously studied the language somewhere. The only downside is that I could probably count them on one hand. There are two things against you. Firstly, Spanish is very much a 'minority language' here in Thailand. Thais do study it yes, but not in any great number at all. Secondly, you are in Pattaya. I would say that any minority language teachers - if they are keen to make a living teaching their native language - need to base themselves in Bangkok.
Years ago, I worked at a private language school which boasted a couple of French teachers. One guy did OK for work because he was virtually native-speaker fluent in English as well as French. He taught many hours of English mixed in with the odd hour of French and he managed to make a living. The other French teacher was a long way from being able to teach English. The school recognised this fact as well so he was only allowed to teach French. My lasting memory of this teacher was how he used to sit in a corner of the teachers room, with his hand in his hands, and wonder where his next meal was coming from. It was very much a case of 'one hour's teaching on a Monday and one hour on a Thursday' And that's no good to anyone.
One way to get a decent amount of paying work might be to offer your services to a private language school as an English teacher first and foremost - and a Spanish teacher second.
I presume you've already done what anyone else would do and googled 'Spanish teaching in Bangkok'. It took me seconds to come up with a website for a school called The Instituto Espanol, who only hire Spanish native speakers. Perhaps there are even more schools out there like them? If you delve deeper into the google pages, you will notice that a number of Spanish teachers in Thailand have their own Facebook pages or websites and they are getting them out there to attract private students. In other words, they are getting their marketing head on. You're going to need to do the same if you are going to eke out a living as a Spanish teacher. Sit in your apratment in Pattaya and wait for jobs to fall out of the sky and it just ain't going to happen. Good luck!
Joanelle from South Africa
I want to teach in Thailand starting September or October for a few years, but I have a few enquiries. Firstly Afrikaans is my first language,and although I had English in High School and speak it fluently, it isn't what I would like it to be with regards to tenses and grammar etc. How big a problem is it and how do I overcome it before September? When is the best time of year to arrive in Thailand and do the TEFL course and interviews with different schools?
Secondly, I have a degree In Public Management and I'm currently studying for my teaching degree specializing in children from 6-10. That will be finished in November. Would I need to do the TEFL if I have these two degrees?
Thirdly, what I idolised for my Thailand experience is to teach in a village or rural town - not in Bangkok. I want to walk and breath in fresh air. I want peace and harmony and to hug, love and learn about the children of Thailand! I have years of experience in teaching children and currently have my own Franchise "Chums with Sums" where I teach small children maths.
What salary am I looking at if I want to teach smaller children in a smaller town somewhere? I read a few blogs and hear there are many work opportunities but, for the experience I want what's the potential and with my qualifications what are the salary rates? I'm really looking forward to this new adventure in my life,and would appreciate any information and feedback.
Hi Joanelle. You want in teach in a rural town or rural village and wonder what the salary might be so let's get that out of the way first. Some rural towns or smaller cities might have schools or colleges paying teachers 25-40,000 baht a month. At what I guess is your 'picture' of a rural school, you might be lucky to get 15,000 baht a month. There's a big difference between some backwater village school and a modern institute on the edge of a large town - in hundreds of different ways.
I wouldn't worry about your English language ability. Being from South Africa, you fall into that magical category of nationalities that Thais consider full-on native English speakers and with the kind of students you hope to teach, most of the English will be fairly basic. Nothing wrong with brushing up on your grammar though so why not read a good grammar book on the flight over. No, seriously!
September and October are good months to look for work. They are not the busiest in terms of schools hiring teachers but they are far from the worst also. Try not to leave it later than October though because things really do slow down once November arrives.
You certainly won't need to do a TEFL course in order to secure a job - certainly not with two degrees under your belt and years of experience teaching kids. I would just get out there and start looking for jobs. There's always a demand for teachers that can teach more than one subject and English and maths is a great combination. When you go for interviews, don't forget to big up that experience you have with running your own kids math franchise.
Sean from the USA
I am a 24 year old American who has been living in Bangkok for the past two years. I moved here with my girlfriend to finish my master's degree in International Relations here at an American University. She is already an accomplished teacher from the States with a master's in education, so she has no trouble finding work. However, now that I am done with my degree, I am stuck in a field with limited jobs and have had no luck in the governmental/non-governmental job field. I am now considering teaching for a bit here in Bangkok. I just have no idea where to start. I hope that a Master's degree would outweigh a TEFL certificate in my chances of work. And I am not keen on paying for a certificate right now. My question is basically where to start. I know many teachers and have heard many good and bad stories. I want to know how to avoid one of those horror stories. I have browsed many websites and visited many company websites, but still am unsure about the quality and legitimacy of certain agencies. I am more leaning towards a teaching position in social studies/sciences or even business/corporate training. Do you think it would be necessary to get a TEFL cert?
Hi Sean. You say in your e-mail, or at least imply that your partner has been teaching in Thailand for two years and 'has no trouble finding work'. I'm just a little surprised that you are not getting more information from her because she should certainly have gotten to know the ropes by now. But anyway, your main question is it necessary to get a TEFL certificate. Can I say what I said to Jon from Honolulu a little further down the page because he kind of asked the same question. The answer is certainly the same - plenty of people will tell you that these certificates are not legal requirements, and while that is certainly true, these certificates are ‘strings to your bow'. Having them will not do your job chances any harm at all and you'll feel a more confident teacher when you walk into a classroom. Listen, if two people go for the same job - both have degrees and both have likeable personalities, but one has a TEFL certificate and the other doesn't - it's a fair chance that the job will go to the teacher who's less of a gamble in a recruiter's eyes.
It sounds as if you have your heart set on teaching science or something similar. Well, the busy hiring season is approaching fast. There are going to be plenty of science teacher positions around and some of those jobs will be through agencies but most of them won't. Look at the jobs boards on ajarn.com and any other TEFL jobs website and apply directly to the schools if you don't want to chance it with a teacher agency. Simple really.
You might find some corporate / training work as well, but always keep in mind that very few teachers make a full-time living from corporate training. It's more often a case of a couple of nights a week with a group of office staff and the odd two-day seminar if you're lucky. Corporate work is the icing on the cake. It's that little bit extra to supplement your day job. Never ever rely on it as your bread and butter work.
Chris from the USA
I am a 27 year old American and and I have several questions about teaching in Thailand. My girlfriend and I are moving to Thailand to teach in early April and we have been researching quite a bit. One thing we can't find is how to go about finding a job outside of Bangkok, specifically in the southern area like Phuket or Hat Yai. We really want to be in a tropical climate and somewhere near the beach but it is hard to find reliable information on these areas. Are there any places that would be better than others or any ways to find jobs in this are that I haven't found?
My second question is on behalf of my girlfriend. She was previously married and her name changed after she graduated college. I am worried that because her passport and degree have different last names on them we may run in to problems with paperwork once in Thailand. The Thai Consulate is not worried about the visa but I worry that this may cause a problem with her finding a job.
Hi Chris. Well first off, you are certainly coming at the best time of year to find a teaching job in Thailand, although March would probably be even better.
I'm not quite sure what you mean when you say you can't find jobs in areas like Phuket or Hat Yai or find reliable information on those areas. If you are looking for general travel information on places like Phuket, I'm sure there are many websites with good, updated content. As regards teaching jobs, ajarn.com does feature job vacancies in Phuket quite often. There are never as many job vacancies for Hat Yai though, despite it being one of Thailand's largest cities. That's just the way it is I guess. We have recently updated our region guide to Phuket so that's well worth a few minutes of your time. There is also a region guide to Hat Yai, albeit a little older.
I think if you and your partner have your hearts set on teaching in a particular area or city, you should decide which one and then base yourself in that area for a while. Find out who is recruiting in that area, ask around a few places, make a few contacts, get on the telephone. That's what a serious job hunt is all about. Sit in your digs and wait for a teaching position to drop into your lap and it's not going to happen. Be aware though that somewhere like Phuket could be an expensive place to be ‘killing time' while you are looking for a job so make sure you have some savings o fall back on.
The passport and degree conundrum is something I've not come across before but the situation is what it is. I can't see it causing any major issues but obviously you'll need to explain the situation to any potential employers. It's just an idea but could you perhaps get some sort of legal document from your local law office explaining why the names differ on the passport and degree. Then get that document ‘notarized' with an official stamp or something. It may cost you a hundred bucks but it might solve a few problems further down the line should any problems arise.
Jennifer from the USA
I am a 35-year-old married mother of two daughters (ages 8 and 4) from the United States. My husband and I very much want to move to Thailand. We have been studying the culture, climate, and way of life and it is exactly what we have been looking for. I have a Bachelor's Degree in English Literature and would get my TEFL certification. I am strongly considering teaching in Thailand, but see very little on your site from married couples with children who bring their families with them to Thailand. I am curious if this would be a smart move and if we would be able to do alright financially? Is quality childcare available that would be affordable for us if we both work? Would our children be able to attend the public schools and would we be happy with that? Is there housing available at a reasonable price that would be enough space to accommodate our family (I am mostly seeing blogs about single people who rent 1 room apartments). This is obviously a very big decision for us, so your feedback would be appreciated.
Hi Jennifer. First off, I appreciate that this is a huge decision - uprooting your family to live on the other side of the world and relying on teaching salaries. You don't mention it but I assume that your husband will be teaching as well. So it's a case of two teachers looking for TEFL work with a couple of kids in tow. The reason that this scenario doesn't feature predominantly on the ajarn.com website is probably because few families make such a move. It's certainly a very brave one.
My first ‘concern' is that although you are researching Thailand on the internet, I'm not sure that you have even been here for a holiday. Be aware that living and working in Thailand is entirely different to coming here for a couple of weeks of beaches and temples. This point is covered in more detail in our '20 mistakes that new teachers make' article. Make sure you have a quick read through those points.
I'll admit that I'm not the best person to comment on your family situation because I don't have children; however, I will say this - one of the main reasons that foreign teachers with young children decide to return home for a while - often after several years or more spent teaching in Thailand - is for the sake of their kids' education. Many teachers feel that a private school education is the only way to go in Thailand but the fees can be high and could take a big bite out of your monthly TEFL salary.
Let's talk about all things financial. I can't answer your question - "would we do alright financially?" because I have no idea what your financial situation is now and even less idea what your expectations are. A husband and wife might pull in 80-100,000 baht a month from teaching unless they are qualified to work in the best international schools.
From that 80-100,000 baht a month, you've got to find an apartment that's big enough for your family, possibly something with two bedrooms in a decent area. I think you must be looking at a minimum of 20,000 baht a month for that. Then you have day-to-day living costs, child-minder fees, and we haven't even got on to health insurance and the money for trips back to the USA (there must be grandparents who will be missing their grandkids)
I have to be honest Jennifer, in your shoes I wouldn't be attempting any of this unless I had some sort of decent financial buffer just in case things don't work out and you have to return home and pick up where you left off.
Approach this situation with great caution would be my advice. If you were a couple of foreign experts coming over on expat packages or a couple of teachers hired from overseas by a top international school, then it would be a totally different ball-game. But that isn't the case is it? You're planning to join thousands of other English teachers looking for quality, well-paid work in what can be one of the most fantastic, yet most frustrating countries to live in. Only time will tell if Thailand turns out to be Heaven or Hell for you.
If there are no kids involved, then you can easily chalk the experience up as one big adventure, but there are a couple of little ones relying on you. That's certainly a game changer.
Jon from Honolulu
I'm turning 44 in a few weeks. I have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance. I'm thinking of taking a 140 hour TESOL/TEFL course (120hrs online + 20hrs DVD lecture) and a 50-hour Business English online course (and maybe the 50-hour young learner course as well) then 2 weeks of classroom training.
For the past 12 years I have worked for the same financial services company, providing seminars and one-to-one hour long appointments 'teaching' private high school and university employees about various financial subjects/issues. I believe I can get letters of recommendation from the high schools. I'm hoping that potential employers might consider this as some experience and not just consider me as a brand new TEFL certificate holder with no actual teaching experience.
What are your thoughts? Given my experience would I be considered able to teach other subjects such as math or will I end up teaching just English? Any input you can offer would be greatly appreciated.
Hi Jon. I certainly like your attitude and we all know that a good attitude can get you far. There's certainly no harm in getting a TEFL certificate and perhaps doing one or two of the other courses you mention. Plenty of people will tell you that these certificates are not legal requirements, and while that is certainly true, these certificates are ‘strings to your bow'. Having them will not do you any harm and you'll feel a more confident teacher when you walk into a classroom.
Do you really want to bother with the young learners course though? Reading between the lines, this strikes me as the kind of work you would be least happy doing - but I may be wrong.
You'll be starting off life in Thailand as a newbie but not a true newbie. That ‘teaching experience' you gained while you worked in the financial sector must have some value. If I were you, I would get a little creative with your resume and really emphasize the teaching aspect of those positions. You want a potential employer to pick up your resume and see a guy with some teaching experience who just might be the answer to their recruitment problems, not just ‘some financial guy going through a career change'
Just to give you a further bit of motivation, I have a very good friend with an almost identical background to you. He worked in the financial service sector in both the US and the UK for many years. He's also a good five years older than you. He had absolutely no trouble getting work at universities teaching financial courses, maths and marketing. In fact I think he does very little in the way of plain English teaching. And if I remember correctly, he only ever had an on-line TEFL certificate. It was his background that got him the positions. Good luck!
Darren from Australia
Hi, I am an Australian in my early 40s. I have being coming to Thailand for three years now and have decided to do a TEFL course and hopefully get work in or around Bangkok. Prior to me coming here, I had a construction company that I owned for 20 years. The question I have for you is with me only having a TEFL course degree behind me and a business management degree (which I did when I was in Australia) is it going to be hard to find a school that's willing to take me on? I have noticed a lot of schools want degrees. If so will I have to go out into the sticks to have half a chance of finding work? Am I better off going through a teacher agency to find work or to find work myself? Am I better off being married with regards to getting a visa or it's no problem being single? I have a Thai girlfriend that wants to get married but I'm not that keen on the idea unless it's an advantage to my visa status. Sorry if that sounds harsh but I'm being honest. Any help would be great. Darren.
You have to look at things here in black and white Darren. You've got no teaching experience and no TEFL certificate (it's not a degree by the way) and your background in construction - although a very honorable profession - has nothing to do with teaching English. Therefore you're fairly near the bottom of the pecking order when it comes to teaching jobs. You do have a degree though and that's an enormous plus because it means schools can get you a teacher's licence and work permit.
If I were a recruiter, I would see you as an enormous gamble as it currently stands. For sure, there will be some of the more desperate employers willing to take a chance on you but often only because they need a warm body in the classroom.
What you need more than anything is teaching experience and even though some teacher agencies might not be your idea of a dream employer, it still means you are getting your foot in the door. Once you've got a year of teaching experience under your belt, you will be in a far better position to move on to better jobs. But everyone has to start somewhere. Be prepared to be 'messed around' for a year or so. Then again, you might strike it lucky and end up in a good school first time around. It can happen. There are some good teacher agencies around. One well-known and reliable teacher recruiter in Bangkok wrote a great blog with the lowdown on teacher agencies and followed that up with the flipside of working for teacher agencies. Both blogs are well worth a read Darren for someone in your position.
I would certainly advise you to get a TEFL certificate because although it's not a legal requirement, having the certificate at least shows a prospective employer that you have some idea of what to do the moment you walk into a classroom. A number of employers might even want you to do a demo lesson.
To answer your other questions, getting married is an advantage to your visa status in terms of being allowed to stay longer in the country (provided you can meet the financial requirements of course) but it makes no difference to legally finding teaching work. Jobs don't necessarily become easier to find once your status changes from single to married, although some employers may view a married man as having more of a long-term commitment.
If your heart is set on working in Bangkok, then that is where I would look for jobs. You are only looking for one teaching vacancy. There are plenty of teachers who say it's easier for an inexperienced newbie to find teaching work in the sticks, but that doesn't mean you should dismiss Bangkok completely. Bangkok still has far more choice of better-paying jobs than in the rural areas, and that's the way it always will be. I put together an article a while ago pitching 'teaching in Bangkok' up against 'teaching in the rural areas'. Have a read of that and make up your own mind.