No. And you see this same old line churned out by numerous websites in an attempt to lure you to this South-east Asian paradise. It’s a load of old tosh! You might be earning four times the salary of a street-sweeper or the guy who works down at the harbour putting fishes heads in a big net, but then again - you would expect to wouldn’t you? You’re a professional teacher. The truth is that foreign teacher salaries have increased very little here in the last 20 years. You can read more on the whole topic of how foreign teachers are supposed to leave Thais standing in the salary stakes in this ajarn article.
If you are thinking of coming to teach English in Thailand, then this FAQ for Newbies is an excellent place to start. Don’t be put off by the fact that some of the answers in this section are a couple of years old. Things don’t change a great deal in the Thailand teaching business. In fact I’ll wager most of these answers will still be the same several years from now. I recommend that you read through the questions and answers here, and then if you want to go more in-depth, then take a look at our Your Questions Answered section.
You should be aiming to earn between 40-50,000 baht a month if you are working in the capital. This will give you a fairly comfortable standard of living. There are of course people who survive on a lot less in Bangkok (25-30K a month) but I really don’t know how they do it. If you are earning 25K a month in the capital, then you are seriously going without. In rural areas however, teachers say you can live like a king on 25K. It totally depends on the individual and their spending habits I suppose. Take a look at our ‘cost of living’ feature, where numerous teachers describe how much they earn and what they spend it on.
Demand for good teachers has always been high. In fact I would say I the demand for experienced, qualified teachers has never been greater. Qualified teachers are never out of work in Thailand. However (and it’s a big however) Thailand is certainly not the paradise it was for unqualified teachers (those that lack a degree, a TEFL certificate, teaching experience, etc) I’ve had a number of e-mails recently from teachers without degrees and/or TEFL certificates and frankly they are struggling to find decent work here. There could of course be numerous reasons for this - perhaps they perform poorly at interviews or perhaps they just haven’t looked in the right places - but things have tightened up a lot over the past couple of years for unqualified teachers in Thailand. As always, many employers can exploit loopholes in Thai law and manage to get their unqualified teachers legal. Much will depend on how organized and ‘savvy’ your employer is and how much they are prepared to go to bat for their teachers.
It really depends whether you’re looking for a cultural experience or to make money. If you’re looking to get rich - Thailand should be the last country on your list, but you will have a lot of fun living here. Those people who have worked in Thailand, Japan and Korea are almost unanimous in their verdict - You may have a nicer lifestyle in Thailand but in the money stakes, just about everywhere else is better. There are many jobs in Thailand that pay between 20,000 and 30,000 baht a month. Teachers were earning that sort of money back in the early 90’s. I know, I was one of them. Those people who claim that teaching salaries in Thailand haven’t risen in almost 20 years could well have a point.
In the eyes of the Thai Ministry of Education and the Thai Labor Department, a qualified teacher has a bachelor’s degree (preferably in education) and at least one year’s teaching experience.
If I had just one piece of advice to offer people - do NOT arrange jobs before you get here. Get yourself settled in and then take the time to weigh up your options. Many schools just aren’t interested in hiring or even corresponding with teachers who aren’t living in the country. Teachers plans quickly change. The guy sitting in Canada who shoots off a few speculative e-mails and accepts a job at a school in February won’t necessarily be around for the start of term in May. Schools have wised up to this so they much prefer local hires. When it comes to finding a teaching job in Thailand, nothing beats actually being here and pounding the pavements yourself, fixing up interviews and knocking on a few doors.
Generally speaking - no. You will earn probably 70% of what you would earn in the capital but bear in mind that the cost of living will be lower outside Bangkok. That said, you do occasionally see jobs advertised for teaching positions in rural areas at 40K plus. They are around.
Ian McNamara, the founder of ajarn.com says. “I used to get quite a few emails from people wanting to teach on the islands or in picturesque towns up north. Guess what - most of the teachers in Bangkok would too. There are a couple of reasons why we haven’t all rushed to take up these jobs a) there aren’t many of them b) the pay’s pretty shitty”
LMDA, who runs the ajarn discussion forum adds “for the most part, wages tend to be lower ‘upcountry’ than those in Bangkok. Anything over 30k baht is considered pretty good, with full-time salaries of 25k baht the average. It’s certainly enough to live on but whether you’ll be able to save anything is up for debate. Rents are generally lower upcountry, and although it’s pushing it to suggest that everything is cheaper, it can certainly be argued that money does go further than it does in a major city like Bangkok.
It’s easier to say which are the worst months and the answer is December, January and the first half of April. Every other month of the year sees a very high demand. That certainly shouldn’t put you off coming in December and January though. There are always job vacancies around but just fewer choices in the months mentioned.
If the hustle and bustle and pollution of Bangkok is not for you - head for the sticks! But just remember - you could be miles from civilization and that is not a lot of fun once classes are over and darkness falls. I know three teachers who went to work for Mahasarakham University in the north east. After 6pm, you couldn’t get transport into the local town and you couldn’t even buy food in the area. They were literally stranded. After 3 months of cycling and fresh air, they yearned for movie theatres and bookshops - and scurried back to big bad Bangers.
Ian says “again it depends on your motivation for coming here and your own personality. If you want to live with the people, be one with the people, learn the lingo & culture and are happy being the only westerner in a 50 km radius then go for it. If you enjoy a McDonalds & a pint of decent beer and chatting with fellow farangs once in a while - think again.
The TEFL certificate is not currently a legal requirement in Thailand. However, many employers still want to see one. If two teachers go for a job interview; both have degrees and one has the TEFL certificate as well - guess who the job will probably go to. Having a TEFL certificate can do you no harm at all.
Ian adds “having a TEFL cert will make you more employable to majority of employers. True it’s not necessary but having one will open more doors for you.
Like you wouldn’t believe. That doesn’t mean you have to look like a tailor’s dummy but a teacher in Thailand should look smart. And that means a necktie, a long-sleeved shirt and a pair of trousers that actually covers your ankles. Nothing will make a Thai lose respect for you quicker than if you walk into the classroom looking like you’ve been mugged on the way to work. (and I’ve worked with a few of those teachers over the years) Remember also that it doesn’t end with clothes. Stinking of cigarette smoke and body odour are both absolute no-nos. Check out ajarn’s teacher fashion guide.
Be under no illusion - Thais can be a lot of fun to teach, and other times they can be painful.
Many of them (particularly male teenagers) have zero motivation. You will have to take the rough with the smooth. The Thais expect a teacher to be a mixture of an educator and an entertainer. An old teaching colleague, who had taught in several Asian countries, once remarked “a teacher in Thailand needs to be a combination of a dancer and a game show host. If you don’t have the kind of personality that lights up a room the moment you walk in, you might find yourself struggling here”
No. Most schools want you to commit to a one-year contract or 6 months at best. If you are here for a very short time, you will have more luck picking up work teaching kids or perhaps a 10-week corporate gig, where you teach at a company 2-4 nights a week for a couple of hours.
Ian says “I used to get quite a few emails asking if it’s possible to find work for 3 - 6 months. At present it probably is possible ( due to a lack of decent teachers) but you’d be lucky to get enough hours to earn enough to break even. Schools want people who are reliable, will stick around and finish courses and will take the job relatively seriously”
The teaching of children is easily the biggest growth area in Thailand and new nursery schools and kindergartens are opening every day. Teaching kids is not for everyone though. There are teachers who say that kids are wonderful and teaching them is so rewarding. It’s certainly tiring.
Personally I would say ‘have to learn’ rather than ‘want to learn’. Without some knowledge of English it is very difficult to get a decent job here. That doesn’t stop many students thinking that being taught by a foreign teacher is the answer to their prayers and all they have to do is just sit there and you, as the teacher, open a little trap-door at the top of their head - and drop the English language inside. Many students get a short sharp shock when they realize how long it’s going to take them to become proficient in English and many of them get nowhere and give up. Attitude is everything and the Thais fall way short on occasion.
Ian says “It’s pretty rare that you get a class who really, truly want to put the time and effort that is required into learning English in order to make a real improvement. Most adults study after a hard days work so they’re not at their brightest. If you assign homework expect the vast majority to either forget or just admit that they really couldn’t be arsed doing it”
A language school will send you to teach company staff at their workplace. You might be teaching business English to a group of 5 managers or basic business English to 10 giggly secretaries.
It’s certainly possible but not that easy because much depends on a teacher’s marketing ability. The single biggest problem is cancellations. Thais are the ‘let’s cancel a lesson at the last minute’ world champions. Many freelance teachers give up for this reason alone and seek the security of a job with a guaranteed income. Ajarn.com also has a more in-depth article on ‘freelance teaching’ that might interest you.
Ian says “I used to teach quite a few private students. If you think of your privates as the icing on the cake ( I could have phrased that better but I’m sure you get the drift) then you’ll be OK. I’m pretty laid back so as long as mine give me 24 hours notice then I’ve got no problem if they cancel. It’s nice to have an evening free sometimes”
Corporate teaching seems to pay between 450 baht and 800 baht per hour, but this work is generally only available after 5pm when company staff finish their own work. Corporate language providers who pay their teachers less than 500 baht an hour have by and large, gone out of business. 500 baht an hour should be the absolute industry minimum (plus a travel allowance) - anything less than that and you’re being royally screwed. I notice that most corporate training providers are now paying 600-800 baht an hour. And it’s about time as well!
It can be fairly well-paid and you can find yourself teaching groups of students who can actually string a bloody sentence together.
The employees are often knackered after a day’s work and just want to go home rather than hearing you go on about intransitive verbs. You might have an over-zealous training manager poking her nose into your lesson plans. You may be teaching in a conference room or small meeting room which is totally unsuitable. You may be faced with a group of students who should not be studying the course they’ve been assigned - that’s either the fault of your language school for not testing the student’s properly or the fault of the company training manager for having no idea whatsoever about the needs of his staff. So next time you go into a class with a textbook titled ‘Advanced Business Letters Made Easy’ and your class don’t know the difference between the direct and indirect pronoun - you know who to blame.
It certainly doesn’t. It’s getting better but there’s a long, long way to go. Schools have to start paying more. I’m not going to go into the economics of it all but if we are to have schools that are staffed by professionals - they have to pay more! Schools aren’t entirely to blame though. There are huge numbers of teachers out there who are just not up to it and do it simply for their money. Yes, we all need money to pay the rent but you have to have a modicum of affinity with your job.
Steady Monday To Friday work with weekends and evenings off.
Less money-oriented management who generally pay on time.
Excellent cheap nosh in the canteen.
Some genuinely intelligent students who are a joy to teach.
It is generally reported that staffroom politics are much less intense, than in higher education institutes
Government wages. Your not going to be looking at much more than 25-30k especially upcountry.
Class sizes are big, sometimes up to 55 students.
Absenteeism and class discipline can be a problem.
You may be required to be at school even when you have no class.
Early mornings Monday to Friday are not for everyone.
Full-time employment means that you are paid a monthly salary for a given amount of teaching hours per month. This salary should be paid despite public holidays, school activities, and other random class cancellations.
If you are teaching at a high school, full-time may also mean having to be at school for assembly, and having to join in extra-curricular activities. Full-time jobs may also bar you from doing outside work during school hours even if you don’t have any classes. Despite the full-time label, some schools will not offer 12-month contracts, i.e. you will not get paid during the summer months. Universities generally allow full-time teachers to come and go as they please, and usually give 12-month contracts.
Part-time work could also be described as freelancing. Part-time work is paid per class taught at an hourly rate. The upside is that the teacher only has commitments to the classes he/she teaches and not to any other aspect of school life, with the teacher working as little or as much as he/she wants. The downside of course is that a part-time wage is not very stable considering the amount of public holidays, and class cancellations that are guaranteed to occur throughout the year. For example during December it is possible to lose up to 40% of your income due to Democracy Day, the Kings Birthday, Test Week, and New Year. Overall, part-time work is good for newbies and retirees in need of something to occupy their time.
Most schools require you to work 5 days a week. Some require you to work six. That said, in order to make ends meet, unless you are teaching at a high-end international school (on foreign currency payments), most teachers in Thailand “freelance”. If you want to do this, it is possible to burn yourself out by working 7 days a week. It’s up to you and the life-style you want to be able to afford. The work is out there, it is just a matter of whether or not you want to do it.
A question like this is rather like asking “how long is a piece of string?” In summary, most teachers here try not to do more than 16-20 “contact” hours per week with their principal employer. However, most schools in Thailand will not allow you to only turn up for contact hour teaching. There is a very genuine expectation that you’ll hang around the school doing your preparation work, marking, etc. This is also for the school to advertise the fact that it does, indeed, have foreign “native-speaking” teachers.
Extremely unlikely. However, in certain cases you may negotiate this with your employer. it is not an industry standard here that accommodation be paid, so if this is important to you, make sure you and your employer are on the same page. If accommodation is offered, make sure you check out the place before you agree to live there.
This is a toughie. I think it is fair to say that there are a number of ex-pat foreigners who work in Thailand who are not teachers. However, in most cases, these people either (a) run their own business; or (b) were in the right place at the right time. That said, other industries where you can find the occasional foreigner working include marketing [firms], real estate [agents], finance sector (to a lesser degree since the crackdown on boiler-rooms), hotels (especially chefs), computers, and the newspaper industry. From time to time you’ll see advertisements in the classifieds sections of the newspapers and on the internet for jobs in these areas. However, as with most things in Thailand, it is likely that your best chance of grabbing one of these jobs is to teach in a school and keep your eyes and ears open. Remember, the “old” lady your teaching English to, who keeps giving you problems, may well be the head of HR at her company - and willing to employ you directly. This situation is most certainly not unheard of here.
South African (male, 28 years old, native English speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
Canadian (male, 61 years old, native English speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
Filipino (female, 27 years old, native speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
MA (1), BA (1), Certificate (1)
American (male, 51 years old, native English speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
BA (1), PGCE (1), Certificate (1)
South African (male, 38 years old, native English speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
British (male, 29 years old, native English speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
South African (female, 27 years old, native English speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
American (male, 53 years old, native English speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
British (male, 34 years old, native English speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
Filipino (male, 30 years old, native Tagalog speaker). Currently living in Thailand.
Ajarn.com 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.
Ajarn.com 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 Ajarn.com's duty to present both sides of the equation. Thanks for stopping by.