Four times the salary of a local Thai?

Four times the salary of a local Thai?

What a load of bullshit!

"You'll be earning four times the salary of a local Thai"

Nothing irks me more than reading that statement and you see it all over the web wherever the topic of teaching in Thailand is discussed or promoted. It's a statement that's both grossly misleading and wildly inaccurate.

Let me tell you this. Local Thais who work for medium-sized Thai companies and foreign multinationals - even those who aren't the brightest bulb in the marquee - earn salaries that went way beyond those of your average English teacher a long, long time ago.

I've always struggled to give an identity to this ‘local Thai' - this person who takes home a mere quarter of what an English teacher does. Is it a bus conductor? Is it a street-sweeper? Is it the bored-looking shop assistant in Robinsons? I really don't know. But one thing I do know - surely you would expect at the very least to earn four times what they do.

Such wild claims invariably forget two fundamental things.

Firstly, the foreign teacher doesn't have the family support network that many average local Thais enjoy. How do you think a Thai earning 15,000 baht a month - and there are plenty of them - can drive around in a spanking brand new car? Perhaps they saved up five-baht coins in a glass jar? I don't think so.

Secondly, foreigners can't ‘live' like a Thai. However romantic the notion of living in a boxy apartment and eating street-food three times a day may be, few foreigners can handle that sort of lifestyle for more than a few months.

I don't want to get into the argument of how much money a teacher needs to earn in order to survive or live comfortably in Thailand. Every person has different needs when it comes to standards of living. It's a discussion topic that's raged forever and a day. However, I feel it's important to realistically assess how far a salary of 30,000 baht will stretch (and let's assume 30,000 baht is the magical figure being touted as four times that of a local Thai)

Here goes. A salary of 30,000 baht will probably be closer to 29,000 baht after tax.

I'm a little out of touch with the cost of basic apartments but accommodation is probably going to be your biggest expense. I would say 6,000 baht a month is the minimum you would need to pay in Bangkok for something decent. With utility bills and phone, this could easily top 8,000 baht a month all in.

So that leaves you with 21,000 baht a month in your pocket.

If you take the average month as being thirty days then that leaves you with the princely sum of 700 baht a day. And out of that 700 baht a day, you need to put food in your stomach and clothes on your back. Then of course there are the small matters of laundry, health insurance, transportation, weekends away on a tropical island (you did come here to see Thailand as well didn't you?) computers, toiletries - and wouldn't it be nice to fly home to see the family every year or two.

I earned 35,000 baht a month teaching English as far back as 1994. Anyone earning that kind of salary in a private language school certainly had to put in the hours, but at least the hours were available for those who wanted them.

When one was younger and had infinitely more energy, you didn't mind the punishing schedules if it meant a few extra treats at the end of each month and a generally better standard of living.

You could well argue that salaries haven't risen for the Thailand-based foreign teacher in the last 10-15 years but what's more obvious (at least to me) is that nowadays there is far more to spend your money on.

Everyone wants a nice PC or laptop complete with the latest software. And then there are the temptations of the high street - the Starbucks, the KFCs and the McCafes to name just a few - all vying with each other to separate you from the baht in your pocket. In the mid-90s they just weren't around. But why shouldn't you enjoy the luxury of nipping into Starbucks for an iced latte and an oatmeal muffin, despite it probably eating up a whopping 20% of your 700 baht daily ‘allowance'.

Of course not every teacher works in the salary-squeezing capital. There are plenty of chalkies out there plying their trade in Thailand's rural areas, where many teachers (and employers) claim that the cost of living is ‘much lower' or ‘far cheaper' than that in Bangkok.

I've never subscribed to this point of view at all. Accommodation can be cheaper, I'll give you that one, but transportation, the cost of getting around town? - not necessarily.

Order a whopper in Burger King and the price is the same. Stroll around a department store and you'll see that a quality pair of shoes is on a par with what you'd pay in Bangkok. Assuming they sell quality pairs of shoes in the first place.

Next time you see promotional blurb proclaiming that you'll be earning four times the salary of a local Thai, perhaps you might want the above ramblings to be your small print.



I am a Thai citizen who lived in the U.S. for 40 years and now residing in Thailand permanently. I am a certified GED instructor and have two high-school diplomas from two different states. Currently I am teaching English at a high-school in one of the villages outside of Roi Et. I don't have a college degree but have been an English tutor for almost 5 years in America. Besides English, I was also tutoring Math, Science, and Social Studies. My salary here is 15000 baht per month. Will a TEFL certification and 3 years teaching experience here help improve my chances of better pay or will I still need a Bachelors? My students at the high-school outdo other teacher's students and I also have a weekend class I teach village children at my home. Is this enough?

By Eddie, Roi Et, Thailand (30th April 2019)

Respectfully this is all too silly salaries for teachers, for the most part, have remained flat or level for more than ten years unless you are fortunate enough to be employed by a private international school.

The going pay rate has been 35,000 baht per month forever and one can get 5,000 baht more if have an MBA or higher.

There are many old Thai teacher who make in excess of 50,000 baht per month teaching the same 'ol crap they have been doing forever sitting down barking into a microphone at uninterested students.

The reality is all students pass no matter what in a very broken educational system

By Fohn Alexander, Bangkok (14th December 2015)

Regarding the long-standing teachers at schools in Thailand, please be reminded that whilst their salaries ARE lower, they are paid for all the school holidays, often live on site and their home is free. Also, the pension scheme for life-long teachers does ensure healthcare is paid for and they are guaranteed of a pension in later life. I have worked in Lamphun with life-long Thai teachers, some had luxury cars paid for by their school, and regular CPD training trips paid for to Bangkok and opportunities to complete further education. They are sometimes given free computers, software, printers, ink cartridges, and any books, dictionaries and teaching resources they need will be paid for. So, that accounts for at least half the salary differential. Also, a thai will travel, for less, eat for less, dress for less, have their haircut for less. It is a two-tier system as far as cost of living goes. I am paid 20,000 baht a month before my rent. Obviously it does not work for me, and I am just racking up great life/teaching experience.

By jojo tiger, surathani (5th March 2013)

I earn 25000 a month from teach to travel in Lopburi.. I teach 23 hours a week at a government school. Every month I spend 2500 on a bike for rental, 4500 on a "on suit" apartment,1200 every month FIGHTING for my salary (that gets paid 2-5 weeks late). I have a ba in Finance accounting. 750 on internet, 3500 on meals (40*2 * 31), 3000 on bog C/ Lotas. 1000 on washing my cloths at a "laundry mat" 2000 on fuel for my bike, 1000 for ems general expenses. = TOTAL . 20000
Our last paycheck is feb 29 - jul 17 and no pay for 2 weeks in october holiday.... Now tell me. How can one live on 25000 and 4 months unpaid holidays?


By SHAWN, NORTH EAST OF THAILAND (6th November 2012)

I earnt 35k in rural Isaan (first job degree no TEFL) 7 years ago and 44k in a school (easy hours) in Bangkok the year after with medical insurance and free lunch etc included. I considered that brew line living if on my own fortunately my partner also taught and earnt slightly more. How can foreigners live on that or less now with much higher prices including food? It is very misleading to compare to local teaching salaries. Firstly as in Malaysia (where I work now) teaching is a "woman's" job that is child rearing friendly and tea hint equates to "baby sitting". Therefore salaries reflect this and that the women are secondary earners not the main breadwinners of a family. Also as in most countries teachers earn peanuts compared to middle class Thais who would laugh at 40k. I know as one fellow teacher was married to a Thai who as a middle management earnt a lot more than he did. In Asia income distributions are higher than in the west and poor people are poor!

By Richard, Malaysia (22nd January 2012)

I'm positively ecstatic that all the teachers in your little part of the world are making 35-42K but to imply that teachers all over Thailand are earning that kind of money is plain daft. You really should get out more.

By philip, (9th November 2011)

You guys are full of it. We do make 4 times their salary. I live in PraNakorn Sri Ayutthya. I have been here for 9 years. I make 42,000 baht per month. That is normal salary for teachers here. We have 17 native speakers at my school. They start at 35,000 baht. I know personally Thai teachers that have been working here for over 20 years at this school and the highest salary is 12,000 baht per month. 4xs their salary would be 48,000 per month. So to say we don't make more than them is a joke. Ok, I make less than 4x their salary but I have been at this school for 3 years, they have been here for 20+ It's pretty close. These guys writing this must be living in places where they don't need you so they can pay you less, or you're really old so you're not worth as much.

By Legion Arcadia, Ayutthaya, Thailand (9th November 2011)

Although I love Bangkok and Thai's are just fantastic, Bangkok is just as boring as blighty when you're counting the thb. It is a load of bollocks about us earning so much more than the average Thai. I was talking to a tuktuk driver, we were discussing earnings, he was earning about 40k thb a year, (although I think they're good fun and cheeky, I only use them in an emergency, cos they're such rip off merchants) digressed a bit there, I would rather drive a friggin' tuktuk, than get the shit money we do. I work at three schools to make up my money, medication is a friggin' rip off, it costs me a bomb. Lots to pay out, but I aint goin' home!!!!!

By Wendy Livesey, Ratburana, Bangkok (26th October 2010)

I don't see the difference in a government contract worker and a foreign English teacher except, The government contract worker teaches 20 hours a week and many foreign English teachers (myself included) taught 25 hours a week and if gate duty and the English Club was added, it would be 27 hours a week for the same money. The government worker could take off at will for any excuse and the foreign English teacher had to bring in a doctors excuse. The government worker had their printing done free and the foreign teacher had to pay for his. All of the government workers supplies were free while the foreign teacher many times had to buy theirs, even books at times. Oh! Let's not the free housing if it's available, low interest loans, ect., ect.
I agree with the writer of the article, I.E. Foreign teachers make four times the pay of the Thai teacher is pure and simple "BULLSHIT"

By ralphlsasser, nong khai (22nd July 2010)

Daniel B, I mentioned about Thai government school who are formally civil servant who qualify to have range in government employing system I thing you may not understand the system. There are three kind of employment in Thai government system. 1st is the government official who have to passed the screening examination to get in to the system which may be about 1 Out of 1000 or 2000 applicants. This will have the certain intensive and good promotion career pass as I mentioned on my last comments which you may not understand. The 2nd is the permanent government employee which is very limited income the highest is about 16,000 B amounts before [now with the new Decree maybe 22,000 B]. The 3rd is the temporary employee which is only hire as temporary and renew contract every year. This kind of employee will not get pay rise at all the salary will stay the same. They may have to try to take exam to became the pertinent one or to be the official one to get the better opportunity.

For the mentioned rate of salary is the lastest rate that just has been adjusted to suit the present economy. The salary rate for government employment had been adjusted many times. The bachelor degree rate 20 years ago was only 2,700 a month. You can figure it out how much should someone earn now when they started to earn only 2,700 B for 20 years ago or maybe when your Thai friend start working she might be just employee not the formal official.

I hope you may understand more about the system and may not think my given information is not come from the trusted sources .

By dokrak, Thailand (4th July 2010)

Quote .. Daniel B .. "Thai teachers get some other “perks” at my school like having to pay for any photocopies they need for students, marker pens they need, paper to print things (like their exams), and other “luxuries” for teaching."

I've worked at a private school like that .. where ALL teachers were expected to pay for resources. I understand it's a widespread practice in Thailand .. in many businesses.

I know a good business should try to reduce overheads .. but expecting employees to cover them is theft .. pure and simple. The directors/owners/managers should be put in stocks and pelted with rotten durians!

By Mark C Moran, Chanthaburi (2nd July 2010)

I have met many Thai teachers who are actually honest about their monthly pay (though many are not) and after 20 years, two of the people I know only make between 20-24k per month--though some (one of the two does) get a small stipend for housing as well. But that doesn't take into account how many hours they have to put in to get that salary: 6 days a week, 10 or more hours a day M-F with a mere 8 or so on Saturday. That's nearly 60 hours a week for about 65-80% of my salary which I only have to teach 22 hours a week to earn. Plus Thai teachers get some other "perks" at my school like having to pay for any photocopies they need for students, marker pens they need, paper to print things (like their exams), and other "luxuries" for teaching.

So I think if you put it into perspective and compared apples to apples by calculating an hourly wage it may be even higher than 4 times a Thai teacher. Let's say that a Thai teacher only teaches 4 hours a day, plus has to assist you 3-4 hours a day M-F and teaches all the hours on Saturday, which would reduce their hours to about 48 hours per week (which is probably low in reality). Now I only teach 22 hours per week so already I work less than half the number of hours that the Thai teacher works--and this isn't counting lesson prep time, marking papers, etc. for either. Now let's say I make 30k (for ease after a mere 5 years) and the Thai teacher after 20 is making 24k per month. If you figure 4 weeks per month the Thai teacher works 192 hours and I work 88 hours per month. The Thai teacher's salary works out to 125 baht per hour compared to my 340 baht per hour--so that may not be 4 times, but I haven't been there 20 years either.

So if you use the government wage increase rates Dokrak posted of 4-6% wage increases each year, at 20 years I should be around 50k if I were to get the same pay raise that would put my hourly wage at 570 baht to the Thai teacher's 125 baht per hour--a little closer to the 4 times figure now. I'm not saying that we as native teachers get those same pay raises each year, but I think that might be where they get those figures from. Similarly as Dokrak posted, a starting teacher makes 10.3k per month compared to the 22.5k that I started at. The Thai teacher hourly wage is 54 baht per hour compared to my starting salary of 256 baht per hour--nearly 5 times a Thai teacher salary.

By Daniel B, Udon Thani (2nd July 2010)

I have worked in Thailand on and off for many years and in a variety of organisations, including commercial and international schools.

While, I don't subscribe to this notion of an average Thai and what they earn, I have witnessed Thai's earning 8,000 - 10,000 baht a month. This included staff, usually administrative, who worked at the schools where I was teaching at the time. And it was probably true 10 years ago that the average foreign English teacher earned more than their Thai equivalent.

What does surprise me is that wages for English teachers, especially in Bangkok, have stagnated. Judging by the job adverts on this website an English teacher can not expect to earn anymore working in Bangkok now than they did 10 years ago. And perhaps more surprisingly, foreign teachers can earn the same working up-country as their counterparts in Bangkok. Where as their Thai equivalent has benefited from regular wage increases, both those in Bangkok and those outside. This is particularly true for those teachers who are government employees. I would guess that there probably isn't much of a gap between the salary of a foreign teacher and a Thai teacher now and in some cases the gap has gone the other way with Thai teachers now earning more than their foreign counterparts.

My concern is that if wages for English teachers remain low, the better qualified teachers will not come to Thailand and English language teaching standard will not improve.

I made the move out of Thailand several years ago, not because the conditions or the students are any better, they aren't, but with a family to support the salaries in Thailand were woefully inadequate.

By Pat G, Middle East (4th June 2010)

Hi I am again!!! To correct my last comment stated that the pay rise of government office working person is 4-6 % I mean for every 6 month a time so if one year it will be 8-12 % depending on the performance.

Also income earned in Thai government agencies depends on what kind of job they do. For example if they are lawyer chemist doctor engineer or some risky job they will get more allowance than for general jobs.

The figures that I mentioned are appoximate and may not be exact amount but getting close. These figues are based on the current government salary system.

For those who do not work for government they will get depending on the company they work for. But the lowest labor income that the government anouncement is about 230 bath a day.

You may think that the rate of income in Thiland is very different between the working class and the office working person as Thailand standard of living is based on agricultural so working class may grow thier own foods or thier relatives are farmers so they can survive very well with thier income.

By dokrak, Thailand (3rd June 2010)

Hello.. every body.. I am a Thai working for government in Bangkok. My English is fairy poor. I would like to explain about salary in Thailand for your information.

Starting with people who have bachelor degree working in government school or any government agency, when they first enter they will get about 10300 bath a month including their living allowance money. Then they will get pay rise every year about 4-6 % deepening on their performance. If they work for 10 year they will get about 25,000 B a month for basic salary excluding other allowance. The other allowance I taking about is that if they work for 6 years they will be qualify to get ranging allowance for 3500 B a month. If they work for 8 years they will be qualify to get 11000 B amont as a professional qualification. They will get much more allowance if they apply to get more qualification. But if they are executive level they will get much more allowance. The highest salary that they could get will be about 65000 B plus 25000 B allowances. That salary is only for general government working a person.

By dokrak, Thailand (3rd June 2010)

When I was teaching at a language school in Siam Square five years ago, one of my students was a brain surgeon. Out of curiosity, on our last lesson together, I asked him what his monthly income was. He became very excited and proudly exclaimed, "Oh! I make 30,000 - 35,000 baht a month! Much money!!" I was stunned and thought he was kidding me, but his voice was straight. I wasn't sure he was serious until I taught another doctor - a female - a couple of months later. She confirmed the amount when I posed the question to her. She too, exuded a bit of pride in her voice when she told me. At that time, I was earning around 40,000 baht a month teaching at a government school along with the language school.

I also had a Thai friend who worked at the Carrefour in Onnut. He was a cashier. His monthly salary was 5000 baht a month. His wife ran a grilled meat stand but she never told me what she made. I assume it wasn’t very much.

By Cole, Japan (17th May 2010)

Nobody is forcing you to stay here. If you can earn a better standard of living at home, why are you here? If you want to enjoy the luxuries of the West--and no one has ever died from not getting enough Starbucks, KFC, or McAnything--you need to pay. If you must live like a Westerner get a credit card and start running it up. Like everyone back home told me, "If you don't like it, leave!"

It sounds like your poor mental state could be from a nutrition deficient diet--you may want to cut way down on your corporate food consumption.

By CJ Jones, Hua Hin, Thailand (1st February 2010)

It never fails to amaze me when someone decides to take (waste?) the time to write out a poorly thought out article on something as broad as this subject.

This fellow presents a scathing opinion piece, rambling (by his own account in his last sentence) about something that irks him, and presenting so-called facts, which are extremely relative to say the least, in a fragmented wont.

The statement that irks him, "You'll be earning four times the salary of a local Thai," is certainly very true in many, many instances here in Thailand. However, it is also as he points out, false in certain situations and in many areas of Thailand.

This subject is way too broad to even bother to write about. Saying "Local Thai" when trying to exact a comparison of Thai income versus a foreign teacher's income is apples to oranges...a fallacious comparison.


By Jeeem, Southern Thailand (29th January 2010)

Before I present my arguments regarding this post, I would like to add that I am usually a lurker and a passive one at that. But this particular post and comments from Pauly from Sydney pushed me to write this response.

First, the average Thai income is between 10,000 to 20,000 THB for governement officials. Trust me on this, I know people and I will explain later on why I know what I know.

Second, Pauly knows nothing of the Thai culture. The basic conversation courses are preprogrammed and everyone really does talk like robot. I have learned Spanish in school and then moved to Texas. While living in Texas I learned more Spanish from my Mexican friends than I ever did in school because when I attempt to speak Spanish I really did sound like a damn Robot. Go figure......

Third, sure a foreign teacher will be more productive. Hence Thais hire farangs to teach it. However, Pauly is wrong saying he needed to reprogram the teaching methods because Thai teachers are just a waste of time. But wait, can Pauly translate his English to Thai so that his student can understand it? I think not. Thai teachers are only meant to teach the students basic and only basic English. Farangs are there to ensure they move up from that level. It is not damaging but merely less advanced than what a Farang can do.

Lastly I will explain my credibility; I am a Thai person who moved to the States as a young boy. Luckily, my parents forced me to speak and read Thai at home and because of that I am now a certified Thai translater for the DOD. I cannot disclose my job or title but I am fluent in both English and Thai. I have family in Thailand and most of them work for the government so I know exactly what their salaries are (far less than 30,000 THB) although not as much as four times less but it is significantly less.

Please do your homework and stop the ignorant comments.

By Tai, Vegas (27th January 2010)

Ok .. just insert the word "average" into "4 times the (insert here)Thai salary" and your argument is null and void. How pedantic. I downloaded the pay rates for all Thai professions (was it from here? .. I forget)and 7-10 K Baht does seem to be about "average". Let's face it .. you're talking off the top of your head.

By kk, Chanthaburi (26th January 2010)

Whether it's two, three, or even four times the salary of a local Thai, I just don't think that's the point. Yes, Thai teachers are paid a pittance (an NQT with a doctoral degree gets just 13,110 THB per month -- see link below) but try to pay that to a 'farang' (even one without a degree) and you won't get any takers. And as Paul quite rightly suggests, any half-decent foreign teacher is more productive than the average Thai teacher in the classroom.

By Nut, Krung Thep (25th January 2010)

I can't debate anything I'd read above, though you failed to mention that, although 4 times 0 equals zero, falang teachers (the ones who are 100% committed/dedicated/contributing etc) DO work at least four times more than Thai ones!

Thai's belief/knowledge, and therefore method of teaching is not only a 'waste of time' but also very, very damaging to the 'whole process' of learning. Having taught Thais, I realized the effort needed in order to 'deprogram' them from how they had been accustomed to learning (rote learning), to 'programming' them to 'learning naturally' (teacher-student interaction using TPR), thus requiring a lot more than merely 'having taught today's objective following the lesson plan.

You need to able to do a hell of a lot more, more than I can be bothered typing right now. Just recognizing each and every individual student's psychological learning method/style (how one learns best/easiest. is it visually? audibly? both? intellectually? artistically? what percentage of this? and what percentage of that? etc.) and then being able to come up with 'lesson plans' that fit the 'objective'. Let me just tell you that it is really mentally exhausting, though very, very rewarding when done without the Thai teachers asking you "Can you teach them more conversation English. All I can do without attempting to explain to them that 'this way' the students will definitely not only learn 'conversational phrases' but actually be able to interact in many things, in many ways using English!

Question: Have you ever noticed the response from all Thais when asked how the students are just like listening to a programmed robot. You will hear "I am fine thank you and you" A real teacher should have their students responding in all sorts of varied ways! My point is that 'farang teachers may or may not earn more than Thai teachers but they sure work harder.

By Paul, sydney (17th January 2010)

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