Richard McCully

Pay rises and promotions

How to aim higher and enjoy a better quality of life as a teacher

At the end of the year most people sit back and reflect on what they have done. Maybe you have a new partner or you moved house. If you have just moved to Thailand this year you are probably thinking of all the great places you visited and the new friends you have made. 

For me I'm looking ahead to next year and thinking about how to get a pay rise and a promotion. 

'Pay rise' and 'promotion' are not common terms in the Thai TEFL industry. The pay is what it is; if you don't like it someone else will come work for your current salary. 

Promotion for a teacher? You're a teacher and that's what you will always be - there isn't a career path to follow to move up the ladder. This may be true at some schools but I think there are options out there to progress your career and to earn more money so let’s have a look at how to get a promotion and pay rise. 


This is a simple one. If you have the right qualifications then you will be able to apply for better, higher paying jobs. If you don't have a TEFL certificate then maybe it's time to get one.

If you have an online TEFL certificate then why not consider doing the CELTA course. A degree + a CELTA and you can be applying for jobs at the better language schools and mid-level bilingual schools with pay between 40-60k a month.

Admittedly the CELTA costs around 50,000 Baht to take which is a fair chunk of cash but if you're moving from a 35K job to a 50K job it will pay itself off over a few months. 

There are also many short courses offered by language and training centres based on business English, exam preparation and teaching children among others. Whilst these are not essential for most jobs they will improve your resume and show that you have the desire to improve yourself. 

Aiming at lower level international schools you will probably need to have QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) from your home country. 

I know of a few people here studying the online IPGCE course (the UK QTS requirement) with the aim of being accepted at an international school paying around 80K a month. 

This course is expensive at around 150K + and it is worth bearing in mind that most top international schools won’t accept online degrees and will require teaching experience in your home country for at least a year before they consider your application. However, as it's an online course you can study in your free time whilst working your current job and don't need to leave Thailand. 

The final option is to return home to get a university based teaching qualification and experience teaching in the classroom. The cost of this is likely to be very high and will take around 2 years. This method will mean you are eligible to work at the top international schools where you can be earning 100K + benefits per month. 

Your Performance and Attitude 

I've met really professional teachers here in Thailand and some who have been an absolute joke. Taking 4 days sick leave after Songkran won’t make you look good and when it comes to your end of year appraisal will be a black mark against you. 

Act professionally and you should be rewarded. 

Most schools, even those staffed by agencies, should offer a pay rise for your second year as long as your performance and attendance has been acceptable. 2,000 Baht extra a month doesn't seem a lot but every little helps. 

If you have performed well throughout the year and shown dedication towards your job this will put you in a stronger position when asking for a raise or the opportunity of promotion. 

Finding reliable staff can be a problem for many schools so if you show these desired qualities you may find promotion easier to achieve than you thought. 

I know of two people who said they were going to leave their schools over a lack of promotion opportunities only to be offered a promotion and pay rise within a couple of days.  

Promotion Opportunities - Be Proactive

As a teacher it may seem like there is no chance of a promotion. 

If you work in a government school then the hierarchy will always be Thai staff. Don't let this put you off thinking about a promotion. You can always suggest extra duties or tasks which may require a new role to be created and see if your manager agrees - it's all about being proactive. 

One option is a supervisor / team leader role where you will be in charge of a team of teachers. This could be just reporting information from the school / agency or may involve many duties such as scheduling and carrying out staff evaluations. 

The majority of language schools have some form of management position for foreign staff so you should ask about the promotion process with your manager to see what you can do to be considered for a different role. 

Within international schools there will be a clear path for teachers to follow up to the Head Teacher position. Competition may be fierce but in the end the rewards are high and the experience you gain will be invaluable. 

It is also worth remembering that if you don't have a shot at promotion in your current company there are always other companies after supervisors and managers at their schools. 

Just Ask!

A lot of people seem to think that it is not possible to ask for a pay rise as a teacher in Thailand. The worst that can happen is your manager says no. 

In the end you won't be worse off. Best case scenario you walk out with some extra money every month or a better position within the school. 

When you plan to ask for a pay rise make sure you have a list of reasons why you deserve it. Just saying I want a pay rise because prices have increased since last year isn't a good enough reason. 

Talk about your successes, reliability and show that you are an important part of the team. Leave your boss without a reason to deny you! 

Sometimes you will be told it's impossible to get a raise - budgets, others staff would be upset etc. In this case you either need to decide to stay in your current position or have a look for something new. 

Private Students

Maybe you have free time during your working week to teach a few private students. Whilst this isn't a pay rise from your job it is an opportunity to use your time wisely to get a better overall salary. 

I read a story here on the Ajarn cost of living page about a teacher making up to 100K per month just from private students. This is extreme and impossible for most people but I guess adding 10K per month isn't impossible if you do five hours extra a week. 

Sure this might mean working a couple of weekends a month or having to say no to going out for evening beers once in a while but it will improve your quality of life. 

"It's hard to find students" people always tell me but I think if you show initiative and look in the right place there are always students wanting to learn. 

Other Jobs

If you are in Thailand because you love the country then you might consider looking at alternative jobs to teaching. 

It is possible to legally work in other professions such as marketing, sales and journalism. Pay for these does vary widely but as an example I know someone who started work as a copywriter on 60K a month. 

Many people are now starting to work remotely via the internet in Thailand. This is a legal grey area as you shouldn't be working in the country without a work permit. It also means that you will need to do visa runs or be on a retirement / marriage / education visa which isn't possible or desirable for everyone.  

However, it is possible to make some extra money online if you have contacts back home or look for work as a freelancer.

Leave Thailand 

We all know that teaching in Thailand pays less than a lot of other countries in the region. You have the option to move along to a different country and benefit from making more and hopefully saving more in places like Korea and China. 

This may seem drastic but if you have nothing keeping you here then it may be an option. 

Those extra earnings can pay for a nice holiday here every few months if you really miss Thailand. 

TEFL teaching means you have the opportunity to travel the World. Thailand is an amazing place to live but I bet you can find another country you will love just as much if not more. 

Set a Goal 

If you're in Thailand for a year or 6 months then this isn't so important but if you're staying for longer you should try setting a goal for yourself. 

It seems a lot of people don't care about self-improvement judging by the number of people I've met who have been in the same job at the same salary for 5+ years (and complain about it!).

Being stuck in the same job year in year out whilst you are struggling for money isn't fun. There are things you can do to improve your life. 

New year’s resolutions normally fail but next year try to aim higher, improve yourself and get a better quality of life through a promotion and a pay rise! 

If you enjoyed this blog, check out my website - Life in a New Country 

Richard is co-author of a great new book on planning a life in Thailand. 

Planning your new life in Thailand isn’t easy. There are many hurdles to jump and potential frustrations galore. From practicalities through to cultural issues, from finances to fitting in and making friends, there is so much to learn. Luckily, you will find all the basics explained in this 282 page book. 

Settling in Thailand takes a broad, insightful and balanced approach – neither too cynical nor evangelical, this book sets a precedent in terms of presenting a positive but realistic and non-judgemental description of Thailand life for foreign residents. 

Written by two British expats in Thailand, and with interviews with another 13 expats from around the world, you will get first-hand experience, advice and explanations of expat life in Thailand. With a combined 150 years of Thai experience this book is the ultimate guide to making sure your move and settling in Thailand goes smoothly.

Order now in e-book or paperback format.




Mencken has exactly the right attitude. You can be a useful, enthusiastic and a valued member of the staff just by doing your job and knowing what's expected of you. If you are smart, you'll already be at a school that places a value on your performance.

To Jen of South Africa... Thai schools want to employ you. There's no conspiracy (yet) to turn away as many applicants as possible. An online degree by an accredited university (such as the one you attended) will be fine to get you started teaching in Thailand. (Assuming you have your diploma and other papers.)

Only crappy people have crappy jobs.

Company directors may throw themselves off tall buildings while not far away an inmate is glowing with pride over his latest batch of number plates!

By Mark Newman, Thailand (19th December 2015)

I think the essay is a bit optimistic to say the least. Only an idiot would invest 150k especially for an online degree to work in Thailand which by TCT you are four years and out - and by the time you get round to doing this youll be into TEFL a few years already. Hell, I did not even do a TEFL. What a waste. CELTA, this is technically for teaching adults.

I agree with Mark Newman. Work to deserve the raise, ask for the raise - a specific amount. Leave if its not acceptable.

There is a joke of a teacher at my school, now openly complaining about his salary - he's not NES either. He lost the wage battle first time he asked and every subsequent year he's stayed has only reinforced his salary.

The teacher is pretty much a zero, nice guy but out the door asap, no activities, just lazy. He expects the school to be giving him some big pay rise for showing up, lol.

Funny thing is this seems to be the mentality of most teachers at my school.

As for me, I'm asking for 10-15% and better classes. Im NES, solid degree and put in the effort.

Kick ass, make the effort. Get good classes where you like the kids and they you. Provide education not be games. Help the administration as you can.

Thai manners, be early, smile, a lot. If you like your job and love the students it will shine through. Learn each student's name, yes all 400. Greet all in the common areas. After a semester students not even in your classes will say hello and wai you.

Don't shirk and never be late providing tests, plans, etc to your co.teachers. Identify the lazy, losers and give wide berth.

Protect energy and a winning spirit. If you are a tired old man, step aside because you are not fooling anyone. These jobs are not for old men.

Here's a novel idea - get a BA with a solid major from a real school.

By Mencken, BKK (19th December 2015)

Hi Jen - Technically you need a degree to teach in Thailand but it can be in any subject. Many people do work here without a degree, some legally others illegally.

I'm honestly not sure if they accept online degrees maybe . If it is the equivalent of a 3 / 4 year degree I would think it would be accepted.

By Richard, Bangkok (19th December 2015)

hi. any posts i can read please for online degrees. I have an online degree from Unisa in south africa in Pyschology and the standard TEFL course. I dont have to have a BA or teaching degree to work in thailand do I?

thank you

By jen, south africa (18th December 2015)

Good common sense article and some useful pointers...

I would just add that you should never ask for a raise and accept 'no' as an answer.
You should be prepared to move on immediately if your school isn't rewarding you the way you think they should be.

If they say 'no' and you stay on anyway, you have lost a lot of credibility with the higher ups and even office staff.

This isn't a fight that you should be prepared to lose.

When I first started at my current job, each year the school would tack on an hour or two to my schedule and each year I end up in the office having them taken off.

I'm very polite about it... 'I'll stay on till the end of the month while you look for a replacement', etc...

I heard this a lot too... "But the teachers at the others schools in this town only get x much a month."
Yeah, I'm not those other teachers.

If the school thinks you're going to stick around, they are not going to pay you more. Why would they?

If they really want you to stay and they don't want the hassle of finding a replacement then you may get lucky.

By Mark Newman, Thailand (18th December 2015)

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