Is there a demand for English teachers in Thailand?

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 once was for unqualified teachers (those that lack a degree, a TEFL certificate, teaching experience, etc) I get a large number of e-mails from teachers without degrees and/or TEFL certificates and frankly they often struggle to find decent teaching 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.


In Asia, is Thailand the best country to teach English in?

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.


Is it a wise idea to get a TEFL certificate before I start looking for work?

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.

If you are thinking of taking a TEFL course in Thailand, we have a monthly TEFL course news blog with all the latest special deals and promotions from Thailand's major course providers - many of these deals are exclusive to ajarn readers!


What's a decent salary in Bangkok? What about in rural areas?

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 of course.

Take a look at our 'cost of living' feature, where numerous teachers describe how much they earn and what they spend it on. You'll find it interesting to compare lifestyles.


How many hours a week will I be expected to work?

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 your '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.


How many days a week will I be expected to work?

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), many teachers in Thailand "freelance" and teach private students on the side. If you want to do this, it is possible to burn yourself out by working 7 days a week. It's up to you really - 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 take it all on.


Will my accommodation be provided?

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.


What are the advantages and disadvantages of full-time and part-time employment?

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.


Is picking up work teaching kids relatively easy then?

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 can certainly be both tiring and demanding.


Should I consider the rural areas in my search for work?

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.



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