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 possibly 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 25,000 and 40,000 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 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 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.


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 25,000 a month in the capital, then you are seriously going without. In rural areas however, teachers say you can live like a king on 25,000. 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.


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!


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

Most schools require you to work five days a week. Some will require you to work six. That said, in order to make ends meet, 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 lifestyle 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.


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, many 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.


Will my accommodation be provided?

It's 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.


Is picking up work teaching kids relatively easy then?

The teaching of children has always been a large education sector in Thailand and new nursery schools and kindergartens are opening all the time. 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.


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. Overall, part-time work is good for newbies and retirees in need of something to occupy their time.


Could I earn 40-50K in the rural areas of Thailand?

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.

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 can be pretty low.

Another long-term teacher in Thailand adds "for the most part, wages tend to be lower 'upcountry' than those in Bangkok. Anything over 30K baht is considered pretty good. 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.



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