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 few 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!


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.


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 three months of cycling and fresh air, they yearned for movie theatres and bookshops - and scurried back to the big city.

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.


What are the advantages and disadvantages of working in a government high-school?

Advantages
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

Disadvantages
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.


Should I fix up a job before I arrive in Thailand?

If I had just one piece of advice to offer people - do NOT arrange jobs before you get here. Come over to Thailand, get yourself settled in and then take the time to weigh up your options.

Many schools aren't interested in hiring or even corresponding with teachers who aren't already 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, arranging interviews and knocking on a few doors. 

When I wrote an article on the most common mistakes that new teachers make when they come to teach in Thailand, I put this right at the top of the list. Have a read of the article to get some more advice.


Are there many Thai adults who want to learn English?

This particular market seems to be falling off fast nowadays.  Years ago you saw many private language school chains in shopping malls and office buildings, often catering to Thai office workers who would come and study English in small groups when their working day was done. These private language schools are still around but they are nowhere near as prevalent as they once were.

Where have the Thai adult learners gone? The word is that many of them now study online instead of battling their way through rush hour traffic to study English at a language school.  Definitely a sign of the times.  


Are there other opportunities for foreign workers apart from teaching?

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 that the "old" lady you're 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.



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