What's a qualified teacher?

In the eyes of the Thai Ministry of Education and the Thai Labor Department, a qualified teacher has a bachelor's degree (preferably in education) and at least one year's teaching experience. It is NOT a legal requirement to have a TEFL certificate in order to teach in Thailand (but just thought I would mention it)


Is appearance important to the Thais?

Like you wouldn't believe. That doesn't mean you have to look like a tailor's dummy but a teacher in Thailand should look smart. And that means a necktie, a long-sleeved shirt and a pair of trousers that actually covers your ankles. Nothing will make a Thai lose respect for you quicker than if you walk into the classroom looking like you've been mugged on the way to work. (and I've worked with a few of those teachers over the years) Remember also that it doesn't end with clothes. Stinking of cigarette smoke and body odour are both absolute no-nos. Check out ajarn's teacher fashion guide for men. Or a fashion guide for female teachers (not written by ajarn.com)


As a teacher, am I really going to be earning four times the salary of a Thai?

No. And you see this same old line churned out by numerous websites in an attempt to lure you to this South-east Asian paradise. It's a load of old tosh! You might be earning four times the salary of a street-sweeper or the guy who works down at the harbour putting fishes heads in a big net, but then again you would expect to be wouldn't you? You're a professional teacher. The truth is that foreign teacher salaries have increased very little here in the last 20 years. You can read more on the myth that claims "foreign teachers earn four times the salary of the average Thai in this ajarn article.  


I'm interested in working in Bangkok for only a few months. Will it be easy to find something?

No. Most schools want you to commit to a one-year contract or 6 months at best. If you are here for a very short time, you will have more luck picking up work teaching kids or perhaps a 10-week corporate gig, where you teach at a company 2-4 nights a week for a couple of hours.

I used to get quite a few emails asking if it's possible to find work for 3-6 months. At present it probably is possible (due to a lack of decent teachers) but you'd be lucky to get enough hours to earn enough to break even. Schools want people who are reliable, will stick around and finish courses and will take the job relatively seriously.


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.


I fancy working as a freelance teacher. Is it possible?

Working as a freelance teacher is a very common way of making extra money, but most teachers will do it as 'income on the side' rather than something to be relied upon for a full-time salary. Being successful as a freelance teacher often depends upon the ability to 'market yourself' but once you get your first few students, many teachers find that word spreads fast and before long - you're actually turning work down. 

Take a look at this Ajarn article on freelance teaching for some tips and ideas and for some of the perils and pitfalls of this type of work. 


I hear there is a lot of corporate work in Bangkok. What is it exactly?

A language school will send you to teach company staff at their workplace. You might be teaching report writing to a group of five managers or basic business English to ten giggly secretaries and receptionists. Most companies will study a couple of nights a week, say Tuesday and Thursday - and sessions usually last about two hours.

I wrote this article on corporate training a good few years ago.

I have no figures to back this up but there doesn't seem to be anywhere near as much corporate work around these days.


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.


The teaching profession in Thailand doesn't seem to have a great image?

That's probably a true statement. Have things got better in recent years? I'm not sure. Schools have to start paying more for starters. The salaries for teachers in Thailand have generally always been far too low and it's becoming an increasingly expensive country to live in.

 I'm not going to go into the economics of it all but if we are to have schools that are staffed by professionals - they have to pay more! Schools aren't entirely to blame though. There are huge numbers of teachers out there who are just not up to it and do it simply for their money. Yes, we all need money to pay the rent but you have to have a modicum of affinity with your job.


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.


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