How to Teach English in Thailand
My First Job as a Teacher, 7 Years ago
Why I Love Teaching English in Thailand
When I first came to teach English in Thailand I was extremely wet behind the ears and didn't know the first thing about teaching English. My first day of classes consisted of games of hangman and simple personal questions to my students. However, despite my obvious lack of experience and teaching know-how, I still made it through those first few weeks of teaching without much of a problem because although I was quite clearly unqualified at the time, both my students and my Thai colleagues treated me with great respect.
Eventually I gained a TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) certificate and a few more qualifications as well as much needed experience and I settled in nicely.
What has made my time teaching English in Thailand so rewarding though is the great hospitality and acceptance shown towards me by the Thais. They welcomed me from day one and made me feel at home and that is why I have remained here for so long. The legendary Thai hospitality.
Having Fun With My Students!
So, What Do You Need to Teach English in Thailand?
To teach English in Thailand, there are several things you need to get before you come here or even when you arrive, in the period before you begin teaching.
Here is what you will need:
TEFL Certificate (Teaching English as a foreign language):
Although when I first came here I had no TEFL certificate or any other form of teaching qualification, I recommend that you take a TEFL course before flying out to Thailand. This is because most if not all language schools and schools require their teachers to hold at least a TEFL certificate before they can teach English in Thailand. There are many colleges that offer TEFL certificates and i you wish, you can even do a long distance course, the choice is yours. A TEFL course will give you knowledge and skills you need in order to teach English and more importantly, it will look good on your resume when you begin applying for jobs. Do an online search and you will find a multitude of schools and colleges where you can o a TEFL course. Most TEFL courses consist of 120 hours learning, with some hands on teaching experience involved which is invaluable.
A Basic Understanding of Spoken Thai:
One frequently occurring problem I have noticed in Thailand with new teachers is the language barrier. Once you begin teaching in Thailand, it is just you and the students in the classroom. You rarely have a Thai assistant helping to translate your lesson and this is where most teachers struggle. Imagine trying to explain your lesson to a class of 40 students who can barely speak English! Yes, it can be extremely time-consuming and leaves you frustrated. So I advise you to either seek Thai classes in your own country or, spend a month in Thailand simply learning spoken Thai so that you are ready when you begin teaching. You can:
- Consult a Thai teacher before your classes and have them teach you the Thai for each of your lessons, and write it in English phonetics for you. Then you will be able to explain it to the class before teaching it.
- Enrol in a Thai language school and take a Thai language course before and during your teaching time.
- Spend a month learning and practicing Thai language by simply listening and asking questions while out and about in Bangkok or wherever you decide to go.
Personally, I never took any classes in Thai language but I can speak Thai now because I began by asking my Thai colleagues and practicing with them; I also learned more Thai by interacting with Thai people as much as possible, and asking them questions.
An Understanding of Thai Culture:
This is very important because there are certain things which we do in the west, that would be frowned upon here. Things like:
- Pointing your feet at people, either because you crossed your legs and your feet are facing them or you intentionally point your foot at them for some reason. This is a big no-no in Thailand because as Buddhists the head is spiritually the highest part of the body and the feet are the lowest.
- Touching a Thai person's head. As I mentioned above, the head is spiritually the highest part of the body and it is an insult to touch someone's head if you don't know them well.
- Physical contact. If you don't know someone well, it isn't acceptable to touch them e.g. pat their arm, shoulder or leg in a friendly manner. Once you get to know them, then it is fine.
- Calling someone a buffalo. To the Thais, being called a buffalo is a great insult, much like being called a dirty pig in the west. You may hear them calling each other it for fun, but never join in the name-calling, even as a joke.
There is much more to learn about Thai culture but luckily, this kind of information abounds all over the internet so it won't take you long to get the gist of it.
English Camp Fun!
Where You Should Teach as a Beginner
When you first start out teaching in Thailand, it is a good idea to start in Bangkok, as it is much more convenient than living outside of Bangkok. Outside of Bangkok, there isn't much to do in terms of fun, you would also be hard pressed to find a school with air-conditioning in the classrooms. Teaching in a classroom with no air-conditioning in the 35 degree heat of Thailand is not advisable considering you teach around 5 hours a day!
For a new teacher Bangkok is the place to be. The schools have more equipment, air-conditioning and the students tend to have a higher level of English than students outside of Bangkok.
Lastly, Bangkok is far more developed than anywhere else in Thailand and as a result is a much more fun place to live. The nightlife is good, restaurants exist in abundance and there are many areas where mostly only Tourists or other foreigners go where you can go and unwind and meet other foreigner on the weekends. It can get lonely here if you are alone, so this is an important aspect of Bangkok.
A Wonderful Class!
It's All About the Money: How Much Will All this Cost me?
The cost of living in Thailand is fairly low if you do things right so the main costly areas, initially will be flights and earning your TEFL certificate.
Here is an example of some of the costs to expect:
Beer and Nightlife- From shops is around $1.00 for a big bottle and in a bar or pub ranges from about $1.50 - $4 which is still pretty cheap. Kaosan road is great value for money in terms of night-life and alcohol price and a decent night out there might cost around $10-20.
Food - Food in Thailand is extremely cheap as well as delicious. It is about $1 for food from street stalls and most restaurants but if you fancy something a little classier then the prices are a little higher. A good meal in a nice restaurant may set you back about $5-10 which when compared to western prices is still very cheap.
Accommodation - Accommodation is also very cheap and the average apartment or condominium room will cost you about $160.00 per month. For that price you get a nice, fully furnished room. For internet you will have to pay an extra $16 a month. Cheap huh!
Transport - Transport is unbelievably cheap here in Thailand. Taxis always have fare meters and are so cheap its hard to imagine they can actually make a living but they do, somehow. Here is the price of a taxi based on distance:
0 -1 km - 35฿
2 -12 kms - 5฿ per km
12 - 20 kms - 5.5฿ per km
20 - 40 kms - 6฿ per km
40 - 60 kms - 8.5฿ per km
Buses and motorcycle taxis are also cheap so transport won't be a problem cost wise.
When coming to Thailand with the intention of staying to teach English I would recommend that you bring around $1500.00 - 3000.00 because you might not get a job straight away which will mean you'll be living solely off your savings. You also have to factor in the trips to the beach, nights out, sightseeing excursions etc. It's always a good idea to have more than you need.
Teaching in Thailand Poll
What Are You Waiting for? Get Booking and Packing!
Last But by No Means Least: Visas, Salary and Qualifications
Visa - Before coming here I recommend you invest in a 1 year visa just to be on the safe side. In most countries it is fairly easy to get a 1 year visa to Thailand. Go online, download the form and send it off 2 weeks before you leave. It is well worth getting a 1 year visa as if you don't get a job immediately it will enable you to remain in Thailand until you do. You could get a 3 month, 6 month or even 9 month tourist visa but it is much easier just to go for the 1 year visa. I know people who came on a three month tourist visa and then once the visa expired had to travel all the way to Laos just to get another 3 month visa. It is very difficult to get more than a 3 month tourist visa here. The visa you need is called a NON-IMM O visa and will give you 1 year here. Every 90 days you have to report to the immigration office for your next stamp which will cost nothing. Once you get a job, they will give you a Non-B visa and then a work permit. Once you get the work permit, it's easily renewable each year as long as you remain with the same company.
Salary - The average salary here for a foreign teacher is around $1000 a month which increases over time, with experience. This is the average salary for teachers whether you have a degree or not. Thankfully, $1000 is more than enough to survive on in Thailand for a month. If you have an education degree then you may even get up to $2000-3000 a month!
Qualifications - It is possible to come here with only secondary (high school) school qualifications and teach english, however I would recommend that you at least have a TEFL certificate as the rules are becoming a little more stringent these days. Ideally, you should come to teach English in Thailand with a degree AND a TEFL but failing that a few certificates and a TEFL will suffice for most language schools as long as they like you, and your appearance.
Well that's all for now. I'll be back with other hubs on teaching in Thailand. Until then, take care and prepare yourself!
Sawaat Dee Krup! (Hello and goodbye in Thai language)
What do you think about teaching in Thailand?
Eastward from Bangkok, Thailand on January 22, 2018:
Nice article on getting started in Thailand! I'd just add that you also don't want to call someone the Thai equivalent of a monitor lizard :) That and to always check on the latest visa/work permit details as they are becoming increasingly challenging.
mikeydcarroll67 on June 09, 2015:
Thailand was probably cheaper than China. I don't have experience teaching ESL in Thailand, but some in China.
Richard J ONeill (author) from Bangkok, Thailand on April 09, 2014:
Awesome choice to come visit the Land of Smiles! I'm still here after 8 years so I can certainly vouch for its charm!
Your question is a good one and I can understand your worry about getting a work permit.
There are, however, thankfully and yippydoodly in a Ned Flanders kind of way - quite a few ways around this...
Here are the aforementioned ways along with some fear allaying statements:
1. Whilst many people do often mention permits and the absolute necessity of having one, they aren't the be all and end all here. I learned this as a bottom rung clinger when I arrived with scant education or experience. However, because I started at the bottom I was quickly able to learn the 'ins' and 'outs' of permits, visas etc as I was biting my nails off with trepidation. The truth though, is whilst all the ads and agents etc often mention 'degrees' and 'TEFL' etc, they really aren't necessary in order to work here long or short term.
So what I'm saying then, in a popcorn kernel, is that you could walk into job rather quickly without possessing a degree if you possess any or all of the following:
1. British, American, Australian, NZ, Canadian citizenship
2. Beautiful fair skin
5. Acting, singing, dancing etc skills
Then you can get a fairly decent job here. You can still use your work experience here as a reference of sorts, just provide employers with the contact details of your employer. Nobody will ask about Work Permits. This might look bad, but believe me, IT ISN'T. If you took away the teachers working with no permit here, Thailand would be plunged into a crisis of epic proportions - That's 75% of their teachers!!!!
If you are okay with doing it this way, get a one year visa from the consulate in Hull and come on that. Every 3 months, go to the immigration office, get your next three months stamped, no questions asked.
Trust me, I know, I've been there and done it myself. I'm not saying you should do this, but the option is there for you, for anyone wishing to teach with no degree. They need teachers and the truth is most schools don't pay what degree holders want anyway. While I was a teacher without a degree, I worked alongside AND was in charge of, many many degree holders!
2. Some companies have contacts and can still get you a work permit regardless of whether or not you have a degree. It's bent, but then this whole country is bent. It's beautifully bent and it just wouldn't be the same were it any other way!
3. You can theoretically remain on a Non-B visa for at least six months whilst "waiting" for a work permit approval. I don't know how they do it but they manage it through contacts etc. They'll take what certificates you have and submit them to the authorities. You then wait for approval but whilst waiting, you may work. In many cases, the permit is never finalized but by the time that is done, you have already worked for months.
4. I've heard that if you inform them and show them that you are currently studying a degree, they may still be able to get you a work permit.
5. Work permit or not, except for the benefits like insurance etc, there is barely any difference for someone working short term like 6 months or a year so if your values allow for it, be willing to accept a position even if no work permit is mentioned because in many many (again) schools, companies etc, they really don't like going through all the pa-lava of sorting paperwork, fees etc so they are more than willing to overlook the work permit.
To be honest with you Kerry - NO ONE CARES ... and that's the God's honest truth. But like I said, I do understand your fears as it's a big thing to come out here alone and do what you are doing. You'd much rather be in as secure a position as possible. You can be if you get lucky and find the "right" company with the right contacts but as I said, it's not like you'll be hunted down by packs of gun wielding police and rabid sniffer dogs if you don't have one.
Okay, I hope that helps. You'll be fine Kerry but if you have any more questions, I'll be around.
Take care and Good luck!!!
Kerry on April 08, 2014:
Hey thank you all for your posts. I am currently taking one year out of my degree to travel Thailand and teach English. I am going to take the TEFL course. My question is I am reading it is very difficult to get a work permit without a degree in Thailand. Can this be overcome at all? I have other certificates for Diplomas in level 3 but not qualified yet in a profession. Can anyone please guide me on this?
Richard J ONeill (author) from Bangkok, Thailand on February 01, 2014:
Yes, of course you can!
You can land one through language schools. Just pop in and say hi. Ask if they have any teaching positions and do the same at as many as you can. You can also approach schools directly and ask them if they are hiring.
Anything else you'd like to know? Feel free to ask and I'll tell you all you need to know.
saba on January 31, 2014:
I want to explore Thailand more, been there once but now planning to visit again , can i land a teaching job during visit, please guide me
livingabroad from Wales, UK on January 09, 2013:
Lots of awesome information about teaching in Thailand here and I agree with most of what you say. It's important to understand the culture and customs and also helps if you can speak a bit of the lingo before hand.
For the readers thinking about coming to teach here, I'd recommend a practical TEFL course where you get on the job practice. It will prepare you for the inevitable nerve racking first days as a EFL teacher !
Awesome hub, up and everything.
Alastar Packer from North Carolina on October 22, 2012:
Had to come back and go over this gem again, Richie. Hope the goose is hangin' high for you my friend ( southern expression - means hope things are well haha). This piece is guaranteed to put a smile on your face- pictures and story, in a manly way i'll even say it's precious- because that's exactly what it is.
Richard J ONeill (author) from Bangkok, Thailand on October 03, 2012:
That series of coincidences sounds fascinating and I shall be waiting with bated breath for your telling of the whole story. I have also experienced several incredible coincidences throughout my life, that have shown me that without a doubt there must be some kind of web, connecting everyone and everything. One day, I shall also tell you of those experiences Alastar as we are very much alike in the respect that we are pretty sure life is so much more than we were brought up to believe.
Oh man, that would be a dream for me. Hiking through one of those old forest with you. One day, my friend.
Take care and Peace be with you Alastar my friend. :)
Alastar Packer from North Carolina on October 01, 2012:
Richie, sometime I'm going to tell you about a series of coincidences between two people that is nothing short of astounding with a capital A. This is first hand knowledge and further reinforced my belief that all is connected in creation and, - absolutely understand your feelings of being led or placed through certain circumstances in life to where you are now. As far as seeing the countryside around these parts you'd be most welcome to come visit sometime in future. Can see us hiking an old-growth forest right now. Take care Richie, till later my friend.
Richard J ONeill (author) from Bangkok, Thailand on September 30, 2012:
Wow, thanks Alastar! What a great comment! :)
Yes, being able to make any kind of difference to the welfare of the world and its people is a joy! I'm lucky, or perhaps not lucky in the traditional sense of the word, because I believe I was brought to this place in my life not through luck but through a series of tests and qualifiers, if you will. I believe we are all where we are because we are led or 'placed.' When I look back on certain occurrences in my life, it makes sense.
Having you here as a neighbor would be fantastic, Alastar! Although, I would also love to get over there to your beautiful country at some point. I hope you'd have me for a day or two, to explore your area and drink a beer or two as we chat of our adventures in the real world and here in Hubland!
Well, cheerio my old friend and as always, thanks for stopping over for a while.
Alastar Packer from North Carolina on September 28, 2012:
Showed the pics to a lady friend and she gave you a big thumbs up Richie. Man, did I enjoy this-- seeing all your happy students and learning a bit more on what the teaching life requires and is like in Thailand. Wonderful, just wonderful, and you know how proud i am of you Rich, your really making a difference. Living expenses are surprisingly low, so low in fact you may have me for a neighbor soon!
Richard J ONeill (author) from Bangkok, Thailand on September 27, 2012:
Thanks for commenting.
See you soon. :)
sonobaby on September 25, 2012:
That's good content for every one.
Richard J ONeill (author) from Bangkok, Thailand on September 23, 2012:
I also had designs on settling here but England it is. Still, I'll most definitely be visiting often as it is my second home after all.
Thanks Paul. See you soon and have a nice day! :)
Paul Richard Kuehn from Udorn City, Thailand on September 22, 2012:
Good luck in your final year of teaching. My wife is Thai, too, but she is content with me retiring and living in Thailand.
Richard J ONeill (author) from Bangkok, Thailand on September 22, 2012:
Thanks for the comment and the valuable information you have added to this hub.
I have been here for around 7 years but next year will be the final year of my stay here as I'll be heading back to England to rejoin my family, with my Thai wife and son.
Take care Paul. Peace. :)
Paul Richard Kuehn from Udorn City, Thailand on September 21, 2012:
This is an excellent hub about teaching English in Thailand. When I started teaching here five years ago, I was able to get a job in a private all-girls school with only my degree and no TEFL certificate. I had however experience teaching English in Taiwan in the 1970s and some education courses without certification in the States. Most of the foreign teachers don't have degrees in education so the Thailand Teachers Council is making everyone take education tests so that they can get their teaching licenses renewed. This has happened to me and many of my colleagues. Voted up and sharing.