Teaching English in Thailand: Everything You Need to Know

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About Teaching in Thailand

if you have ever dreamt about traveling, living, partying, or relaxing in the land of smiles, teaching English in Thailand might be for you.  From the beaches of Phuket to the mountains of Pai, the ESL marketing Thailand shows no signs of slowing down as more and more locals work at improving their English.

Compared to other TEFL locations in Asia, Teaching English in Thailand is a unique opportunity – teachers have access to some of the most incredible landscapes in the world while earning a wage that allows most to live comfortably while still being able to save.  The best part of the experience, however, might be the warmth of the Thai people, no matter if you’re a long-term teacher or just passing through, your almost certain to feel welcome.

Interested in other countries?  Check out our list of awesome places to teach abroad.  Or, start browsing jobs.

Requirements to Teach English in Thailand

As with a few other countries in Asia (cough China cough) the requirements to teach English vary depending on who you ask.  Even in 2017 there is a discrepancy between what an employer will ask of you and what is actually required for you to work legally.

Let’s start with the requirements set forth by the government to teach English in Thailand, each of which is needed to obtain a work permit:

  • Certified degree and transcript from a 4-year college
  • Masters if pursuing a job a university
  • A TOEIC score of 600+ or IELTS score of 5+ if you’re from a non-native speaking country
  • Non-Immigrant ‘B’ Visa

Degree and Transcript

You will likely need multiple copies (real copies, not photocopies) of both your degree and transcript.  These must be from 4 year university (that means no Associate’s degrees), and it’s a good idea to get it certified by your embassy or consulate before applying.  The purpose of this certification is to prevent applicants from using fake degrees that the Thai government might not catch and all costs related to obtaining it will fall on the teacher.

When it comes non-university positions, it really doesn’t matter what you studied as long as you graduated from a reputable school.  This means that any discipline from art to political science is fair game, assuming you can have the forms to back it up (Thai Universities are the exception to this, if you’re applying to any please see below).

 

Master’s Degree

The requirements to teach at a University in Thailand are a bit higher in that applicants must also have a master’s degree in order to be hired.  As with a bachelor’s degree, your school will likely ask that this be certified by your embassy or consulate.

The trick here is that more and more universities are requiring applicants to have degrees in relevant subjects.  Whereas you could get away with a history degree in a language school, colleges and universities want to see relevant subjects like English and TESOL.  This is not a hard and fast rule – there are still plenty of colleges in Thailand that will accept any masters, they are just getting harder to find.

 

TOEIC and IELTS

If you are not a native speaker don’t fret, there is still hope!  In order to meet the requirements to teach in Thailand, you will need a TOEIC score of 600+ or IELTS score of 5+; anything less and you run the risk of being denied a legal job.

 

Non-Immigrant ‘B’ Visa

This is discussed in greater length on our Thailand visa page, but it’s worth mentioning here that a B visa is a requirement to teach in Thailand.  To acquire this visa you will either need to apply at your local consulate or embassy prior to traveling to Thailand or transfer a tourist visa once you arrive.  Both of these options require sponsorship by your employers and cannot be completed otherwise.

That’s it – despite what schools, employers, and recruiters are telling you that is all you need to work legally in Thailand.  However, it is rarely that easy as many employers have raised the bar with what they require of their English teachers.

 

What Does the Average Teacher in Thailand Make?

“Teaching in Thailand is great if you want to have a nice lifestyle and live in an exotic country, but don’t expect to make a fortune. “

-Joanna from The Blond Travels

While not the most lucrative teaching position in Asia, the salary for teachers in Thailand coupled with the low cost of living mean most people can live pretty comfortably.  Even more encouraging is that there is a wide range of salaries in Thailand and it’s quite possible to live like a king if you have the qualifications and drive.

The average salary for a native English speaker with little to no experience is around 30,000 Thai Baht (TBH) per month.  Depending on who you ask, this is either enough to get by on or enough to live comfortably – but it’s not enough to live a life of luxury.  In order to do that you will need to either work a second job or land one of the coveted international or corporate training positions.

 

Types of Schools in Thailand and What They Pay

School TypeThai BahtUSD
Government25,000-35,000/month$715-$1000/month
International40,000-75,000/month$1150-$2150/month
Training Center/Tutoring300-500/hour$9-$15/hour

 

Government School: 25,000-35,000 TBH/mo

Overseen by the Thai Government, these schools are similar to the public schools we have in the west and are some of the most stable jobs you can get.  You only need to be a native speaker to land this job, but having a certification will help.

 

International Schools: 40,000-75,000 TBH/mo

International schools typically have stricter requirements for teachers and almost always require some sort of certification.  Work hours are also often longer than other schools and average nearly 40 hours per week.

 

Training Center and Private Tutoring: 300-500 TBH/hour

Both training centers and private tutoring usually pay by the hour and can be a great way to pad your income (or work full time).  Like government schools, they almost always only require you to be a native speaker.

 

Other Benefits for Teachers in Thailand

In addition to a teaching salary, educators in Thailand often receive other benefits depending on their job and city.  Keep in mind that almost everything in Thailand is negotiable so don’t hesitate in asking for something on this list when discussing your contract.

 

Apartment or Housing Allowance

Most schools will offer a private apartment or housing allowance in addition to your teaching salary.  Provided apartments are almost always basic (single rooms) and allowances might need to be subsidized a bit, but it is a nice benefit.

 

Bonuses

The most common form of bonus is a re-signing bonus that increases your teaching salary if you stay at a school another year.  However, many schools also offer performance and enrollment bonuses that depend on the quality of your work and ability to keep students.

 

Health Insurance

Many schools will often basic health insurance for their teachers.  This is generally adequate for most needs but some teachers do opt to buy additional coverage.

 

Food

It’s not uncommon for schools to provide you with a free or ridiculously cheap meal when you teach – while you may or may not like all the options, it is a nice benefit.

 

Cost of Living for Teachers in Thailand

One of the best things about working in Thailand is that it’s quite easy to live on very little.  The following numbers are from Bangkok so keep in mind that other cities will be around 25% cheaper.  If you’re looking to save a bit of money before you come, consider bringing some common items from home – you can use your post on What to Pack for Thailand as a starting point.

ExpenseThai BahtUSD
1br Apartment in City20,000$575
Pint of Beer at a Bar60$1.75
Latte75$2
Average Meal for 2500$15
Bus Ticket35$1

Source: Numbeo // Prices as of January 2017

 

How Much Can You Save as a Teacher in Thailand?

This question clearly depends on the teacher and their lifestyle, but most teachers manage to save 5-10% of their salary.  This will obviously change if you have student loans or other debt you are paying off back home, but it is possible to save money from your teacher’s salary in Thailand.

The great thing about Thailand is that it’s entirely possible to live like a local if you’re disciplined – public transportation, local food, and ingredients are abundant and being conservative for most of the week will afford you a good budget with which to socialize on the weekend.

 

The Visa Process for Teachers in Thailand

If you think there is some magical “teaching English in Thailand visa” that allows you to start working legally then you’re in a for a surprise – the visa is only part of the requirements and comes at the very end of the process.  In order to teach legally in Thailand, you will need to engage in a process that can last 2 months and require the submission of stacks of paperwork.  Thankfully, it’s likely that your schools has done it before so make sure to lean on them when the time come because navigating the visa process yourself can be confusing at best.

What You Need for a Teacher’s Visa in Thailand

  • Teaching License (provided by Thai government)
  • Work Permit
  • Non-immigrant B Visa
  • Certified degree and transcript from a 4-year college
  • Visa Application

Teaching License

This license is essentially your permission to teach in Thailand and is valid for 2 years.  In order to get the license, you need to submit actual or verified copies of things like your degree, transcript, and health certificate to the Ministry of Education.

 

Work Permit

Often confused with a Thailand work visa (which doesn’t technically exist), your work permit is a book that is linked to your school and gives you permission to teach there.  Because the permit is awarded to your employer, they often insist on keeping it safe in the office.

 

Non-immigrant B Visa

There are two main visas for teaching English in Thailand, the Non-Immigrant O for married foreigners, and the Non-Immigrant B for single applicants.  These visas need to be obtained prior to arrival, usually at your local Thai consulate or embassy using a letter of acceptance from your school as proof of work.

The B visa is only valid for 90 days and can only be extended with the receipt issued by the department of labor (see below for more details).

 

Certified Degree & Transcripts

In addition to needing to be from a 4-year university, all of your academic records must be certified by your home country’s embassy or consulate.  The reason for this is that it adds another layer of protection against forgery and takes the responsibility of identifying fake documents away from the Thai government.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a standard way to get everything certified if you’re applying for a visa to teach in Thailand.  For Americans, the most commonly accepted solution is to head to your nearest consulate or embassy and sign an affidavit stating that your documents are legitimate.  This has worked in the past in addition to getting the documents notarized, though the former has been having less success as of late.

If you’re not American you should contact your local consulate and see what your options are.

 

Understanding the Visa Process to Teach in Thailand

Obtaining all of these falls somewhere in between straightforward and incredibly frustrating but usually, the process goes something like this:

  • You are offered a job with a school, sign a contract, and hand over any requested documents like degree, health certificate, transcript, etc (this varies by school).
  • The school will take all of this to the Ministry of Education where they will issue you a teacher’s license.
  • Once you receive your license you will submit it along with more paperwork to the Department of Labor and they will issue your Work Permit as well as a receipt.
  • You can use this receipt in order to extend your visa while all the paperwork is being completed.

Please note that the details and requirements can vary by province and even by the school so it’s best to check with your manager before applying and even better if they can assist you in the process.

A word of caution: be wary of any school or recruiter that wants you to teach in Thailand without a valid visa – it’s not worth the risk or headache and there are too many legitimate jobs out there.

Common Questions about Teaching in Thailand:

Can I teach without a degree?

Yes, you can absolutely teach without a degree but it will not be legal and you will not be afforded the work permit or visa that makes living in Thailand so easy.  With that being said, and even with the supposed crackdowns on illegal teachers, there are still thousands of people working on tourist visas, doing visa runs, and generally just trying to get by.

 

Can I teach with a 2-year or associate’s degree?

Yes, you can teach with less than a 4-year degree but it will almost certainly not be legal.  There are still schools out there that either don’t have the desire or resources to employ teachers legally and therefore don’t care if you have a 2- or 4-year degree.

 

Can I work on a tourist visa in Thailand?

This is by far one of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to visas to teach in Thailand.  The answer really depends on how risk averse you are – yes, plenty of people teach on tourist visas, but it is not at all legal.  On top of that, the government has made no secret about its desire to squash illegal teaching and has done so very publicly in the past.  If you choose to go this route our advice is to tread lightly – in our opinion, it’s not worth getting in banned from such an amazing country.

 

Can I teach as a non-native speaker?

If you are a non-native speaker with a TOEIC score of 600+ or IELTS score of 5+ then you are able to teach legally in Thailand.  If your scores fall below that then you will need to find a school that doesn’t care and will likely not be legal.

 

Can I teach if I am not white?

Yes, there are teachers from numerous nationalities teaching in Thailand.  Unfortunately, racial discrimination is still very real and both legal and illegal schools have been known to turn applicants down due to the color of their skin.

 

Can I teach without a TEFL or TESOL certificate?

The days of showing up in Bangkok with no experience are long gone and it’s becoming increasingly common for agencies and schools to want their teachers to have some basic training (though not required).  This almost always comes in the form of TEFL or TESOL training with the end result being that you are a certified ESL teacher with a higher likelihood of landing a good job (some training programs even offer job assistance).

 

Do I need a background check to teach in Thailand?

Police or background checks have also seen an increase in popularity when it comes to the requirements needed to teach English in Thailand.  The good news is that most schools or recruiters only want to see one from the state or city level, something that is far easier and quicker to obtain than a national check like South Korea now requires.

Resources for Teaching in Thailand

 

  • Ajarn: An incredible site that focuses solely on living and working in Thailand

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