Teaching English in Thailand: Everything You Need To know
The Kingdom of Thailand is the best country in the region in terms of quality of life, fun, entertainment and value for your money. Not only is the country centrally located to all other South East Asian countries, it also offers a unique mix of gorgeous mountain regions to the north with Chaing Mai as the central hub ( a popular destination for digital nomads) and famous tropical beaches to the south with the city of Bangkok located in the center of the country.
About Teaching English in Thailand
The ESL market is quite strong in Thailand and offers native English speakers a unique opportunity to live and work in Thailand. In recent years the Thai government has cracked down on non degree holding individuals working as ESL teachers in Thailand. You need to have a bachelors degree in order to become a teacher in Thailand. The reason being is that a degree is now one of the legal requirements for immigration to process your non-immigrant visa. Without a degree, you can not get the proper visa to live and work in Thailand.
Where will you work?
Thailand has three options: Government schools, Universities and international schools. There are language centers, but they do not offer visa and work permit support. Teachers use these language centers as a way to make extra money on top of their teaching job.
In Thailand, if you hold a bachelors degree you can work in a government school as an English teacher. If you have a bachelors and masters in education, you’re able to work at an international school where the pay is much higher or you can work at a University.
Legal and Educational Requirements to work as a Teacher in Thailand:
Thailand has a few requirements that you need to fulfill to legally work in Thailand as a teacher.
- Certified degree and transcript from a 4 year University
- Background check
- Health Check
- Non B visa
- Work Permit
4 year degree
In order to be issued a non-b visa and a work permit you must have a 4 year degree. It’s a legal requirement. If you don’t possess one, immigration is unable to legally give you a non-b visa with the intention of getting a work permit. Of course you can be issued a non-b visa for any number of reasons but immigration will need documentation as to the reason why.
If it’s a school supplying the documentation, they will need your degree in addition to numerous other things legally.
Schools require a background check. This is not a legal requirement, but most school will ask for this. A background check from your state or city is sufficient.
You must obtain a certificate verifying your health. You do this at any local hospital in Thailand.
Non B Visa
The non-b visa is issued to foreign national who are required to be in the kingdom for any number of reasons. You can obtain this by providing documentation from your school to immigration to begin the process.
To obtain a work permit you must first obtain a non-b visa. The work permit actually allows you to work in Thailand where a non-b visa simply lets you live in the country.
From a Non-native English Speaking Country? You’ll Have to Complete the TOEIC
Are you South African, Eastern European or Filipino? You can still work as an ESL teacher in Thailand if you’re a non-native English speaker. You simply have one additional requirement compared to native English speakers.
You must get at least 600 on the TOEIC. If you’re South African you’re considered a non-native English speaker as well and will be required to take the TOEIC. Even if you speak English as a native speaker, if your passport is from South Africa you’ll have to complete the TOEIC.
TEFL or TESOL Certificate
While not required, there are numerous TEFL and TESOL programs throughout Bangkok, Chaing Mai and Phuket. These programs are beneficial for three reasons. The first is that it allows you time to get settled into Thailand and find a job as you participate in the course. The second is that these programs offer job placement. The third is that online teaching and other countries require a TEFL or TESOL certificate so you’ll be setting yourself up to live and work in other countries if you choose to.
I only have a 2 year degree. Is this adequate?
No. You must have a 4 year degree in order to begin the process of obtaining a non-b visa and a work permit. If you have a 2 year degree or no degree you are unable to obtain a non-b visa and work permit.
Is it true that I will have a hard time getting a job if I am not white?
Wrong. Black Americans and Asian Americans have no issue getting employment in Thailand. While you’re not preferred, Americans are still highly valued. Asian Americans actually have the hardest time because it’s still an odd thing for Thais that someone can be Asian but a native English speaker.
The only group in Thailand that faces active discrimination are Africans from Africa however, even with a TOEIC.
Can I teach English in Bangkok Without a Degree
You’ll find school that will “hire” you without a degree but you’re working illegally. You can’t get the proper visa, you’ll have to do visa runs and are putting yourself at risk of deportation if you get caught.
In the past, maybe before 2010, it was actually possible to teach without a degree but not anymore.
Thailand English Teacher Salary
Thailand, while offering the highest quality of living in South East Asia, typically pays the least. This coupled with the moderate cost of living and most school not paying for your visa or work permit (or at the very least, paying half) makes Thailand a challenging place to live and work without going into debt or having to work long hours doing extra classes.
While it is easy to find work in Thailand and schools are all too willing to hire non-degree holders illegally or non-native English speakers, the average salary in Thailand has been stagnant for the last 10 years at around 30,000-35,000 baht. 30,000 baht is simply not enough for a foreign national to live in Thailand given the out of pocket costs of rent, food, gym, utilities, visa, work permit and a plane ticket to leave the country when your contract is finished.
Not to mention double pricing, and trips to explore the country. 35,000 baht while obviously better, is enough to cover living expenses per month but nothing more.
What does the average English teacher make?
Your average teacher at a government school is paid between 30,000 to 35,000 baht with no benefits. If you’re a qualified teacher in your country of origin you can obtain a position at an international school where your salary could be upwards of 90,000 baht per month with benefits. Training and after school tutorial centers typically pay 500-700 baht per hour and teachers who take on personal students charge 500 baht per hour minimum.
Types of Schools To Work at
Government Schools: 35,000-40,000 baht
The most common and easiest to get job in Thailand. Government schools provide low salaries, huge classes, no benefits, no air conditioning and no support for your work permit or visa. The only benefit is that the work load tends to be light at 16 hours per week. For 30,000 baht I would not accept a work load greater than 16 hours.
EP Programs at Government Schools: 35,000-40,000 baht
In Thailand, it’s common for government schools to offer English Programs Programs. Yes, the P stands for program. These programs are private programs run by a government school where students families pay a yearly tuition. You would expect that this tuition would go to providing a higher salary to attract teachers, but that is not the Thai way.
The advantage of an EP program is that you get a chance to teach non-English subjects in English like health, PE, computer technology and science. EP programs typically have their own building as well with air conditioning. Hours are 16-20 per week.
International Schools: 50,000- 120,000 baht
International schools are for qualified teachers only. If you’re a native English speaker with a bachelors and masters in education who is also certified, you can get a high paying job with good benefits. The only disadvantage is that your working hours will be quite long.
Universities: 30,000-60,000 baht
While not the highest paying position, Universities offer the lightest work load and the most vacation time. At a university you typically sign in once a week and only have to be on campus when you have a scheduled class, where a government school expects you to be there all day from 8 am to 4 pm (M-F) despite paying you a small salary.
Universities also have the longest break, with the months of December, May, June and July being free. Depending on the school, you’ll either have to do some sort of extra work during this time or the university will allow you to simply sign in once a week and have the rest of the week off.
Extra Classes, Private Students, After School Learning Centers: 500 baht and hour minimum
Teachers charge 500 baht per hour for extra classes. This is the minimum expected. This is also the rate you can expect when working at an after school language center.
Teaching English in Bangkok Salary
English teachers still get paid the same amount as they would in other parts of the country. If you’re at a government school in Thailand the salary is roughly 35-40 thousand Baht. Even in Bangkok. At Teach&GO we strongly suggest you teach English in Thailand, it’s one of the best first countries to get settled in compared to say China or Vietnam BUT try to avoid teaching in Bangkok.
English Teacher Benefits
Government school provide NO housing allowance usually. Some school do however have on campus housing for teachers, but it is not a normal or expected thing. Also, these homes or apartments tend to be quite dated and you’ll probably want to find something else.
Universities and international schools do provide a housing allowance that subsidised with your salary, helps you afford an acceptable western style flat.
Paid Vacation time
Elementary and High Schools have their break during October, then Mid-March and April. As a teacher you can expect to have this time off to travel or work, fully paid. Make sure you check your contract though. Many schools try to pull, “they only pay when you work” line but then expect you to be at school all day. Double check your contract and be clear on if you’re paid 12 months. Don’t accept a contract if they don’t state that you are paid 12 months.
For universities you will have May, June and July off as well as December. Yes 4 months! This is why Universities, despite the low pay are still a good option.
Government schools offer no bonus. EP programs sometimes pay a bonus. Universities sometimes pay a bonus. International schools pay a bonus. The bonus is usually one months salary.
Schools in Thailand will not pay for a plan ticket home. If you’re paid a good salary this is a non-issue. It’s only a problem at government schools where you’ll end up going into debt to leave the country.
Schools tend to provide a free lunch. The lunch is always chicken or pork with rice and vegetables of some sort. If you’re a vegan you may have to pack your own food.
Schools provide basic health insurance for when you get injured or sick and need to seek medical help.
Cost of living in Thailand
Thailand is cheap, but it’s not as cheap as it used to be. The cost of living has crept up a bit.
If you’re intention is to live and work in Bangkok you’ll need a monthly salary of 50,000 baht to live comfortably. Outside of Bangkok you will need 35,000 minimum.
Apartments can range anywhere from a $250 flat (5,000 baht roughly) to a $100,000 baht penthouse. Food costs 50 baht a plate, foreign food and beer is upwards of $10-15 per beer and per plate (200-500 baht). Bangkok is an international city with all the offerings of any other major capital. While you may think you’ll live like a “local” you’ll quickly find that educated locals make upwards of 50,000 baht themselves.
The notion of Thailand being 3rd world is a thing of the past. Yes you can live like a cheap unskilled, uneducated local but you’re not going to because you did not come to Thailand to be poor. You’re an educated westerner and expect a lifestyle that comes with that status.
Outside of Bangkok
Outside of Bangkok you can support yourself on 35,000 baht though you won’t have much savings and you’ll have to go into debt to pay for a plane ticket. Though 35,000 baht is enough to live month to month.
Ideal Amount of Money
In Bangkok you would want to be making 90,000 baht. Outside of Bangkok, 50,000 would be fine. At this level you’re able to save money month to month, have money to travel during breaks and have money to pay for a plane ticket if you choose not to continue your contract. You can reach this amount as a teacher if you also teach online.
How Much Can You Save?
On a salary of 30,000-35,000 baht you will save nothing. You may even have to go into debt or pick up evening classes. Particularly if you’re going to leave Thailand after a year. All your savings (and then some) will be eaten up by the cost of a plane ticket back to America or Canada alone.
Visa Requirements For Teachers in Thailand
The Thai Visa For Teachers
Obtaining a visa to legally work in Thailand is a long, expensive, protracted process that can take up to a month to finish. The reason why it takes time is because you have to wait for bureaucracies to give you the paperwork you need to submit to immigration. Namely, the completed contract signed by your school director and documents from the Thai Teachers Council so you can obtain a temporary teachers license (or full license if you have a bachelors in education). With these two documents in hand, you’re then required to obtain a health certificate from a local hospital, a background check from your home country and copies of your passport pages.
Once you have all the required documents you’re able to obtain a non-b visa which will enable you to apply for a work permit (this is where you hand over your teachers council paperwork as well as your passport again).
The documents you’ll need to be a legally employed teacher in Thailand:
- A temporary or permanent teachers license (depends on your education background)
- A work permit (looks similar to a US passport)
- A non-b visa valid for 1 year
- Background check from your country of origin
- Health check
- Certified degree and transcript proving obtainment of a 4 year degree
The only position that is NOT required to obtain a teachers license is if you work at a University. There you’re considered a guest lecturer and NOT a teacher by Thai law. For all other school you’ll need to obtain a license from the Thai Teachers Council. It’s valid for 2 years IF you receive a temporary license. If your education is in anything BUT education you’re only able to obtain a temporary license. If you have a bachelors or masters in education you can obtain a full license. In other words:
Bachelors in accounting, masters in Education = full license
Bachelors in education = full license
Bachelors in accounting only = temporary license
You can obtain a temporary license for up to 3 years max. After this you will no longer be able to work at a school. The only solution is to obtain a bachelors or masters in education.
Countries require foreign nationals to obtain some sort of work permit to be allowed to work in their countries. Thailand is no different. You must by law obtain a work permit otherwise you’re working illegally.
The non-b visa is a non immigrant visa that is good for one year. It is NOT a work visa. It’s simply a visa issued to foreign nationals who are required to be in the country for a variety of reasons.
This is a new development with ESL teaching. Schools across South East Asia now require a background check. The easiest way is to obtain this in your county before heading out to Thailand.
You will be required to get a health check at a local hospital. They will take blood, check blood pressure and you’ll have a consultation with a doctor.
There is crack down on foreigners with “fake” degrees. Because it’s such a problem in Thailand, you’re required to get your degree certified by your embassy.
How long is the visa valid for?
1 year. ALL visas, except for the VIP visa are valid for 1 year. That means every year you need to reapply to obtain your visa and work permit.
What is the process like?
It takes a long time because you’re waiting for documents that you have no control over. Getting the contract finished and signed by the director takes time. Waiting for the Teachers Council takes time. Then you’ll have to do multiple trips to immigration and your local work permit office. Going back and forth with documents you need from each place.
How much does this all cost?
Apart from waiting, it will take you about a week to finish once you have all the documents. With all the costs added up, it ends up being about 10,000 baht for your visa, work permit, health cert, background check and transportation costs.
Can I work on a tourist visa?
Legally NO, BUT most new teachers do for a few months simply because Thais are very slow about providing the required documents.