Teaching in Thailand FAQs
When is the best time to try to get a job teaching in Thailand?
I would shoot for October or April since the Thai semester seems to begin in November and May. But really, any time is fine. Schools seem to be hiring year-round.
Should I get a job before arriving in Thailand?
No. No no no no NO. You don’t know what you’re getting and trust me: you want to know what you’re getting. It’s nearly impossible to get a job before you arrive anyways unless you have a Master’s degree in education and/or many years of teaching experience OR you do what I did and go through the Special Thai Project (which I don’t recommend! See Step 3).
What about visa requirements?
No matter what, you will probably come in on a tourist visa. For Americans, we automatically get a 30 day tourist visa upon entry when arriving by air.
If you want a 60-day tourist visa, you can apply(and pay) for one ahead of time at your nearest Thai consulate or embassy. Either way, you can’t get a work visa (Non-Immigrant Part B Visa) without papers from the school at which you’ll be working. Once you’re hired by a school, they will gather your documents from you and send away for your work visa. You won’t get it for another few months or so.
(A video of one of my classes singing “happy birthday” to my friend back home)
Do you think it’s relatively easy to find work for a native English speaker?
Yes, absolutely. There are soooo many schools in Bangkok and, like I said, the turnover rate is very high for these types of teaching positions (in part because of the teachers’ agendas and in part because after 2 years the whole visa situation changes). I can’t speak to the availability of work in other parts of Thailand, but I’ve heard it can be difficult to find work in Chiang Mai because everyone wants to work there.
From your experience, how difficult is it to get placed in the same city and/or school as your spouse? Is this even possible?
I don’t think that will be a problem at all! If you’re going through ATI, they have connections at certain schools around the country (in Bangkok mostly) so people tend to get placed with other ATI TESOL students anyways. Many of my coworkers had gone through ATI either through the Special Thai Project or not. If you choose not to use ATI and just apply to schools directly, I still think it would be fairly easy to find a placement for two people at the same school.
What is a teaching day like?
I can tell you a bit about what my experience was like, but it probably won’t be anything like yours! Your experience teaching is entirely dependent on the situation – the country, how many students you have, the school administration, the lesson plans provided/not provided, your coworkers, the enthusiasm of your students…Oh, the list is endless. That being said, I taught one-hour English lessons to ten classes of about 30 three-and-four-year old Thai students. Each class’s homeroom Thai teacher remained in the room to help me with class management during my lessons, so my duties mostly consisted of creating materials for my lessons and running through the lessons. I taught two different lessons within the span of two weeks. My school provided me with workbooks and a loose lesson plan including vocabulary words for each week but I had to create my own worksheets if I wanted to use them.
I walked in the classroom, greeted my students and sang a hello song. Then did 15 minutes of review from the last few lessons. I introduced the new topic for the day and the new vocabulary words. I tested their understanding of the new lesson through a game somehow. If I needed to fill time I would sing more songs or do a simon says activity or something like that. I used the last thirty minutes for the worksheets – and I mean, we’re talking about preschoolers here, so the worksheets were mostly coloring and matching and tracing. Simple stuff.
It’s hard to say how many hours a week I taught because there were always extra responsibilities the school liked to pin on us. Things like “Fluency” and helping the students learn dance routines for special performances…Oh, I don’t even remember…But hey, I have some videos that may give a better feel of what my particular teaching experience was like. And I’m sure it says something just that I even had the time to make such videos. Haha.
Would it be easy to find affordable accommodation?
Yes, it just depends what you’re expecting. My school provided a 5,000 baht/month stipend for my rent – many schools will either do it this way or will have a place for you already. My recruiter helped me find my apartment in Pinklao. I had a one-bedroom apartment with a fridge (no other kitchen appliances though), air con, Internet, bathroom, furniture, and a balcony. I didn’t have hot water. There were washing machines for 20 baht a cycle at the bottom of my building, outside (as many seem to be in Bangkok). All in all, I spend about 5,000 baht/month on rent and utilities. I’ll let you convert that to your currency of choice 🙂
Many of my coworkers opted to live in more expensive digs (closer to the 8-9,000 baht/month range) and their places were a bit nicer – but not significantly (ie they have an elevator in the building, a microwave, hot water, and a better view)
I’ve heard you can make more money in Bangkok than any other city. Is that true?
Wages are highest in BKK but things are also more expensive there [than in the north or northeast].
Now that you are there, are you happy that you picked Bangkok as the area to teach?
I’m admittedly not a sprawling-metropolis kind-of-girl, so Bangkok was not my favorite place to live. I’m from a very green, suburban area north of Atlanta, but I thought I could handle the city thing okay, especially after living in Sydney, Australia for 5 happy months. But Bangkok is a very different city from a place like Sydney…Most of all, I missed seeing green. I miss rivers/beaches, trees, flowers, parks…Bangkok is polluted, crowded, smelly, and loud. In the end, I think I would have preferred a smaller city with more nature (Maybe something like Chiang Mai). I chose Bangkok because I wanted to be sure I was surrounded by other expats, but the fact of the matter is: the city is so big, that if they didn’t live in my neighborhood, we probably wouldn’t be friends. Bangkok is a FANTASTIC place for shopping, if that’s your thing. I also liked that it was super easy to get anywhere else from there. It’s a transportation hub, not just within Thailand but throughout the whole of Southeast Asia and the world for that matter.
What would you reckon is my earning potential in Bangkok?
I would say a teacher’s starting salary here in BKK would be anywhere between 30,000 and 45,000 baht. You will get offered higher salaries at International Schools and Private Schools, in that order. Government schools tend to pay the lowest salaries. I was able to save a pretty good chunk of money on my 30,000 salary + 5,000 housing stipend – enough to travel for four months, including five weeks in Europe, and buy my plane ticket home.
Is your salary enough to live and save?
Yes, it is. Once you’ve spent the money to get there (ie the plane ticket) you can live and travel VERY cheaply. You will surely be making more than I make if you take my advice and DON’T GO THROUGH A RECRUITER. They take a cut of your monthly paycheck and it SUCKS.
Regardless, I saved more than I was expecting to. But that’s probably due to my tight-fisted budgeting tactics.
What do you plan to do when your year is up? Go back home? Do you like teaching enough that you’ve thought about pursuing it back home?
My backpacking plans sort of fell into place by the time my contract with my school expired. I ended up traveling around Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia with my friend and coworker, Molly for a few weeks before meeting up with my parents to do Thailand with them for three weeks. Then I spent time on my own in Thailand – specifically on Koh Tao, my favorite Thai island – before meeting up with my friend, Jordan, in India. India was more or less a disaster; Jordan went home after only a few days, and I moved on to my next destination, Germany, prematurely. I traveled in Europe for five amazing weeks before returning, once more, to my home in Atlanta, GA, USA.
I love the idea of teaching but I don’t know that I’m particularly passionate about teaching English as a foreign language. Even though my experience wasn’t wholly positive, I still wouldn’t give up on teaching – I think I just am more prepared to seek out a position that would fit me better, perhaps one teaching science as opposed to ESL. I don’t think I’m done with teaching, but I’m done with it for now.
Please ask yourself the following question: Are you actually interested in teaching or do you just want a means to live abroad and travel? Teaching abroad full-time is still a full-time job. Unless you actually care about the students learning English – unless you yourself are interested in the process of learning/teaching the English language – you may find yourself exhausted, lonely, and stuck. Before committing to a job like this, consider the fact that most of your time living in Thailand will be spent working in the classroom – not on the beach or in the bars or shopping malls.
That being said, it is INCREDIBLY rewarding to work for a few months and then have the opportunity to spend your savings at the beach or in the bars or shopping malls. Incredibly rewarding and empowering.
If you’re looking for the experience of living and working in another country long-term, teaching ESL is a good option. If you’re looking to work abroad and save money, I recommend looking for positions in South Korea and Japan (not Thailand!). If you have money saved and you want to travel – don’t be afraid!! – go backpacking. Go backpack, take your holiday, go learn and explore and adventure! Teaching abroad is still working, even though the scenery is different. Seriously. You can travel on $1000 a month in SE Asia and even less if you move slowly enough. And honestly, truly, I moved to Thailand because I wanted to travel. Travel is liberating, enlightening – I sometimes feel like I learned more during my 10-day solo trip down south than I ever did in 10 days of living/working in Bangkok. In the end, I know it’s the whole experience – the living and the backpacking – that amounted to personal growth over the course of my year abroad.
And a little extra for those considering quitting their full time jobs and taking off traveling: It takes a lot of courage to quit something you’ve invested so much time and energy in for a plan with very few details. But man oh man is it worth it! I truly urge you to break out of your comfort zone, seize the day, seize your life, whatever – just go!! You only have one life and you can’t spend it stuck doing something that makes you miserable.
More questions? Check out Ajarn.com’s Guide for Newbies
Please let me know if you have more questions – I’m here to help and I love to hear from my readers!