The Insider’s Look at Teaching English in Thailand

teach english in thailand

You did the research. Your bags are packed. Your parents think you are crazy but you know they will be jealous when you start posting status updates from white sandy beaches bleached by the sun. They can have their cold, gray winters in Boston. You are going to be wearing shorts and tank tops more than ever before… and have a nice tan all year round. One day mom and dad may simply get a cryptic post card: Sell everything, I’m not coming back! I’m, teaching English in Thailand!

That’s right. You are moving to Thailand.

I know. I made the decision over a decade ago as well. Many a vacation from my teaching job in South Korea was spent in Thailand. There was an abundance of affordable luxuries that made the Land of a Thousand Smiles impossible to forget: sun, sand, beer and great dining not to mention a host of other cliches. When you board the plane home – wherever it maybe, you leave a part of you in Thailand. And wherever you live, you will be counting the days until you can return.

Yes, you can have the dream. You know you want it. But how much of it is real and how much is your imagination fueled by slick travel blogs featuring photoshopped images of deserted beaches?

I am here to set it straight for you.

This post is meant to be a primer on living in Thailand your first time around and evaluating your budget based on an entry-level teaching job at a Thai government high school. I have two and a half years experience teaching at government high school in Bangkok and have lived in Thailand for over a decade.

The most basic question you will have is How much will I be paid and Is that enough to live on in Thailand. Your basic salary at a government high school is probably going to be in the neighborhood of USD $1000 to $1200. That is roughly Thai baht 33,000 to 39,000 THB. You will immediately notice this is not a lot of money. In the United States most people pay rent of $1000. How can one survive on a salary that small?

Let’s assume you get a job and it pays 33,000THB. Your school may be able to give you extra paid private classes; and, you may well find other opportunities to supplement your income… but for now let’s budget for 33,000THB and assume that is after taxes.

The number one thing you want to have is an apartment or condo near your school. If you live in Bangkok, you would notice traffic is so bad at rush hour the cars stop moving. Some people have observed that every minute of the day is jam-packed traffic including late at night on Bangkok’s Sukhumvit Road. Rest assured, the traffic isn’t always bad but you will definitely want an apartment near your school.

In order to maximize your savings, get the cheapest apartment you can handle. I live in a 2500THB room that is maybe 30 square meters. It has a large bathroom with a washer machine and an enclosed small balcony where I do the cooking (boiling water and microwaving). The location is about 3 kilometers from the nearest BTS Skytrain station via a mini-tuktuk (a mini truck) and takes about 15 minutes to arrive. The mini tuktuk costs 7THB.

Budget for Rent and Utilities
Rent* ฿2,500.00
Water and maintenance** ฿350.00
Electric*** ฿1,500.00
Internet and House Phone ฿750.00
TOTAL ฿5,100.00
*Before my current condo, I rented a few condos in a different part of town for 10,000 to 12,000 THB a month. They both were about 47 square meters, had a great view. And of course the swimming pool with a restaurant. After a few years, the view and pool made no difference.**The water and electric fluctuate. In the hot months like March and April the aircon is on a lot so the electric is higher than a cool month like December.***I get a government rate on electric. The difference between the government rate at the private rate is exorbitant. Get an apartment where you will pay government rate.

This is a bare bones condo. My girlfriend owns it so I got out of paying the security deposit which would have been 5000THB. There are no recreation facilities. There are some shops, a hair salon, some coin-operated washer machines. If you want something a bit more flashy with a swimming pool, gym, sauna you are going to be sending more money and that will eat into your budget for travel and savings. If your really need the condo with a swimming pool, that kind of condo will probably set you back about 7000THB at least for a small studio depending on the area of town. The closer to the center of the city and mass transit you get, it gets more expensive.

If you can live on Thai food, avoid the temptation of western meals every night of the week and make use of the mass transit system, you can save half of your take home salary a month. It’s not easy, will take discipline, but not impossible if you take advantage of cheap street food and meals in school cafeteria. I know teachers who lived on $5 or less a day without a problem.

Job Qualifications for Teaching English in Thailand

Now that we went over budget and living let’s talk about the job itself. For an entry level teaching position at a Thai government high school, a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certification is sufficient. I had a TEFL but CELTA is popular. Any teaching experience you have, put on your CV or resume and if you have special skills in the creative arts (video editing, screenwriting, web development, graphics design) by all means put it on your CV. My last employer noticed I had experience in film production (They didn’t ask if I was successful, thank god!) and realized I could direct student dramatic plays for the inter-school competitions. Also, if you have a degree in teaching and a license to teach in your country, apply to private and international schools as they pay significantly better.

How to get a job teaching English in Thailand

I have always gotten teaching jobs from online job postings but you can use a recruiter but realize they take a cut of your salary. Still a good recruiter will take time to place a quality new teacher in a good school. There are bad recruiters out there so beware. In Thailand you can search online for jobs. Start with ajarn.com the leading English teacher site in Thailand. Read more here to learn about teaching in Thailand.

Choose the right job

If you are totally new to teaching, you just got to go with your gut and ask a lot of questions. If you are a country girl do not apply to a job in the big city, Bangkok. If you like the outdoors, find a job where you can easily do the activities you love in your free time. When I went and taught in Korea the first time, I was reading all these generic posts on Dave’s ESL Cafe (make lots of money, vacation, airfare!) but I found one post that stuck out with me because it was written more like a personal blog entry by the head foreign teacher, a young Canadian teacher. I applied, interviewed via phone and got the job. Within a few weeks I was on a plane to Andong, South Korea. The first few weeks were tough, but I already had experience working in Vietnam the year before. I adjusted to the job and the culture. You can adjust to Thai culture like I did.

When to apply for jobs in Thailand

The first semester of a school year for government schools is in mid May and goes for about 19 weeks. So if you are applying for the first semester, April would be a hiring period, but is also school break and Songkran Water Festival holidays. The second semester starts end of October.

Passports, Visa and work permits for Thailand

If your passport is old and going to expire within a year, get a new one before you leave home and get extra passport pages. Many countries will not allow entry or a visa if you have less thank six months validity on your passport – I got turned down at the Laos border! Your school will handle your visa and work permit if everything is legitimate.

UPDATE ON SECURITY IN THAILAND

Recently the capital suffered a major tragedy as a bomber placed an improvised explosive device (IED) at the Erawan Shrine which killed 20 people and injured over 100. The shrine is located at the Ratchaprasong intersection in downtown Bangkok and the area itself is a major shopping district locate within walking distance to Central World, Siam Paragon, MBK. There is currently a manhunt for the bomber. So this all begs the question about general safety in Thailand.

No one could have predicted the bombing on Monday and certainly not the general public. I was boarding a train to downtown about 30 minutes before the bomb went off. So as my train passed Siam and Chitlom stations, i was oblivious as to what happened 30 minutes before. Unfortunately, these tragedies occur everywhere and are not exclusive to Thailand.

In my decade here, I have lived through two military coups, a major flood, numerous protests, and airport closures. I have also been robbed, spent a week in the hospital and gotten to know a great many people here in the time. I feel generally safe here but as I am older I don’t go looking for trouble. There is a seedy underbelly to the city which includes all kinds of criminals and I generally shun all that drama and those who bring it. If you are coming to work in Thailand. make sure you have savings in the event of an emergency situation like a flood where you may need to relocate for a few weeks; water shortage and political unrest where you may want to leave city.

Violent Crime

This post started off all peach like the wonderful copywriting you read in travel blogs. Millions of tourists come here for holiday and have a lovely time. There are others who come here and don’t leave here alive. In recent times,.two young British tourists were murdered on the popular tourist destination, Koh Tao and many in the public do believe the two Burmese migrant workers going to trial for the murders are innocent scapegoats and there is a conspiracy to cover up the truth and protect the real killers. What is the truth? We may never know. I should also add, that violent crime hits close to home as my friend’s brother was found dead on Koh Tao New Year’s Day 2014 – the circumstances seem suspicious to all but again the police seem to want and open and closed case: an accident and no foul play.

You can live in Thailand and probably exist without incident. Hopefully, you will never have to deal with the police or the justice system. I live in a working class neighborhood and feel safe here. One of my neighbors collects garbage recyclables to support herself. She sometimes gives me fruit to eat. I have walked the 3 kilometers home at night from the BTS station without incident. While taxi drivers seem to be an endless source of complaints from people, I have rarely had any issue with a taxi driver. Living in the United States was much more dangerous than Thailand. I would take Bangkok over Philadelphia where I went to university any day of the week.

Closing

OK, that’s all for now. Be well

Resources

http://ajarn.com

http://eslcafe.com

About David Crimaldi 1 Article
Blogger, photographer, musician and media consultant in Bangkok

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