In an earlier post I might have seduced you into a fantasy about the paradise that awaits you as an English teacher in Thailand. While it’s true Thailand is a great place to live due to the hot humid weather, people, food, low cost of living and the amazing things to do in and around the country (beaches, beer), there are still very practical realities to consider before embarking on your adventure in teaching. The following guide presumes you are a native English speaker.
What are the Qualifications to teach English in Thailand?
The minimum requirements for a job which provides you visa, work permit are a BA/BS and 120-hour teaching certificate. I would recommend strongly anyone that wants to teach in Thailand for more than two years to arrive with an education degree; and/or a license to teach in your native country. Also a significant amount of post graduate work in education like the PGCEi (not to be confused with the real PGCE) would serve you well. Keep in my mind that the job market in Thailand has become more competitive in recent years.
What types of teaching jobs are there in Thailand?
There are generally two routes an English teacher will take in the job department. They will either work at a language center (also known as institutes) like Berlitz, AUA, Inlingua, British Council, Wall Street or they will work in a regular government or private school with children from kindergarten on up to 18 year olds (There are three levels called Anuban for kindergarten, Prathum for elementary and Matayom for teens).
If you don’t like teaching kids, then you’re going to work at a language center and just request to only teach adults or you’ll look for a college job. These jobs can mean split shifts, working nights, weekends and a fluctuating schedule and monthly income. If you want to teach children or like the idea of regular working hours with nights and weekends off, then you’ll work at a private or government school English. Be well aware that if you wish to work at a regular government school, for example, Matayom, the equivalent of high school in the states, you can get the job with minimal qualification of a degree and a 120 hour English certificate but in order to keep the job you’re going to need a Thai teaching license. The same goes for private schools. You can skate by for two years but will soon need to get that license. See the link.
If you are a licensed teacher in your home country, you’re in an entirely different ballpark and should apply to work at an international school with salaries and benefits that make English teachers drool. It’s beyond the scope of this article; however it should be noted many English teachers soon realize they are going to need more than a degree and a TEFL or CELTA to advance up the food chain and either move on or become licensed teachers..
What kind of Salary can I expect in Thailand
Let’s talk about all the money you’re going to be raking in as an English teacher. Or not. Thailand is not Saudi Arabia (thank god). You’re going to be able to buy a round of drinks at 7-11 with your colleagues but getting rich solely on an English teacher’s salary won’t happen. The table below has ballpark figures for new teachers in Bangkok. It assumes you have the bare minimum degree and 120 certificate for English teaching. If you are a licensed teacher you are qualified for much better jobs and salaries even within the same private school.
Thai baht: 1000USD = 35000THB
|Kind of school||Salary in Thai baht monthly|
|Government school||40,000 THB (less if you go through recruiter)|
I’ve heard of private schools paying well and also of some paying the same as government schools. Also private schools hiring licensed teachers for their bilingual programs pay much more but those teachers are teaching subjects.
|Colleges and vocational schools||30,000
If you were coming from a country like South Korea, the low pay of English teachers at college level would be shocking. The job might be OK if you’re in the country, have a family and don’t need to do a lot of office hours.
In the case of the language center, you’re only paid for hours worked and hourly wages across various schools vary. As well, if you are teaching highly specialized topics like exam prep, the rate can go up significantly. For the new English teacher the rate is really going to be about 300-400THB per hour
Visa and Work Permit to Teach in Thailand?
A legitimate job will come with a non immigrant B visa and work permit. The process of getting a visa and work permit is worthy of a bottle of Sangsom. My government high school had a retired teacher whose job it was to handle teachers’ documentation. She never made mistakes and I took that for granted. Mistakes with documentation can be very costly in the bureaucracy.
Remember, do not take a full time job if the employer does not offer visa and work permit!
Health Insurance in Thailand
The good thing about working legally in Thailand is that your full time job will come with health insurance. Pray you never need to use it. As motorcycle accidents are a common occurrence in Thailand, it is important to know what exactly happens if and when you’re in an accident and are seriously injured. Who pays and how much? Also note well, in that time you are a new arrival and still looking for a job, it’s wise to have insurance that covers illness and vehicular accidents. Plenty of tourists end up in emergency rooms in Asia for one reason or another and it won’t necessarily be cheap.
Bangkok and Chiang Mai have great hospitals and outpatient clinics. If you need vision care go to Rutnin Eye Hospital on Asok and for major dental work Bangkok Hospital has a great reputation. I have been to both and it’s a lot cheaper than the USA even with no insurance.
Vacation/Holiday for Teahers
Finally a fun topic sandwiched in between the doom and gloom. Holiday time varies but even at government high school, one gets 20 days holiday which could mean one holiday of two weeks per semester with the weekends. At AUA Language Centers there’s 10 weeks of holiday a year! It’s probably best to not ask about holiday time as your first question to employers at an interview but everyone, including coordinators, likes a holiday. There’s enough Thai national holidays to go around. See link.
There’s a range of living options for a teacher. On the low end you can spend 2500THB a month for a small room in a mildly rustic village within Bangkok or blow 10x that amount on a condo near the BTS or MRT complete with a swimming pool and gym. Find something in between that fits your budget and lifestyle (The swimming pool was great in the beginning and then just became a place to drink beer). Major factors to consider are your electricity cost (try to get government rate) and whether or not your condo unit can fit a washer machine. A washer machine will cost you 6000THB or more but save you a ton in the long run (especially if it lasts 10 years like mine did.) Outside of electricity, your utilities including water and internet should be stable. Renting a condo is ridiculously easy: you show up, sign a 1-year contract, hand over a month’s rent and security deposit equaling two month’s rent and you can move in ASAP. If you’re unit is equal to $300, you need $900 at the signing. You can pay utilities at the front office usually and pay the internet at the ubiquitous 7-11s or set up automatic billing.
Transportation and commuting
If you’re in Bangkok, there’s mass transit galore, the BTS Skytrain and the MRT being incredibly convenient although cramped at peak hours. You can save money by buying the monthly passes. There’s also cheap and even free buses which I often utilized (remember the buses 511 and 2). If you want to beat the traffic and catch a breeze take a riverboat on the Chaopraya. And there’s no shortage of taxis, tuktuks, minivans, trucks, motorcycle taxi; but one of the best ways to get around Bangkok is on foot. Still, lots of teachers buy motorcycles.
I need my smartphone!
Your unlocked smartphone will work with a Thai SIM and getting connected is easy and cheap. You can find Thai phone carrier shops at the airport and at the electronics malls around town. Prepaid refill cards are available at 7-11s, Family Marts and Tesco Lotus. Refills can be as low as 50THB. Major phone carriers include AIS, True, and DTAC. In my opinion,
if you really want to have some fun in Thailand, try to go for a week or even a couple of months without a phone.
How do set up a bank account in Thailand?
You may have questions about setting up a bank account so you can start stashing away that Thai Baht! Your school will assist you in opening a bank account and you’ll get an ATM debit card. ATMs are all over the city and fees to use the ATMs of other banks are usually 10 baht or free. Even if your school won’t assit you, it is pretty easy to set up a Thai bank account and shouldn’t take more than an hour. SCB, Bangkok Bank and Kasikorn are three of the larger banks. The menu of services is in Thai and English. There are also Three Citibanks located in Bangkok
If you need to transfer from the USA to Thailand keep in mind that Bangkok Bank does have a bank branch in New York that can facilitate this transfer cheaper than an American bank. See link
Student Loans and the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion when teaching in Thailand
This is for Americans only. If you are working overseas your adjusted gross income (AGI) will be zero if you’re making less than about $100,000 a year. This is the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIC). If you have an income based repayment for a federal student loan, your repayment is based on your AGI which in this case would be zero. And anything multiplied by zero is zero. So voila, you don’t have to make a repayment while working overseas… unless the law changes. Sounds too good to be true but I know of people doing just that. Your debt does not disappear though. See link.
Getting more Education
The reality for all of those in the field of education, is that if you’re going to stay in the field, live in Thailand and support a family, you’re going to need more fancy pieces of paper to hang on the wall to remain competitive and qualify for better paying jobs. Here’s a short list of universities where you can further your education in Bangkok by accredited western institutions.
- University of Nottingham – many English teachers without a degree in education or a teaching license in their own country are opting to take the PGCEi in order to qualify for the Thai teaching license. See link.
- Framingham State University offers an MA in Education that you can do at Wells International School in Bangkok. See link.
- Webster University Thailand- If you decided teaching isn’t for you long term, you might do an MBA here. See link.
How to Make Extra Income in Thailand?
In 2017, everyone needs a little side hustle! Most English teachers at normal schools are supplementing their income doing private tutors and working at language centers. That’s a no brainer and some teachers may even rent a room or office space to use as a classroom. But there are other ways to supplement income including freelance writing and editing, photography and videography, music performance, and event promotion, acting, modeling, voice over work. A good place tpo start might be DSBKK on Facebook.
Irritating things about working in Thailand
- 90 day check in is when you literally check in with immigration and let them know you are still living in same place you were 90 days ago.
- Re-entry permit – you would think that a valid visa which entitle you to work would come equipped with permission to leave and enter the country as you please when holidays come around – this is not the case: you need a re-entry permit.
Visa Warning #1
This guide assumes you are coming or going to Thailand with a desire to seek employment legally. There’s plenty of teachers working on tourist visas and lately the government is cracking down on them. Teachers and genuine extended tourists alike have been liberally using the tourist visa and 30 day visa waiver for years in order to prolong stay in the Kingdom. If you have a lot of consecutive tourist visas in your passport, you may be interrogated by immigration upon entry and possibly denied entry. Very recently, there were reports of foreign tourists denied entry because they could not show proof of funds for their trip in cash (the amount is 20,000THB or the equivalent) and had many Thai tourist visas. Read more about it here.
Visa Warning #2
While you’re in Thailand searching for a job, you are probably on a tourist visa or 30 day visa waiver. Both of those can be extended for another 30 days at immigration for an additional fee. No issue there. But, do not overstay your visa! If you are stopped by police while overstaying just one day, you’re going to be detained, deported and banned. If you are not caught, you’ll have to pay 500THB per day of overstay upon departure at a land border or airport immigration. Read penalties for overstaying your visa here.