It is not unusual for tourists to fall in love with Thailand and expand their 1 week trip to a few years. Those that do are either rich enough to lazy around, or are desperately searching for a means of income to support their lifestyle. To many the obvious answer to their prayers is teaching English. Those people might have the perfect lifestyle in mind, but those not prepared soon realize that life as an English teacher in Thailand is a bit harder than expected.
Official Requirements for Teachers:
These requirements are in place to weed out the bad teachers, but that doesn’t stop those underqualified. Bangkok is in fact full of underqualified teachers, who then inspire other underqualified people to do the same.
In Thailand, you’re qualified to teach English if you’re a native speaker and have a degree from a four-year university, plus a TEFL or TESOL certificate. Many schools prefer previous teaching experience. A master’s degree, preferably in education, is compulsory to teach at the university level.
There are many English-teachers who avoid the rules though and most of them end up at private schools (and not uncommonly without work permit). The private schools often offer a higher salary than the government schools but there are some shady private schools who offer a less than desired work environment. There are stories of teachers not getting paid at all or losing their passport by schools that refuse to give it back. Outside of Bangkok it sometimes happens that government schools accept underqualified teachers because they have no other English-speaking staff available, but they will pay much less and you will end up in a small remote village with nothing to do in your free time.
Being qualified gives you much more breathing space and will make life easier. Private schools will also be much less likely to cheat on you. The most important aspect to keep in mind is that as an underqualified teacher you run the risk of getting hired without work permit and if they catch you,.. Well you better not.
This is the most toughest aspect to overcome as a newbie, especially if you’re underqualified. Unless you apply for a teaching job in one of those villages in the middle of nowhere, you will have to prove yourself against thousands with the same idea as yours.
Government schools will have you work fulltime on a Monday to Friday 8 to 5 schedule with a school break on April. Private schools will provide you with work whenever there is work available, which can also include weekends and evenings. Working for a private school can be hard work as you have to prepare your lessons from home and students will ask you for extra lessons during holidays. There is such a thing as “Thai Time” which means classes and meetings usually start later than scheduled. Expect your students to arrive much later than you.
Expect to work, when you’re not working. Contracts are usually short term, and the small private language schools might hire you for only a few lessons. This means that you will have to be constantly looking for the next job opportunity. That will take a lot of your time and effort. With a good network of Thai friends or other teachers you can find jobs much easier.
The Thai Government has placed the minimum wage of foreign teachers at 30000 THB per month which is enough money to live a comfortable life. That is the minimum salary you will earn when the school hires you on a contract. The smaller Private language schools usually hire you without a contract and might pay you per hour and it depends on the class size and your negotiating skills how much you will earn. From small private language schools expect around 300 to 500 THB per hour for 1 to 3 hours per day. At the more established private schools it is possible to get 1000 THB per hour for a group session, but their requirements to hire you will be higher.
Occasionally there are some teachers out there that can rake up to about 100000 THB or more per month. That is a lot of money for the Thai life-style. But remember that those teachers are in the top, and if you don’t put in as much effort or be as lucky as the top, don’t expect to earn as much as the top.
It is not that easy anymore to live as an English teacher in Thailand because of the high competition and the official requirements. Those that are qualified and those that are willing to work with a competitive attitude however can still have a great life here. It depends on how much you expect and how much you are willing to do.