Teaching in Thailand

by Jocelyn Pollak
River and children

Tropical vibes, wild nature, fantastic shopping, incredible food and fun-loving people are some of the things you can expect to discover in amazing Thailand.

With over 35 million tourists visiting (up from just 10 million 15 years ago), English is becoming more and more important for this SE Asian Kingdom. The Land of Smiles is one of the most popular and attractive places in the world to teach English for many reasons. I am veteran English teacher (7 years in Thailand) and have also worked closely with the Thai Ministry of Education and NGOs to train and place foreign teachers in schools all over the country. I own a TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) certification company – TEFLPros – and partner with schools around the world to put our course grads into great jobs. This article will give you a few tips, requirements and cautions if you’re thinking about teaching English in Thailand.

Why teach in Thailand?
People come to teach in Thailand for so many reasons, it’s hard to name just a few. One of the most common reasons English teachers cite is the quality of life. While salaries are typically lower than those in Japan or Korea, the cost of living is very affordable, reducing some of the daily stresses of life. The work life balance is typically very reasonable also. Thai students know how to work hard and play hard which makes teaching a fun activity, assuming you are properly prepared. With some of the most breathtaking places in the world all within a three-hour plane ride, it’s a great place to be if you want to do some travelling. SE Asia has a well-travelled tourist path and it’s generally pretty safe for men and women alike if you follow normal common-sense travel tips. Hotels and hostels are easy to book and with close to half a million expats living in the Kingdom, finding a travel buddy or someone to give you advice isn’t difficult. Thailand has traditionally been a country that is open to foreigners and considering tourism is such a major part of their economy, foreigners are welcomed. Thai people are kind, fun and will always help you if you’re in a bind. The culture is so rich and there’s a lot to learn. Plus, Thai people, whilst perhaps a little shy at first, are happy to have you around.

Who can teach in Thailand?
We always advise to go the legal route when it comes to visas and work permits. While you may know someone who doesn’t fit these requirements and somehow is still working in Thailand, it’s likely under a very specific circumstance or more likely, illegally. To teach English in Thailand, a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university and a clean background check is required. While many schools prefer native English speakers, it’s not a visa requirement like it is in China, Korea and Japan. TEFL is not required legally, but any school worth working at will require one. Make sure you have original copies of your TEFL and your university diploma, you’ll need them for your visa.

What’s the hiring process like?
This is very circumstantial but there’s a typical process that probably 70%+ of English teachers go through to “get legal”. Most schools want to see you before they formally hire you. With so many people floating around in Thailand, there are a lot of unqualified “teachers” here so schools are a bit skeptical to hire someone off the internet. People usually come in on a 30 or 60 day tourist visa; most passports get 30 days on arrival. You can apply for a 60 day tourist visa at the Thai consulate in your home country or at a Thai consulate in another country if you’d like to take your time. After getting hired, your school will prepare the proper documents for you to get your Non B visa; this is the work visa. You will then have to leave the country on a visa run, typically to Laos (there are hundreds of people who do this every day so there are a lot of companies who coordinate the whole thing for you). While in the other country, you will take all of your documents to the consulate, apply for the visa and return to Thailand the next day with your new stamp. That is for a 3 month single entry visa. After that, you can go to the immigration office in Thailand and extend your 3 month visa to a year. Contingent on having your work visa sorted out, your school will give you all the proper paperwork for your work permit. Some schools pay for all of this, many do not. It comes to be a couple of hundred dollars, plus the cost of your trip out of the country to get your visa.

Teacher and students

You should never accept a position teaching on a tourist visa unless you want to risk fines, deportation and blacklisting. If you are a trailing spouse or retired and on a non-O visa, you cannot work, which means no teaching unless you change your visa.


What should I be concerned about?
First and foremost, teaching English is a job, a very real job. You will not be just playing with kids and taking cute selfies while spending your days lounging on the beach. There are a handful of “jobs” like that, but the majority are teaching all day in a government school. You’re not going to be sitting on a beach, riding an elephant to work and partying all night long. While you can definitely experience all of these things, the rudest awakening for a lot of teachers is that you are expected to look and act like a professional when you are at your job; this isn’t just a big vacation. Kids will cry and be disengaged, parents will hound you and your boss may ask you to work extra hours.

But, most teachers who come prepared will tell you that it’s all worth it. Second, homesickness is a very real thing, especially if you’re in a rural area. Thai people will do their best to make you feel welcome and at home, but nothing can stop your craving for real pizza or a special holiday with family. Read about homesickness before you go so that you can at least mentally prepare. Along the same lines, culture shock is tough for a lot of people. After the honeymoon phase wears off and you realise you live in Thailand now, you may struggle to connect. Make yourself aware of the phases you will go through before you depart. Last, don’t be surprised when no-one speaks English. Thailand is consistently ranked at the bottom of SE Asia and the world in their English abilities.

Students

While this does make for a very “cultural” experience, it can cause a lot of frustration for a new teacher trying to get by. Thai people are the first to admit that they are afraid to speak English (which ties back to a deeply rooted cultural fear of losing face) but if you need something, they will try their best to help you by running to get a friend, pointing and gesturing until the problem is solved. You may also want to try to pick up some common Thai words before you leave. The language barrier can be frustrating but most teachers will tell you that with a little effort, they can get problems sorted out. If the Land of Smiles is calling you, answer! It’s a fantastic place to teach English. Join TEFLPros 120 hour course and upon graduation, we can connect you with jobs all over the country (assuming you meet the visa requirements) and get you in to a Thai classroom ASAP!
Feel free to contact us at [email protected] and we can answer any questions you may have.

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