Thailand is popular among foreign teachers for a variety of reasons. In the heart of Southeast Asia, Thailand boasts a diverse culture, picturesque landscapes, and an amazing array of culinary treats. The lush environment of the country attracts a multitude of tourists each year, many of whom never end up leaving. Thailand is home to some 200,000 expatriates, including a large teaching community.
Bangkok is the political and financial center of Thailand and home to 12 million inhabitants, so don’t be surprised when you see numerous skyscrapers. But you don’t have to go very far to find dense tropical rainforests and ornate temples. Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, is the cultural capital of Thailand and home to many English teachers as well.
Thailand is an attractive location for teaching for another simple reason as well — the inexpensive cost of living. Salaries and the cost of living in Bangkok are a bit higher than any other region in Thailand, but even still, foreign English teachers can live comfortably with an average monthly salary of about 30,000 baht ($930).
While this might not sound like a lot, the cost of living is low enough that you can enjoy your time outside the classroom. Some teachers can get away with a monthly budget of around $300-$800, allowing for some generous savings or a healthy travel allowance. Best of all, a full (extremely delicious) local meal can put you back as little as $2. With about two months of vacation time too, you would have plenty of opportunities to explore the rest of Southeast Asia.
Many people are able to obtain a teaching job without a degree, but in recent years the Thai government has increased its regulations. Before you start packing your bags, be sure to study up on the requirements to teach overseas in Thailand.
Working Visas in Thailand
Your program or school should provide assistance with the visa application process as many have extensive experience with all the bureaucratic red tape. For some schools it is common practice to have you come to Thailand on a 30-day tourist visa and then head off to a nearby country for a “visa run,” but be wary of working on anything but a specific working visa — deportation would not be a fun way to start your Thai adventure.
When to Apply for a Teaching Job in Thailand
The Thai school year begins in May and concludes in February, with a month-long break between semesters starting around the end of September. Most schools look to hire teachers during the months of February and March, but some will hire teachers mid-semester around October and November. If you are looking to work at a university in Thailand, their hiring season is usually in early August.
Typically, the teaching jobs available in Thailand are one-year contracts. However, half-year contracts are available on a semester-to-semester basis with bonuses for each semester or year completed.
Common Types of English Teaching Jobs in Thailand
As a prospective teacher, you have several options for the types of teaching jobs you can find in Thailand.
Most teachers in Thailand find themselves teaching in public schools. There you can expect to receive thorough training from the Thai Ministry of Education prior to teaching. Class sizes in public schools are rather large (around 50 students per class) compared to private academies — but your vacation time is sizable as well, with typically 2-3 months of paid vacation per year! Expect to be working a full 40 hours, Monday through Friday, for a salary of around 30,000THB ($910) per month .
Teaching at a university comes with fewer working hours, about 10-12 per week, and a similar salary compared to public school teachers. Typically, professors are required to possess higher than a bachelor’s degree and often a teaching qualification from their home country. Additionally, there are opportunities to supplement a professor’s salary with side work.
Private Language Academies
With a private language academy, you could find yourself working a more sporadic schedule – anytime from the early morning into the evening. Class sizes are a much more comfortable size than public schools, with around ten pupils per class. You can even find opportunities for teaching math, science, and other subjects within these academies. At a private academy, you can expect to be paid up to $20 per hour and work around 20 hours per week.
International schools usually have significantly more requirements for foreign teachers and can require a teaching qualification from your home country, similar to university positions. If you can fulfill the requirements there is a significant boost in salary compared to other teaching positions. You can expect to earn anywhere from $3,000-$5,500 USD a month in an international school.
Depending on the details of your work agreement or contract, there are opportunities to work as a private tutor in Thailand in addition to your regular paid teaching – or if you’re experienced enough you can make it your full-time gig. Private tutors can make around 300-500THB ($9-$15) per hour.
There are several different points to keep in mind when you are ready to review a Thai teaching contract, because not all job offers are the same, nor do they come with the same benefits.
Be sure to note if your contract specifies “contact hours” or “teaching hours” rather than the actual total hours to be worked. You’ll need to be preparing lessons, grading, and often participating in extra activities outside of actual in-class hours, which may affect your estimated pay per hour.
With full-time employment in Thailand comes access to the government’s subsidized healthcare. Your employer should pay half of the contribution — about 3% of your income.
Some schools can offer an apartment or small housing allowance on top of your promised teaching salary, but typically this is not provided. Many schools, however, offer to help you find housing upon arrival – but don’t be too stressed with this point as housing is very inexpensive in Thailand.
It’s often advertised that in Thailand, foreign teachers can enjoy the first two years teaching tax-free. However, it can be a complicated process to actually obtain your tax refund and not every school will be willing to help you on the arduous journey, so don’t rely on receiving this money at the end of your contract.