Thousands of people travel to Thailand every year to enjoy its natural beauty and cultural riches – but a select few opt instead to make the "Land of Smiles" their home. Well-regarded for its friendly, welcoming people and its incredible dynamism, Thailand is also one of the world’s most popular destinations to teach English abroad. Before you get on the next plane to Bangkok, however, there is a lot to know about teaching English in Thailand.
English teachers are drawn to Thailand for a number of reasons. They, like vacationing tourists, are of course drawn to its vibrant culture and abundant natural beauty – but they stay for so much more. Part of the appeal, of course, is the warmth of its people and their relaxed pace of life. Many teachers enjoy lengthy holidays from school which means – when coupled with the nation’s central location in Southeast Asia – that their home away from home makes an ideal launch pad for Southeast Asia travel. More to the point, teachers can afford to do exactly that – travel – because wages are high compared to the cost of living. Not that anyone ever got rich off of teaching English in Thailand! Still, traveling abroad on holiday is something that many teachers from Western countries find impossible but is imminently obtainable while working in Thailand. So too are viable teaching positions. Unlike elsewhere in the English-teaching world, the supply of jobs still outstrips demand.
Because the high demand for English teachers, all you need to start teaching English in Thailand is to be a native English speaker with a bachelor’s degree in any discipline. Of course, as elsewhere, candidates with experience – and/or TEFL certifications – stand head and shoulders above their peers. By appealing to a higher standard of employer, these candidates will typically find better working environments – and be considerably better prepared to teach once they step foot in them.
As is the case around the world, there are three broad categories of ESL schools in Thailand: private, public, and university. Each has their own pros and cons, so a thorough investigation of any job offer is recommended.
Private English schools in Thailand are often better funded and have smaller class sizes than their than their public school counterparts. Because students (who may range in age from infant to adult) often attend classes in conjunction with school or work (or both), the work schedule is less glamorous. Split shifts and six-day work weeks are common and holidays less plentiful.
Public schools, on the other hand, usually pay better and operate on a five day work week while providing ample exam days and vacations. Teachers are frequently required to be onsite even when not teaching however, and when teaching their classes can have upwards of 40 students. Facilities and resources, like teachers, are occasionally stretched thin.
English teaching positions at colleges and universities in Thailand are few and far between but do offer a number of perks. Although the salary may be relatively low, positions in higher education require considerably fewer teaching hours and do not require teachers to be onsite when not in class. Also, because university classes are elective – unlike many public and private school classes – students are usually more proficient than average.
If you are interested in teaching English in Thailand, private schools – which have no formal academic calendar – hire year round. Public schools and universities, on the other hand, recruit most actively in the Spring (from March to May).
Although it is possible to secure a job before arriving in Thailand, most English teachers look for work once they arrive. Such a strategy virtually guarantees you will work in or around Bangkok but will also allow you to pick a school that is right for you
To that end, the best place to look for a teaching position is Ajarn, the go-to resource for English teachers in Thailand. In addition to its jobs listings, there is a lot of useful information about living and working Thailand.