Teachers who choose to teach in Chiang Mai will find themselves living and working in Thailand’s largest and most modern city of the north. The ancient city center is a perfect square, surrounded by the remains of a brick wall and moat, built in the 1600s. Cruising down the small streets encompassed by the old fortress walls, you would never guess that a booming, modern downtown was flourishing just minutes away. Teaching English in Chiang Mai is the perfect place to begin an international teaching career; it offers easy access to modern comforts, but you can also get away from it all in the nearby foothills.
The type of school where you choose to teach in Chiang Mai will determine your type of placement and schedule of work:
Public Schools - these are the poorer schools that receive little government funding. Teachers will have larger class sizes and pupils will have lower levels of education, but this is often where you will find students who are the most excited to learn. Students at public schools in Chiang Mai don’t receive as much exposure to English, or to foreign teachers, so international teachers are especially beneficial to them.
Government Schools - These are the next level up in terms of government funding, but individuals who teach in Chiang Mai at government schools will still find there is a lack of resources.
Semi Private/Government - These schools receive some funding from the government but are also privately funded.
Private - These schools in Chiang Mai that are completely privately funded, which means tuition will be pricey. However, private schools tend to have a structured English curriculum in place.
International Schools - Worldwide, this type of school is designed to be formatted and structured similar to “Western” standards of education. That being said, all classes at international schools will be taught in English and be based on a Western-style curriculum. Teachers will find that the majority of students they teach in international schools are native speakers or have years of English instruction under their belt. Teaching in Chiang Mai at an International School tends to pay well, because the schools are extremely expensive to attend. International schools in Chiang Mai typically hire fully licensed teachers with degrees in education, but experience and connections can get you a teaching job in Chiang Mai too.
Be sure to ask lots of questions when considering a contract to teach in Chiang Mai. Things you may assume are included, may not be, so identify exactly what the job DOES entail before accepting a teaching job in Chiang Mai. Ask how many contact hours are expected and which specific subjects you will be teaching first and foremost. Public, Government, and Semi-Private schools will assign classes on the basis of what is most needed at that time, even if you have no experience or background in the subject. You could be expected to not only teach English in Chiang Mai, but also Art or Biology class, for example. Although subjects outside of English would most likely be only basic courses, teachers will still have to put quite a bit of effort in to properly instructing the subject for the first time.
Other things to consider before signing a contract to teach in Chiang Mai:
- School Management Style
- Discipline Level Required of Teachers (i.e. using the “rod” is still acceptable in Thailand)
- Number of other Foreign Teachers
- School Schedule - Thai schools start at 8:30 a.m. by singing the national anthem and end at 3:30 p.m., private or international schools may vary. Traditional Thai schools have semesters that run from May to September and November to February. It is unlikely that you will go one month teaching in Thailand without having a holiday of some kind provide a day off of school, or more.
- Dress Code. Most teaching jobs in Chiang Mai will require a very professional dress code of teachers, and the kids will wear uniforms.
- Language. You don’t need to know Thai to teach in Thailand, but a few sentences are essential to getting around.
Life in Chiang Mai
The official city area of Chiang Mai is home to around 200,000 people, but it feels much larger or much smaller depending on where you’re standing. Within two hours of Chiang Mai teachers will find Doi Suthep National Park, elephant and tiger sanctuaries, hill tribe villages, and jungle expeditions. A day around the city, on the other hand, could be filled with a massage, a great cup of iced Thai coffee, a deliciously, cheap snack of Pad Thai, cooked right in front of you, or a leisurely walk through a bustling market. Depending on your travel background, keep in mind that you may need to give your stomach some time to adjust to the new spices and bacteria it will be encountering at full force when eating street food in Chiang Mai.
Salaries & Costs
The average starting salary range for certified teachers who teach in Chiang Mai is 25,000 to 35,000 baht or around $800 to $1000. This may not sound like much, but it is enough to lead a comfortable lifestyle teaching in Chiang Mai. Most teachers enjoy a nice apartment as well as cleaning and even cooking services sometimes. Teaching salaries in Chiang Mai can nearly double in a year or two, once additional certifications and experience has been acquired.
Chiang Mai is an extremely affordable city to teach abroad. You can travel across town with public transportation pretty quickly for $5 at most, and shorter journeys can cost less than $1. Chiang Mai has several daily markets that are packed with cheap and delicious food. If you want to be very frugal, you could eat three square meals a day for less than $5.
Accommodation & Visas
Teachers usually live in apartments while teaching abroad in Chiang Mai. Most teachers will be responsible for finding their own housing, deciding where they want to live, and what type of housing fits their budget. Finding housing in Chiang Mai is easy, and a decent apartment can be found for as little as 3,500 baht (just over $100) a month.
Individuals who wish to teach abroad in Thailand must obtain a visa to legally work in Thailand, but there are multiple ways of doing so. Individuals who are completing TEFL certification in Thailand will often find that their program provider will assist in preparing and submitting all application materials as part of their job placement services, if included in TEFL program costs. Many certification courses will even teach you some basic Thai to help lay the foundation for your classroom management in the future too, a benefit to keep in mind. Individuals heading to Thailand to teach for the first time will likely have full responsibility for submitting their visa application, on the other hand.
To apply for a visa to teach in Thailand, you will need to provide proof of an undergraduate degree and pass a background check, among other items. The institution you will be working with in Thailand will need to send a recommendation letter to the Thai Embassy as well. If all requirements are met you will receive a 90 day visa (the turnaround for these are quick). If planning to teach in Thailand for a longer period, you will need to apply for a more long term work visa and teaching license. The high demand for English Teachers means that the Thai government actually want international teachers to teach in Thailand, so be sure to do things the right way and your visa shouldn’t be turned down.
Benefits & Challenges
Get started! Thailand is famous for beginner teachers and ideal for getting your foot in the door. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of long term teachers, since wages are not very competitive against English teaching positions in other countries.
BOOMING Job Market. The demand for teachers is profound even by English teaching standards. There are far more teaching positions than there are teachers in Chiang Mai. Visa laws have tightened since the coup in early 2014, so the country lost many teachers without proper documentation making the market even more open.
DO NOT Take Contracts Lightly. Fulfilling contracts is a big deal and two weeks notice is not really a thing when it comes to teaching abroad. The paperwork to hire a foreign teacher is extensive and a huge undertaking for schools. The idea of maintaining “face” is very important in Thai culture too, so breaking a contract causes the school administration and the school itself to lose face. However, it is acceptable to negotiate a trial period. Try to arrange a three to four week trial before signing a year long contract if you feel unsure.
Expectations. Chiang Mai is traditional and particular about appearances. You will be a highly respected member of society as a teacher in Chiang Mai and must remember that in and out of the classroom. Even during off hours you are expected to dress conservatively and be a well-composed representative of your school.