Three words: Mango. Sticky. Rice. From incredibly affordable, yet delectable, street food (pad thai from a food stall is no joke) to white sand beaches galore to majestic Buddhist temples and beyond, Thailand is a dream destination for all types of travelers. In fact, Thailand is so deliciously amazing that many wish they could live there permanently. Thankfully, there’s an easy way to do just that: teaching English in Thailand! There are hundreds of schools to choose from, and with its prominence in Southeast Asia, English teachers are in high demand. So pack your chopsticks and sunscreen, get your TEFL certificate, and head to teach abroad in Thailand!
Thailand is massive, so the culture and atmosphere varies from north to south (and east to west to a lesser extent). Choosing the right location to teach English in Thailand will impact your enjoyment, so decide what you want and then look for the right place. For example, a big city will have more opportunities and a higher salary, but it may be harder to immerse yourself and can be stressful.
Bangkok, the capital of Thailand and home to the royal family, is a popular option for international teachers, and there are plenty of schools. But, if you don’t like massive cities, then this is definitely not the place for you to teach English in Thailand. With millions of people and a variety of diverse neighborhoods, Bangkok is a place to both enjoy and be cautious of at the same time. The city is home to all the modern amenities one could hope for and has a reasonable rate for apartment rentals, but it is also incredibly touristy. Just make sure to balance what you want in a teaching job versus the stress of city life.
Chiang Mai is a smaller city in the north. It has a cooler climate, more historic charm, and less of a party vibe. There are plenty of ESL teaching jobs to choose from, teaching students from kindergarten all the way through university. The cost of living in Chiang Mai is a bit cheaper than in Bangkok as well, making it an attractive place for those on a budget. Chiang Mai offers premium access to the coveted north, to cities like Pai and Chiang Rai, which are more heavily influenced by Chinese culture and are unique to northern Thailand.
Other than Chiang Mai and Bangkok, Thailand’s two largest cities, teaching jobs are available in a more limited capacity in the southern region. Cities like Surat Thani and Krabi have some teaching job opportunities, as well as access to the beautiful coast, but options will definitely be more limited and salaries will most likely be lower as well.
Teaching Jobs in Thailand
You may be surprised at how much you can do from abroad when searching for teaching jobs in Thailand. Many schools will conduct interviews over webcam or telephone so that you can have your position secured before you fly over. Before you start your job search though, consider which type of school you'd like to teach English in Thailand.
Public Schools. Education is compulsory in Thailand for children between the ages of six and 15, and there are free public schools where children learn English, amongst other subjects. While there are plenty of opportunities to teach English in Thailand, because of how many public schools there are, it’s useful to keep in mind that class sizes tend to be large and there is usually a lack of resources. Those looking to teach English in Thailand should be willing to improvise and be creatively flexible with how they handle their resources and classrooms. TEFL certifications are usually, but not always, necessary to teach at public schools in Thailand.
Private or International Schools have better facilities and smaller classes; these institutions often cater to preschool children, compulsory school age children, and students seeking some form of higher education. The pay is higher for teaching jobs at these schools, and there are more resources available to teachers than at public institutions; however, a TEFL certification and sometimes actual teaching experience is needed.
Other options for teaching in Thailand include private tutoring, language school positions, or volunteering. These options are inconsistent and have lower pay; however, there is more flexibility and variety. Volunteering as a teacher in Thailand will get you valuable experience and there are always schools looking for extra help. Private tutoring will earn you extra pay and you’ll be able to dictate your hours more freely. And finally, teaching at a language school has hourly pay, so you can work there as a side job to earn more money.
Keep in mind that some employers prefer candidates who are in Thailand already, because they know that you are committed and that you are much less likely to change your mind and dropout (which does happen). So you may want to consider traveling to Thailand first, which also gives you a chance to get to know Thailand and even to explore different areas and different cities before you make a decision regarding where you want to teach. For instance, you might decide you don’t like Bangkok and that you would rather find a smaller school near Phuket or Krabi.
Salary & Costs
A huge perk of teaching English in Thailand is the low cost of living and the strength of many currencies against the Thai Baht. However, it’s easy (almost too easy…) to get carried away; careful budgeting is required as salaries aren’t flagrant and city spending can be expensive.
Salaries vary from school to school and place to place. In Bangkok and Chiang Mai, teachers can expect higher pay than from what they would receive in smaller towns or in the southern region. As for the different types of schools, language schools tend to pay the least, public schools have a modest wage, and international and private schools pay the most. A thorough planner can live comfortably from any of these salaries, though extra cash from tutoring on the side always helps!
Though Thailand is famous for its low cost of living, you'll probably have to at least fund your flights there and back, and perhaps your accommodation, though this is often included as part of your teaching job benefits. Plus, if you're planning on traveling after your teaching stint, it's a good idea to have a little cash stashed away for excursions and any extra special souvenirs.
Accommodation & Visas
All individuals who want to teach English in Thailand will need a nonimmigrant visa, but the process and requirements will depend ultimately on your nationality. No matter if you’re a tourist or a teacher, visas are required on your passport before entering the country. For some, it’s easy-peezy, for others, it takes a little more legwork. Make sure to look at GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory to find the closest Thai embassy to you.
Housing will change per situation, but most teachers get nicely furnished apartments with air conditioning for that ever blistering Thai heat. Thai accommodations will vary based on where you decide to teach in Thailand, with nicer housing usually more widely available in the bigger cities. If you’re a whiz in the kitchen, keep in mind that many Thai residences don’t have kitchens; the majority of people just eat out, since it’s actually more affordable. If a kitchen is super important to you, make it known early-on in the placement process.
Benefits & Challenges
Trouble planning in advance. There's only so much that you can plan in advance, and at some point you're probably going to have to wing it; for instance, if the class you had planned on teaching was supposed to start August 15th, but instead was changed last minute to August 20th, remember to stay calm, think logically about what to do next, and remember that what seems like a nightmare now will become a hilarious story in a few short weeks. One of the most exciting aspects of living and teaching abroad is that you just don't always know what's going to happen. Embrace it, and have fun!
Amazing food. There’s something to be said about a place where the people don’t normally cook at home, but instead go out for every meal. The affordability and the deliciousness of every meal on the street or in a restaurant in Thailand is downright astounding. Many people coming home from Thailand say that the hardest part is leaving behind the food.
Smiles. Thailand is the Land of Smiles, and while some of the situations that people smile at may take you by surprise, in the end a lot of visitors have left Thailand in a happier mental place. Don’t be embarrassed if someone smiles at you, just return the smile, and keep on your merry way.
Thailand is one of the most popular countries in the WORLD to travel to for so many reasons. If you teach English in Thailand, you’ll have the unique opportunity to immerse yourself in Thai culture for a longer period of time than most will ever be able to. Take advantage of it and not only make money and help kids learn English, but have the experience of a lifetime.