Thailand has long been a popular destination for TEFL teachers, particularly those doing it backpacker style and aiming to see as many new places as possible on the cheap. While being a native speaker might have been the only qualification you needed in days gone by, incoming teachers have to apply for the correct visa and therefore have the correct qualifications to gain work. That said, there are a variety of positions on offer, and while experienced, qualified teachers could see themselves landing top positions as the principal of an international school, there are plenty of opportunities for those without any experience under their belt.
While Bangkok is certainly the most popular area and has the most variety of TEFL jobs, don’t overlook other locations where your wages might go a little further. The buzzing atmosphere of the capital is appealing to some, but there are also more exploitative employers in the big city. You might get a more authentic and reasonable experience elsewhere. In Bangkok, Siam Square is a TEFL hotspot and language institutes will be used to teachers turning up with a CV looking for work. Always check the location of a school carefully before you arrange an interview – Bangkok is sprawling, and you won’t be on top form if you have to spend a long time travelling on public transport without air conditioning. If you want to avoid Bangkok and tourist areas, look for positions in cities like, Khon Kaen, Nakhon Sawan, Pathumthani, Udon Thani, and Ubon Ratchathani, where competition is minimal.
- Popular locations for TEFL jobs: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Korat
- Average salary for EFL teachers: The basic monthly salary for full-time positions is likely to be in the region of 30,000 THB – 40,000 THB (£740 – £980 / $1,000 – $1,280) per month at a language school, but closer to 50,000 THB (£1,230 / $1,600) in other positions. International school positions can pay experienced teachers from 60,000 THB – 150,000 THB (£1,475 – £3,700 / $1,900 – $4,800) per month. Hourly teaching rates are usually around 250 – 400 THB (£6 – £10 / $8 – $13).
- TEFL qualification requirements: A 120-hour TEFL qualification is required for most positions
- Prerequisite university degree: A BA degree is a visa requirement
- Term times: May – October and October – March
- Currency: Baht (฿) (THB)
- Language: Thai
- Teaching programmes: The English Program in Thai Schools, University, Language Institutes, International Schools, Private Tutoring, Volunteering, Summer Camp
- Age restrictions: None
- Previous teaching experience: Not essential, but those with experience can earn more
The TEFL industry in Thailand has grown in recent years, particularly in the sphere of teaching children, as the government has introduced an English Program within Thai schools. Regulations have also tightened, ensuring that positions are filled by professionally qualified individuals rather than tourists looking to make a bit of money under the table. Thais are fun, friendly students and it’s not just the children who enjoy playing classroom games. Expect your lessons to have a focus on spoken fluency rather than accuracy, apart from Business English lessons and university roles. Despite the fun and laid-back nature of many TEFL classrooms, don’t be sloppy – you’ll be expected to dress neatly, and might be surprised to find that even at university students have to wear a uniform. Make sure you have clothing that is both smart and suited to the temperatures. As well as positions teaching children, there is also good scope for teaching to adults in the tourism industry, particularly corporate lessons at big hotels.
Positions vary greatly, and so do the salaries. A newly-qualified TEFL teacher can easily find work, but will primarily be looking at language institutes rather than higher paying positions. For those with good qualifications (a master’s degree or PGCE is sometimes necessary) and several years of experience, there will be a range of international or bilingual schools you can apply to, as well as the more lucrative language school positions. If you have experience with CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning), make sure to point this out, especially at international and bilingual schools where they’re keen to hire English teachers who can also teach something like art, math, or science in their native language.
Requirements for teaching English in Thailand
|Country||Avg. monthly salary||Degree required||Start of term||Teaching experience||Housing & flights included||Suitable for non-native English speakers||Age restrictions|
|Cambodia||£650 - £950
($800 - $1,200)
|China||£1,200 - £1,600
($1,500 - $2,000)
|Yes||September||No||Yes||Yes, if degree obtained from an English-speaking country||Under 55|
|Hong Kong||£1,600 - £2,800
($2,000 - $3,500)
|Yes||August||No||Not usually||Yes||Under 60|
|Indonesia||£700 - £1,100
($850 - $1,350)
|Yes||July||No||Not usually||No||Under 60|
|Japan||£1,600 - £2,200
($2,000 - $2,700)
|Malaysia||£900 - £1,850
($1,100 - $2,300)
|Myanmar||£1,000 - £1,800
($1,250 - $2,200)
|South Korea||£1,300 - £2,000
($1,600 - $2,500)
|Thailand||£800 - £1,050
($1,000 - $1,300)
|Vietnam||£950 - £1,300
($1,200 - $1,500)
While not as cheap as it once was, Thailand is still in the cheaper half of Asian countries, making it a popular backpacker destination as well as a top location for newbie TEFL teachers. Top tourist destinations (which include the idyllic, off-the-beaten-track rural locations and picturesque islands as well as major cities) are more expensive than the places where few visitors venture. Wherever you go, living like a local is the cheapest way to save money and have a good time. Local cuisine is great value for money, whereas Western imports have quite a different price tag. Places offering great deals might, on reflection, be tourist traps – see who the clientele are and ask for local recommendations rather than just heading somewhere with an easy-to-read menu. Great bargains can be found at night markets too, so don’t just head to the flashy shopping centres.
Even on a modest wage, most TEFL teachers in Thailand can save a percentage of their wages for the future, with some managing to put aside as much as 50% of their earnings. While the TEFL industry is still going strong in Thailand, wages haven’t increased as they have done in other Asian countries. However, the cost of living is still low and an experienced teacher will be able to find a well-paid position. Newer teachers might have to settle for a lower paying position and take on private students if they want to earn extra. For up-to-date information on the cost of living and testimonials from teachers on the ground, check out this page on the Ajarn website. Some schools offer accommodation or a housing allowance, but most teachers have to sort it out themselves.
- Accommodation: £597 – 974 / $778 – $1,271
- Utilities: £56 / $74
- Health insurance: Cost of typical visit to a GP: £23 / $29
- Monthly transport pass: £26 / $34
- Basic dinner out for two: £16 / $20
- Cappuccino in expat area: £2.95 / $3.85
- A beer in a pub: £2.61 / $3.41
- 1 litre of milk: £1.24 / $1.62
- 2 litres of Coca-Cola: £0.93 / $1.22
(living costs sourced from Expatistan)
Thailand is one of the most beautiful countries with such a rich culture. Thailand is known as ‘The land of smiles’ as this is evident especially the further you travel from the tourist tracks with Thai people always going out of their way to help you. Living and working in Thailand has allowed me to travel and see all the things I had dreamed of in England.
I have been teaching in Thailand now for nearly 4 months and have just renewed my contract to stay at this school for the rest of the year. This has been one of the most amazing, exciting and fun experiences of my life. This qualification means that I can travel the world, not just taking what I can from a country but actually giving something back. Working as TEFL teacher has allowed me to really make an impact to student’s lives and enhance mine.
James, TEFL Org graduate, taught in Thailand
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