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Becoming an English teacher in Thailand is one of the most popular ways to legally live in the Land of Smiles and stay there long-term. Every year thousands of people apply for teaching positions in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and other towns and cities. Despite the strict visa regulations Thailand receives a steady stream of English teachers all the time. Low cost of living, weather and laid back atmosphere makes this country a perfect expat destination.
If you are also thinking of becoming an English teacher in Thailand, here is how you can make it happen.
Finish your degree
If you want to work in Thailand the first thing you need to have is at least a bachelor degree in any subject. You don’t need to be a teacher by profession. You can be an engineer, a software developer or an artist. As long as you have a confirmation of a degree you are good to go.
Nowadays many schools look for maths, chemistry and physics teachers, so if you can teach one of those subjects it is an additional advantage as the benefits and pay are much better.
Complete a TEFL course
TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course is next thing you need to think about. There are lots of companies on the market, which provide such courses. You can complete it in the USA, or in the UK, or you can do it in Thailand. The latter option is a good way of getting to know the culture, the Thai education system and the methods of teaching. It is also much cheaper. Thailand has a few good companies to choose from. I did mine with SEE TEFL in Chiang Mai and it was great. They helped me to obtain my visa and work permit, which really saved me some time and energy. They also found me a job after the course and looked after me for almost 3 years. Their service is excellent and they are always friendly, reliable and very helpful.
SEE TEFL is the best TEFL school in Thailand for a reason. Their course lasts one month and consists of grammar input during which you review and practice English grammar – it’s great for those, who don’t remember much from school. During the first week trainees learn how to deal with discipline issues in a Thai classroom and familiarise themselves with methodology used in Thai schools. On top of that, there is one day of cultural awareness – a field trip to a temple and other interesting places and a crash course on local customs and culture. A great addition are 10 hours of Thai language.
However, the most valuable are teaching practices. Here you have a chance of teaching students at different age, from kindergarten to university. This allows you to find out more about each age group’s needs and methods used in teaching English. During my course we even had a chance to practice at a prison for young offenders in Chiang Mai!
At the end of the month trainees learn more about finding a job in Thailand, how to look for employment, how to write a good CV and how to behave at an interview.
SEE TEFL really helps when it comes to settling down as a teacher in Thailand. I must say that doing this course made me much more relaxed about finding employment and assured me that teaching is the right way to go forward.
Most of the schools in Thailand look for native speakers, but if you are from a different country and have a good knowledge of English, have required papers, then there’s nothing to stop you. It will probably take you a bit longer to find work, but it is not impossible.
If you are not a native speaker, but have a British, or a US, passport then you can apply for jobs in Thailand as a native speaker. I never admitted to be from Poland and always used my British citizenship when applying for work in Thailand.
Don’t worry about your visa and work permit yet
You cannot get a non-immigrant visa nor a work permit before getting a job. Once you secure a position in a Thai school, the administration of the school should help you out with applying for the right documents.
Choose a location and go to Thailand
Don’t send your applications from abroad. You need to be in Thailand to secure interviews. There are many people, who want to work at Thai schools and are available here and now. The recruiters won’t wait for you to arrive in Thailand.
Some people use agencies to secure a job before they even come to Thailand. This is a good solution, if you are worried about finding work. The downside of this is that these kind of institutions place their teachers in remote places. Very often you’re the only foreigner in a 100 miles radius, away from conveniences you are used and entertainment, which you start missing only after few weeks. Unless you really want to experience living in a provincial town, try to find work in Chiang Mai, Bangkok, or Krabi without using an agency to help you.
Remember to have a financial security before arriving in Thailand. Stay in a hostel first, before finding work. It will probably take you from a week up to a month to find something, so be ready to wait.
Apply for jobs
The best way of applying for work is to take copies of your CV and go from school to school. Sometimes this ends up with securing a position straight away. Remember to look presentable as Thais really pay attention to looks.
You can also look for teaching jobs online. The best website is Ajarn.com. You can also put your photo there along with your resume.
I got my job through SEE TEFL, where I did my TEFL course. Very often TEFL schools place their teachers at schools, which is another good reason to do the course in Thailand.
Other things to remember
Have some savings before you arrive in Thailand. Make sure you have enough money to last you for a couple of months if you don’t find a job straight away. Remember that you will need to pay a deposit for a flat, pay for your visa (you will probably have to leave Thailand and apply for a visa in Laos or Malaysia), buy a scooter and cover other unforeseen expenses.
Always look presentable. You can buy ‘teaching clothes’ in Thailand. A white shirt and a black skirt/trousers will be perfect for the beginning. Men need to remember that facial hair is not well perceived in Thailand.
Respect the local culture. Read a lot about what you can and cannot do. You don’t want to offend anyone on your first day at work.
Remember that teaching in Thailand is not holiday. It is hard work that will be exhausting, but also rewarding. Be prepared for discipline issues, for not being understood and for dealing with demotivated students.
You will not make a fortune in Thailand. Teachers, just like anywhere else in the world, don’t earn much here. You will be able to cover your accommodation, food and entertainment, but you probably won’t save anything, or not much.
Enjoy yourself. Teaching in Thailand might not be a long-term career choice, but it will be a great experience!
I am a member of SEE TEFL Affiliate Programme. As mentioned before, I did my course with SEE TEFL in Chiang Mai and the course not only taught me about Thai culture and about useful methods of teaching, but it also found me a position at one of the schools. I highly recommend doing your TEFL course with them.