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Choosing Your TEFL Course for teaching English in Thailand

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Joanna Horanin

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Last updated at 20/05/2024, 19:30

Hi, I'm Joanna, the author of The Blond Travels. In the worlds of Thailand and Portugal, I feel like a fish in water - and it's no coincidence! I've been exploring Thailand for over a decade, and I've settled in Portugal for 6 years now. My mission is to support Dreamers - just like you - in discovering these fascinating countries and helping those in love with them find their own place on Earth, preferably for good! Let's uncover these unique corners of the world together.

Teaching English in Thailand is an exciting adventure. For some it’s a step towards a better life, a career in education, or simply something that they want to experience. If you’re thinking of doing it, then you might need some certificates and documents. A TEFL course for teaching English in Thailand is not required by law, but it increases your chances of getting a job. If you’d like to become a teacher in the Land of Smiles, then I have lots of information for you that will help you to find the right TEFL course and move to Thailand.

Thailand is developing very quickly and the demand for English tutors is growing. Thanks to its international trade and tourism, which plays a very important role in the economy, Thai people must learn to speak English. At the moment, many schools are looking for English teachers. There are always jobs available, especially in the big cities.

It took me a few weeks to read reviews and send emails to various places in Thailand. I knew what I wanted from the course and I think I chose one of the best possible options. My 4 weeks TEFL course was intense, but so rewarding. I have a feeling that I spent my money in a good way. My school also found me a job and I spent almost 3 years teaching English in Chiang Mai. It was a wonderful, amazing time and I would do it again without a question. You can read some of my stories about teaching in Thailand here.

As mentioned before, TEFL certificate is not required by law, but it’s very useful to have it. In this post I will tell you more about how to choose the right TEFL certificate for teaching English in Thailand, so you can also move to the Land of Smiles.

Understanding TEFL

TEFL stands for teaching English as a foreign language. This is usually a 4-week course which teaches you the basics of teaching in classroom. Normally, it consists of 2 weeks of theory (learning how to teach grammar etc.) and 2 weeks of practice. It will look different if you study online.

It’s ideal if you haven’t done any teaching at all before.

At the end of the course you get a certificate.

This course and the certificate help to get a job abroad. This is usually a minimum required by schools all over the world. If you want to teach English in Thailand, this is something that is worth doing. Some schools are very strict when it comes to which certificates they want their teachers to have. Others don’t mind, they only need to see that you’ve done one.

Having a TEFL certificate increases your chances of getting a good job at a good school.

Teaching English in Thailand – Requirements

In order to legally work in Thailand, you need a visa and a work permit. To get those, there are some requirements that are set by the government.

  • Education – you need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in any subject. Degree in teaching or anything connected with the English language is a plus. You will need to submit your diploma and your transcripts.
  • Being a native speaker or having a language certificate – You need to have a passport from a native English language country. If you are a citizen of a different one, you need to pass TOEIC (score of 600) or ITELS (score of 5+). Check this before you apply as some countries (like South Africa) are not considered to be native English speaking. If you are not a native speaker, but have a passport from countries like the UK or the US, you are considered to be a native speaker.
  • Clean background check, which you can get from your country of residency.

Except that you will need to prepare:

  • Passport photos
  • Valid passport
  • Visa application

A TEFL certificate is an asset, an addition and is not required by law.

Choosing your TEFL course

It’s good to do some research before you apply for any course. A lot of better courses are expensive and take a lot of time, so it’s good to know what you’re spending your money on. Others are cheap and it’s also OK to do something that is less thorough. It all depends on what you want and how you want to approach it.

Think about your expectations. What do you want to get out of the course? Do you want to spend 4 weeks on the beach, sipping cocktails and occasionally study (which sounds nice, I admit), or do you want to learn something and become a good teacher?

You can sign up for a TEFL course online. Some colleges in England and other Western countries provide 4 week courses and they seem to be very popular as normally students trust them more. However, if you want to go and teach in countries like Thailand it is better to study there. The reason is simple – Thais want to employ people, who are culturally aware, they know how to ‘wai’, how to behave, who the ‘pou yai’ is etc. etc. Your TEFL course in Thailand should have one day cultural awareness day, where they teach you all those things.

I highly recommend SEE TEFL, which is by far best TEFL course in Thailand at the moment. They really look after their students and try hard to teach them the most important things and prepare them for their future jobs. Thanks to them I found my first position in less than a month and I didn’t have to think about my visa application, nor work permit. Read more about my experiences with SEE TEFL.

Visit the website of the companies. Read what they are offering. Usually the course shouldn’t be shorter than 3 weeks. It is even better if it’s 4 weeks. Do they have any teaching practices included? If so, how many hours and where exactly? The more variety there is the better. The teaching practices should include teaching all age groups, from kindergarten to adults. Does the company offer to book you accommodation and help with visas? Do they have photos of graduates? Do they use social media? If so, follow them and check what kind of information they put there.

Pro Tip: Read reviews. Go to Ajarn.com and read about different schools. Check their job boards. Usually you will see a pattern – schools ask for some particular TEFL courses. You will get a better idea of which to do.

Contact the companies with inquiries. Ask about everything, even if you think it’s silly. If they reply and you feel like they sent you a generic email then cross them off straight away. You want a personalised message that seems to be written just for you and answering all your questions.

Ask the company to give you contact details for the previous graduates and email them. Most of the companies ask their students for permission to contact them in case they have any questions. Ask them how hard it was for them to find a job, was the course worth the money etc.

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    Level 3 or Level 5?

    When researching your TEFL courses for teaching in Thailand, you will find out that there are at least 2 kinds – level 3 and level 5. Both are good to do, but level 5 has more learning hours and is more thorough. If you have never taught before, then doing this one is the best.

    Accreditation for TEFL certificates

    It’s good to check if your TEFL school is accredited by an organisation such as TQUK, ACCET or universities such as Cambridge University. British Council is also one that is well-known.

    If a school has ISO 9001:2015 this is also a good sign.

    In Thailand TEFL schools are normally accredited by the Thai Education Ministry.

    What should your course include?

    Ideally, if you can, do a stationary course, where you can attend lessons in person. This will give you a student’s perspective and give you a chance to meet trainers.

    Your 4-week TEFL course should consist of theory work. During the sessions you will learn about English grammar and vocabulary. It seems trivial, but you would be surprised how many native speakers don’t know anything about their own language. So, here you will learn about tenses and sentence structure.

    There will be mock lessons, too. You will have to stand in front of everyone and pretend that you’re at work. You will teach your colleagues grammar and vocabulary.

    Stationery courses provide practice at schools. This is really invaluable and a perfect solution for people who have never taught before in their life.

    Online courses don’t have teaching practices or they might offer some kind of online teaching. Stationery courses offer practices with live students, which to me was an amazing experience. It gave me an insight what age I’d like to teach and trained me to prepare for the lessons.

    I think doing a TEFL course in Thailand is even better. Thai culture is different and the employers choose their teachers not only based on their resume, but also on looks and behaviour. It’s really good to go through the teaching practices in Thailand and learn a thing or two about the country and its people as well.

    Cost and duration

    Your course will take maximum 4 weeks. Level 3 course has 120 hours of studying, level 5 has around 160 hours.

    The cost depends on the type of your course. It can cost around $2,000 – usually stationery courses are much more expensive. Online courses are cheaper and will cost you between $150-$300.

    Stationery vs online courses

    As discussed before, a stationery course will definitely give you more. It is more intensive and more hands-on. Here you will have a chance to talk to the trainers, get to know other people who want to become teachers, and have lessons in-class with real students.

    To me, teaching practices at Thai schools during my certification with SEE TEFL were a great way of checking if this job is actually for me. We had 2 weeks of teaching every age group and thanks to this I knew that I wanted to teach teenagers and adults.

    This 4 Week TEFL Training Course in Chiang Mai will prepare you to teach English as a foreign language. Thanks to SEE TEFL’s job guarantee for graduates as well as classes on Thai language and culture you won’t find a better course to kickstart your new life as an English teacher.

    SEE TEFL has one day of cultural understanding, during which they tell you about Thai culture and take you to temples to make merit. It’s a nice extra day, which is a wonderful familiarisation with the country.

    I have never done an online course. I’m sure that they provide value, too, but this is more theory than practice. You will also learn some grammar and some practices. They will show you how to prepare lessons and how to behave at schools.

    Cultural sensitivity and language understanding

    When living in Thailand, you need to be aware of the cultural norms. It’s very important to Thai people and they really pay attention to how their teachers behave and if they respect their culture.

    If you are not doing your TEFL course in Thailand, do some research before you come here. It’s important to getting your first job and feeling at home.

    Thais don’t expect you to know the language. They realise it’s hard. However, it’s worth learning a couple of things before. TEFL schools in Thailand should provide you with a chance to learn some basics. Knowing how to introduce yourself and order your food might help you break the ice with your future colleagues and boss.

    Finding a job in Thailand

    If you fulfil all of the requirements and have a TEFL certificate, finding a job won’t be that hard.

    If you do your TEFL course in Thailand then your school might be able to assist you with finding employment. Even if they don’t to it officially, the owners and your tutors will know people at schools and will have a rough idea who’s looking for teachers.

    What did I do?

    I did my TEFL course in Thailand. So, I went online and created a list of schools I wanted to check.
    I messaged them one by one. Most of them sent me a generic response, which was clearly copied and pasted from a template. Only SEE TEFL from Chiang Mai replied with a personal message. They even put me in touch with a person who had graduated from their school and now worked in the city. This was mostly why I decided to do the TEFL course in Thailand with SEE.

    My experience was amazing and I really recommend them.

    Summary – Choosing your TEFL course

    Choosing your TEFL course is not an easy task. It all depends on what you want and what you expect to get out of it. For me it’s really good to do the TEFL course in Thailand if you want to teach there. It’s also worth spending a bit more to make sure that you are prepared for your work.

    Wishing you all the best and I keep my fingers crossed for you!

    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. If you found this article useful, please mention my blog when booking your course, or reserve your place through this link