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Thailand... superlatives gone wild! Visit the world's largest Buddha, go to the world's largest crocodile farm, find the world's smallest mammal, the Craseonycteris thonglongyai, all while teaching in Thailand. While there, you will never run short of things to do, whether it be eating delicious Thai cuisine, witnessing interesting Thai culture or teaching your fun and energetic students.
Different types of locales will offer different teaching positions - be sure to select a post that you will be most comfortable with. Here are the different types commonly chosen by ESL teachers in Thailand:
While they were the primary employer of English teachers in the past, the most common employer are now public schools. If you apply for work at a private institution, ask how long they have been in business because many come and go due to the difficult business environment. Working in a private language institution can result in a more erratic schedule to accommodate business people (early morning) and students (afternoon and evening). Class sizes are generally small (around 10 students per class). Teachers may be able to earn additional income by offering private tutoring to their students for around 300-700 baht/hr but be aware that some contracts prohibit private tutoring and schools will fire teachers for "stealing their customer."
Teaching at a university is highly prestigious and comes with few contact hours (10-12 hours per week). However, the salaries are similar to the salaries of public school teachers and professors must have at least a Bachelor's degree, usually higher. The high prestige allows many professors to obtain other work and supplementary income while teaching at the university.
Most teachers teach in public schools and can expect to receive training from the Thai Ministry of Education. Depending on the region, the resources available could range from limited (in poor areas) to modern. Expect to have many large class sizes (around 50 students in a class) but also expect many days off (2-3 months off fully paid per year). The numerous tests Thai students take (4 weeks of testing per year) further cuts into teaching time. While students might normally be stressed over tests, teachers cannot fail any Thai students. If a student fails a test, the student retakes the test until he/she passes.
The Thai school year is composed of two semesters starting May and November respectively. Semester breaks are on April and October. Finding a job in a popular city, such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai, might be difficult due to the competition but otherwise, finding a teaching job in Thailand is fairly easy.
Private institutions hire year-round but public schools and universities generally recruit teachers from March-May. Schools may also need to hire replacement teachers during the mid-year break in October. You can also look for a job throughout the year but try to avoid looking for one from December-February.
A Bachelor's degree in any discipline is generally required. In the past, this requirement was laxly enforced but the Thai government is enforcing the regulation more strictly. Teachers should bring their actual university diploma to Thailand but should always keep the original copy in their sight. If the school needs to bring the original copy to the Thai government, ask the school official to allow you to accompany him/her. Many schools are disorganized and have a tendency to lose important documents. A teaching qualification (such as TEFL) and/or a prior teaching experience is not required but Thai schools give preference to teachers with prior teaching. Thai schools also prefer native English speakers and Caucasians (over Asians and blacks).
Teachers in Thailand will have to obtain a Non Immigrant B Visa before entering Thailand but the provider or school will help you with the process. Then, after arriving Thailand and being granted an initial 90-day stay permit, teachers should apply for a work permit.
With a very low cost of living, teachers can live elegantly in Thailand with a monthly salary of around 16,000-50,000 Baht. Don't expect to get as rich as your fellow teachers in Japan or Taiwan, but you will learn why Thailand is called the "Land of Smiles."
When not working, teachers can experience the wonders of Thai cuisine, ranging from fried eggs to poached shrimp (always with a side of rice!). Wash it all down with a fresh mango smoothie.
Teachers will generally find housing by themselves, though some schools might lend assistance. Apartments usually meet Western standards and have air conditioning. Internet might not be available in apartments but are available on campus or internet cafes (for around 60 baht (US $1.50) per hour). You will have to pay for your airfare to Thailand but most schools/providers will reimburse you for your return flight home if you teach in Thailand for at least one year.
Do you think there is something missing in our guide to teaching in Thailand? Contact us and let us know! We want to make sure our information is relevant and up to date.
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