Teaching English in Thailand: Top Tips and Advice

written by local expert Becky Rogers

Becky is an avid rock climber and outdoor enthusiast and is now living in France as an expat. When she is not writing about travel gear and various destinations she has visited during her travels, you can find her playing with her two dogs.

Teaching English in Thailand is a very popular way of making a living while traveling in Southeast Asia, and why wouldn’t it be? The country’s top industry is tourism, so there’s no shortage of positions for native English speakers, and the teaching experience is an incredibly rewarding one, as the need to speak English is so urgent. As well as the obvious need for language education, teaching also gives travelers the chance to soak up the Thai culture and learn a lot themselves. With slow traveling and staying long term in a country becoming more popular every day, there’s never been a better time to teach abroad. If you’re thinking about teaching English in Thailand, here are our top tips and advice to get you started.

Top Tips & Advice for Teaching English in Thailand

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You Have to Be Qualified to Teach English

This might seem like an obvious point but bear with me! For teaching English in Thailand, you need to satisfy certain criteria, so make sure that you are fully eligible to teach before applying to anything. To teach in Thailand you need to:

  • Be a native English speaker
  • Have a degree from a four-year university
  • A TOEIC score of 600+ or IELTS score of 5+ if you are from a non-native speaking country
  • TEFL certificate (not mandatory but helpful in getting a job)

Although it is not absolutely essential that you have previous teaching experience (many have to start somewhere!), but this may limit you to certain schools. For teaching at a university level, a master’s degree, preferably in Education, is a compulsory requirement. If you don’t have a TEFL certificate and don’t plan on getting one, you can still teach in Thailand but only as a volunteer. Some smaller schools accept foreigners as teachers, regardless if you have a TEFL certificate or not. Our advice, take the time to get your certificate. Not only will this prepare you for what’s to come, it will also give you proper training and basic teaching knowledge. Some TEFL courses even provide you with paid internships around Thailand as soon as you complete the online course. One example that we found was the

Our advice, take the time to get your certificate. Not only will this prepare you for what’s to come, it will also give you proper training and basic teaching knowledge. Some TEFL courses even provide you with paid internships around Thailand as soon as you complete the online course. One example that we found was the Teaching English in Thailand program of Premier TEFL which provides successful applicants with a paid four-month stint in Thailand.

Editor’s Note: Want to Know More about Paid Internships to Teach English in Thailand? Check out our full article

A Legit Organization Will Always Sort Your Visa and Work Permit for You

If you apply for teaching in Thailand through an organized program or school, they will sort out your visa and work permit for you! Cool right? With all the hard work and time that you will be dedicating to the schools, less hassle and paperwork is your reward! Remember that legitimate companies and schools will always process things legally. Working without a proper visa is illegal in Thailand and isn’t something you should do. If you’re not thinking of applying through an organization, you will need to obtain:

  • A Non-B Immigrant Visa – this is quite a complicated process which involves obtaining this visa first and then changing it into a work permit.
  • A Work Permit – this involves a lot of paperwork and many contracts that involve securing signatures, such as from the director of the school.

I generally suggest staying clear of schools which want you to work without the proper permits. This can get you into a lot of trouble. As there are always plenty of job options available, so do your best to stay clear of shady schools and organizations.

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You Can Secure a Job Before Leaving Home

Another benefit of teaching in Thailand is that you can secure a job before you even leave home! Yes, that’s right, no wandering the streets for job boards or handing out CVs, you can get one online whilst sitting in your pajamas! A good website for finding job listings in Thailand is Ajarn,  but you can also try other websites such as TeachingthailandLearn4good, or Dave’s ESL Cafe if you don’t have any luck.

Insider’s Tip: The school year begins in May and ends in March, so the majority of hiring is usually done the month before each term. Also, most schools will allow teachers to sign a six-month contract, so if you’re looking for a short-term position, Thailand is perfect!

When looking for jobs online, watch out for illegal recruiting agencies though as a lot of them can turn out to be scams. A lot of them promise to find you a job which will involve getting a cut from the school as a “finder’s fee” Instead, we suggest applying directly to schools through job listings. There are loads of available jobs for teaching English in Thailand so choose wisely.

Related: How to Live and Travel in Thailand for Free tips tefl job

Get your Tax Paperwork

After you’ve gotten accepted to a school, if done legally, you should have a work permit. This means that you are legally obliged to pay taxes in Thailand. The school should be automatically doing this for you but as a safety measure, we advice you to get a receipt from your school’s accounting department for the amount of tax deducted as proof.

Seasoned teachers in Thailand have found out that sometimes, school deduct taxes but don’t bother sending them off to the authorities. This can leave you in a pickle if someone questions you so to be sure, ask for a receipt every month.

Do Your Research Before Choosing Between Private, International or Government Owned Schools

So, you’re interested in teaching in Thailand but don’t know what kind of school to apply for? Now is the time to do your research; each has different certification requirements, pay rates, working hours, schedules, holidays and simple things like air conditioning. So what is it that you’re looking for? Government schools offer a simple Monday to Friday schedule with little obligation to work nights or weekends. In language institutes, some of them will require you to work nights and weekends, but the pay is often much higher.

Looking more at international or bilingual schools? These are highly recommended for experience and pay, but they are often competitive and advanced degrees are sometimes required. Here, candidates with TEFL certificate and ample experience are given more consideration during the job application process.

You’ll also have to consider communication here as well. For example, private schools are more likely to be run by a native English speaker with plenty of other expats as staff, while in a government school, you will more likely be working under a Thai director and local teachers that speak little to no English.

Insider’s Tip: While it’s tempting to apply for the first lucrative deal that you see, a little research pays off. Do a basic google search on the school. Find out if there are previous teachers that you can contact and ask about working conditions. Luckily, there are so many teaching English in Thailand forums that you can go through in order to find which schools and organizations to stay clear of. tips-tefl-kids

Dress Appropriately & Be Respectful

The Thai people care a lot about appearances, so as teachers are held in such high regard, you will need to be very wary about how you dress. By not dressing appropriately, you will soon lose control over a class and provoke a negative perception from your colleagues, so dress right! You don’t necessarily need to dress smart but these tips are essential:

  • Dress conservatively – While this might seem pretty obvious, don’t show up in a mini skirt and short shorts. The local thai people are very conservative so while they don’t expect you to dress like a nun, be smart about what you wear.
  • Men need to wear a belt – Thai teachers consider this the most important accessory. Although more senior staff wear ties, open shirts or polo shirts are completely acceptable. Just make sure you iron them first!

Apart from appearing respectable, this may seem like obvious advice, but if you’re unaware of what is considered disrespectful, then you could actually offend your colleagues without even realizing. The feet is considered one of the dirtiest part of a person so placing your feet up on a chair or stool can be considered rude by others. Something as simple as making an extra effort to respect your elders and senior staff will go a long way, so be sure to greet them with a ‘sawasdee krap/ka’. Thai people consider school hierarchy of utmost importance so do your part as you’re now part of the community. Getting to know a few basic Thai words for your local colleagues will also go a long way in helping you relate to them more.

Related: What to Pack for Thailand

Understand Thai Culture (and etiquette)

This is a requirement by the Teacher’s Council of Thailand for anybody who is considering teaching in Thailand. Why? Because Thai culture is so different to Western culture. For example, every morning, students and teachers gather to sing the anthem and raise the flag. This is a respectful act, and knowing how to behave in these situations will prevent you from offending your peers. Knowing a thing or two about Thai culture will help you build rapport with your students and colleagues, so make sure that you brush up on the monarchy, religion, customs and general beliefs.  Oh, and we should let you know that everyone in Thailand runs on “Thai time.” The way of life here is so relaxed, so don’t be surprised if things don’t operate on time.

Insider Tip: Watch what you say about politics or the King. Insulting the royal family is the worst thing you can do in Thailand, so it’s probably best to avoid this topic altogether. tips-tefl-students

You Don’t Have to Speak Thai

Many people worry that you will have to be able to understand or speak the native language, but you actually don’t! Schools actually prefer it if you don’t speak Thai, as complete English language immersion is the best way for the students to learn. The students that you will be teaching will already have learned a lot of English over the years (depending on the level), so your role of helping them practice their conversational skills and improve their pronunciation can be done regardless if you speak Thai or not. However, as mentioned, a few basic words will be helpful in speaking to local colleagues and in everyday life outside of the school area.

Plan Your Lessons Ahead of Time

This is such simple advice for people who are teaching in Thailand. If you’re new to teaching, planning helps you with the nerves. However, it also offers benefits for your students, as a structured lesson plan will help them learn, and your colleagues, as it will make it easier for substitutes to take over from you. Something as simple as a few bullet points can make a big difference, so make a good impression! There is nothing worse than entering a class with no plan on what to do. Come prepared and make an effort. Your students will see that you take their class seriously so in return, they will take you more seriously. tips-teacher

Do Not Speak Thai in Class

Obviously, if you don’t know any that’s not a problem, but if you do, try your best not to use it. Your students need to be completely immersed in English, so if they know you can speak it, they are more likely to slip into Thai when they get lazy. This is extremely detrimental to their learning, so not speaking any Thai will give them no choice other than to speak English. Trust us when we say, it’s for the best! Although we know a few basic phrases can be helpful, as a rule of thumb, try to avoid it.

Have Fun!

Last but not least, have fun with your teaching experience! As we said, Thai people have such a laid back way of living that they will actually laugh at you if you appear stressed or flustered. Enjoy not knowing what will happen every day and embrace their way of life.

Insider’s Tip: Many Thai students are known for losing concentration so try to make your lessons as fun and engaging as possible. Also, don’t ever shout! Thai’s are usually very calm and well mannered that shouting is almost inappropriate in classrooms. Instead, find alternative ways to get their attention in order to re-engage them back to the lesson.

So there we have it! Hopefully, this guide will help you on your journey to teaching in Thailand, just remember to do your research before you go and enjoy the cultural immersion experience of a lifetime. One thing is guaranteed on your teaching experience, however, is that you will automatically be accepted as an important and respected part of the community! Enjoy! tips tefl teacher happy

Need more travel inspiration for Thailand? Check out our other guides

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