Whether it should be or not, English is one of the most important languages in the world. It is important for business, important for education, science, philosophy, religions, everything. And learning English is an important endeavor for any Asian that wants to advance in their career. Consequently, there is a big demand for native English language speakers to teach English in most of Asia, including Thailand. There is a shortage, and English language schools often have to hire non-native English speakers, like Filipinos, Kenya (after all, the American President was born there) and various European countries that are not native English speaking countries. What comes naturally for an American or a Brit or a Canadian or an Aussie is not easy and not always correct coming from an English teacher that originated from non-English language countries.
Right now, for native English speakers, teaching is the easiest job in Thailand to get with a decent amount of income.
So if you are a recent college graduate in the US having trouble finding a good job (which is the norm during this current American depression), it may be smart to consider taking a year or two or three and becoming an English teacher in Asia. The experience will widen a person’s perspective of life, with new adventures in exotic places, plus be a positive addition on anyone’s resume for future endeavors, and could also be a lot of fun. Becoming an English teacher in Asia is not a difficult task to achieve, and the pay is enough to support a single person easily (albeit not luxuriously) in their newly adopted home.
Teaching in Thailand can be especially rewarding. Unlike many (most?) places in the USA, teachers in Thailand are highly respected by both parents and kids. And if a teacher did not want to deal with kids at all, there are many opportunities to teach adults English in Thailand. English teachers in Thailand are expected to be clean cut and well presented. Sloppy dressers, with an unruly beard and messy hair and a “stoner” attitude will not find it so easy (that would actually rule out about a 10 to 20% of the public school teachers that were employed in my old California home’s local high school).
The majority of foreigners teaching English in Thailand are male, so there is a big demand for female English teachers, especially for positions teaching younger kids.T
Teachers in Thailand do not generally have stressful hours. There are loads of holidays for schools, and plenty of time also on weekends to explore the country. The most opportunities in Thailand are, of course, in Bangkok, but it is not difficult to find a position in a smaller city, such as Chiang Mai or Rayong that could be more interesting.
Working full time, an English teacher in Thailand with a college degree will earn between 32,000 and 38,000 Thai Baht per month (that works out to about USD $1050 to $1226 per month). With average rents running around $250 a month for a nice place in Chiang Mai, and similar comparisons elsewhere, that income may seem small but is more than adequate for living in Thailand. Sometimes, schools will provide housing for their teachers at no cost (albeit Spartan). There are also lots of part time teacher opportunities for the less ambitious.
Usually there is a strong demand for teachers to give private lessons outside of the school, and teachers are sometimes able to increase their income by double with this moonlighting work. Typical charges for private lessons are about 300-400 Baht per hour, and many teachers have a small class of perhaps 3-5 kids in their home learning English at about 200-250 Baht per hour per kid. (31 Thai Baht to 1 USD).
After a teacher has explored as much as they want in Thailand, it is easy to switch to a different Asian country, like China or Korea to do the same thing there (and those two countries usually pay substantially more for English teachers than in Thailand). And there is talk that many new teacher opportunities will be coming in Burma (or Myanmar if you prefer) and Vietnam (which is already on the fast track to do business with the West).
After a few years, perhaps the economy in the US will improve (however, I am not too optimistic), and you can pop back with a better resume and more experiences that will help to procure a good job back home.
In order to teach English in Thailand, a person must have a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate. Once you have earned the certificate, it is good for life. It about 120 hours of teaching instruction plus the passage of a standardized test. There are plenty of TEFL courses available in the US and in Thailand, many done primarily online. Course tuition can range from $500 to $3000 USD, and like anything, you get better quality with a bigger investment. Make sure your school is accredited, and try to get one that will have job placement for you upon completion. Be aware that there are plenty of unaccredited schools out there that will not prepare you to go to an exotic place like Thailand and be ready to start teaching.
If you do a Google search of TEFL courses in your area, you will get hundreds of private schools providing the training. Prices vary by an incredible amount. It is best to visit some of these schools nearby and get the straight story from them, and then do some comparisons. Most public universities also offer TEFL training, and that may be better and cheaper.
Online courses offer the courses at a much lower cost than hands on classroom instruction, but may be inadequate for many that need the stronger training. plus you cannot expect a lot of personal attention.
You can also take TEFL courses in Thailand, and there are plenty of schools for this in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. The difference in the training in Thailand is that it is pointed specifically to teaching in this country, so you would also get training in Thai culture and real experience in dealing with Thai students, and the schools can assist in getting you a teaching job in Thailand (most good students in a good Thai TEFL course go right to work upon completion). These schools will help you get set up in the country with a bank account, provide accommodations while attending the school and many other things to help get launched into teaching and living in Thailand. Costs for good TEFL training in Thailand would typically run from 35,000 to 50,000 Thai Baht (USD $1130 to $1610).
RECOMMENDED SCHOOL: UniTEFL International is an accredited training school with a course of 120 hours over four weeks to get your TEFL Certificate. The school is located in Chiang Mai, within walking distance of Chiang Mai University, and is located in an area with hundreds of available apartments that rent for around $300 a month or less, and the school even has a program that can provide you with some money for rent while going to the school. Upon completion, UniTEFL has immediate job placement within Thailand for those completing the course. Native English speakers are especially encouraged, but good English speakers from other countries are also welcome. Cost for the entire program is about $1400 USD (45K Baht). Contact this blog directly in an email with your name and phone number (so that we can register as having referred you), and information about the school will be emailed back to you immediately: email@example.com. When you sign up at UniTEFL, and you have this website as noted as the referrer for the school, we will give you an extra 1,000 Baht on your first day.
Do you need to be a college graduate?
No, but not having one will reduce the amount a school will pay you, plus it may be more difficult in finding a good teaching job. Fewer and fewer schools are wanting non-college grad teachers. It does not matter very much what kind of college degree you may have, but it must be legit. If you have a post grad degree (Masters or higher) from an American University, you will have huge advantages in getting a job and with pay. But if you are stuck right now in the US or in Europe with a degree and there are no jobs available right now in your area of study, teaching English in Asia for a couple of years is a good alternative that will enhance your resume and personal experience.
Beware: there are lots of Western expats wandering around Thailand with phony degrees, and once they are brought to light, it will be difficult to get another job. Having a diploma mill sheepskin used to be done a lot, but now, fortunately, this practice is getting the light of day, and employers and customers are becoming more aware of this.
If you have been a public school teacher in the US and are now unemployed (so many have been laid off over the last couple of years), teaching in Thailand may come as a very welcome break. Your skills and background along with a TEFL certificate will put you in big demand here. Plus you will be escaping the stress of the current economic situation in the US.
For those that have decided to come to Thailand to teach, they must hook up to this website, Ajarn.com. Ajarn is the Thai word for teacher, and this site has all the resources a potential teacher may need, including lists of TEFL training centers in Thailand, job listings, guides for TEFL teachers and even a very good forum where you can get questions answered. This site should absolutely be bookmarked.
If you are in this business right now in Thailand, it would be good to get your feedback on teaching English in Thailand, and we welcome your comments.
F.Y.I. - Here are some current job listing for English teachers in Thailand that are native born English language speakers and have a TEFL certificate: Link (Note: current exchange rate 31.5 Thai Baht to a dollar. So a salary of 35,000 Baht will equal a little over $1,111 USD per month).
Fluency in English necessary for AEC (ASEAN Economic Community) - The Nation Newspaper (Thailand) – 01 December 2012