For those of you who are thinking about taking the plunge…
I have attempted to answer the most common questions I receive. There are many stories on the internet. I have read and heard many terrible things. Please bare in mind that my advice comes from my own personal experience and that your experience will likely differ from mine. I’m merely here recounting my journey and trying to help answer your questions as best as I can (trust me I had many too!)
Will I be able to find work if I don’t have a degree?
Your chances of finding a decent teaching job are better if you have a degree. You do not necessarily need to have a degree in Education/ English. I personally only have my Undergraduate, and it’s in Psychology.
You will still be able to find work if you don’t have a degree but bare in mind that you will be working illegally! Also, your pay will be lower than that of a degree-holder.
Make sure you do a TEFL/TESOL course – even if it’s just 120 hours online. It helps to have the knowledge and training under your belt, and employers like to see that you have it. It will definitely benefit you in finding work.
I did my TEFL at a centre in Chiang Mai over a 3 week period and was employed before even completing the course.
If you’re flying in to take the TEFL, I recommend arriving a few days before the course begins. Your body will need some time (a couple days at least) to adjust. Jet lag is real, and so is culture-shock😅 at least – it was for me!
What starting salary can I expect once I get a job?
It depends on many factors. Foreign teachers are payed according to their experience and qualifications – as with any job. However there are many reasons why you will get employed in Thailand.
I would say that the most important factor that employers look for is that you come from a native English-speaking country. Americans, Brits, Aussies, Kiwis… you have it easy in this country!
Us South Africans struggle just a tad because, not only are we not from a first world country, we are registered as having 11 official languages – making it difficult for employers (and Thais in general) to understand how English can be a native language when we apparently speak 10 other languages! Also – many South Africans have a strong Afrikaans accent which is difficult for a second-language-aquisition student to grasp.
Starting salary can generally be between 20 000 to 50 000 baht. Your salary may be slightly lower to begin with until you pass probation, after which it will rise by maybe 2000 baht. A job in Bangkok could get you a starting salary of 50 000 baht – which is crazy! A damn good salary considering you only need around 15 000 to survive.
Just as a point of interest: in the land of smiles, your smile will go a long way! Thais have been known to hire and fire people for their smile (or lack of smiling happy disposition thereof)!
Any experience counts in some way or another. I’ve found myself using skills I picked up doing hobbies such as dancing or drama… Generally, from what I’ve noticed at my school, they tend to hire people with Health/Biology/Nursing/Science/ Psychology degrees. Of course, a degree in Education is sought. Also, IT skills go a long way.
I am required to use technology as a teaching tool at least once a week per subject. I never really had to use Excel but I’ve been forced to learn as that is where assessments are recorded.
Once completing the course what will happen next?
Recruiters will need to get a hold of you in some way. The centre I did the course at recorded a short clip of me speaking. That, along with my c.v. became my profile – which I suppose was sent out to recruiters. The school that ended up hiring me reached out because their English teacher unexpectedly ended her contract before end of semester, and so they needed a replacement asap.
The school then asked to have a Skype interview with me. It ended up merely being a phonecall where I wasn’t actually interviewed at all, but merely offered the position. In no time, I was emailed the contract and – BOOM instant employment! This is seriously how quickly and easily it happened. But again – my experience. Some people have had trouble.
It was a very rare time of the year for me to get placed – especially at an international school and in a coastal location. I was quite lucky in this sense, also because I was contracted directly with the school and not through an agent (who would take agent fees).
There are more jobs than there are teachers in Thailand though; so do not despair! You can go online and start searching for teaching jobs that suit you. I personally recommend Ajarn.com as you can create and post a c.v./resume onto the site where employers will be able to discover and reach you. You, in turn, will be able to reach out to them😁.
How does the job placement work, is placement guaranteed?
The institution that I did my course through promised placement for every person who completed the course – and yes, every person was placed. Some had to go through the agent who worked for our training facility. They seemed disappointed, however, by the fact that the agent ended up taking a large cut of their salary every month for just the mere fact that they found them the job to begin with.
As mentioned before, I was lucky to be contracted directly with the school that hired me. Therefore, I never had to deal with a money-hungry middle-man (a.k.a agent).
I started on a Tourist visa which I obtained from the Thai embassy in South Africa. A Tourist visa grants you 3 months stay in Thailand, after which you will need to extend for another 30 days at immigration. Extension costs 1900 baht. You can extend a further 7 days after this, which will also cost you 1900 baht.
Can you explain what is meant by border runs?
A border run is when you leave the Thai border in compliance with your visa expiration date. This simply means that you leave the country before your visa expires. I did my visa run with a company called Meesuk Tours. It was a 9 hour drive to the border of the neighbouring country of Laos. It took 3 days to process my visa, and I was well on my way back into Thailand with legal status and another 3 months allowance in the country.
What will the dress code be, and will I struggle to find clothes that fit?
The dress code is a big deal – at least, it is at my school! Teachers are part of a hierarchy in Thailand and therefore have to dress in a respectable and conservative manner. Also, the fact that it is a Buddhist country adds even more to the importance of dressing in this way.
When I began working for my school, teachers wore only black. This was because of the late king’s passing, and so, the country was in mourning and we were to wear black out of respect.
After the cremation, our school gave us different-coloured golf shirts with the school logo. We are to wear white on Mondays, Wednesday’s and Thursdays. Tuesday’s we wear the navy blue shirt, and on Fridays the sports shirt.
The ladies need to wear a black knee-length skirk and can get away with wearing black pants – so long as they’re not too tight. Seriously, I have been told I look “too sexy” for wearing black leggings 😯. Tattoos and piercings cannot be visible.
Thais are small in stature and, for this reason, anyone over size 8 is considered fat 😓 Going shopping can feel like browsing through a selection of doll clothing! Though, there are international stores such as H&M and Mango… you shouldn’t have trouble finding clothes as Thais are all about shopping and appearances.
It depends on where you end up living, of course, as if you are placed in a very Thai rural area then you’d probably struggle. There would be markets but the clothes found there are usually one size. If you’re tiny and like Korean style fashion, you won’t have a problem. Shopping will not be an issue in Bangkok, or if you end up in an expat town like Hua Hin.
Will I be able to survive on a teaching salary?
Just don’t spend more than you make 😁 What I mean by this is that you should live within your means. Of course, this applies to any job and goes without saying, really 😁
That’s all (for now)
Good luck with your adventure!