Famous for its beautiful beaches, food and amazing weather, Thailand is the most popular destination for TEFL teachers in Southeast Asia.
English isn’t widely spoken outside of tourist hotspots and large cities like Bangkok. In fact, Thailand’s English proficiency is “very low” compared to other countries in Asia. So, there’s a lot of work to do! But that’s great for teachers because there is an abundance of English teaching jobs in Thailand all year round.
What’s teaching in Thailand really like? Here’s what you need to know from my experience teaching English in Thailand.
What do I need to teach English in Thailand?
All you need is to teach in Thailand is:
- Bachelor’s degree
- Minimum 120 Hour TEFL certificate
- Criminal background check
- Be a native English speaker/have a high level of English proficiency
- Be a passport holder from the USA, Canada, Australia, UK, Ireland, South Africa or New Zealand.
Teaching experience is not required. For this reason, along with the laidback lifestyle and beautiful beaches, Thailand is extremely popular with first-time and experienced TEFL teachers.
Getting a job is simple
Teaching positions in Thailand are plentiful, and it’s pretty easy to secure a job if you have a good attitude, confidence and a TEFL qualification. Although it’s always recommended to have secured a position before you arrive in the country, it’s not essential. Many schools advertise their teaching vacancies on the gates of their schools, and I’ve heard of people finding their jobs this way.
I chose to do a TEFL internship in Thailand with The TEFL Institute of Ireland, as I didn’t know how to begin my job search journey. I was provided with a job, accommodation and a visa. It was the easiest and most stress-free option for me.
Most English teachers will either work in a public primary or secondary school or an international school. You could be teaching at kindergarten, primary or secondary school level. It’s down to your preferences. Each group offers different experiences and challenges.
A lot of your experiences as a teacher will depend on how affluent your school is. In less well-off government schools, you may have up to 40+ students in a class. Your students are more likely to have a poor level of English. In comparison, parents are paying a lot of money for extra English lessons for their kids in international schools or private institutions. So, you will have smaller class sizes and students with a higher level of English.
An average day as an English teacher
English teachers in Thailand can expect to be in school from 07.30am-16.00pm each day. Usually, you will teach between 20-24 hours per week. The rest of your time will be spent in your homeroom, drawing up lesson plans and correcting your students’ work.
A typical day looks something like this:
07.30: Morning gate duty. You will greet your students as they arrive at school.
08.00-08.30: Morning assembly. Here students will listen to the morning announcements, perform, pray and sing the Thai National Anthem.
08.30-11.30: Classes begin, which are 45 minutes to one hour long.
12.30-14.30: Afternoon classes.
14.30- 16.00: Lesson planning and correcting materials.
Your workload will differ depending on what teaching programme you do. For instance, if you teach the IEP (Intensive English Programme) in your school, you’ll have to create up to 20 lesson plans a week. This is because parents are paying for their children to receive more English lessons. You only teach the same four class groups per week.
If you teach the ECD (English Communication Development Programme), you will only have to create five lesson plans per week. However, you will use these lesson plans to teach 20 different class groups.
Near the end of each semester, students will take part in school exams. This is when your workload will be the most intense as you create end-of-year exams, correct them and write up report cards.
There are lots of fun activities that break up the school year. These include a week-long sports week, Thai language day, school trips, and English Open House days where your students will perform dances and show off their English skills.
My advice is: Get involved as much as possible.
Low cost of living
Anyone who has taught in Thailand will admit they’re not there for the money. They’re there for the experience. If you want to make a lot of money from teaching, you won’t make it in Thailand. But that’s ok because the cost of living is relatively low.
Even though you only make around €850 (32,000 baht) a month, your wages can go a long way if you are smart about your spending. Plus, you always have the option to do private tutoring after school or teach online if you want to bring in extra income.
Accommodation ranges from $120-200 a month. You can expect to spend €1-3 a day on food from the market. Transport is also relatively affordable, and so are hostels and hotels. Even with €800 a month, you will still be able to save so you can travel around the country to your heart’s content.
Surprise, surprise kitchens are not a thing in Thailand! Nobody has one in their house. Your breakfast, lunch and dinner will revolve around the local food market. Therefore, you should never listen to tourists who say it’s dangerous to eat food from the local markets. It’s not. If food from the local market is good enough for every person from Thailand, it’s good enough for you. So, enjoy it!
It’s customary for people to buy several dishes from the market and share them with friends. Eating is a group activity. Not only do Thai people live by this phrase when it comes to sharing a meal and splitting the bill, but it also spills over into drinking. If someone buys a bottle of vodka or beer, it will get shared between the whole group. This was a big culture shock, especially for an Irish girl. Be prepared.
You can forgive having to share all your meals when you taste Thai food. It’s famous across the world for a reason. Popular dishes include pad thai, massaman curry, spring rolls, egg fried rice etc. If you are a lover of seafood, Thailand is the place for you. Seafood, fish sauce and basil are in everything.
The people are amazing
Thailand isn’t called the ‘Land of a Thousand Smiles’ for no reason. Most Thai people are lovely. They are always there to offer you a helping hand and give you advice. I had my very own Thai mammy called P Mai, who basically adopted me and brought me to tourist hotspots and helped me manoeuvre myself in rural Nangrong. I would have been lost without her.
Outside of the tourist hotspots, foreigners are not a common occurrence. So, you will get stared at, you will get photos taken of you, and you will be asked a thousand questions about your life. Embrace it.
Making friends with the locals is the best way to discover Thai culture and to integrate into the community. I joined a local bike club and went cycling with 20 people who were 30 years older than me every weekend. It was the best decision I ever made. Although I could not understand a word of Thai, I formed firm friendships with these people, and they showed me the beauty and wonders of the Thai countryside.
If cycling isn’t for you, you could join a local Muay Thai class or dance lesson. There are lots of options.
Travel around Thailand
One of the best things about teaching in Thailand is exploring the country during your summer holidays and long weekends. There’s a reason why the country is so popular with backpackers. It has everything from the mountain tops in the hippy colony in Pai up north to the elephant sanctuaries and cooking lessons in Chiang Mai. Not forgetting the sun-kissed beaches in the south in Koh Tao and Koh Phi Phi.
However, Thailand has a lot more to offer than just the recommendations included in the Lonely Planet Guide. You should always aim to explore places popular with Thai people. There are countless national parks, Buddist temples and cities to adventure in. Do your research; it’s always fun to go off the beaten track.
3 must-do festivals in Thailand
1. The Full Moon Party
Every month on Haad Rin beach in Koh Pha Ngan, there is an all-night party to celebrate the full moon. It’s a lot of fun.
2. Songkran/The Thai New Year
Each April, the Thai New Year is celebrated with a three-day-long water fight. Carloads of people armed with water pistols drive through the streets, squirting water at everyone. Expect to get soaked, and be sure to arm yourself with a water gun.
3. Loi Krathong/The Lantern Festival
This festival symbolises new beginnings and a fresh start. Adults and children make floating flower baskets and place them in a river to float away. It takes place every November.
There you have it, a glimpse into the wonders and experiences you can expect if you plan on teaching in Thailand. With gorgeous weather, a diverse landscape, and friendly people, how could you not be tempted to start your TEFL career here?
To learn more about our Thailand internship programme and life in Thailand, watch the video below and get in touch today.