If I had a dollar for every person who commented, “I wish I were brave enough to do something like that” when I told them I was moving to Thailand to teach English, I wouldn’t have to teach English! But in all seriousness, I’m writing this article to let you know that it’s not that scary.
I was a pretty typical 20-something, I graduated from university and I worked for a few years in different companies doing administrative tasks. Nothing ever made me feel like I was making a difference. I was barely making ends meet and I was living for the weekend.
At the standard weekly happy hour, a co-worker mentioned her cousin or some random connection that had gone to teach in Thailand. It must have hit me at just the right time because that night, I went home and did some Googling and there was no looking back. Here’s what I learned, what I did and how you can get started:
Requirements to Teach in Thailand
- Bachelor’s degree in any subject area (it doesn’t have to be English)
- Clean criminal record
- Basic health check
- TEFL certification (not required but preferred by almost all schools and certainly anywhere with a good reputation)
- Non-native teachers can work in Thailand but you usually need to prove your fluency with a TOEIC/IELTS score or verifiable references
The first step is to get a 120-hour TEFL certification; you don’t need more hours than this, but the Thai school standard is 120. After doing lots of research, I narrowed my decision down to a few courses. Before choosing a TEFL certification, make sure another option isn't actually better for you. See the difference between TEFL, CELTA, TESOL, etc before making a decision by checking our guide to teaching English acronyms.
In terms of TEFL, here is a LOT of junk out there so take some time to read, not just buy the cheapest course you see. I wanted a course that made me feel actually prepared to teach, not just a piece of paper.
I opted for TEFLPros for several reasons. First of all, they are the highest rated course on GoOverseas and GoAbroad which are both trustworthy resources for graduate reviews, so that was a pretty good start. It’s a smaller company that has been around for about 4 years, but don’t let that relative “newness” dissuade you. Their fresh and very transparent approach to TEFL was something no other course had. Also, I could try a module for free so I knew what I was getting into.
The course is accredited and even though I was planning to teach only in Thailand, I could use it elsewhere if I wanted, or online. It was affordable at $349. But most importantly, I at least knew that even if all these other things were changing in my life, at least I felt really prepared to enter the classroom (of course, I have since learned a lot more!).
What’s included with TEFLPros?
- Internationally recognized and accredited TEFL certificate (accredited by Accreditat)
- Many videos (45+hours): almost 18 of which are actual classes of Thai students with real teachers
- A hard copy certificate mailed to you anywhere in the world
- Lifetime job assistance at no extra cost (to be honest, their help was great but for Thailand, you don’t need the help of a TEFL company)
- 101 Activities book
- Facebook support group of nearly 10,000 people
- 18 months access to the course materials from your registration date from any device that has internet (yes, I did a whole module from my phone on a family vacation)
- Incredible support (I can’t say enough about this considering what a big change it all was)
- One-on-one feedback on all of my work from one of their certified teacher trainers
- I graduated with a portfolio of lesson plans that I could use in my classes and more importantly on interviews
When can I start?
The TEFLPros course takes about 3-5 weeks to finish. As far as a hiring season, you can start any time really because there is constant turnover. However, there is a hiring spike in July/August for an October semester start, and again in December to replace teachers who have left. School break is from Thai New Year, mid-April, through late September. With that being said, some schools have a totally different schedule that doesn’t fit this model at all. Universities are all on an August-May schedule. Plus, there are lots of private language institutes and corporate things that run all year. There’s a high demand all year.
What do I need to get hired?
- Valid passport
- Original copy of your university diploma
- Medical check (done in Thailand)
- Original copy of your TEFL certificate
- English proficiency test scores if applicable
- A smile! (Thai people love smiles)
I’ll start out by saying that TEFLPros offered me some fantastic resources for my job hunt and assured me that if I just follow these steps, I don’t need the TEFL company to place me in a job. Their line was always open for consultation, questions, help with resumes etc. More like a trusted friend who had your best interest at heart. This freedom terrified me, especially when other courses had all this “guaranteed job” stuff. And you know what, TEFLPros was absolutely right, despite all my anxiety.
One of the reasons why teacher turnover is so high is because people get “placed” in schools that turn out to a poor fit for them. This can occur from lack of research, or simply going with whatever a TEFL company suggests. In contrast, TEFLPros doesn’t take any money from schools or you for their help. This is probably why GoOverseas rated them as the number two course for job assistance out of all TEFL courses, online and in-person.
When I started putting my resume into a few job boards or emailing schools directly, I was overwhelmed with the response. It gave me the power to choose the school that would actually be the best for me, which interestingly is what all the experienced teachers know to do. So, my advice here is just to be aware of that “guarantee” and don’t let your fears pigeonhole you into a job provided by the TEFL company.
Finding a job
As I mentioned, TEFLPros gave me some great resources. I don’t want to give away the recipe for their secret sauce, but if you do a little bit of searching for job boards, Facebook groups and just contacting schools directly, you will be in good shape.
If you're more interested in volunteering in Thailand see how you can land a gig volunteering in Phuket.
I bought my ticket, now what?
Because there are SO many tourists, there is a lot of cheap temporary housing in Thailand. I’d recommend going as a budget tourist to start (almost all teachers come in on a tourist visa). Get an Airbnb or stay at a hostel and meet some people as you gain your bearings on the city/country. TEFLPros gave me lots of resources to find housing but honestly a good old-fashioned walk around the neighborhood will yield some good results for apartment options.
What about my visa?
Your school will handle all of the paperwork for you on their end. Make sure you have your diploma, TEFL, medical check (they will help with this), police check. Next is the fun part, you will have to actually LEAVE Thailand and go to Laos (or another country) to process your visa. This is so common that there are visa run companies who will take you and hold your hand through the process. And then voila, you have your non-immigrant B visa and your school will get you a work permit.
And once I’m in the classroom?
For the most part, Thai students are wonderful. They are respectful and really fun. Thai teachers are helpful and after they get over their initial shyness, can be a great resource for you. Foreign co-workers will also likely become some of your best friends. With that being said, classrooms are typically overcrowded, maybe 50+ students. Your resources aren’t always great and you’ll see Thai English teachers making blatant mistakes.
The pay will give you a comfortable life, but you aren’t going to be getting rich. Between $1000-$2000 per month is pretty typical depending on what part of the country you are working in; but remember the cost of living is MUCH lower (rent is $300/month or less).
Teaching abroad is such a wonderful experience. You will learn and grow so much and Thailand is an incredible place for this journey. Best of luck to everyone who is just starting out, and get ready to be told that you are so brave!