Aug 10 2012

TEFL in Thailand

Published by at 1:16 am under Sights & activities

TEFL is Teaching English as a Foreign Language. This acronym describes the industry, the profession and all the courses you can take to qualify as a teacher. TEFL can be temporary or permanent. Some people do it as a career break, others a gap year as it’s a great way of earning money while travelling and discovering new cultures, and in Southeast Asia and Thailand particularly, this is a way that many finance their wanderlust.

Learning about numbers at Oonrak school.

Teaching is a very rewarding profession, and teachers are highly respected in this corner of the world. While children are generally very respectful of teachers in Southeast Asia, if the thought of teaching children brings on a sweat and anxiety attack, perhaps you would prefer to teach adult learners. There are language schools throughout Southeast Asia catering to adults, and many TEFL teachers end up at hotels and resorts, teaching English to staff.

If the thought of teaching bonzai people scares you, try adults.

Teaching hours are not long, leaving plenty of time to explore new surroundings. Public transportation is also affordable and regular in Thailand, so a teacher based in a hub such as Bangkok can effortlessly explore the area on weekends, as well as taking longer expeditions — say here or here — during school holidays.

Average teacher’s salaries in Thailand are about 38,000 baht per month for teachers with a degree, and about 32,000 baht for those without a degree. A teacher can live comfortably on such a wage, with accommodation costing about 20% of this salary. Often accommodation is included in the job package. Many teachers increase their income by offering private lessons after school hours, usually at around 300-400 baht per hour. Packages in China usually include accommodation in the form of a private apartment, meals included, and a salary enough to live on and save a bit. Although Thailand and China are the biggest employers right now, positions are also available in Burma as well as Vietnam. Those holding a four-year degree as well as a TEFL certificate can earn a good income in countries such as South Korea or Taiwan, where salaries can easily be around $4,000 per month. CORRECTION: Please see below.

Summer camp at Plai Laem primary on Ko Samui. Learning English can be fun!

What does an average TEFL course in Thailand involve? Generally speaking, they are 120 hours over four weeks, Monday to Friday, and consist of both theory and practical training. Courses include topics such as Thai culture, classroom management, phonology and phonetics, teaching pronunciation, lesson planning, grammar, ice-breakers and games in the classroom as well as various assignments such as one to one projects and making your own teaching materials. Practical training will be in the way of delivering lessons to real students, across several age groups and ability levels, from preschool through to adult, from low level to advanced learners. Lessons can be taught in a local school, language school, at a business, or students can come to the TEFL training centre for free English lessons. Most TEFL courses assist with tailoring a CV to the Asian market, as well as assistance with job placement.

Baking cupcakes and learning about taste words.

What can you expect to pay? Courses cost between 35,000 baht and 50,000 baht, excluding accommodation and flights. The course provider will usually have a recommended resort for their trainers, at a reasonable rate for a month-long stay, and with all students staying at the same place, this is a great way to make new like-minded friends to explore the surroundings with during down time — as well as possibly making a new travel buddy for Southeast Asia. Remember to bring enough money for food and expenses during your month of study, as well as for an extra two months, allowing enough time to find a job and see you through to your first pay cheque.

For more TEFL course information, see the following:
Ko Samui
Chiang Mai:

Amendment: The average English teacher salary in Korea is $2000, not $4000 as mentioned above.

Disclaimer: Our Ko Samui correspondent, Rosanne Turner, is also the director of Samui TEFL, but information provided above is general, and not specific to her course.

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6 Responses to “TEFL in Thailand” ...

  1. Lauraon 10 Aug 2012 at 2:08 am

    This is an interesting article, although I find aspects of it a little misleading. I have been teaching English in a public school in South Korea for 1 year and I’m about to begin my second year. From experience, I would have to argue that it is virtually impossible to earn $4000 per month here unless perhaps you have a M.A and Phd. The average salary for public school native teachers is about $2000. Also, I think a lot of people enter into the world of TEFL treating it as one great holiday. It’s not. It’s a job like any other. At times it’s great and at others not so great. I enjoy my job and it’s been a wonderful experience but it is hard living in an Asian country and it certainly makes me appreciate life back home. Also, I wouldn’t believe the myth that Asian school children are better behaved than Western ones. At times they can be little monsters too! Also, be prepared that sometimes your students won’t take you as seriously as their Asian teachers, unless your fluent in their native language (although I can’t imagine many backpackers looking to earn a bit of cash whilst travelling are fluent in any Asian language to be honest!)

    Teaching English is a rewarding and worthwhile experience, but for anyone serious about doing it, I’d suggest you do your research first, get qualified and try to remember that there will be times when you’re going to be homesick or lonely.

  2. Rosanne Turneron 10 Aug 2012 at 2:20 am

    Dear Laura
    Thank you for your comments. I agree with you on so many points. Teaching is not a holiday, but it is a great way to experience a new culture, and for those without a trust fund, it is a great way to finance travel. Also children are children, so agreed that they can all be monsters at times, but generally speaking, and this comes from observing hundreds of teaching pracs as well as feedback from past students now teaching, the level of respect is much higher than in Western schools.
    Also being homesick is something to consider, but that comes with travelling, and a good skype session can cure it for a while, and making new friends and forming a new ‘family’ in your new environment can also help.
    Thanks for the feedback on salaries in Korea, although we do have teachers earning higher. Generally Thailand pays less than places such as Korea or Taiwan, but the lifestyle in Thailand is more relaxed. Good luck with your second year of teaching, I hope it is fun and rewarding. Rosanne

  3. Roberton 10 Aug 2012 at 3:59 am

    I have been project managing in our local public school for years now. Have been approached by people who want to volunteer here and want to make sure all the paper work is in place.

    From the information I am getting even volunteers in a school need to apply for a work permit.

    If you know of an easier way for people who want to volunteer in any capacity please let me know.

    Here is just the beginning of what I found out

    “Applicants becoming teachers at any education organizations (national, public and private) in Thailand are required to submit documents evidence of education, no criminal records in English and a teaching license. Moreover, applicants for private school’s teacher are required to submit a letter from the Ministry of Education In Thailand.”

    “to conduct business / to work, attend business conferences, scuba diving courses, to teach, kick boxing courses (Muay Thai) and massage courses (Category “B”)”

    “Official Note certifying the purpose of travel from the Government Agencies /Embassies and Consulates / International Organizations / State Enterprises in Thailand. (“F” / “B” / “ED” / “M” / “R”) – Letter of approval from the Ministry of Labour (To obtain this letter, the prospective employer in Thailand is required to submit Form WP3 at the Office of Foreign Workers Administration, Department of Employment, Ministry of Labour Tel.02-2452745, 02-2453209 or at a Provincial Employment Office in the respective province. Further information is available at (“B”)”

  4. Heatheron 10 Aug 2012 at 8:30 am

    I also found this misleading. I taught in Korea for 3 years, and 2.2 million won (roughly $2,000USD) is standard. Even teachers that teach at universities and have Master’s degrees don’t “easily [make] $4,000 a month.” I have, in fact, never met anyone in Korea that makes that much, and I have friends that have taught in Korea for over 10 years. The only exception is someone who is a certified teacher in their home country and goes to Korea to teach at an international school – they don’t teach EFL, they teach curriculum from their country (i.e. They teach 6th grade as it would be taught in Canada). Even then, they just make close to $4,000, and the only reason they make that salary is because it’s set up as what they would be making in Canada. So, I would like to ask you, where exactly did you get your information? It’s not correct. If you can find someone making $4000, they are still very much the exception to the rule, meaning that it’s not “easily” done as you said in your article.

    Also, I did my TESOL certification in Thailand, and I have a lot of friends that teach there. The average salary for everyone I know (with a degree and a certification) is 30,000baht, and they do not get free accommodation. 38,000baht would be a high salary that is not representative of the average (as referenced from the people I know, the job boards I’ve looked at, and what the TEFL school I went to told us). Also, in Thailand, accommodation is not “often…included in the job package.” It’s quite rare to be offered accommodation as part of the package in Thailand. It is, however, almost always included in the package in Korea. Once again, where is this information coming from?

    The Thailand pay rates don’t seem to be that far off, but what you wrote about Korea is roughly twice what someone would be paid. Are you intentionally misleading people, or did you just find a misleading source yourself?

  5. Rosanne Turneron 10 Aug 2012 at 9:38 am

    Dear Heather and Laura
    Thank you for your information on salaries in Korea. I based this information on what past students, currently teaching in Korea are earning. Most of them do have ED degrees as well as teaching experience, and were therefore probably paid higher than the average. We have added an amendment to the post. As far as salaries in Thailand go, I place teachers every month, and while there are certainly many 30 000 baht per month jobs advertised, these tend to be the ones via agencies who are taking a cut of the salary. Those that are directly employed by the schools are earning 33 000 – 38 000 baht per month as stated. Some schools such as the Sarasas group do include apartment style accommodation. The teachers can choose whether to stay in this accommodation or pay for their own place if it is not to their liking. I also have several teachers placed in Chonburi where free accommodation, albeit basic, is provided. Generally speaking, most posts in China include apartment accommodation. I hope that this clarifies the points you found misleading, and thank you once again for your input.
    Kind regards

  6. Stephenon 10 Aug 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Hello all,

    I am seriously considering this path, mainly in South Korea.

    I would advise anyone thinking about this to check out Daves ESL Cafe. There are many websites out there and I have many book marked a lot of them but this stands out. Hundreds of job offers constantly updated and I would agree around 2.2m is the average in Korea.

    Many offer ‘better’ packages like bonus after a year and a higher salary if you stay on for the second year. I have met many people who did private lessons outside of school and saved a lot of cash whilst out there. I have also noticed some offer return flights. I cannot verify any of this but if you check the website you will see what I mean.

    Like a previous poster stated – it is a job. My degree was teacher focused but I am not sure I could walk straight in to this role even though my mother tongue is English. I would always advise a TEFL to give you a good idea of how to approach this new life.

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