There are many ways to earn a living in Bangkok but probably the most popular and easiest option for Western foreigners living in Thailand is Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL).

Due to Thailand’s comparatively strict labour laws it is prohibited for a non-Thai to do a job that a Thai can do.  This rules out many roles and, with a very long list of protected jobs, doesn’t give the foreigner in Thailand many options.  Of course there are expats working for big firms in Thailand but they tend to be transferred from their home country to the Thai branch of their company.  The big international firms rarely hire expats locally so if you are already over here your chances of getting hired by the likes of British Airways, Cadbury Schweppes or GlaxoSmithKline are pretty slim.  With nearly all jobs advertised in the local English language press asking for Thai nationals offers are pretty thin on the ground for the non-Thai.

Starting your own business in Thailand is an options but it’s risky and requires a lot of paperwork and jumping through hoops.  It can be done but for someone new to Thailand, probably not the best idea.

So what does that leave?  Well there is one job that most Thais cannot do and is therefore open to Western nationals and that is teaching the English language.  There are many ways to teach English as a foreign language in Thailand.  You can teach in a Thai government school, teach at a language school or you can even get a job as a subject teacher at a bilingual school as part of their English Language Programme (ELP).  There are many international schools in Thailand who pay salaries comparative to those back home but unless you are a proper qualified teacher you won’t get a look in if the school is any good.  So that brings us back to Teaching English as a Foreign Language. 

What qualifications do you need to teach English in Thailand? In order to work in Thailand you will need as work permit to go alongside your visa.   Working without a work permit is risky and if caught  you will be sent home, usually via a stay in the notorious Bangkok Hilton whilst you arrange the funds for your homeward ticket.   To get a work permit to teach English you do require a degree (in any subject) and to get a job a TEFL certificate helps.  Although, this is Thailand (TIT) where anything is possible and not having either a degree of a TEFL accreditation needed mean giving up.  In the recent past it was very easy to get a job teaching English but times have changed and you will no longer be met at the airport by people waving contracts at you and you will have to be a bit more proactive when it comes to securing a position.  Looking online is a good start but with each year there tends to be less and less jobs advertised online, or offline for that matter. Sending your CV with a covering letter and photo to as many TEFL language centres as you can is probably the most effective thing you can do for the least effort.  Not only do they run their own classes but many act as agencies to find staff for government schools so they have access to a large range of contacts. Once you have looked on line and sent out your details to language schools you should have a few leads but to get more you will need to head out on foot and visit some Thai schools.  It’s probably best to pick a few schools close to each other then head out in a Taxi dressed in your Sunday best and visit them one by one.  As you are probably a white foreigner you will not be stopped when trying to gain access to the school so just head for reception and ask to speak to someone from the English language programme.  The main problem with visiting schools is the climate in Thailand.  Do not even think of trying this on foot as you will arrive at the schools with an increasingly more dishevelled look dripping with sweat and hot and flustered.  Taxis in Bangkok at least are cheap and plentiful. 

Depending on the time of year you will probably have a job after doing all that. The Thai school year tends to stat in around October so if you arrive in Thailand in September your task will be easier.  If not, don’t worry, teachers leave all the time so there will be a job for you somewhere.  Also the language centres don’t follow the same timetable as Thai schools.

The starting pay for a new English teacher in Bangkok tends to be about 30,000 to 40,000 baht per month.  This is about £600 to £800 month.  To live off this in Bangkok isn’t too much of a squeeze but you probably won’t be able to save much and you will be watching your pennies. Pay is less living outside of the capital but so is the cost of living and if you’ve come all the way to Thailand you might enjoy your time more in a beach town than stuck in the big city that is Bangkok.

Once you start teaching you are in a good position to find private tutoring jobs to do outside of your regular teaching hours.  These typically pay about 1000 baht an hour (about £20) and can quickly bump up your monthly salary.  Even with a work permit doing private lessons outside you place of employment, where the work permit is issued for, is against the law so it’s best not to go touting yourself as a private tutor.  Ask around the school and let it be known you are open to new clients for private tutoring and a few should approach you. 

So as you can see, working in Thailand isn’t straightforward and you are quite limited as to what you can do but if you are OK with the idea of teaching there will always be a place in Thailand for you!

If you would like to know more about living and working in Thailand please visit the today.


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