How to Get a Teaching Job in Thailand
Want to teach in Thailand? Here's what to do.
This advice is still 100% relevant now, near in 2017.
I'm not one to do things by halves. This is a comprehensive guide on how to get a teaching job in Thailand.
Everything in this post is based on my own and friend's experiences.
A note about what the term 'qualified teacher' means in Thailand:The term 'qualified teacher' is used in Thailand to mean a teacher who has a degree in education. If you have a degree in any other subject, and a TEFL, CELTA or TESOL qualification, you are still not regarded as a qualified teacher. Qualified teacher = teacher with education degree only.
The guide is for unqualified teachers who have a degree and a TEFL, TESOL or CELTA certificate and want to teach in a Thai government or private school. If you have an education degree, and are therefore a qualified teacher, you can teach at an international school, and the application and hiring process is a little different.
If you need a TEFL certificate I recommend SeeTEFL. They're based in Chiang Mai and have spent years making friends with local schools, which will really help you get a job after finishing your TEFL course.
Whilst reading, please remember that This is Thailand. There's a way around almost any obstacles that you may face, requirements and trends change with the wind and there are always plenty of exceptions to the rule. I know unqualified teachers who have managed to secure high-level positions within prestigious schools. Usually, however, rules are only be bent if you have a personal relationship with someone in a position of influence, like the school director for example.
|Flickr.com, World Bank Photo Collection|
Be realistic.Make sure that you really want to be a teacher and that you have all the necessary qualifications to teach in Thailand.
Is teaching really what you want to do?Teaching is a popular occupation for expats in Thailand, because it's one of the few jobs that we can do here. This means that there are plenty of people teaching in Thai schools who really shouldn't be so that they can live here legally.
Teaching isn't for everyone. If you only have to look at a kid to vow never to have one, stay away. If you aren't at least a little bit interested in helping your students get the most out of your lessons or you can't be enthusiastic and lively the majority of the time, think carefully before you come to teach here.
Having said that, I thought I was really crap with kids until I became a teacher. I once babysat my seven year old cousin with my friend Rosie and it was a nightmare. All I can say is; thank God you were there Rosie. Thank you for helping me deal with that small demon whacking us with a plastic sword.
Love you really, Sam ;)
What do you know? It turns out that I'm pretty good with kids now, at least within a teacher role. I can proudly say that I can effortlessly teach English to a class full of Thai teenagers whilst keeping them enthusiastic and entertained. This shows that you don't know what you can do till you try.
If you like the idea of teaching but are a bit scared or a little unsure - just go for it. You might end up loving it, like I did. Andy didn't ever think he'd be a teacher before he met me and was a more than a little apprehensive about teaching. I'm happy to report that he now loves it too! Give it a go.
However, if you really do hate kids, I'd still say don't teach.
|How could you NOT love Thai kids!? - Flickr.com, DearieDiane|
Do you really want to teach in Thailand?Teaching in Thailand is usually quite different to teaching in England, America, Australia and other parts of Asia - depending on the kind of school you're at. Some things are good-different, and some things are bad.
In my experience, the students are on the whole very kind, friendly and good humoured people and when you get it right, teaching them is a lot of fun and they're very receptive.
Everyone has their own reasons for wanting to live and teach in Thailand. Try to be pretty certain that your reasons outweigh the potential negatives.
Are you qualified to teach in Thailand?
Sure, plenty of people come to Thailand without all the necessary qualifications and documents and still find teaching positions, which is great for them. Personally, I think it's better to have everything you need. That way you're more employable, get a non-immigrant B visa, get a work permit, work legally and (hopefully!) get paid a decent amount.
|Flickr.com, U.S. Pacific Air Forces|
You gotta have a degree and degree transcriptFor all schools, you must have a degree. Sure, some people don't have a degree and are here teaching, but the requirement from the Thai Ministry of Education is that you need one. You should bring the original document and the original degree transcript with you.
For many Thai schools, any degree of any caliber will do. If you have a history degree but want to teach English - mai pen rai, come and meet your students!
Some schools require that your degree is related to what you'll teach, particularly at private schools. It varies from school to school, and from time to time. If there aren't many applicants when you apply and you don't have a relevant degree, you could still the land the job. Apply even if you think that you don't meet the requirements; you might get lucky.
If you want to teach in an international or private school, you're probably going to need to be a qualified teacher with teaching experience. Again, you have nothing to lose if you apply at these places - the worst they'll say is 'no.'
To be employed full time at a university, you usually need a masters degree, and sometimes a phd.
|Flickr.com, Koen Bok|
The Maybe-Must-HavesA maybe-must-have is something that I've heard different stories about. Some people say they're a must have, others say they're just desirable. I don't know, so here they are: Maybe-Must-Haves.
Police Clearance CheckMany schools require that you produce a police check, to prove that you haven't committed a crime. Get one before you leave your home country.
TEFL or CELTAMost schools seem to require that you have a TEFL or CELTA certificate. It can be very inexpensive to get a TEFL certificate (keep an eye on Groupon), but bear in mind that you usually get what you pay for. However, I paid a lot for a supposedly-decent TEFL course, whereas other people I know paid fifty quid and still got good jobs easily.
CELTA's are 'better' than TEFLs - they're a much more respected qualification. CELTA courses are more thorough, take longer to complete and cost a lot more than TEFL courses, but you'll be a lot more employable if you have a CELTA course.
A good option is to get TEFL or CELTA qualified here in Thailand, because the company that you do it with usually helps you to get a job when you're ready and is Thai-centric. I recommend SeeTEFL.
TESOL certifications are generally for people who want to teach English to non-native speakers in an English speaking country, for example, teaching expats and refugees.
The Desirable Stuff
Whilst these things are not absolutely required, you're more likely to get a job offer if...
- You're a native English speaker.
- You have teaching experience.
- You're young, or young-looking.
- You don't have visible tattoos, piercings, dreadlocks or unnaturally coloured hair.
- You look smart, professional and smell good. Yes, really.
- You know a bit about the Thai education system, such as the Ministry of Education's principles, core curriculum and educational strands for Foreign Language. Read this to learn about these things.
Still want to teach in Thailand?The best way to get a teaching job in Thailand is to be in the country. That seems to be because most schools prefer to deal with you when they know you're here and definitely want a job.
Decide where you think you'd like to live and book your ticket.A lot of new teachers start out in Isaan - the poor east of Thailand - but I *much* prefer my life here in Chiang Mai compared to when I lived in Isaan. The quality of schools is also much better here, but LOTS of people want to live in Chiang Mai, so competition is more fierce.
I think the most desirable teaching positions are available in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Teaching jobs on paradise islands are pretty much impossible to get, by the way! Ninja Teacher agrees with me, except he prefers Bangkok and I think Chiang Mai is much better! Think carefully about where you're going to look for a job :)
Once you've settled in, it's time to get a job.
I've written the best things you can do to get a job. It's possible to get a job just by rocking up, speaking to the right person and poof, that's it. That happened to Andy and me!
The point is, you don't have to do all these things... but if you do, you're way more likely to be called in for an interview. A lot of these things can be done before you even arrive in Thailand.
Write a great résumé and personal teaching philosophyMake a teaching-specific résumé. Include any experience you have working with children, but leave out the details of non-relevant past jobs. List your relevant qualifications. Be sure to make it clear that you have a degree, a TEFL or CELTA certificate, you're a native English speaker and so on. Create a 'person profile' of yourself, listing all the reasons why you'd make a great teacher at a Thai school.
Your résumé should look professional and neat with no spelling or grammatical errors. Bear in mind that the person reading your résumé may well be Thai, so avoid an overly verbose creation. Try to stick to one page only, two at most.
Your personal teaching philosophy should be a short description of the way you teach, and why you teach that way. Without compromising your own philosophy, show how it is relevant to what the school wants. If it's a government school, you can be pretty sure that they'll want you to follow the Thai Ministry of Education guidelines.
Find schools in the area.Use the Internet to find as many schools as possible in the area. Mark them on a map.
Research the schools.Try Googling the school. If they have a website, scour it for any information. Create a list of all the school names and note down information like who the director is, who you should address a letter of application to, what the school vision is and so on.
Write cover letters.Using this information, create short personalised cover letters for every school. This personal touch will make a good impression. Say why you want to work at their school, what makes you a great teacher, that you're here in Thailand already, ready to start work immediately and provide all of your contact details. Reference their school vision and make it clear that you've made the effort to find something out about their school.
Write a more generic cover letter for those schools that didn't have websites and for schools you'll stumble upon as you're out and about.
State clearly that you will provide photocopies of any documents they might want to see on request.
Again, make them professional and neat with no spelling or grammatical errors and write for a potentially Thai audience.
Prepare a demo lesson.You might get offered an interview on the spot, and you might be asked to deliver a demo lesson. Make sure you're prepared for this. Read on for more information about planning the perfect demo lesson.
|Flickr.com, Official U.S. Navy Imagery|
Get dressed.You should dress like a Western business person. Image is very, very important to Thai teachers. Make sure you look neat and well groomed. Don't smell of cigarettes, booze or sweat. Men should wear a shirt and tie with sharp trousers and consider taking a suit jacket to put on just before they enter the school grounds. You can take it off as soon as you get out. Women should wear a skirt rather than trousers and never show their shoulders. Wear nice work shoes that cover your toes - no sandals.
Smile!You need to have a load of passport sized photographs to hand in with your applications. Find a photo-booth in a shopping centre or visit a photographer. Aim to look friendly and professional. Be sure to hand your photograph in with every application.
Visit a print shop.Save your résumé, cover letters and personal teaching philosophy onto a data stick. Find a local print-shop. Print plenty of copies of your résumé and personal teaching philosophy - enough for all the schools on your map and a few spare for the schools you stumble upon as you wander around. Print the school-specific cover letters and a few of the generic ones. Then, make enough copies of any letters of recommendation that you might have.
Staple together your cover letter, résumé, teaching philosophy and letter of recommendation and attach your photograph with a paperclip.
Remember to print your demo lesson.
Finally, scan your photograph and all the documents you photocopied onto a computer to save to your data stick - you might need these to apply online.
Apply for jobs onlineLook for job postings on online job boards, such as at ajarn.com. Don't attach all the scanned documents to your emails unless the posting specifically asks for it. Write your cover letter in the email itself and attach your résumé, photograph and letter of recommendation.
Get on yer bike or begin traipsing.It's time to use your map and visit the schools. It's probably going to be hot so I strongly recommend driving your own vehicle or taking a taxi / red car / tuk tuk so that you don't end up sweating buckets.
At each school, go to the reception or nearest building and say that you're a teacher and would like to apply for a job. Ask where you can fill out an application form and hand in your resume. Be very polite and smiley.
TIP: Write out all the information that was asked for on your first application form on a separate piece of paper. Chances are, you'll be asked for the same information at every school. Having to fish around in your bag for your passport, degree copy, home address etc can be time consuming and look unprofessional. Much better to have it all ready on paper for when you need it.
It's likely that you'll come across schools that aren't on your map. Apply at those, too!
If you get offered an interview on the spot, go for it. If you followed my advice you'll have all your documents ready, know a bit about the school and the Thai education system and have a demo lesson ready, so you're all set.
Wait, then make follow up calls and visits.Wait for at least one working week, then make follow up calls or visits to check the status of application. Often, paperwork gets processed slowly and your application might be sat on someone's desk somewhere. The email that you sent might have ended up lost in the realms of the school's administration. Call the schools and make sure that you talk to someone who can speak English, even if that means asking for the director of the English department.
Then, prepare for interviews.
Maybe I was unlucky, because I've never heard of this happening to anyone else, but I got asked some grammar questions. Luckily, I'd done my revision and could answer all the questions, phew! If you know that you need to brush up on your grammar, now's the time to do it. Go over those Ministry of Education principles and strands again, practice your responses to the usual interview questions (Why do you want to work here? What makes you a great teacher? etc) and think of great questions to ask the interviewers. You should be thinking along the lines of:
- What is the salary for this position?
- How many hours would I be teaching each week?
- How many students are in one class?
- What teaching resources are available in each classroom, for example, a blackboard? A projector? An interactive whiteboard?
- Would I be given a contract? How long is it for?
- Are teachers paid during school and national holidays?
- Do teachers work during weekends? Is this paid?
- Does the school help teachers to get a non-immigrant B visa, work permit, teacher's license and all other necessary documents?
- Do teachers at this school follow a curriculum? Can I see / have a copy?
- Are teachers at this school insured? Can you explain the insurance process to me?
And so on!
Go to interviews.Yay - you got offered an interview! When they call or email you, be sure to ask the time of the interview, where it will take place, what you need to take with you and if you'll be doing a demonstration lesson - and if so, what should the topic be (hopefully they will let you choose).
Dress in your best interview outfit (the same one that you wore to hand out résumés) and take a portfolio containing photocopies of all the documents that you have and anything else you want to show them, such as examples of your work and photographs of you teaching at a previous school.
Most schools will want you to commit to at least a year. Even if you're not sure, you should say you're planning to stay in Thailand for at least a year, but longer is better.
Make sure to ask the questions you thought of.
Hopefully, you'll have done all your preparation and will ace the interview.
Try and get a tour of the school, and if possible talk to some students and staff to try to get a feel for the place. If all you hear is bad news, then maybe it's not a great place to work.
Now the scary bit...You might be asked to do a demonstration lesson as part of your interview. You should see this as an opportunity to demonstrate how awesome you are, not as half an hour of hell-sent torture.
I happened to watch a really lovely lady do her demo lesson. It went really terribly. She assumed that the students would be at a much higher level than they actually were, and slowly realised that they didn't have a clue what she was talking about. After realising this, she panicked and floundered.
Lesson Learnt: Prepare for your demo lesson thoroughly.
Don't make the same mistake. Try your utmost to find out the level of students you'll be teaching before you plan your demo lesson. Make it easy and fun, with more challenging bits that you can include if possible. Have activities prepared for a range of ability levels. Frequently ask questions to check understanding.
Have enough of all the necessary materials ready to go - you don't want to run out of cards or whatever in the middle of your lesson. Don't rely on there being a projector. Make sure you have pens. Nail it!
Wait for the job offers to come flooding in.And if you don't hear back from anyone, don't be too disheartened. There are plenty of teaching jobs in Thailand. Have a beer, get over it and move to a different area to try again.