I’m sure many of you are wondering this, whether or not there are teaching jobs in Thailand for NNES (non-native English speakers). In fact, I was one of those just 6 months ago. Let me tell you my story, and give my honest opinion on it.
Your qualifications and experience
Be honest with yourself. What kind of a degree have you got? In most cases, they want you to have at least a Bachelor’s degree, preferably in your own field. If you fancy teaching in an expensive and posh private school, they often require a degree in education as well. If you already have some teaching experience that’s a big advantage. If you know Thai culture and perhaps speak a little bit of Thai, all the better.
If you are a non-native English speaker and planning on teaching English in any school that takes teaching seriously, you have to have one of these. Preferably it would be a course with 120 hours, including teaching observation. You can do a TEFL course online nowadays, but I’d say that you increase your chances a whole lot if you have done your certification in a reputable TEFL school/ institute. It can be in Thailand or overseas.
Check out the testimonials before making your decision. I did mine at Paradise TEFL on Koh Phangan and couldn’t be happier with my choice. If you already have some teaching experience and/or degree, then an online course might perhaps be ok.
Bear in mind that reputable TEFL/language schools often have valuable contacts to teaching world, and they can help you find a suitable placement. Your TEFL teacher can also (hopefully) give you references if you have done your best and completed the course satisfactorily.
English or something else?
If English is your only skill then you are facing fiercer competition, compared to eg. teaching math or science. Nowadays almost everyone who has a decent education can speak English. It is not special or unique anymore. Young people learn English on the internet, movies, video games etc. They acquire the skill easily. Knowing English is kind of the minimum requirement. For a more detailed list of pros and cons of teaching English overseas, check out this post: a complete guide to teaching English abroad.
If you plan to teach English, you better be good at it. If you plan to teach for instance physics, PE or Chinese, you don’t need to sound a native English speaker. A good command of English comes in handy, though.
Are you willing to work somewhere remote?
I wouldn’t advise you to fantasize on those more sought-after locations, such as Koh Samui, Phuket, Chinag Mai or Bangkok. Many farangs want to live in prime holiday and beach destinations where there is plenty of sun, sand and sea, or in an intriguing and vibrant city.
The farther you are willing to travel, the more you increase your chances of getting hired. Look for vacancies eg. in Isan, South, near the Malaysian border or up in the North (excluding Chiang Mai which has a healthy expat community) and embrace the laid-back countryside lifestyle.
The ugly truth
I am sorry if this hurts someone’s feelings. I’m not happy to write this either. This is how it is, however, unfortunately. Thailand is still quite backward in terms of skin colour. It’s not said out loud but often they prefer to have a Caucasian, over, let’s say a dark-skinned African. This country seems to be fixated with a fair complexion anyway.
You have probably noticed how beauty parlours and chemists are full of whitening creams and often Thais dodge sunlight so they wouldn’t get any tan. For Thais, having a fairer complexion means that you belong to the middle class and can have a nice office (inside) job. If you have a darker complexion it can imply that you work outside, and need to do manual labour (which is arduous and doesn’t pay well).
One reason for the reluctance to hire someone from Africa can be that apparently there is some human trafficking from certain African countries. These people are brought here to work yet receive very little to no compensation. I don’t know much about this topic, though so I won’t write any more than these few lines.
Despite all this, you can find all nationalities, with different skin tones working side-by-side in Thai schools. And this is how it should be. I made a big issue out of this to my students, explaining that racism under any circumstances is unacceptable. I hope the younger generation will bring about changes.
Expect to settle for less, if you are a NNES and with little or no teaching experience. I think 30 000 baht/ month seems to be a typical salary if you have ticked all the correct boxes. Some nationalities might be getting less and some nationalities also settle for less. These days, there are many Filipinos working in Thailand and I am under the impression that some of them settle for considerably less for multiple reasons, such as competition from other Filipinos or because of the economic situation of their home country which forces them to find work overseas.
I believe there is a little bit more demand for female teachers. This is especially true if you are trying to find work in kindergarten or with younger children. Your age can also be a contributing factor. Often they prefer to have younger, rather than older teachers.
How I got my teaching job in Thailand (even though I’m a non-native English speaker)?
Okay, so my original idea was to teach English as well. I got my TEFL certification about 10 months ago. I didn’t start looking for jobs straight away because I did yoga teacher training as well and wanted to relax after completing these two courses.
My initial idea was to go to Vietnam because the salary is a bit higher there and it would’ve been quite close to Thailand and therefore, easy to take my dog with me. But as it turned out, they wouldn’t consider me for a full-time position, because I wasn’t a native English speaker, and I didn’t want to get a part-time job either. I needed to change my plan completely and do it fast! I had already spent way too much money. Don’t be alarmed by this anecdote, though, I’d still recommend teaching English in Vietnam because I know some people have really enjoyed it and as I mentioned, the pay is better than in Thailand.
I applied to quite a few schools and got multiple offers in the end. I wasn’t too picky about the location. Both north and south were just fine with me. I got interested in teaching Social Studies because it seemed a very versatile subject and I have studied quite a few things starting with “social”. By the way, if you don’t know what Social Studies entails, have a look at my guest blog post on Ajarn.com. And it’s okay not to know. I didn’t know either.
What’s more, I also made my background check, and both Rayong and the school seemed nice. So, off I packed my things and moved to the other side of The Gulf of Siam.
As you see, my teaching career didn’t have the smoothest start. However, I can assure you that there are teaching jobs in Thailand for non-native English speakers. Perhaps in my case, I was also lucky because the semester was just about to start and the schools were desperate to fill out any remaining positions. But whatever the reason was, it got me my first job, and I’m happy about that.
If you have any questions I’m happy to help but, unfortunately, I am not able to help you with finding work. This is something you need to do on your own. Good luck to all of you, I hope you find what you are looking for!