Teaching English and Living in Bangkok
The Inside Guide from an Expat
The great ancient city of Ayutthaya is just outside Bangkok. Photo by Queena Deng.
Teaching English in Bangkok
Bangkok has a high demand for English teachers in many different types of schools, from corporate training centers to small private schools to public schools with 50 students per class. There are opportunities for beginning teachers as well as those with more experience. But while there are a lot of opportunities here, they’re not necessarily the highest-paid. You can save some money here but look to Vietnam, South Korea, and China for better-paid teaching jobs.
However, if you want to live in one of Southeast Asia’s most modern and exciting cities, Bangkok is the place to be. If Southeast Asia has a “city that doesn’t sleep,” this is it. With gentle and friendly people who still like to stay up late and food that keeps the quality-of-life high, Bangkok is a fun place to stay with a lot to do.
In addition, one unique advantage of living in Bangkok is that you can continue your studies and improve your qualifications in Bangkok. There are a few universities in Bangkok (and other parts of Thailand) where you can get a master’s degree in TESOL, business, or a few other fields for much less than you’d spend back home.
Public and Private Schools
Many public schools have room in their budgets to hire a few foreign English teachers, so this is a big reason why Thailand is a go-to destination for finding teaching work. In addition to English-teaching positions, there are also available jobs teaching math and science (in English). These positions are primarily filled by a few placement agencies. You can also search on your own and may get a slightly higher salary if you avoid a placement agency. Public-school jobs in Bangkok should pay around 30,000-40,000 baht ($900-1,150) per month.
Check out this article for more information on teaching English in public schools in Thailand.
There are also a number of private schools in Bangkok that teach at least some lessons in English and hire foreigners. Private schools usually pay 40,000-60,000 baht ($1,150-$1,750) per month.
In Bangkok, there are a plethora of language centers. Language schools often offer small class sizes (10 per class at some and as low as 4-6 per class at others). You can teach adults serious about their studies (they usually shell out a considerable amount for the course). On the downside, most students work during the day and are only free on evenings and weekends — so that’s when you have to teach. It can be difficult to meet friends for dinner, but you can make it for a drink afterward. On the flip side, you will probably start work in the afternoon, so you have mornings free to sleep in. Or you can get in your workout while the gyms are empty.
You can work part-time in a language school and earn around 350-500 baht (US$10.00-15.00) per hour. If you’re on a full-time monthly schedule, you can expect to make approximately 30,000-40,000 baht (US$900-US$1,150) monthly.
Many language centers also offer corporate training programs. If you’re a corporate teacher, you’ll usually travel to the company’s office and give lessons there. The company will reimburse your travel expenses and time. Corporate contracts are quite lucrative for language schools, so they usually send well-qualified or talented teachers. The pay can be higher for skilled corporate teachers—45,000-60,000 baht (US$1,200-1,700) per month—and you generally get to work during the 9 a.m.-5 p.m. workday. Classes are usually bigger than in language-school English courses as companies try to squeeze more students into each class.
A step above English teaching, some language centers also offer IELTS, TOEIC, SAT, or GRE prep courses. IELTS and TOEIC are the English tests that students must take before studying or working abroad. You’ll need some training or experience with those tests to teach either course, but if you’re keen to learn, your school may train you for it if you’re already working there as a general English teacher. To teach SAT or GRE prep, you’ll need high scores on the test you hope to teach (usually 95th percentile or above) and probably some teaching experience.
Bangkok has a lot of universities that need English teachers. They prefer well-qualified teachers with a master’s degree in TESOL or a CELTA plus considerable experience. The teaching loads are light, with around 12 hours per week in class. Pay is also high, starting at about 60,000 baht ($1,700) monthly. Some have reported earning up to 90,000 baht ($2,700) monthly.
Finally, there are plenty of international schools where those with a proper teaching certification, such as a bachelor’s or master’s degree in education, can find work. These schools offer high pay [90,000 baht ($2,600) per month and up], diverse and high-achieving students, and considerable vacation time.
Some teachers bring in some cash on the side by teaching students privately. There are many students around. You need to get the word out about what you’re offering through word-of-mouth, social networking, and possibly even putting up posters or ads. 400-500 baht ($12-15) baht per hour is standard, but some teachers charge up to 1000 baht ($30). Generally, asking students to pre-pay for a few classes is recommended, and telling them that if they cancel a class without giving due notice or skip a class, they won’t get their money back for the lesson.
The visa situation is complicated and ever-changing. A website with a form called Embassy.com exists to provide information on this perpetual subject of worry and speculation. Ajarn.com, the central source for information on teaching in Thailand, also has lots of advice. In short, working without a work permit is illegal, but some people do it. Getting a work permit through your school can be a hassle, but it is recommended. Agents exist who can get you a one-year work permit for around $750-1,000. The fee seems steep, but it allows you to leave a job without worrying about losing your permit. It would be impossible to summarize the visa-related issues in this article, but looking through the above sources is a good idea.
Living in Bangkok
One of many statues of the Buddha in Bangkok.
You can find a decent apartment near the city center for 5,000-10,000 baht ($150-300) monthly. If you can speak some Thai or have a Thai friend who can help with the initial negotiations and paperwork, you can find something toward the lower end of that range. I live a 10-minute walk from a metro station three stops from central Bangkok. I have a small room in a clean apartment block, with fairly dependable WIFI and limited cable TV (CNN and Fox Movies are my only English channels). I pay 4,500 baht ($140) per month, but similar flats in the area cost around 5,000-6,000 ($150-190). Websites are helpful for an apartment search, but it’s also good to walk around a neighborhood in an area you like and look for “for rent” signs.
You can eat cheaply in Bangkok by sticking to street food, markets, and mall food courts. I get a daily double-egg omelet on rice for $1.00 before work. I have a meal with a bottle of water for around $1.50-3.00 in a mall food court in the evening. Including three squares, a daily Thai iced tea, and some snacks, I spend around $6-7 per day on food. My daily food budget equals about $200 per month. You can get a nice meal in a restaurant for $3-10. You can find a wide range of food, including pizzas, Middle-Eastern food, Indian food, Mexican food, and most other cuisines.
Despite its famous traffic jams, Bangkok has the best public transport among large regional cities, except Singapore. The bus system is difficult to learn but is extensive, cheap, and valuable outside rush hours. The Metro and BTS Skytrain lines make it easy to get around the city quickly and allow you to live more cheaply in outlying areas and take the train into the city center for work. (Language centers tend to be located within walking distance of a Metro or BTS station, but not public or private schools.) If you’re near a waterway, you may also be able to take a cheap water taxi to avoid the traffic.