Many of the teachers teaching in Bangkok both have no formal teaching experience (before coming here) nor a teaching qualification.  I chat with many people who want to teach here and they often start the conversation like this, “I can speak English very well so I don’t think I’ll have any problems being a teacher“.  Sorry my friend, that simply is not how it works!  I know a couple of teachers who don’t even speak the language that well themselves but they are damned good teachers.  Why?  Because they know how to teach!  The trick is being able to build a rapport with students, having a good knowledge of how the language works, explaining this to students and most importantly doing interactive activities that allow the students to practice the language.  Being able to speak English well is only a small part of it, a very small part.

If you are going to be teaching for any length of time, I strongly recommend that you do an English teachers training course before coming to Bangkok.  The most recognized course internationally is the Cambridge University CELTA course that is offered at about 100 or so language schools world-wide.  The cost of the course varies from country to country with some example prices from the late ’90s were:  United States $US 2700 (VERY expensive!), New Zealand $NZ 2750, Australia $A 2500, England UK pounds 1100+, Thailand $US 1400, Egypt $US 1040 (cheapest place in the world to do the course).  The Trinity College course is very, very similar and is also offered by language schools world-wide.  These one month full time courses are in my opinion, the best single way to prepare yourself to be a teacher BUT these courses alone will not make you a good teacher.  It takes a lot of teaching practice and experience before you get to the level where you can genuinely claim to be a good teacher.  In an ideal world, one would have a degree in education, an MA in linguistics and an RSA.  In reality, and especially so in Thailand, this just doesn’t happen!

It should be noted that there are many different teacher’s training courses available and different schools and different people will put a different value on each of them.  Generally speaking the English / Aussies / Kiwis / South Africans prefer the English courses and the Americans / Canadians prefer the American courses.  The English courses involve a lot of hands on practice teaching and prepare you for ACTUALLY TEACHING with lots of real teaching practice.  The American courses tend to be more theory and academic based and seem to be more a study in how the language works and general linguistics than anything else.  I personally put little value on the American courses from the point of view that they do little to actually make you a good teacher.  There is also an emerging market of “internet based teacher’s training courses”.  Sorry folks but I am extremely cynical of such things - but then some training is better than no training.

There is no harm in teaching for a few months before you do the CELTA.  It would definitely make the RSA a lot easier!  Most trainees find it a grueling course and believe that they would have done better if they had attacked it after a few months teaching experience.  Although it is recognized world-wide as THE course, it is a little stiff.

* About the CELTA

The RSA is a four week intensive course that prepares you for the job of English teacher.  It should be stated that although about 90% of the people that complete the course pass it, it is by no means easy.  There is a pre-course selection test and interview that aims to filter out those who may struggle.  The pre-test includes various grammar based questions that require the use of a grammar book or the assistance of a friend who is either a teacher or has a very good knowledge of grammar.  The interviewer who interviewed me was very clever and other than asking about my general background etc., he also asked a lot of probing questions about my ideas regarding staff training, teaching methodology etc.  I believe he was trying to see if I had many pre-conceived ideas about such things.  (I’d done my homework at that stage, reading a couple of books and gleaming numerous amounts of info from the ‘net so he couldn’t quite out smart me….hehehe!)

If you have never taught before, you will need as much time as possible to dedicate to the course to ensure that you pass it.  Many of the concepts can be quite foreign!  The course includes six hours practical teaching to REAL students, teaching techniques, preparing lesson plans, scheduling, grammar lessons, observation of CELTA qualified teachers teaching real classes and a hell of a lot more.  There are six written assignments to complete on the course and this, along with your “TP” (teaching practice), form the basis of your assessment.

The course moves at a very brisk pace and if one was to fall behind, it would be very difficult to catch up.  The course outlines state that you must be free of any other distractions like part-time work or other study and need to dedicate all of your time to the course.  In reality this is not the case.  I was busy with a stack of distractions when I did the course and about half of the people on my course were working part-time.  However, do expect to be up late at night preparing lessons for the following day.  You can’t just bluff your way through this course.  You will get stressed!  If you are not on course to pass the course, the instructors will have a quiet word with you and advise you that you need to pull your socks up!

One does need to take the course seriously and prepare as much as possible before hand - it would be a good idea to buy a good grammar book and study as much about English grammar as you can - this was the area where I was weak and had I made a more diligent effort to familiarize myself with the material before the course, I may have found it easier.  Certainly when I was at school, we never studied grammar at all so when I was asked to teach something that I didn’t understand entirely myself, the pressure really came on!

There are four grades - pass, pass b, pass a and fail.  About 80% of people receive a standard pass.  Pass “A” and Pass “B” require real dedication and tend to be awarded to those who have had previous teaching experience.  Before you receive your final certificate - which in my case came about six weeks later, you get a “written report” from the school which should be kept with your CELTA.  If you successfully complete the RSA and want to study further, after you have a couple of years post RSA experience under your belt, you can enroll for the CELTA Diploma.  I’ve never done this (nor will I ever do it!) but gather that it is supposed to be really good.  However, it is not scheduled that often and is also very expensive.

The Trinity College of London course is considered to be the only equivalent to the RSA.  It is no longer offered in Thailand.  It used to be offered by TEFL International but they chose to offer their own course instead when Trinity increased their affiliation fees by 75% in 1999.

The CELTA is offered in Thailand by ECC at their main branch in Siam Square, central Bangkok and, from March 2005, at their second teacher training centre in Phuket.  The current cost is $US 1,400 (about 54,000 - 58,000 baht).  If you were to do the CELTA at ECC, be sure to have accommodation very close to Siam Square.  You have enough to worry about on the course without having to worry about without battling Bangkok’s notorious transport getting to and from your accommodation.  ECC offers a list of various accommodation in the area that is available at reasonable prices.  They have been running the CELTA down in Phuket since March 2005.

In Thailand, a very good alternative to the RSA is run by TEFL International who run a four week intensive TEFL certificate course on the beach near Ban Phe - less than three hours southeast of Bangkok.  The picture of the boats here was taken just across the bay on Ko Samet.  Imagine being able to escape the rigors of a course to a beautiful island just a 30 minute boat ride away - that is just one of many reasons why TEFL Internationals teacher training course is the most popular in Thailand.

TEFL International prides itself in offering an affordable, humane course of the highest quality with excellent job placement assistance.  The course fee is $1,595 (about 60,000 baht) and that includes a private, air-conditioned room as well as all course materials.  They don’t subscribe to the “boot camp” mentality of many RSA and Trinity courses.  In fact they are proud of the fact that no one has failed their course (although a few trainees have dropped out voluntarily over the years).  And because they are unaffiliated with a language school they can actively work with trainees to help them find jobs at any school in Thailand or abroad.  It is not uncommon for them to sit down with trainees and make phone calls for them to arrange job interviews and even secure jobs!

They were, until 31 December 1999, one of the largest and best Trinity certificate course providers in the world.  While they are now affiliated with the Association of TESOL Qualifying Organizations, the course content and main personnel are the same as their days with Trinity.

TEFL International also seems to have a very enthusiastic and supportive group of alumni - they seem to be always posting comments (almost always positive) on sites like Dave’s ESL Cafe.  This is probably the way to go if you are planning on doing a training course here in Thailand.  I rate this course as being better than the RSA offered in Bangkok and if asked for recommendations as to the best teacher’s training course in Thailand, this is the one that I believe in - I wish I could have studied there!

Certificate courses offered through TEFL International are now eligible for university credit at many universities.  Several US universities are now offering their students credit for taking this course.  In fact many university students will now be able to take a TEFL International TESOL certificate course and complete a four week internship and receive 12 university credits.  By reaching the twelve credit plateau, these students will be considered full-time students and eligible for financial aide!  They will be able to pay for their term abroad using student loans and grants.

TEFL International offers courses in Thailand as well as many other countries, about 15 at the last count.  For more information visit their web site at: http://www.teflintl.com

The British Council used to advertise teacher training courses from time to time.  I’m not sure exactly what courses are offered but I imagine that the quality of the courses would no doubt be pretty good.  I seem to remember them offering a “pre-RSA preparation” course a while ago.

Text’n'Talk, now a major player in the locally based teacher training market, offers a teacher training course.  They make many bold claims in their literature about their course including the following points - better than the RSA, it’s more suitable for Thai students than the RSA, it’s recognised worldwide etc.  Some of these claims are moot points.  There are two courses offered, one is 120 hours and costs $US 995, around 40,000 baht (if you are farang - cheaper if you are Thai) and runs 5 hours a day, 4 days a week for 6 weeks plus a minimum of 6 hours observed teaching practice, so 126 hours overall.  They also offer the same course with less teaching practice on Sundays 10:00 - 16:30 for 18 weeks for 25,000 baht.

Perhaps worst of all - and certainly a pet hate of mine, is that this school employs a dual pricing system in that Thais can get a special discount.  I avoid and recommend to all others that any business (of any nature) that offers such a discount, read DUAL PRICING, be avoided.  (Or when you apply, say you are Thai and see what discount you get - then tell them you are farang and that you want that discount!)  Sure, Thai teachers do earn a lot less than farangs do, and using this as an argument has some validity, but overall, if they can offer the course at one price to one nationality, why not the same to all?  And if you are going to take this argument through to is natural conclusion, should Americans not pay twice the price as say Kiwis and Aussies whose respective currencies are much weaker?

The TEFL1 course started in early 2001 and is held every second month.  The course is held on four days being four Saturdays and is described as an intensive course.  I am skeptical about these short courses but I will reserve judgement as I have not had a really good look at what they are offering but it does appear from their brochure that they are cramming a lot into four days.  The cost for the four day course was $US 450 when it started but what it costs now, I just do not know.  Despite reservations about them cramming a lot in, sometimes the full month courses offer more than some people really want (i.e. some people just want to teach for a year) and they are also very expensive.  This course provides a good value alternative.

Via Lingua offers one month courses for around $US 1,500 in Phuket.  Not much is known about them other than that they got going in Thailand around mid 2001.  It should be noted that the course is offered in Phuket Town which is on the opposite side of the island to all of the popular beaches.

Not to be confused with TEFL International, TEFL Teacher Training International started in October 2001, a breakaway school started by two of Text’n'Talk’s former teacher trainers.  Little is known about them.

How long am I going to do this for?

The answer to this question also affects the question above.  If you just want to piss about and have a bit of fun in Thailand then it probably doesn’t matter where you teach or whether you are qualified or not.  At a guess, teachers here for a short period of time probably make up 50%+ of the teachers in Bangkok.  (But please, try and make an effort for your students - some of them are so keen to learn and many really look forward to it.  Further, financially, it is often not cheap for them at all.)

You can also muck companies around and skive off when you want - some companies are so desperate for staff that they won’t actually dismiss you until you have proven to be absolutely, totally unreliable.  Sadly there is little loyalty shown by companies to their staff and vice versa in this industry in Thailand.  If you want to stay here for more than a year, then it pays to be selective about who you choose to work for.

Remember, the longer you are away from your home country or chosen industry, the harder it will be to get back into regular employment in your home country.  Living and working in Bangkok is a wonderful experience but it might not contribute towards your future employability.  Many people only plan on one - two years in Thailand but they find that they really enjoy the job and the lifestyle and never leave!

One of the sad things about teaching is that you can do it for a long, long time without really doing a lot for your future job prospects.  In most professions, the more time you spend doing that type of work, the better your chances are of getting a better job, usually directly related to what you are doing or within either that particular company or industry.  If the job itself is a bit of a dead end job, you will usually be able to work your way up through the company’s ranks - even if you start in the mailroom.  Teaching isn’t like this and the industry in Bangkok is a classic example of an industry where experience is not rewarded financially - or only a little.  The salary band for teachers at most schools is pretty narrow and as an example at one school is 33,000 - 36,000.  As a completely inexperienced teacher, you may start on 33,000.  A teacher with 15 years experience may get 36,000, the top of the band, only 3,000 baht per month more.  At state run universities, the salary is a bit over 25,000 baht per month, irrespective of experience!  OK, so this is an extreme example but it does represent the point well.  Experience doesn’t necessarily correlate to a big increase in remuneration.  Compare this with managerial jobs in the west where say an entry level supervisor may get as little as $25,000 PA but up to 10 times that figure or more may be offered for senior management - experience IS rewarded there.  Teachers can go on to be head teachers, DOSs, managers or maybe even to own and run their own school but at the end of the day, if you want to stay teaching as such, there isn’t really a lot of incentive financially to continue to do it.  So, if you are financially driven, you may want to consider this.  Obviously, there is always Korea, Taiwan or Japan if you want to pursue the big bucks in teaching BUT you don’t need experience to go there either…!

How much money does teaching pay in Bangkok?  Am I able to save money while I’m teaching?  How much money do I need to survive?  (All figures here refer to Bangkok - outside of Bangkok you can expect to both earn and get by on less.)

While English teaching is the easiest work to get as a foreigner in Bangkok, it is also the lowest paying type of work farangs do.  As a rule, anything less than 25,000 baht will only be enough to survive on - and many people would really struggle to survive on this, and a good number simply feel that such a figure allows a standard of living that just ain’t fun!  Certainly, forget any luxuries and you’ll have to go native in many aspects.

About 30,000 baht should be enough to live on but without any luxuries or much in the way of Western treats.  (Remember, the more Western comforts you desire, the more money you need to spend!)  If you want to have some fun or have a few Western comforts, you’ll probably need to be earning at least 35,000.  If you are earning over 40,000 you should actually be able to have an ok lifestyle.  Earn over 50K a month and you should be able to have a few weekends away, buy some reasonable clothes and a few other bits and pieces, perhaps even save a bit.  Obviously it all depends on your personal spending habits.  I personally would find it very difficult to live in Bangkok on less than 40,000 baht per month and would simply refuse to work for much less than this, at least as a full time employee.  To me, I would rather be back in the West because 40,000 baht just isn’t a lot of money in Bangkok any more.  When I first came here in the late ’90s, 40K a month was considered a very good salary but costs have gone up a lot since then.  Just a coffee at Starbucks can run over 100 baht, and there is so much more to see, and do.  Frankly, one reason one could happily exist on 25K baht a month in the past was because there was so much less to do in Bangkok, than compared with now.  Hell, even bus fares have DOUBLED over the last seven years!

I feel that these figures and estimations on salary would be relevant to most career English teachers, and people with a similar mindset to the average teacher.  There are plenty of people who find that the salaries offered in Bangkok are simply not sufficient for them to live on - and they often end up in Taiwan, Korea or Japan - or even go back home to their own corner of Farangland.

The cost of your apartment will probably be your biggest expense so if you can save money on this, you will have more money for other things.  (Drinkers take note:  If you drink a lot, this could easily cost you more than your apartment rental.)  There are unlimited entertainment options in Bangkok and few people spend many nights in their apartment.  (Incidentally, there are some expats in Bangkok earning 500,000+ per month and still managing to spend a good chunk of it!  The point here being that just about any other job employing foreigners pays more than teaching….)  For what it’s worth, I spend around 45,000 baht per month and for this, I consider that I have a very nice lifestyle - smallish, centrally located apartment, Western comforts whenever I want them and more than enough money for eating out and entertainment.  This would NOT cover my expensive hobbies though, like photography, for which I need extra income.

Truth be told, I used to be happy on 35,000 baht a month, back when I was earning it.  I had a pleasant life, not special, but pleasant, and I didn’t look too far into the future.  A few years on and I am much more concerned about the future.  That is one reason I just could not go back to a standard job again.  Sometimes you just have to make the hard decision and say that earning 30 - 35K baht a month is ok for the first two years, but beyond that, you really need to look at breaking into a higher paying gig, supplementing your teaching somehow, or getting into a whole new profession.  Teachers are not well paid in Thailand and don’t let people saying “well the average Thai only gets 10,000 baht per month” lead you into a false sense of security.  30 - 35K baht jobs are a treadmill to nowhere.  You can do better, farang!  NEVER FORGET THAT!

Salaries are usually paid monthly, on the last day of the month, although some firms pay twice a month.  While most schools will pay you via direct credit into your bank account, there are some schools that will pay you via cheque (which in my opinion is a pain because service in Thai banks is slooooow!)

At some schools, part-time may staff get paid in arrears, as late as the 12th of the month following the month in which they worked.  Bit of a raw deal this.  Full time positions tend to be salary based with part-time positions paying an hourly rate.  Thailand is not the country to choose if you want to get rich.  (In Asia consider Japan, Taiwan or Korea if money is your motivation.)  However, the lifestyle in Bangkok can be good if you are earning 50,000+ baht per month.

Remuneration varies wildly.  I have heard stories of some people earning over 200,000 baht a month at international Schools (never met someone earning this much myself though) while others starting out at some of the chain language schools might earn less than 25,000 baht a month after they have paid tax.  It should be noted that these high paying jobs at international schools don’t usually involve English teaching but rather other subjects such as science or maths and the average salary at such schools is probably a bit under 100K a month as opposed to the aforementioned 200K.  Further, recruitment is usually from overseas, and is often dependent on the curriculum used by that school so if the school uses the British curriculum they’ll recruit from England, American curriculum they’ll recruit from the USA etc.  The highest salaries that I have heard of for those teaching strictly English only is a bit over 100,000 baht per month.  Still, I know a few people whop earn 60K+ a month teaching English and then make it up to over 100K with private tuition or weekend work.

If you are an unqualified teacher with little or no experience earning 25K+ a month then you’re doing ok.  Please, please, please do NOT accept anything less than 25,000 baht  month.  That really is too little!  As an experienced and qualified teacher, you should be earning over 35,000 baht a month - if you’re offered anything less, go elsewhere.  The highest confirmed salaries that I am aware of are in high schools, international schools and within language schools, at The British Council.

In my experience, observations of and conversations with other teachers in Thailand, I believe that you need minimum 25,000 baht a month to be comfortable, AFTER you have paid your rent.  People earning less than this don’t seem to survive that long and / or complain about never having enough money.  You can EASILY live on much less than this - there were some months when I only spent 6,000 baht in the entire month aside from my rent - but you have to make a LOT of compromises!  This 25,000 is the magic figure most people will need when they first come to Bangkok.  Personal interests, miscellaneous spending habits, financial commitments back home, health problems, vices and the biggy, unexpected expenses, may or may not increase this figure.

Some schools have the audacity to deduct an amount from your pay packet each month for the first few months as “security money”.  Once you have stayed for the specified period of time (often until the end of your contract), the money will be paid to you.  The idea is that by withholding this money from you, you are less likely to do a runner and leave them in the lurch without a teacher.  If you are a qualified teacher or if the school appears to be desperate, simply refuse to allow them to take this security money.  Some schools will bow to your demands if they really need you.

Tax is a very cloudy issue in Thailand.  While schools should tax you according to the tax regulations, more than a few in fact do not.  It seems that most schools have a bit of a fiddle going so that both you and the school benefit.  Basically, they do not declare exactly how much they are making and how much they are paying which reduces both their and your tax burden.  This whole situation is complicated by the fact that there are so many teachers working illegally that they have to cover all of this up too!  I’m not 100% clear on all of this but at the end of the day, I do not know of anyone who has personally been adversely affected by their school diddling tax.  If you are not paying the correct amount of tax, you are paying less than you need to - makes a pleasant change eh?  You can get a tax number from the Tax Department by going along and filling out a form which is all in Thai with no English - so you will probably need some assistance.  You need a passport and your work permit if you have one, though on the form it says that this is not actually necessarily.  While it is nice to think that one is paying less tax than they should be, you never know when this may come back to haunt you.  In this case, it is probably in your best interests to put pressure on the school to make sure everything with your pay is above board.

A pet hate of mine is the term overtime as used at some schools.  Most schools will pay you overtime for hours worked over and above your contracted number of hours.  The problem is that many of the schools only pay the same hourly rate as your standard pay or in a few extreme cases, even have the audacity to pay less!  While I am certainly not left wing, I do believe that people deserve to be remunerated for their work and in my opinion, the overtime rate should be a fair bit higher than the standard hourly rate but unfortunately in Bangkok, this is usually not the case.

There is a lot of bullshit floating around about what people earn.  The salaries listed on the table below were CONFIRMED either by the schools themselves or the teachers working there in 2001.  These salaries apply to Bangkok branches of the schools.  The upcountry branches of AUA, Siam Computer and ECC pay less than in Bangkok - usually a couple of thousand less per month.  Note, that these salaries do change frequently so if you are at one of these schools or have been offered a job at one of these schools and the figures are wrong, please advise and I’ll change it immediately.  Please also note that some of the figures apply for in-house work and other figures for external contracts.  As an example, Inlingua’s hourly rates listed at 200 - 500 baht include the lowest in house figure of 200 up to the outside / external contract hourly rate of 500 baht.  Also, these figures are for teacher’s positions, not for head teacher’s or other positions.  But then, things can get a little complicated and all is not plain sailing with these figures.  Stories abound of folks who apply for a position and are told that there are different rates of pay ranging for instance from 250 - 750 baht an hour.  The thought of 750 baht per hour entices the candidate who accepts the position.  But what these poor folk may later find is that the head teacher does all of the 750 an hour contracts himself (you politically correct folks can go and jump - I’ve yet to meet a female head teacher so “himself” it is for now!) and farms out the shitty work to the rest of the teachers.  Oh, believe me, this situation is all too common in Bangkok!

Remuneration for outside contracts should be a lot higher than for inside contracts and in my opinion anything less than 500 baht is unacceptable.  You should also negotiate for a transport allowance if they don’t give it to you.  Given that many schools charge anywhere from 800 to 3,000 baht or so per hour to the company, there is no reason why you shouldn’t get a bigger chunk of this!  For outside contracts, the companies themselves have high expectations and this is one of the reasons that they are prepared to pay a pretty penny.

There has been a definite upward movement in salaries in Bangkok over the past few years though sadly, it seems that the spread of wages is just like the chedi in the picture on the left - very little at the top and lots at the bottom.  I can remember when schools like Siam Computer were starting teachers on a mere 20,000 a month, which wasn’t really negotiable, but this particular school has advertised contracts paying up to 30,000 a month.  Positions paying more than 30,000 baht a month in private language schools used to be rare but now there are more and more.  There seems to be two different sets of forces influencing salaries at the moment.  The first is the new, largely inexperienced / unqualified teacher who comes to Bangkok and is happy just to secure a job.  This person will usually take whatever is offered and this person has the undesirable effect of keeping the salaries low.  Basically, they just want to get a job and that is it - they will worry about finding a better position a little later once they have settled.  The second is the experienced / qualified teacher who has been in Bangkok a while.  This type of person is actually not that common here (though this group is growing).  They usually work at one of the better schools and after a couple of years they may start to get a little agitated that the inexperienced, unqualified teacher is earning almost the same as them.  Noises are made and they may get a pay increase or they will move on to a better school.  Well, a lot of these folks are now in good schools, earning 30K upwards and I both notice and hear that more and more of the private language schools are prepared to pay to this sort of money to keep their experienced staff.  The better private language schools in Bangkok often have a hell of a time recruiting teachers because quite simply, there is a shortage of decent teachers here.  In the late ’90s I predicted that the divide in salaries between the decent and not so decent schools would widen - and that is exactly what has happened.  Now, in 2007, you can find a full-time teaching position in Bangkok earning 25,000 baht a month, and other positions, with similar working conditions, offering three times that.

How negotiable is a contract rate or an hourly wage in Bangkok?  Well, it really depends on the individual but I would suggest that it is VERY negotiable *if* you are qualified, experienced, young and perhaps most importantly, well presented.  At the end of the day, some of the language schools are doing very well and they will move if you push hard enough - but it really helps if you have the four magic ingredients mentioned.  Timing also comes into it.  The negotiation process in Thailand is a little different to that in the West so don’t push too hard or you will get no way - joke, have fun and you might just get what you want - figure on getting 10 - 25% more than you are initially offered *if* you fulfill the above criteria AND you are interviewed by a Thai.  Foreign bosses, in my experience, tend to be far more difficult to negotiate with - and at times seem to almost take the negotiation personally.  As a new recruit to Thailand or as an inexperienced or unqualified teacher, forget it.  Also, some of the bigger, better schools offer contracts which are less negotiable but that isn’t such a problem as their rates of pay are usually fair to begin with.  In my experience, external contracts are the most negotiable of the lot.

If you work your way up the chain, you may well end up in a head teacher or DOS position.  The responsibilities of these positions vary from organization to organization as does the pay.  I have heard of head teachers at one crappy school getting less than 30,000 baht a month - what a joke!  Then again, I have heard of one other fellow getting 70K a month.  I won’t stick my head out and say that 30 - 70K is the range, but it’s probably not too far away.  If you are a genuine DOS and not just a glorified head teacher, you’d really want to be pulling in at least 50K to make it worth your while.

Some schools offer different salaries / packages for local hires and those hired from abroad.  The teachers recruited from abroad may get a better salary and in many cases they will get their return airfare paid for.  This is more predominant in the international schools than in any other sector of the industry.

* Just FYI, Thai teachers get paid much less than Westerners.  At Union Language School, a Thai language school for foreigners wanting to learn Thai, the teachers get about 12,000 baht a month for less than 80 hours contact (= 150 baht an hour).  I know of some Thai teachers working at a Catholic school earning 10,000 baht a month for about 50 teaching hours a month (= 200 baht an hour for hours taught but they have all sorts of other nonsense duties that they have to perform).  At a branch of a major chain of language schools, there was a Thai national whose job it was to teach grammar only using Thai as the medium of instruction and she was earning 200 baht an hour.  At a high school, Thai teachers start on around 6,500 baht a month and when they are at retirement age, their salary has reached about 30,000 baht per month.  The one benefit from working in a high school all their life is that they will retire on a government pension which is about 80% of what they were earning before retirement, and which is adjusted for inflation.

A bit of a reality check about wages with some examples cited.  These are all the actual rates of pay paid at real schools in Bangkok right now!

School #1 pays teachers 33,000 baht per month and requires teachers to teach 88 hours per month which equals an hourly rate for hours taught of 375 baht per hour.  However, teachers are required to be at school for 5 days a week, 8 hours a day equals about 170 hours per month.  With this in mind, the actual hourly rate for work at this school equals 194 baht which is less than $US 5 per hour - and that is before tax!  Honestly, who wants to work for $US 5 per hour?  Robbery, in my mind.

School # 2 pays teachers around 25,000 baht per month, some more and others less but this is about the average and the mean.  For this, teachers are expected to teach 36 hours per week contact which equals about 150 per month.  This works out at about 166 baht per hour BUT you are required to be there for 48 hours per week, equals about 200 hours per month, meaning an hourly rate of about 125 baht per hour equals a little over $US 3 per hour.  Who are they kidding?  If the previous example was robbery, God only knows what this is?

School # 3 is a school that mainly does outside work.  They seem to pay most teachers a good hourly rate of about 600 baht per hour.  There is no requirement to be on the premises except for when you are teaching, which is actually outside on the client’s premises.  Classes average about two hours per class and as different material is used for each course, prep time is relatively high - estimated by me at one hour of prep for every two hours taught.  Then, there is transportation time, which, being particularly optimistic is at least half an hour in each direction.  That means that for a two hour class paying a total of 1200 baht, four hours of time are expended.  This means a return of 300 baht, or $US 7.50 per hour, better than the other schools, but still not great - in fact, it’s still too low!

Now one could argue that $US are not relevant in Thailand as the currency of the country is the baht and you’d be right - that is a valid point.  However, what this does do is prove how low the remuneration offered by schools in Bangkok is, even the better schools!  I must make the following comments, however:

Why do schools in Cambodia and Vietnam, neighboring countries for the geographically challenged, regularly offer hourly rates of $US 12+, sometimes up to $US 20 per hour?  These two countries are far poorer than Thailand but yet offer teachers a wage that is commensurate with the position.  I have never seen a job advertised in either of these countries offering less than $US 10 per hour.  I will not make comparisons with Japan, Taiwan or Korea as these countries are all sufficiently richer than Thailand so as to make comparisons invalid, suffice to say that wages are WAY higher in those countries.

Some of us paid a lot for our education back home and we *need* a reasonable salary to help us pay off our student loans and frankly some of the above mentioned rates just don’t cut it.  Further, I don’t know about you but when I leave Thailand, I don’t want to end up in another country penniless - I want to have had the opportunity to put away some money.  This is something we all have to consider, not becoming someone who gets stuck in Thailand because a return to the West would simply be too expensive.

One also needs to think of their future in Thailand.  Many teachers make the decision at some point to stay on in Thailand indefinitely, and why not, there are a lot of advantages to life in Thailand compared to the West.  But as cheap as many things are in Thailand, a teaching salary will only go so far.  If you think of the life of someone in say their mid ’30s in the West, odds are they drive a reasonable car, live in their own place and long since left the rent game, and have it full with all of the latest mod cons.  That is pretty much life in the West, is it not?  Sure, the bank might be the real owner of the house, and there might be a few payments left on the car but that is where moist people find themselves in their mid ’30s.  Trying to have this sort of lifestyle in Thailand on a teacher’s salary would not be the easiest thing to do.  Let’s say an average salary of around 34,000 baht a month which after tax would be a lot closer to 30,000 baht.  It is hard to see someone buying an ok place of abode, a car, filling the house with reasonable furniture and appliances and then having enough left over for a pleasant lifestyle.  This would be a big ask, it is doable but corners would have to be cut.

As you will find out when you get here, too many language schools in Thailand are run like a business, make as much money as possible and not worry too much about the service that is offered.  As qualified, skilled professionals, we can offer a lot to whatever jobs we undertake and am sure that most people reading this are the same.  I quite simply refuse to work for less than $US 10 per hour.  If you want teachers, pay a reasonable rate, otherwise pay peanuts and you will get monkeys.

Finally, it must be said that in Bangkok there is little correlation between the ability of a teacher and the amount of money that they earn.  This is obviously a major disincentive though is not a Thailand only problem.