Thai Therapy: The Cure For Unemployment

Greetings from a beachside hotel in the greatest country in the world: Thailand. Seven’s on vacation this week, so fingers crossed that this flimsy wifi can handle the photos for the articles. This week’s frowback was initially a request from a reader back in the spring of last year on how to find work as a teacher and be able to stay on permanently here in paradise. I’m gonna be honest, I didn’t reread it before posting…

“So this one’ll be pretty obvious, but hopefully I can offer some information you didn’t have before reading. It’s part of a series called “Thai Therapy,” an exploration of the idea that, by relocating to The Land of Smiles, you can find respite from many of the ills that plague Western culture. In truth, you could easily exacerbate your vices by coming here, or even pick up a few you didn’t have back home. But that’s a topic for another blog. Here, I’ll attempt to make the case that if you can’t get work in your country, you could, if you fit the criteria, move to Thailand and find employment quite easily. And as well, total bliss.

While it’s true that there are strict laws in Thailand against any foreigner working in a job that a Thai could do, there is a very short but in-demand list of jobs that 1—Thais can’t do, and 2—virtually every English speaking foreigner qualifies for: teaching English. In order to qualify to be an English teacher in Thailand, you ostensibly need just three things: A uni degree in any field, a passport from a native English speaking country, and a clean criminal record. And the truth is, you can sometimes get by with only two or one or even none of these, depending on how picky you are about where you work. Allow me to explain.

The demand for English teachers in Thailand far exceeds the number of available candidates, so schools in smaller towns and rural areas can’t afford to be choosy. So if you, say, don’t hold a passport from a native English speaking country (which as of 2018 are the UK, US, Canada, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand), but you can speak English fluently, albeit with an accent, you can still find work. The same goes for not having a uni degree. Schools that are desperate for teachers are willing to look the other way if you can make up for it by being clean-cut, reliable, and flexible. And while a criminal background check from your home country is a requirement, a school might stall on asking for your documentation as long as a year if it means there will be a teacher in a classroom that would otherwise remain empty. Though, full disclosure, you’d technically be working illegally and it would only last as long as it took to be found out. But it’d be fun while it lasted.

The Spectrum

So depending on how qualified you are, your potential for landing a great job in a great location lies along a wide spectrum, the top of course being a high-paying gig at a good school in a great location. In most cases, this is an international school, which typically consists of native English speaking students whose parents work in Thailand. To get your eager foot in the door of one of these places, though, you’ll need more than the minimum three requirements. These schools have the luxury of choosing from hundreds of applicants, so your CV needs to boast things like a professional teaching certificate from your home country, lots of experience, IB (International Baccalaureate) experience, and usually a minimum of a Master’s Degree. Working at an international school usually means a salary comparable to what you’d make back home—money that, to say the least, would go a lot farther in Thailand. You could basically live like a king for the rest of your days.

One step down from an international school is an English program school. This kind of school teaches Thai students, but the core subjects of Maths, Science, PE, Computers, and (of course) English are taught by native English speakers. EP schools typically require a teaching certificate from your home country and a Master’s degree, but will forego one or both of these if they are anxious to fill a position. Salary for EP schools vary between 60K baht and 120K baht per month, which is a crazy awesome budget in Thailand.

Below the EP school is the language institute. These are basically private companies that sell English as a commodity. Some examples are Wall Street English, Stamford University, and Berlitz. Their teachers are independent contractors who take gigs as they come, like when a new hotel is opening and their staff needs a three-month intensive English seminar, or a company like Samsung wants a Business English course for their employees, or a uni student wants private tutoring or a class that helps prepare them for the SAT or IELTS exam. If you work for one of these places, your salary won’t be consistent. It could be great one month and not so great the next, depending on customer demand.

Next on the sliding scale is a private Thai school. These schools have a certain prestige, and student tuition is high, so your salary will be better than at a government school and the facilities will reflect a bigger budget. Typically these schools hire from a placement agency so they don’t have to conduct interviews themselves. The best explanation for this is, the administrators don’t speak English. An English teacher can make between 35K and 50K depending on experience and qualifications, which on paper are the three listed at the top of this article. However, if the school badly needs to fill a position, they’re not opposed to looking the other way if, for example, you’re from a non-native English speaking country. If the fit ever hits the shan, the school can blame the placement agency.

The bottom of the barrel is the government school, where your salary will be low (25K to 30K), resources will be scant, your room will be sans air-con (and also likely won’t have doors or glass in the windows), and the head teacher/school director will treat you like something stuck to the bottom of his/her shoe.  I know what you’re thinking: “What the hell is the upside?” Well, if you got no qualifications or experience, but can speak English, you have a good chance of getting a job in one of these schools, precisely because qualified people get jobs in better ones. Will you get rich? No. Will you be able to live comfortably in a big city or resort town? No. But you can get by, and when you get time off, a gorgeous beach is within driving distance.

So if your goal is to escape life in the West and also find a job, you can do both in the number 1 holiday destination in the world. It’s a bit like being on a permanent vacation. And if you’re reading this and thinking, “But I don’t know how to teach” and/or “My qualifications are too low” you can make yourself a more viable candidate by earning a TEFL certificate. Email me directly for info about an online course where you can earn a cert in your free time.”

And that’s it for this frowback. See you Sunday for the weekly. Cheers.

(Disclaimer: All photos are of gogo dancers in schoolgirl uniforms, and not actual students in Thai schools. But you knew that already.)