Are you looking to teach abroad in a tropical paradise? Then teaching in Thailand may be the perfect location for you. From the bustling metropolis Bangkok to the sleepy northern city Chiang Mai, to island villages in the south, you're bound to find a Thai destination you'll love.
Most new teachers in Thailand find a job that pays around $1,000 USD a month... in Bangkok the pay is about 30% higher.
However, the land of smiles might not be as lucrative as other teaching placements in East Asia. If you have teaching credentials and years of experience, you can live an extremely comfortable life in Thailand, but if you're new to teaching and want to put away some savings, you might want to consider another destination.
So how much money can you actually make teaching in Thailand? How much money can you save? Our guide to salary expectations for teaching English in Thailand will help you figure out how much you can expect to earn while working in this Southeast Asian gem.
How Much Money Can You Make Teaching English in Thailand?
Most new teachers in Thailand find a job that pays around $1,000 a month, which should be enough to cover your basic living expenses, especially outside of the larger cities like Bangkok.
In Bangkok, the cost of living tends to be about 30% higher than the rest of Thailand, but teacher salaries reflect this increase and tend to be about 30% higher as well. While this salary is double what local Thais earn, it still isn't very high compared to other countries like South Korea.
If you have a bit of teaching experience, you can expect to earn around $1,500, especially if you have a teaching certificate (not a TEFL certificate) from your home country. Many teachers leave their old jobs in the US and the UK in favor of international schools in Thailand, where they can enjoy a much higher quality of living than they would back home.
A TEFL certificate, however, will increase your chances at a higher salary. If you aren't yet TEFL certified, you can look for TEFL courses on Go Overseas.
Also, salaries vary depending on the type of teaching job you have. Here's a quick list of salaries for different types of teaching jobs in Thailand:
- Public Schools: $800-$1,000 per month
- Language Academies: $9-$15 per hour ($650-1,500 per month)
- Private Bilingual Schools :$1,700-$2,500 per month
- Private International Schools: $3,000-$5,500 per month
Let's explore each of these job types and salaries in greater detail.
1. Public Schools: $800-$1,000 per month
While private language academies used to be the go-to employer of foreign teachers in Thailand, most teach abroad educators now work for government public schools. Teachers at these schools usually make between $800 and $1,000 per month depending on location and experience. However, if you have a few years of teaching under your belt, you can definitely expect to make more.
To obtain a job at a Thai school, applicants need to be native speakers with a Bachelor's degree. TEFL certificates are not required, but they may help you get a job or command a higher salary.
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2. Language Academies: $9-$15 per hour ($650-$1,500 per month)
Salaries at language academies vary dramatically, as they usually pay an hourly rate (although some work on a monthly salary). Rates will depend on location and experience. Typically, teachers will work for 18-25 hours a week for about $9-$15 per hour; which is how we calculated the $650-$1,500 per month salary range.
If you’re teaching young students, a typical salary will fall within the $9-$15 per hour range. However, if you find a job teaching adults in tourism or working for an international company, you may land a salary of around $15-$30!
Language academies have the potential to pay higher rates than public schools, however, you will be working more classes and you may have to teach nights and weekends. Schools will usually demand native speakers with a four-year degree. TEFL certificates are also optional for these positions but if you have one you can command a higher salary and have an easier time finding a job.
Most language academies have erratic schedules with classes on nights and weekends to accommodate the children or business professionals you are teaching. Class sizes will typically be small, with less than 10 students to a class. These schools usually have limited benefits, with a very small amount of vacation time and potentially a one-way flight reimbursement home at the end of your contract.
3. Private Bilingual Schools: $1,700-$2,500 per month
If you have experience teaching and a TEFL certification, teaching at a local bilingual school is a great way to earn a high salary in Thailand. Teachers at private bilingual schools typically earn between $1,700 and $2,500 per month.
In addition to a great salary, these jobs also have better benefits. You will typically have longer holiday breaks, round-trip airfare, and health insurance. These schools are often used to working with foreign teachers and will be more accommodating to cultural differences.
Bilingual school jobs typically demand a 40-hour a week work schedule with classes running Monday through Friday in the morning and afternoon.
4. Private International Schools: $3,000-$5,500 per month
The absolute best way to earn a high salary in Thailand is to work at a top international school. While these schools may seem similar to bilingual schools at first, they will offer a much higher salary and will only hire those who are qualified to teach in their home country with a teaching degree or certification. The average salary at these private international schools is between $3,000 and $5,500 per month.
Jobs at Western-run international schools will typically offer benefits as well. Free flights to and from Thailand, vacation days, health insurance, and housing stipends are just some of the perks you can expect.
Finally, the best way to earn a high salary as an international school teacher is to apply from outside of Thailand. While most jobs in Thailand do want you applying “on the ground”, the top international schools will often pay more to lure qualified teachers from their home countries!
What Are Typical Non-Salary Benefits in Thailand?
Compared to countries like South Korea and China, Thai teaching jobs typically have fewer benefits. Many positions will expect you to pay for your own flight to Thailand and your own housing. At the completion of your contract, you may be given a one-way flight reimbursement home. Some jobs will also provide contract completion bonuses, especially if you sign on for a second year.
When accepting a teaching job in Thailand, keep in mind that everything is negotiable. You can always try to negotiate a higher salary or flight reimbursement; however, it is extremely uncommon for a job to providing housing.
How Much Does it Cost to Live in Thailand?
Depending on the city you choose, a salary of $450-$1,300 should be enough to cover all of your expenses. Those living in Bangkok should try to find a job paying $1,000-$1,300 to live comfortably. If you're living in a smaller city like Chaing Mai, $900 is more than enough, while smaller villages will be even cheaper. Ajarn has some handy that can help you create a budget.
As long as you don't have a large amount of debt or student loans, an ESL teacher in Thailand can easily maintain a comfortable standard of living, and save money to travel around Southeast Asia during the holiday breaks.
Compared to other countries in Southeast Asia, it's easy to accommodate a Western standard of living in Thailand, where fully furnished apartments with air conditioning are readily available -- not to mention Western-style bars, cafes, and restaurants in Bangkok (although, spending too much time and money on those will easily increase your budget).
Below is a sample of some common expenses to give you an idea of the cost of living in Thailand. Though, if you want more details, again, the Ajarn interviews are very helpful.
|Expense||In Bangkok||Outside Bangkok|
|Average Taxi Ride||$5||$2-$5|
|Electricity & wifi||$100||$50|
|Dinner at a restaurant||$3 - 6||$3-$6|
|Monthly Train Ticket||$33-$45||n/a|
Need to Save Money?
For the most part, the average public school salary will be enough to cover your cost of living in Thailand, with a little left over for travel. However, if you really need to make some extra money during your time in Thailand, there are a few ways you can boost your income, or make your salary go further.
Firstly, if you’re living in Bangkok, the easiest way to save money is to get a small apartment further from downtown. Just going at least four subway stops from the city center will dramatically lower rent prices!
Many teachers in Thailand will also boost their income by tutoring part-time, or volunteering to teach an extra class at their public government school. By offering to teach an extra hour after school Monday to Thursday, most public schools will give you an extra $175 per month!
Ready to Negotiate Your Salary in Thailand?
From the bustling streets of Bangkok to the temple lined alleys of Chiang Mai, there is so much to offer a teacher in Thailand. If you're looking for beautiful weather, a decent salary and an easy pace of life, Thailand is the perfect country for you to teach abroad. As long as you don't have a large amount of debt or student loans, an ESL teacher in Thailand can easily maintain a comfortable standard of living and save money to travel around Southeast Asia during the holiday breaks.
For those of you with teaching credentials or years of experience, Thailand is the perfect place to base yourself for a few years. With cushy international school jobs, amazing benefits and a cheap cost of living, many teachers decide to move to Thailand permanently.
If you're ready to make teaching in Thailand your next step, I'd suggest reading our insider tips for teaching in Thailand next, then looking for jobs on our teaching job board or for a recruiter on our teach in Thailand listings page.
Whether you're looking for a vibrant city life or a small village on the beach, you're bound to find an ESL destination in Thailand that works for you.
This article was originally published in March 2016, and was updated in November 2018.