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Teaching English in Thailand. My experience living and working in Chiang Mai.

Over 10 years ago, before I was a blogger, before I started my charity (The GiveBackGiveAway), before I made $1m+ blogging, and before I visited every country in the world, I was stuck in Ireland. I had finished University in the summer of 2006, worked at a summer camp in the USA, traveled around the US and now I wanted to travel. But I had no money. After furiously googling “How to travel with no money”, “Cool stuff to do when you’re broke” and every possible permutation in between, I stumbled across something I knew nothing about ‘Teaching English As A Foreign Language’ (TEFL) or ‘Teaching English in Thailand’.

I delved a bit deeper. Noticing that as a university graduate, with Engish as my mother tongue, I could get a job teaching English in most countries around the world, so where did I want to move to? When you embrace teaching English, the world is your oyster. You can go anywhere. I was 22 years old, I wanted an adventure. Asia was calling, and what better place to move to and live in than Thailand! So I decided, Teaching English in Thailand was it. Before I long I had studied my TEFL, had booked my one-way flight to Chiang Mai, Thailand and I was off. It was the first step to an amazing 10-year journey to every country in the world, it was my first leap of faith and in all honesty, I haven’t looked back since.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

I was in and around Chiang Mai for the best part of 18 months and it truly was one of the best times of my life; I want to shine a little light on the lifestyle of teaching English in Thailand, the way the teaching worked, and generally discuss the ups and downs as my life as an English Teacher in Thailand, and then deal with all the extra trips, funny stories and crazy shenanigans later blog posts.

teaching english chiang mai thailand
Teaching English in Chiang Mai, Thailand

My First Experience in Asia, and Teaching

I finished my TEFL qualification and I was now fully qualified to teach English in pretty much any country in the world. That qualification gave me a greater feeling of freedom than any other course I had ever finished, my degree included! To know that now, no matter what life throws at you, you’re can fly to Costa Rica, or China, Thailand or Tunisia tomorrow and legally look for work there is exhilarating, and to do this day I find myself casting an eye on jobs available in obscure countries, knowing I could go there. It’s crazy.

When I signed up to my TEFL, I also signed up with an agency to help me get a job. To just fly to Thailand, or China and look for work there was too scary for me at 22 years old, so I signed a contract  for a job in China, ready for me after my time in Chiang Mai, but after spending some time in Chiang Mai and truly falling in love with Thailand I reneged on my Chinese contract to try to carve out a living in Chiang Mai.

Finding an Apartment in Chiang Mai

First up, sorting out accommodation. My budget was tight, very tight. Initially, I had been living in guest houses and hostels, which although was admittedly fun, all those late nights and new friends weren’t overly conducive to me setting up a new life in a new country. All the modern condos that Thailand houses these days were beyond my means at that stage of my life. So I jumped on my rented scooter and scoured the city to find something that would work. I was figuring that I needed to survive on around 15,000THB per month ($450USD or so), which meant I could spend around 4000THB ($120) or so on rent.

Soon I managed to find a serviced apartment in the north of the city, on Changpuak Road.  For around 4000 Baht per month I could have a small studio in the Wipanan Mansion. Instantly I felt at home. This was probably my first indication of where a life in Thailand can shine brighter than most many countries in the world.

Within a month I was good friends with all the staff -the receptionists, the owners of the property, the  cleaners. So much so that they wouldn’t let me leave the building on an empty stomach, or head to a job interview with a wrinkled shirt. They’d insisting I eat with them before I go out, and have that shirt ironed while I wait. It can be a scary thing to move to a new country on your own, with a one-way ticket, but throwing yourself into situations like this, saying ‘yes’ to people and

It can be a scary thing to move to a new country on your own, with a one-way ticket, but throwing yourself into situations like this, saying ‘yes’ to people and socialising instantly settles you down, and my humble condo was so helpful in that.

Each week, Chiang Mai and Thailand seems to have a public holiday or some religious celebration. The staff would bring us along and show us the ‘real’ Thailand, on so many occasions. 2 particularly amazing experiences were the Visakha Bucha Festival where we trek to beautiful temple, Doi Suthep, on top of the mountain in the middle of the night or Loy Krathong, an amazing festival where we let off lanterns into the sky and little vessels down the Ping River. Never would there be an event on without an invite from the staff there, the Thai people are very, very special.

cheap apartment Chiang Mai Thailand
My studio apartment in Chiang Mai, around $130USD per month

Teaching English in Thailand. Finding a Job in Chiang Mai

My accommodation was sorted. I had rented a scooter for another 2000THB ($50) a month, so my transport was good to go. Now it was time to find work. I had zero income and almost zero life savings. It was imperative I found work within a month or so. Knowing I had turned down a decent paying job in China to set-up in Chiang Mai put some additional pressure on me. I had to make it work.

I researched all the Private English Language Schools in Chiang Mai. Personally, I had decided to avoid working for the Government schools for a number of reasons. Number 1 was that it would feel too much like the rat race. 9-5 hours, a recognisable structured hierarchy, too many students in each class. I wanted an adventure. So a Language School, working in evenings, at random hours, with private older students, suited me perfectly.

After a few applications, proudly bearing the news that we I was a graduate with a recognised TEFL,  interviews were flooding in. I was offered a position at the British Council and had a number of other schools asking me to work there, in the end, I decided to work at AUA, one of the most famous language institutions in the country with branches in every city. The facilities, by Thai standards, were great:

  • Class sizes ranging from 5-20
  • Air-conditioners!! (even in Universities in Thailand that wasn’t guaranteed)
  • Student ages ranging from 15-30, average around 18 years old. I didn’t want to be teaching children, so this was perfect.
  • A structured syllabus with textbooks and workbooks. Coming from the West we expect this to be a pre-requisite of a teaching Institution. In South East Asia, you can’t guarantee that’ll be the case. Do your research before you accept a position).
  • Working hours of 5.00pm – 8.15pm every day and all day Saturday. This was a deal-sealer for me. I would have all day each day to explore the city and the region, to drive around on my little scooter, to study Thai and hit the gym.
  • The majority of the other teachers there were all relatively young so it gave me an automatic social group too. Something pretty important when you’re setting up a new life in a foreign country.

How Much is an English Teacher’s Salary in Chiang Mai, Thailand?!

The question on everyone’s lips.

You don’t sign up for teaching English in Thailand for the money, that’s for sure. Head to South Korea, Eastern China, or the Middle East for that. My salary was around 25,000 Baht a month ($730). As a 22-year-old, that was easily enough for me to have a fun, middle-class life in Chiang Mai. I had a decent studio serviced apartment (wifi, air-con etc).  My scooter was rented monthly.  Local Thai food for breakfast, lunch and dinner (35THB ($1) or so a dish). I was partying a lot.  Each holiday meant traveling the region, and I still managed to save a couple of hundred bucks here and there for my travels when I finished my contract one year later.

Foregoing my Western vices was pretty tough though. Almost no foreign food, only local beers (no imports, which meant no Guinness, heartbreaking for an Irishman!), my travels were all overland on romantic but tortuous bus journeys, sleeping in run-down Guest Houses in China, Cambodia, Laos or wherever I had traveled too. Life was good. I was seeing the world, learning a new culture, exploring a region and making new friends. It was one of the happiest times in my life, and although I had to think about money each day, I felt alive. Nothing but good memories.

What’s Teaching English in Thailand actually like?

Honestly speaking, I don’t think I’m a natural English teacher.  But I threw myself into the experience with all my heart. As a first time English teacher, it can be quite stressful standing up in front of a classroom of people, all eyes on you, with nowhere to hide. The first month for me was stressful indeed. I would arrive at the school each day around 1 pm or so, 4 hours before the classes began at 5pm. I’d prepare my lessons diligently. I would check today’s lesson AND tomorrow’s lesson as I was scared of running out of content and being left at the front of the class with nothing to say! As the months went on though, I learned how to pace the lessons better. Learning how to expand on topics adlib; how to manage a classroom and its students.

By month 4 or so, I was actually enjoying my job. My lesson planning was much faster. Now I could come into school around 3-4pm now for my 5 pm classes. The students, with an average age of 18 or so (when I was only 22) responded well to me, never once was I disrespected, or challenged. The structure of my school helped a lot, working through modules, and my co-teachers were also a source of help too, extra activities, advice here and there. This kind of thing was priceless for a newbie teacher like me.

Thai Students

Thai students are literally a pleasure to teach, it’s all smiles, light-hearted behaviour and respect. The one thing I noticed most about Thai students in comparison with the West is a  lack of ego. Our egos often create such friction – so worried to let ourselves go. In the Thai classroom I found quite the opposite and teaching there was awesome because of this, also the students actually seem grateful for you teaching them – a notion that is very foreign to anyone who has taught in a British comprehensive school I’m sure.

english teaching chiang mai thailaland
Super cute poster from my students
teaching english chiang mai
Another poster from my students

In Thailand, you have no teaching assistant to help you, no bilingual staff in the room, once you are in the classroom it’s all on you.i Initially then, I was feeling the pressure. Remember, you don’t have to speak the language of the country you’re in to teach English there. So when you’re teaching English in Thailand, like I was, you don’t have to speak Thai. In fact, if you can speak Thai, you’re not allowed to use it in the classroom. The best system for Language appropriation is full immersion, so you should only communicate in the language you’re teaching, English.

In theory that’s wonderful, but as a young, new English teacher, it can be pretty scary. A room full of people, sometimes at a beginner-English level, and you have to get your points across, new vocabulary, grammatical rules. It sounds impossible, I know, but it works, and it works well. Soon I was in the swing of things, as you will be, and your communication skills develop hugely. A skill I cherish as I travel the world these days.

teaching english in thailand
My favourite class in school!

teaching english in thailand

In private language schools in Chiang Mai, Thailand term times generally lasted 6 weeks. Each lesson was around an hour long. So every evening we had 3 sets of one-hour lessons. I then taught those kids every day for the 6 weeks so naturally, you make a real connection. Student’s English levels varied a lot from absolute beginner to university students studying business English. Knowing that, I was really thankful for my TEFL training. I know many countries who don’t require a TEFL course and to be honest, I would have been 100% lost in a classroom Teaching English in Thailand without it. The thought of standing up, educating people, with no formal training isn’t fair on you. Nor is it fair to your students.

Looking Back Fondly

Teaching English in Thailand, I worked at AUA for over a year. I made lifelong friends and genuine connections with my students, some of whom I’m still in contact with 10 years later. Every day was fun at AUA and I would definitely recommend working there if you are a first-time teacher. The benefits are amazing – low levels of stress, lots of autonomy, cool kids and awesome coworkers. Good times and ones I like back at fondly.

Sometimes looking back at my time Teaching English in Thailand, I feel nostalgic. Sure I was broke and pretty clueless, but what an adventure. I was young, free, with the whole world waiting for me to explore. Teaching English changed my life, one of the best decisions I ever made. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.

teach english chiang mai
I left for a coffee and my kids shut the door and drew this on the board 🙂

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117 thoughts on “My Time Teaching English In Chiang Mai, Thailand

  1. Nice post. Thanks for sharing a information about the time teaching english in chiang mai in Thailand.

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  3. Great blog post! This is a amazing article of time teaching english in Chiang mai Thailand. Thanks for sharing your information.

  4. Teaching has also its own enjoyment i think you enjoyed a lot there maybe your tour is memorable there. Thanks a lot for sharing such a beautiful and informative blog .

  5. Experience is so nice in chiang mai thailand for the teaching english great time thanks for sharing with us.

  6. Hi Johnny,

    I am 56 years old and want to teach English in Chiang Mai. I took a 160 hour TEFL/TESOL through TEFLEXPRESS.CO.UK (online) and earned my certificate in 2015. I have a master of science in geology and I have been teaching community college for the past three years. I have prior extensive teaching experience with all ages and adults. Do you think it is better to use a teaching program to facilitate the process of teaching in Thailand? Based on the information provided, should I anticipate any difficulties finding employment in Chiang Mai? Thank you for your help.
    Sara

  7. Looks like a great school, especially supply you will all your teaching material. Would you recommend your CELTA course to others teaching in Thailand without experience? Are you still teaching now?

    1. Pls contact me if you are interested to start working as a teacher in Thailand. i am looking for many teacher to fill in both language school and private school .any further in for can email me directly

      1. Hello, I am a young 45 year old with lots of experience/education and a love for working with children. Please let me know if you are still looking. I currently live in the Unites States, but would move for work.

        Thanks (:

      2. I am experienced teacher (32 years), with a Master’s degree in music education. However, I have taught English in International schools, and for a short time at Global One Language Center in Malaysia. My teaching certification includes an endorsement in Structured English Immersion. I lived and taught in China, Malaysia and Vietnam, and 4 other countries. I am most interested in teaching English in Thailand.

      3. Tonight I decided it was time to move on from the USA where I have even living for 12 years. I have just spoken to friend who can not stop raving about life in Thailand. I have a BA honours degree…majors in communication and sociology. Also did a TEFL course some time ago…I love kids and they love me.
        I can send you an interesting letter to demonstrate this last pion once I have your email address.

        Kind regards, Merle Ball

      4. Hello, I’d like to work as an English teacher anywhere in Thailand. I am Italian but I have a Bachelor’s degree in English plus TEFL certificate. I am a 43 y.o. translator but I taught English for 2 years at a private school in Italy. I also speak French Spanish and Portuguese fluently plus Thai and Chinese (intermediate knowledge only ). I have been to Thailand five times and I like the country and its culture very much.

        Thank you for your attention
        yours sincerely

        Franco LEVA, Turin, Italy.

      5. Hi! Kathy have a good day, by the way this is mary rosecame from negros, philippine Im graduated for bachelor of elementary educatioon.english majoring but general. sy.1999-2000.but to be honest i’m not passing the board but I’m willing to work in thailand for teaching english elementary.Ma’am Kathy pls. help me what I’m doing if I want to teach in english thailand elementary school.acctually I have my personal passport.Ma’am can you gave me an advice.? so that I know what kind of step can enter in thailand place.thank you so much.

      6. Hi Kathy!

        My name is Jeni and I’m currently earning my TEFL certificate in New York, United States. I am from New York but have been living in Australia for the past 2 years. In April I will be moving to Thailand and I hope to find a teaching career in Chiang Mai. I plan to stay at least one year in Chiang Mai, as I have friends who taught in primary schools in the city and enjoyed their time. I graduated from a University in the U.S. with a BA in Communications and a focus in English, I have one year of experience as an assistant teacher at a primary school in Sydney, Australia, 4 years of experience tutoring both children and adults, and this year I have been working for an education company called General Assembly in Melbourne, Australia. Please feel free to connect with me on Facebook or send me a message back here.

        I look forward to hearing from you!
        Jeni

      7. Hi Kathy, Is is possible for Italian natives to teach english as a foreign language iff they have CELTA or TEFL qualifications?

        Thank you

        Libby and Marco

      8. Hi Kathy, Is is possible for Italian natives to teach english as a foreign language if they have CELTA or TEFL qualifications?

        Thank you

        Libby and Marco

      9. Hallo.

        I am From Australia and I am current teaching English in Vietnam. But I always wanted to come to Thailand and Teach English. Please let me know if you have any Teaching Position there.

        1. My school is in Fang district Chiangmai. We need an English Teacher right now. If you would like to work with us please contact me as soon as possible. call me 0987473177

  8. An intriguing discussion is worth comment. I think that you ought to write more on this subject, it might not be a taboo subject but generally people don’t talk about these issues. To the next! All the best!!

  9. You ought to be a part of a contest for one of the finest blogs online. I most certainly will recommend this web site!

  10. This is getting a bit more subjective, but I much prefer the Zune Marketplace. The interface is colorful, has more flair, and some cool features like ‘Mixview’ that let you quickly see related albums, songs, or other users related to what you’re listening to. Clicking on one of those will center on that item, and another set of “neighbors” will come into view, allowing you to navigate around exploring by similar artists, songs, or users. Speaking of users, the Zune “Social” is also great fun, letting you find others with shared tastes and becoming friends with them. You then can listen to a playlist created based on an amalgamation of what all your friends are listening to, which is also enjoyable. Those concerned with privacy will be relieved to know you can prevent the public from seeing your personal listening habits if you so choose.

  11. hi great blog. one question i have jsut finished working in china and now have an offer in Bangkok, in your experience did you need a criminal check for your work visa?

    cheers

  12. Great blog! I received my TEFL in CM and loved it. We got to do our practice teaching at the local major wat-it was so surreal teaching young monks! I live and teach in Bangkok now, which I love, but this definitely makes me miss my time there. Thanks for a great post!

  13. Hi Johnny,

    Thanks so much for your post, it gives great insight on living in Chiang Mai which is where I want to teach. I am looking into getting my TEFL or CELTA sometime in April and I want to take the course overseas in Chiang Mai or Phuket. If you have the time, can you please help me with my two following concerns?

    1) TEFL or CELTA – I noticed that you got certified with the CELTA,but I’ve heard mixed reviews and have also read many forums that stipulate the TEFL is better if you want to teach grade school which is what I initially want. Which do you recommend and why? Another concern is I’ve heard you need a BA in order to get a decent paying teaching job, I have an Associates in Business Management and am working on a BA but would like to leave it all and fulfill my dream of teaching abroad.

    2) Chiang Mai or Phuket – I have completely fallen in love with all of the research I’ve done on Chiang Mai but recently found out that to go to the beaches is anywhere from 12-24 hours on bus or train. I’ve also heard that Phuket is not the best place to reside although it has gorgeous beaches. If you could do it all over again would you choose a beach location rather than Chiang Mai or would you prefer to stay in Chiang Mai and travel to the beaches?

    Thank you so much for your time.

    Xxo,
    Cindee T
    Cindeet@me.com

    1. Hi Cindee,

      I currently teach in Bangkok, Thailand, and I can tell you that many of my coworkers do not have BA’s. While I believe it’s ‘technically’ required, our agency does not enforce this policy, and they continue to make the average salary of 32,000-35,000 baht a month (around 1200$ USD).

      I got my TEFL at CMU in Chiang Mai and it was a great program. However, I will warn you that Chiang Mai is an extremely competitive place to teach, since many foreigners want to live there. Therefore, the salary is driven down by the over-abundance of highly qualified or experienced ESL teachers. I would recommend getting a bit off the beaten path for better opportunities (or Bangkok!) If you want to know more about teaching English in Thailand in Bangkok, I have some blog posts specifically about the classroom and expectations, etc.

      Chok dee with your future plans!

    2. Pls contact me if you are interested to start working as a teacher in Thailand. i am looking for many teacher to fill in both language school and private school .any further in for can email me directly

      1. Hello, I’d like to work as an English teacher anywhere in Thailand. I am Italian but I have a Bachelor’s degree in English plus TEFL certificate. I am a 43 y.o. translator but I taught English for 2 years at a private school in Italy. I also speak French Spanish and Portuguese fluently plus Thai and Chinese (intermediate knowledge only ). I have been to Thailand five times and I like the country and its culture very much.

        Thank you for your attention
        yours sincerely

        Franco LEVA, Turin, Italy.

      2. My wife and I just retired after over 35 years teaching in the US and we want to teach in Chiang Mai arriving in October of 2016. Would you have an opportunity for us? We are highly experienced and love teaching. She taught English and I have taught History, French and Spanish.

  14. Howdy from Texas!
    I am looking for a TESOL certification to be able to teach in Chiang Mai (or other parts of Thailand, but heard Chiang Mai is the best). I went to a University in Texas for a few years, but did not obtain a degree. Would this pose a challenge in finding a situation like your own? By the way, was the $130USD for both of you, or each of you have to pay that? Anyway, I am Cambodian (born in America), myths have said that caucasians have a better chance at getting a great teaching opportunity that pays well – would I have challenges getting a good job just because I look like everyone else in the classes I would be teaching? – Silly questions I know, but better prepared than not! Thanks for posting such a positive outlook on your journeys and accomplishments, this really helps paint a big picture for me! Love to connect with you by email as well!

  15. Hey – I’ve just got a place for a semester teaching English in Chiang Mai so this was really great to read!

    I know this sounds a bit ridiculous but I’m just wondering how easy it is to make friends abroad. I’ve never lived by myself before so I think that’s why I’m being a scaredy cat, and I’m heading out on my own. Can you give me any advice on finding other ESL teachers in the city? Did you live a fairly active social life?

    Cheers

    1. Hi Jenna,
      There are Facebook groups available to meet other TEFL teachers and Chiang Mai has a bustling foreign community. There are lots of bloggers, teachers and nomads kicking it there 🙂

  16. Hey Johnny,
    My girlfriend and I are thinking of doing our TEFL in Chiang Mai with SeeTEFL (4 weeks – Thai Ministry Certificate – $1200) in Nov this year. The only ‘problem’ is that she does not have a degree. I have an ordinary degree in business so I think I should be fine, but as a man who has lived and worked there, do you think it is possible for her to find work in Chiang Mai with just a TEFL?…

    Cheers lad

  17. Hey Johnny, amazing blog!

    I’ve been seriously considering giving up my career and going travelling but the thought of leaving everything behind and not being able to get work while travelling terrifies me.

    After reading through your site, I am planning to head over to CM and do my CELTA. Problem being i don’t have a degree or a diploma. I left school midway through my A-levels to do an apprenticeship and now work for an oil company.

    Do you see this being a major issue or would i still be able to head over there and do my course and find some work to keep me afloat for a year before heading away to my next destination?

    Some advice would be awesome!

    Thanks!

    1. you can defo do the course buddy, getting work may be tough but not impossible. Thailand’s legal requirement state you need a degree but many people work illegally, but of course supply/demand is working against you. My advice? Come over and give it a bash 🙂

  18. Hey,

    Great blog! It’s super encouraging and helpful. My friend and I are American and thinking about moving to Thailand. We both have Bachelor degrees. I’ve been teaching in the states the past year and have a TEFL certification. She does social work. What’s the best way to go about getting jobs? Some blogs say just move and a job will come. Others say to try to get one before we leave. We both have things keeping us from leaving until June. Ive heard the Thai school year starts in March. Will this be a probem? What do we do? What are the chances that we could get a job in the same area?
    Any advice you be awesome! Thank you 🙂

    1. Just come buddy! That’s always the best way in Thailand 🙂 Jobs in the same area? absolute luck of the draw, but both of u could get jobs in BKK for example, not sure if it’d be in the same area or not tho. School year in March? Not so much of an issue, because you can work at language schools too and they run throughout the year

  19. hi johnny…GREAT information and very useful. Im a South African female presently considering teaching in Thailand. I have a higher diploma in education and have been teaching for 11 YEARS. What are my chances of getting a job? Also considering doing a tefl course while in Thailand…. ONLY problem is that i need a job. Do yo know of any contacts in schools that you could let me know of. I would like to leave in April. Your assistance in thise regard would be greatly appreciated.

    cheers from South Africa!

  20. Hi dear johnny,
    This is very nice blog , i ever seen.i need some information about chiang mai, i am near to 60 year old,but still feel young to visit & explore the nature ,custums ,living style of thai peoples,i am senior instructor of electronics in Pakistan.Couple of time i visited when i was young on 1987. Can i live in thai land my rest of life as electronics teacher at chiang mai ? will the people of thailand accept me ?
    would you help please me ? thanks …..
    Tauqir Ahmad.

    1. it would be super difficult to get work like that to be honest mate, but of course the thai ppl will accept u, they’re awesome!

  21. Hey Mate, long story short, I had some cash ripped off from me while volunteer teaching in Nepal (currently still in Nepal as we speak) I was supposed to use this money to go down through India and eventually end up in Thailand, doing a TEFL course. To be frank, I now have $1500 USD to live off of. So I need to speed up the teaching process asap to be able to survive.

    Tickets from Kathmandu to Thailand are pretty cheap $230

    I am currently a University Student from the states, who has been going to school online while traveling, and volunteering, so I don’t have a BA degree just yet.

    I definitely don’t want or plan to go home just yet.
    If I can get a job and get some cash in the bank account, I could then sign up for a TEFL class like I originally planned and then apply for a better job eventually down the road.

    SO my questions are

    How far can I stretch $1500 (no partying), just living expenses in CM?

    Can you recommend a cheap place to stay/live?

    I hear there are still opportunities to get a job without a degree, but can you point me in the right direction mate? At least give me some hints as to where to look when I get there? Some school names would be extremely helpful!!

    Is it possible to just tutor rather than teach at a language school?

    I just want to know if all this can be done realistically.
    I am a crazy adventure bum so I don’t mind cutting it close with the cash. I have hitched and camped all over the place, so I know how to be frugal with money, i.e. not partying and wasting it all on booze. However I still want to be somewhat practical on whether I am able to do this or not!

    You can email me if you don’t want to name drop on your comments!

    I really appreciate this post bro. And many thanks ahead a time for the help!!!

    Cheers

    Ciaran

    1. Hey buddy,

      Send me a pvt mail and i’ll be more specific 🙂

      For rough answers, $1500 could last you 3 months in CM if you’re really careful, but it’s hard to get work there without a degree (it’s super popular)

      johnny

      1. Man, maybe I made the wrong choice by teaching English in Bangkok. $1,500 lasts me about one month. But then again I have two growing daughters to feed.

        Love the parts of the blog about teaching English in Thailand. I teach adults. I decided to stay out of the school system after one class of teaching 4-year-olds.

  22. This is a gold mine. Thanks for sharing mate. I checked out AUA’s website and saw they had the SIT course. I was hoping you could let me know what it’s like? And would it be worth doing it there over doing one in Australia? Also quickly, I have a bachelors degree

  23. Hi Johnny,

    Great article! I have a Bachelor of Arts in Business Management, Master of Business Administration in International Business and a Doctor of Business in Management. I have been in the IT field for 15 years and a business owner for 10 years. I have traveled extensively all around the world and always had that nagging thought to teach English overseas. My problem is about 24 year ago when I was young I got in trouble with the law and got a felony on my record. Is it still possible for me to teach overseas?

    1. hmmm it depends on the country to be honest mate, korea and japan – almost definitely not, they’ll ask for a CRB (Criminal record check), thailand will be 50/50, if you really wanna do it, it’s certainly possible, you might just have to keep applying for jobs until someone doesn’t want ur CRB, it’ll happen eventually

      1. Thank you or the update Johnny, I guess my best bet would be somewhere like Cambodia and some parts of Thailand. Is there anywhere else you can think of? It’s a shame even with a Doctorate Degree in business a person past still follows him 24 years later.

        1. absolutely agree mate, it’s a joke :S China is always a great shout, and with ever increasing salaries too. Cambodia would be great too, as would Indonesia 🙂

    2. @Jacob
      regarding your posting
      April 17, 2012 at 7:46 am;
      “. . . My problem is about 24 year ago when I was young I got in trouble with the law and got a felony on my record…”

      Check with your local/national police to see if you are able to apply for a pardon.

      Such a possibility exists in Canada. If you have been a fine upstanding citizen {:~) during the ensuing years it may be possible to have the record cleaned up now. It is worth looking into the possibility. There are many countries that you would not be allowed to enter with the record you indicate.

      I don’t know what country you live in but here is a link and info about how Canada does a pardon. Once a pardon is granted I believe the record will not appear when a criminal record check is made such as is required for TEFL work/travel.
      http://www.nationalpardon.org/NPC_pardoninformation.html

      “The first thing you will want to know about a Canadian pardon which is also known as a record suspension is that once your pardon is granted you should never be required to reveal, to anyone, that you ever had a criminal record. A pardon, granted by the federal government of Canada seals your entire criminal record. All charges and all convictions will be removed and kept separate from active criminal files stored in the RCMP database (CPIC). No one can ever access this file without prior written permission from the Minister of Public Safety Canada.”

      “Typical Results

      The benefits of obtaining a pardon cannot be denied. For most people the peace of mind which comes with knowing a personal criminal record has been removed is enough reward. However, the benefits extend into other areas of life as well. The most notable of these are the removal of restrictions on employment and the ability to freely travel to the United States.

      With the granting of a Canadian pardon from the National Parole Board of Canada you will never again have to disclose that you were ever convicted of a crime.”

      jr

  24. Hi Johnny,

    Great blog!

    Just wondering if you think a 120 hour online TEFL course is enough to give me a good chance of getting a job in Chiang Mai?

    cheers!

    1. maybe but better with teaching practice to be honest. Chiang Mai is hugely popular so getting work there can be tough, a practical TEFL would enhance your chances a lot!

      1. Hi Johnny. Am about to head to Thailand for a while, and have been checking out blogs and reviews. Gotta say mate, yours is like a breath of fresh air. Some, even most, seem to focus so much on ‘possible negatives’ and ‘what to look out for’ that ya wonder what they’re doing there at all!! I live in sleepy little Perth, W.A., and if ya only want to focus on negatives, ya dont have to go far past the front door. Your comments were refreshing and focused on the reason to be anywhere-the people. Thanks.

  25. Hi Johnny,
    My name’s Pum, I live in Chiangmai.
    I am wondering do you teach the individually writing english or not?
    what if you do how much does it cost for hour ?
    Best,
    Pum

    1. i’m long out of the teaching game i’m afraid mate! i’m an online dude these days 😛 drop me an email tho and i’ll see if i can hook u up with some old friends 🙂

    1. certainly possible Faiz but not as easy as a native speaker, what country are you from? And is it Chiang Mai specifically you wanna teach?

  26. Hi,

    Great article! My friend and I are currently in Chiang Mai looking for English teaching work, we both have a CELTA and both have degrees from University, but so far we haven’t even been able to find a part time position anywhere and we’ve been looking for weeks! How long did you search for a job before you were granted an interview?

    Cheers,
    Rory

    1. really? that surprises me Rory. I looked for a few days and had offers at a few schools – where have u tried, maybe i can help?

      1. Cheers for the reply,

        Literally everywhere! At the end of our third week now, been to AUA, NES, EFE, Walen, CEC, around a dozen language centers overall. All we can get are receptionists taking our applications and saying they’ll call us if something comes up… Impossible to even see a manager… Not one phone call, and it’s been three weeks! We’re in the process of giving up and heading to Chiang Rai to try there. Any advice?

        Thanks again,
        Rory

          1. Hey Johnny,

            Tried them all, they took our applications and shooed us out the door.
            Thanks for the advice, maybe we’ll have better luck in Chiang Rai. Really thought the CELTA would give us an advantage but apparently not.

            Thanks again,
            Rory

  27. Hi there,
    Great information.
    I think my wife and I are going to head out to Chiang Mai…. She was diagnosed with very aggressive breast cancer at the back end of February, and had since been carrying out an alternative cancer treatment and therapy, having discounted chemo and radiotherapy. She now wants to travel to Chiang Mai to partake in a massage course, and whilst she is doing this for 3 months, I was considering teaching English. My main problem is no degree. I have good A’level results and had offers for Physiotherapy way back when I was applying. Sadly my Dad was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, so I decided to postpone… I’m now 36. I am an now an independent financial advisor, and a writer and photographer for fishing magazines. But… No degree. Is it realistic for me to look for a teaching placement if I can get a TEFL in place? I would appreciate any advise whatsoever.

    Many, many thanks.

    Mark.

    1. hey Mark, i think this is a great plan by the way. Ok, no degree will be a bit of a problem (no work permit, that’s for sure) but you can probably get a job with one of the smaller language schools – have u tries that yet? 36 is easily young enough to be desirable to an english school so there is certainly scope for work. How have u got on so far?

      1. They won’t give me a work permit without a degree? Damn….
        It all depends on how long my wife’s thai massage course is. If we were going to be in Chang Mai for a month or more I’d apply, but if not I may be better just doing a course whilst I’m out there. Yoga or something. We are intending to travel to Vietnan and Cambodia too…. Everything feels very ‘up in the air’ at the moment.

        1. hey mate, a TEFL will increase your chances 10 fold, that’s for sure. With no degree, try to do a 160 hour course (4 weeks intensive), don’t waste your time with any online TEFL malarkey. When are you going over?

          1. Hey Jonny thanks for a great write up.
            My first question is when you say we need a Bachelor’s degree does that mean that the degree has to be in Teaching or Education? I have a Bachelor of Arts from a liberal arts college will this suffice? My second question is do I have to have a CELTA specifically? As I understand it, a CELTA brand TELF certificate is a lot of money and it’s for people who are sure that they want to invest in a TEFL as a career. I don’t have that kind of money. I was thinking that I would go down to Thailand and do a 120-140 hour TEFL practical course such as the Special Thai Program at the American Tesol Institute (have you heard of it?) Or another reputable TEFL course. Some of these programs agree to place you but at a large fee so I was going to try my hand at finding my own position in Chiang Mai or Phukket. Also I have experience working as a teachers assistant for middle and high school students for a year. What do you think? Is it worth it to invest in a CELTA specifically or will any TEFL 120 hr course due?

  28. hi mate. loving your site. i was wondering how much of a necessity a degree is to gaining employment? do you know of many/any people who work as teachers who dont have one? i have an A in english language at a-level but left home and started travelling as soon as i finished school. a friend of mine is in mexico working as an english teacher at the moment. he has his tefl and a degree so its all good for him. funnily enough he got a D in english at mandatory exams (gcse’s) but as he has a sport science degree he is fine! haha. any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

    1. hey Rob, ok a degree is a massive benefit, there’s no doubt about that. However, it’s still very possible to do it without one. One of my best mates, and current roommate in Bangkok, taught english for a year or two here and he doesn’t have a degree so all is not lost!

      Check out my new company http://www.teach.travel, it will arrange English teaching qualifications that you study for in Thailand – we can guarantee interview too, that might help 🙂

  29. Hiya mate, nice blog!

    My names Rob, I’m 24- recently got my CELTA, and I have 6 weeks experience teaching in a summer school for foreign kids in England. I’m considering Chiang Mai as a possible teaching destination as one of my CELTA tutors worked there and said it was great. AUA sounds a good option.

    A few questions-
    Does the school often take teachers with my level of experience?
    How big is the school/how many other foreign teachers work there?
    What’s the best way to get in contact with the school?
    What would you do on a typical night/day-off in Chiang Mai?
    Are there many other foreigners around to make friends with or do you need to learn Thai to make friends?

    Cheers, any answers would be very much appreciated, Rob

    1. hey mate, cheers for checking my site =) let me answer your questions…

      Does the school often take teachers with my level of experience? yes, all the time! I had literally ZERO experience.

      How big is the school/how many other foreign teachers work there? There are probably around 15-20 foreign teachers, and maybe 5 Thai admin staff.

      What’s the best way to get in contact with the school? through their website (http://www.auathailand.org/working.php) or go to AUA when you arrive

      What would you do on a typical night/day-off in Chiang Mai? It’s amazing in Chiang Mai mate, there’s so much to do. I took up rock-climbing, that was cool. And the party scene is awesome there too 😛

      Are there many other foreigners around to make friends with or do you need to learn Thai to make friends? There’s a massive expat population in chiang mai (maybe as much as 5,000+) so you can choose between thai and foreigners all you want!

      Honestly rob, CM is my favourite place in the whole world, i sincerely believe if you wanna teach english overseas, then CM may be the best place imaginable to start. Let me know how you get on.

        1. Couple of other things, do you know if it’s possible to get a contract for 6-8 months instead of 12? How in demand are native english teachers out there? Cheers, Rob

  30. hey!! i have done my masters in english literature….i m almost 30 years of age…what are my chances,foe a job as an english teacher in thailand..i m based in pakistan…i have one year experience of teaching as well…regards

  31. Good day,Johnny. Im 48 years young,a lady from South Africa ,with a 3 years Senior Primary Teachers Diploma. Would i find a job
    in Thailand teaching English? I’d love to work there for a few years. Your comments would greatly be appreciated.

    1. hey Belinda,

      your age is NO problem at all so don’t give that a second though 🙂 is your diploma a degree or is it slightly different?

      1. Thanx for reply,Johnny. I did my teaching Diploma at a Teachers Training College, Wellington(South Africa). I went to University after that for a BA degree,met my husband and dropped out,became air-hostess for South African Airways after that instead…….etc. etc. Here in S.A we call it a Diploma when you go to College and a Degree at University. Any suggestion or thought ? somebody from Thailand just contacted me and said i would find work there with my 3 Year Teachers Diploma (no Degree). What is the wage like there and can one save some money when working there?Also i believe you must take the TESOL Course to find a job there. Thanx. Belinda

      2. Johnny, i would really appreciate it if you could forward information about teaching-jobs in Thailand. Especially what the salary/wage would be and what accommodation costs are. I have to make my plans here a.s.a.p.
        I believe you only find jobs there if you have TEFL . Thanx. Appreciate your info tremendously(and this website). Greetings+blessings from South Africa.

        1. for a degree and TEFL teacher, salaries range from 20k-80k per month. The average in Chiang Mai, Phuket etc would be around 30k and BKK around 40k i guess. With no degree it maybe be a little less but if you search hard enough you can certainly find a (relatively) good wage 🙂 A TEFL will increase ur chances 1000% so get that for sure, u can study it in Thailand which is a great intro to the country too 🙂

  32. Johnny thanks so much! you’re so imformative and helpful.

    I was wondering where you took your CELTA? I’ve been looking at some places in Canada where they offer it but prices were as high as $2500, do you recommend getting your CELTA overseas?

    I’m definitely going to Thailand to teach english once I finish my undergrad degree, but I’m looking for a place near the ocean. Do you have any places you recommend?

  33. Hi Johnny
    i am from Australia and was in chiangmai for almost a year and i would like to teach english in chiangmai now.
    The reason why i want to teach english now is because i have family up in the north and i really love to do something different now,i know a few school i can apply for,such as ABS,CEC,my family wants me to apply with them but am not sure and plus i dont have my TEFL so if you can help me in anyway i will be grateful:)
    So if you want to more about me just let me know if there is any available position.
    Thank you
    Ariya:)

    1. hey ariya, i might be able to help you actually – send my a pvt email at johnny ‘at’ onestep4ward.com, i’m just applying the finishing touches to a company which will organise a TEFL of your choice in Thailand – good timing!

  34. Hi Johnny, it’s Robert again. I am planning on arriving in Chiang Mai about July 1, 2011. Can you recommend a few, nice “short-term” places to stay until I find a permanent place to live? Thanks for all your help!

    1. hey mate, good stuff. I love this place: http://www.wipananmansion.com/. It’s 4000 baht a month if you sign for 3 months or more and 5 or 6 k per month on a rolling monthly contract. The staff are awesome and its in a nice area, 2 mins from a food market etc

  35. Dear Johnny:

    I enjoyed reading about your experiences teaching in Chiang Mai. I will be traveling there in July 2011 – in the hopes of securing a teaching position. I hold both a Bachelors in English and a Masters in English, and I have 14 years of experience teaching English as a Foreign Language at both the university and high school levels. My concern is that I’m over age 60 – I’m in good health and I’m energetic – but will I face age discrimination is seeking a teaching job????

    1. hi robert,

      you’re certainly qualified enoug, that should go without saying. Personally, from my experience, i don’t think you’ll have a problem. Certainly not in a language school, they’ll take you in a heartbeat. With your credentials though i’d be looking at an international school or a university professor position and again, i dont think you’ll struggle for offers. Book your ticket, you’re in a much better position than 99% of other ESL professionals! Good luck and keep me posted 🙂

      1. I should also mention that I am a licenced and certified, middle school and high school master teacher of English in two states here in the USA, however, I don’t have a CELTA or TEFL certificate. I would prefer teaching at a university – would you have any contacts at universities in Chiang Mai? Chiang Mai University or others? Any help that you could offer me would be greatly appreciated.

        1. I’m actually in Chiang Mai at the moment for song kran (Thai new Year) staying with a few old friends who do some teaching in Chiang Mai Uni (CMU). Also, i think there are 5 or 6 unis in the area so it shouldn’t be a problem to find work, especially if you have the financial wherewithall to sit tight while you wait for an opening or if you’re willing to work for a language school until a ‘better’ opportunity presents itself. I’ll speak to them and see what they think 🙂

          1. Dear Johnny:

            I’m planning on arriving in Chiang Mai the first or second week of July 2011. When do the universities begin their semesters and when would the hiring process begin?????

          2. April is generally considered the best time to come for a job mate but if you’re willing to work anywhere for a few months then before long you’ll have the gig that you want 🙂

          3. Thanks for all of your help Johnny – and advice on places to live – best areas of the city – reasonably priced furnished condos or apartments?

            Any advice you can offer me will be greatly appreciated!

            Sincerely,
            Robert

          4. there is no shortage of places to live Robert, decent studios start around 4,000 Baht + bills per month ($130 USD) and rise to 30,000 Baht + ($1k USD+) for larger 2 and 3 bedroom condos. Accommodation is EVERYWHERE and CM is so small, it doesnt really matter where you live 🙂 if it’s a condo you’re after, just drive around and when you see a nice building, park up and ask in the lobby about rooms. You’ll have a place in no time

    2. Hi, I am in Chiang Mai now and I am looking for a good but inexpensive school for an 8 year old Thai girl to learn English. I do not have alot of money so I am very limited. I will be bringing her and her mother to USA in about 6 or 7 months. The daughter, Earth, needs to be able to speak English so she can attend school when she arrives in the US.

      Thanks Tony

      1. hey tony – British Council is the best, but certainly not the cheapest! CEC and EEC both offer reasonable rates for kids but if you’re really trying to save money the best way would be to buy the books and teach her yourself 🙂

  36. Hey found your blog while trying to figure out my plan of attack to teach in Thailand. Right now I teach English in Korea but will be traveling across SE and then landing in Thailand ready to find a job, after I finish my contract here in August. I have my TEFL that I got online before coming to Korea, how different is it from a CELTA? I am looking into working in Chiang Mai as well but would really like to be by the beach too, I just can’t decide! Thanks for the info, very useful when trying to figure out if I want to try a bilingual school or international! Good Luck to you!

  37. Hi there!
    I like the sound of your story in chiang mai! cant wait to go to thailand and teach next year!

    I have a b.ed degree already, do you know from your experience in thailand if u have to do a tefl/celta certificate in order to teach there? Or do you know if the actual degree in education is considered enough?

    Would appreciate the feedback!
    Cheers pal!

    1. A BEd is better than a TEFL but generally to teach english u need a TEFL. However, you’re qualified to teach in an International School through your BEd which will earn 3X the cash of language school teaching BUT it’s a ‘real’ 40 hour a week job, language schools are a lot more laid back – tough choice!

  38. Hey Lauren 🙂

    Thanks for checking out my site, i love it when people have a look around and see the opportunities around the world that we’re lucky enough to have… all we gotta do is take action, grab them and live the dream.

    You’re still in school and uv had been on an exchange to Thailand already!? wow, sounds like you’re gonna have a fun life too. Good work! If you ever need any help or advice, just send me an email or drop me a msg here and i’d be happy to help where i can. Good luck!

    johnny

  39. wow! awesome! i’m from the illinois, USA, and was an exchange student with rotary international to udonthani, thailand. it was the most unforgettable experience of my life. ever since, all i’ve been thinking about is teaching abroad! i’ve looked around your site a bit and i think what you’ve been doing is awesome! i always wondered how i would be able to finance things, but from what you’ve written i am now confident that it’s totally possible… i’m studying at university right now, but i’m really hoping to do stuff like this within a couple of years 🙂 hopefully i’ll get a TEFL certificate while i’m here! thanks for the great posts, i’m so glad that there are other people out there like me who want to do crazy things for a living! thanks!

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