Can a Non-Native English Speaker Get a Job Teaching in Thailand?

Beth Kanter, Creative Commons License

Can a non-native English speaker get a job teaching in Thailand?

Every year, tens of thousands of non-native English speakers consider moving to Thailand with the hopes of being able to teach English. Some are qualified teachers in their home countries, some are not, but most want to know can a non-native English speaker get a job teaching English in Thailand, or should they just stay at home?

As a former English teacher in Thailand myself, albeit a native speaker, I have worked with several non-native English speaking teachers in Thailand and have met even more than that. Surprisingly, although some westerners will tell you it’s impossible to get a job teaching English if English isn’t your first language, that’s not the case at all.

If you are a non-native English speaker wanting to teach in Thailand, here are a few tips that will help you get started finding a job, along with some information about the qualifications you’ll need to be able to do so.

Qualifications you will need – While every non-Thai English teacher in Thailand needs a certain set of qualifications, these differ slightly for a non-native speaker. You will need:

a) a university degree – preferably in English or in education, but any degree is enough
b) to pass a TOEIC exam with a score of at least 600 (you can take one of these in Thailand).

You must be in Thailand when looking for a job – The biggest mistake non-native English speakers make when looking for a teaching job is by trying to do it via e-mail or telephone. Hardly any schools in Thailand, other than international schools, hire candidates who are currently living outside the country.

That is why you need to bite the bullet, get on a plane, find a place to stay and then start contacting schools. Out of the more than 10 non-native English speakers I know currently teaching in Thailand, every one of them had a teaching job within two weeks of arriving in Thailand and a couple of them in less than a week.

Women will normally find a job faster – Whether you are a non-native speaker who is a woman or a man can make a difference when it comes to how fast you will be able to get a job teaching English in Thailand.

Thailand has a shortage of non-Thai female English teachers, yet many Thai parents particularly of younger children like to have their children taught by one. That means, even if you are Dutch, German, French, Spanish, Serbian, Malaysian, or Norwegian, if you are female you are likely to get a job faster than a man from your home country. Not always, but usually.

That being said, if you are a man and qualified to teach English (see qualifications above), it’s not likely to take you longer than two to three weeks to find a job, if that.

Dress exceptionally well for the interview – When you attend an interview for an English teaching position in Thailand, you are likely to be competing against native speakers. That’s why you want to make sure you dress exceptionally well, or in otherwise very conservatively, so that you already look the part.

Some western teachers show up for interviews not appropriately dressed, which means you will already be several big steps ahead of them as appearance is everything in Thailand. Even more than the qualifications you hold.

If you’re not sure how to dress for an interview to teach English, this article should help if you’re a woman, and this one will help for teachers in Thailand in general.

Consider teaching other subjects as well as English – Two non-native English speakers I know, one a woman from the Netherlands and the other a man from the Philippines, started out teaching subjects other than English.

The woman began at a school in Bangkok as a physical education (PE) teacher and the man accepted a job at a school that needed an interim science teacher. In both cases, they were assigned to teach English classes just a few weeks after starting their jobs, but agreeing to teach other subjects allowed them to get their foot in the door.

If you think you have the ability to teach subjects other than English, by all means apply for these types of jobs as well. That’s because schools usually get far fewer applicants for a science or math position, so your competition will be even less.

Even as a non-native English speaker in Thailand, you shouldn’t find it too difficult to get a job. Just make sure you have the qualifications required by law and then book yourself a flight.