While Bangkok is where most of the English teaching jobs are in Thailand, Chiang Mai is still the place many EFL teachers want to live. The problem is, being only a small city, teaching jobs in Chiang Mai are far more difficult to come by than in Bangkok, simply because there aren’t as many and so many teachers are applying for them. If you have your heart set on living in Chiang Mai though, it is possible to get a teaching job as long as you know how.
Make Sure You’re Qualified – While unqualified teachers may have little trouble finding a job in Bangkok, in Chiang Mai it’s a different story. With thousands of western English teachers moving to Chiang Mai every year, schools, language schools and universities don’t need to hire unqualified teachers. Not with the surplus of qualified ones out there.
To be ‘qualified’ to teach English in Thailand means you must have a) an undergraduate university degree in any subject (it doesn’t have to be English), b) usually a TEFL or CELTA certificate and, c) at least two years’ teaching experience, as these are what is required to get a work permit.
Sure, you may be lucky and get a teaching job in Chiang Mai without qualifications but it will be far harder than many other places in Thailand. My recommendation is, if you’re not qualified to be a teacher but want to teach English in Thailand anyway (I’m not saying it’s right, just I know tens of thousands of people do it), avoid Chiang Mai and stay in Bangkok. Job availability-wise, it’s easier.
Be Willing to Take a Starter Job – Even with qualified teachers, good jobs are hard to come by in Chiang Mai. With an average salary of only 28,000 baht ($933) a month compared to Bangkok’s 45,000 baht ($1,500), it’s still surprising just how many thousands of teachers will work for that.
That’s why, when you first arrive in Chiang Mai, you may either have to take a full-time job that’s not remotely what you’re looking for (eg: teaching five year olds when you want to teach high school) or you may be stuck ponying together a few part-time jobs to make one full-time job, until a real full-time job comes along.
Dress Well. Interview Well – One way you can get a certain advantage over a large percentage of would-be English teachers in Chiang Mai is to dress well and interview well.
As Thailand is a hot country, many westerners mistakenly believe dressing down in casual, more relaxed clothing is alright for a job interview. It’s not.
On any interview for a teaching job in Chiang Mai, you’ll be expected to wear a professional outfit – a conservative skirt, dress blouse and full shoes (ie: not sandals and definitely not flip flops) if you’re a woman. Dress pants, long-sleeved shirt, conservative tie and shoes if you’re a gay. Showing up clean and well dressed will right away give you an advantage over at least 30% of the field and, in Thailand, where appearance means everything, that is an enormous advantage.
Make Sure You’ll Be in Chiang Mai at Least a Year – With Thailand being such a relaxing country, many people who want to teach think getting a job for a couple of months here and there is an option. For 99% of schools, it’s not.
That’s why, at a job interview in Chiang Mai, you should make it patently obvious you’ll be staying in the city for at least the length of a full year contract and likely longer.
Thais like stability and admire responsible and stable people. Particularly if you’ve lived in Thailand for several years, even if it’s not in Chiang Mai, you’ll also have an advantage over newcomers to Thailand. Common thought is, if you’ve only arrived in the country recently, there’s a good chance you won’t last long, so you’re not a safe bet. Someone who’s been in Thailand two years or longer, is.
Be Prepared to Do a Teaching Demonstration – Some schools will ask you to do a teaching demonstration – there and then. If you’re not prepared or patently cannot do one, as far as they’re concerned, you’re no teacher they’d ever want.
That’s why, the day before your job interview, make sure you prepare a simple teaching demonstration that can be used for as short as 15 minutes or as long as an hour. Then, if they ask you to whip something out, you already have something you can use.
Best Time to Arrive – February through April – If you really want to guarantee yourself some kind of starter English teaching job in Chiang Mai, the best time to arrive is February through April.
The reason being, Thai schools are on vacation from the beginning of March until sometime in May and, with so many Thai parents working, they drop their kids off during summer vacation at one of many language schools in Chiang Mai. With this huge influx of new students, language schools are suddenly looking for lots of new teachers. Voila. You’re first teaching job in Chiang Mai.
Job Board for Teachers in Thailand – Ajarn.com (Best resource for teaching jobs on the internet)
Photo – Novice monks in Chiang Mai – copyright Dave_B, Creative Commons License