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Is a 25,000 Baht Teaching Salary in Thailand Enough to Live On?

Teaching in Thailand can be incredibly fun -- copyright Children's Organization of Southeast Asia, Creative Commons
Teaching in Thailand can be incredibly fun — copyright Children’s Organization of Southeast Asia, Creative Commons
Is a 25,000 baht teaching salary in Thailand enough?

One thing that really annoys me about the teaching industry in Thailand is the profusion of sleazy teaching agencies offering what they call ‘good teaching jobs’ to westerners wanting to teach in Thailand. Most of them offer a 25,000 baht a month teaching salary and tell you it’s “a lot more than a Thai teacher makes”. But, is a 25,000 baht a month teaching salary in Thailand enough to live on, or are you being scammed?

Frankly, if you accept a teaching job anywhere in Thailand making only 25,000 baht a month, you will find it difficult to do much but scrape by. 25,000 baht a month, with today’s currency exchange, is around $848 a month and, no, it’s not very much to live on. In a smaller town like Chiang Rai or Surat Thani, you might just manage it. In Bangkok? Not a chance.

If you want to eat out, go to a movie once in a while or travel around Thailand while you’re here, you’re going to find it difficult to do that on a 25,000 baht a month teaching salary — unless you have money already saved, that is.

You are making more than Thai teachers make

One thing these sleazy teaching agencies in Thailand will always tell you, in an attempt to persuade you to take a low-paying job, is the 25,000 baht teaching salary they’re offering you is much more than Thai teachers make.

In actual fact, while an average salary for a Thai teacher is currently between 10,000 and 18,000 baht, what the agency neglects to tell you is a) Thai teachers usually live with their families or share an apartment with a group of friends, so their expenses are minimal and b)Thai teachers, if they work at government schools, will be earning a pension as well. You won’t.

On top of that, Thai teachers are often paid for extra classes they teach — netting them an additional 3,000-4,000 baht a month. You probably won’t be.

Agencies make money from placement fees when they hire you

Remember also, while these teaching agencies are trying to persuade you what a ‘favor’ they’re doing you in finding such a ‘great job’, in reality they make money from you as every teacher they place in a school earns them a monthly fee. This is often several thousand baht and is thousands of baht extra that, if you didn’t get a job teaching in Thailand through a teaching agency, you could be making yourself. No wonder they’ll shove any warm body in there.

Minimum teaching salary in Thailand you should accept?

As far as an adequate teaching salary in Thailand is concerned, the minimum amount you should accept in a small town is 30,000 and even that is low.

You can live relatively well in a smaller Thai town on that, if you don’t expect to save. In Bangkok, however, the minimum salary you should be looking for is 35,000 to 40,000, which is the average western teachers in Bangkok make. Anything less than that in a city where there is so much to do, see and buy, and within a couple of months you will be severely depressed.

Possible teaching salaries in Bangkok

When I was teaching in Bangkok over 10 years ago, my first salary was 51,500 baht (49,000 salary plus a 2,500 baht per month housing allowance) and, within three years of taking my first job, my salary at my subsequent job was 60,000 baht. By the time I stopped teaching in Thailand four years ago, I was making more than 70,000.

While some teachers who don’t make that will tell you that’s an impossible salary to get, it is not. Most of my western friends who teach in Bangkok make that and some make a lot more.

What not to do when accepting a teaching salary in Thailand

The moral of the story here is easy. Don’t take a teaching job in Thailand for a 25,000 baht salary. You’ll regret it at the end of your first month when you realize everyone else you meet is making more, and you don’t have enough money to have much fun.

Also, do not pay any Thai teaching agency a fee for a job, even if they tell you it is for placement fees, visas, work permits etc. No legitimate teaching agency in Thailand charges any kind of fee and, if they do, run a mile.

Finally, do not get a job teaching in Thailand through an agency. Period. There are literally thousands of jobs for teachers in Thailand so it’s incredibly easy to get your own job without relying on an agency to do it for you.

All you have to do is check the current job listings at Ajarn.com a few days before you want a job and send off a few resumes.

Every teacher I know who has done that, and I know hundreds, has found a job within a week and at higher salaries than 25,000 baht per month that’s for sure. (And yes, the job listings on Ajarn.com offering 25,000 baht per month are usually placed there by agencies — please avoid applying for those jobs too!)

And as for why so many farang English teachers still accept low salaries in Thailand, I have some ideas.

Special Note — Every teacher I have advised to a) not take a job with a teaching agency and b) not to accept a 25,000 baht per month teaching salary and who has ignored my advice has regretted it.

You, of course, can do whatever you like. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you when you sign up with that sleazy teaching agency in Thailand and realize, a couple of months lately, how badly you’re being scammed.