As a long-time English teacher in Thailand, it became obvious to me right from the beginning that some teachers will always get well-paying teaching jobs in Thailand, when others will not. While some of this, of course, has to do with the qualifications they have, in many cases it doesn’t. Instead, it has to do with their ‘teacher profile’, or the way they look and act — a much more important ‘qualification’ in Thailand than in the west.
If you are interested in getting a well-paying English teaching job in Thailand, here is the ideal teacher profile many Thai schools, particularly private schools, will pay well for. Some of the characteristics you may have, while others you won’t. If you can cultivate as many as is possible, however, you will notice your income increases exponentially because of them.
Age – The ideal teacher profile for Thailand is a young teacher, between the ages of 21 and 35. While, of course, older teachers will always get jobs, the best jobs will often go to the younger teachers simply because many Thai schools think they make better teachers as they are more enthusiastic (the Thai schools way of thinking, not mine!) and the parents often demand it.
While, of course, you cannot change your actual age, you can look younger simply by the way you dress and the style of hair and hair color you have. Yes, I do recommend coloring your hair in Thailand if its gray or going gray and I know many teachers, men and women, who do.
Clean and Well-Dressed – Appearance is everything in Asia, but particularly in Thailand where the way you look and how well you present yourself is often much more important than how qualified or how intelligent you are.
That’s why, for any job interview and for any subsequent teaching position in Thailand, make sure you are showered and clean every day, and wearing clean, well-pressed and teacher appropriate clothing. If you are not sure about the type of clothing that is appropriate, What to Wear as an EFL Teacher in Thailand will help.
Casual-Drinker and Smoker – Smoking is looked down upon by all Thai schools and a teacher that does smoke is not as likely to get a well-paying teaching job. That’s because the smell of the smoke lingers on hair, clothing and on personal possessions for hours, even days, after the last cigarette. If at all, possible, stop smoking or at least save it for evenings and weekends.
As for drinking, nobody is expecting you to abstain from alcohol completely. If, however, you are a teacher that shows up for work smelling of the booze you drank the night before, you will not keep any job in a Thai school for long. Not unless it’s a low-paying job and the school cannot find anyone else. Keep your drinking to the weekends, when smell and behavior isn’t a problem and you shouldn’t have a problem either.
Tattoos, Piercings and Hair – Tattoos are a no-no for any teacher and do not fit into the ideal teacher profile for Thailand at all. That being said, if you have a tattoo, all you need to be able to do is cover it up while you are teaching or on school premises. Wear a long-sleeve shirt, a scarf if it’s on the back of your neck or, if on legs, always wear trousers if the school allows it (that’s pointed at female teachers, of course, and not men).
If you have tattoos that are visible and cannot be covered due to their location, however, you will have a hard time getting a high-paying teaching job in Thailand. In fact, I only know one person that has done.
Piercings too are absolutely taboo, so if you have a nose ring, tongue stud, or eyebrow piercings, remove them for job interviews and for teaching jobs. Pierced ears, of course, are acceptable particularly if you wear conservative earrings.
The ideal teacher profile in Thailand also includes hair style and color. No pink or purple hair, no mohawks and, for men, long hair even it it’s tied up, could be a problem at many Thai schools. Before interviewing, have it cut short if it’s not going to upset you too much.
Qualifications – In a western school, of course, qualifications will come at the top of the list of an ideal teacher profile. In Thailand, while certain qualifications are mandatory in order to be able to get a work permit, for the schools that are hiring they often come lower than how old you are, if you smell, if you are a smoker and what color your hair is. I wish I was joking, but I’m not.
Basic qualifications to be able to get a well-paying job in Thailand include an undergraduate degree in any subject (if you have an Education degree, you will find there are more higher-paying jobs open to you), and a TEFL certification or CELTA. Teaching experience is also a nice addition, but not mandatory.