For many western EFL teachers moving to Bangkok, Thailand to teach English, their main fear is getting a job. New to the country and somewhat stressed, they’ll often go to the first teaching agency they hear of, sign up and accept the first teaching job offered. With many teaching agencies in Bangkok, and although getting a job this way is easy, before you sign up with an agency, consider the pros and cons first. It’s not always the best way to find an EFL teaching job – either your first job or your tenth.
Pros of Getting a Job Through a Teaching Agency
1. Many Schools Use Them – For many schools in Thailand, when thinking about hiring new English teachers, their main dread is interviewing people. The school administrator’s English skills may not be good or they don’t have the experience and don’t know what to look for when hiring a new western teacher. So, they hire a teaching agency to find a teacher for them. With thousands of teaching jobs in Bangkok every month, a large percentage are offered through agencies. Which means, if you want to look at a variety of jobs, the agencies have many of them .
2. Get a Job Quickly – Unlike some Thai schools that sometimes take ages to contact you after you’ve sent your resume, agencies tend to be hiring quickly, which is a distinctive pro if you need a job soon. In my last teaching job in Thailand, I applied through an agency on Wednesday, had the interview on Thursday and was already at the agency offices on Friday beginning training for a new corporate teaching job that started the following Monday.
If you need a teaching job quickly, an agency can often find you one .
3. They Deal With Part-Time and Full-Time Jobs – While Thai schools only offer full-time jobs, many of Bangkok’s agencies also have part-time teaching jobs. While technically you can only get a work permit if you’re teaching full-time, with so many of Bangkok’s teachers doing part-time jobs as well as full-time, if the agencies stopped hiring part-time, most of the English students in Bangkok wouldn’t have an English teacher.
Part-time too is a great way to get your foot in the door and decide if teaching in Thailand is really for you .
4. Often Run by Westerners – Many of Bangkok’s teaching agencies are run by westerners, so where you may have communication problems when applying for jobs at a Thai school by yourself, you’ll have few when you sign with an agency, as they speak English as well as you do .
Cons of Getting a Job Through a Teaching Agency
1. Salaries are Low – One of the main cons to signing up through an agency is the low salary most offer. While you might get a job offer directly through a Thai school of 55,000 baht ($1,830) a month, if you sign with an agency for a job with a similar school. that salary may drop to 40,000 baht ($1,330) – a huge difference every month.
Agencies take a cut of the salary for their fee and, while some take a small amount, most of them take quite a big chunk. Extremely unfair when, for the most part, they do little to deserve it .
2. Agencies Don’t Always Get Work Permits – Although every foreign teacher in Thailand is supposed to have a work permit to teach English, some of the teaching agencies try to get around it by not getting you one as they don’t want the hassle of applying for it or the cost.
Patently illegal, many of the agencies don’t care and, believe me, if anyone is to get into trouble if Thai Immigration discovers you’re working without a work permit, it won’t be the agency, it will be you.
Working directly through a school, most will get you a work permit and some will pay for it. Few teaching agencies will.
3. Lies, Lies and More Lies – Unfortunately, many of Bangkok’s teaching agencies have a reputation for lying to their teachers. Offering salaries and benefits you don’t get, saying they’re applying for your work permit when they’re not, and even threatening to report you to Thai Immigration if you decide to quit. (Don’t worry. In most cases, they’re the ones violating the law. Not you.).
While you may have some problems with a Thai school, from my experience and that of many others, they’re nothing to the problems you can have with a Bangkok teaching agency .
4. Holidays Non-Existent – Many Thai teaching agencies don’t offer any paid vacation as they don’t want to have to pay your salary if the school doesn’t. If you signed up directly through a school you’d get at least six weeks paid vacation every year. With a teaching agency, you may only get one week and, in many cases, nothing.
While not all Bangkok teaching agencies are bad, there’s a reason so many have a bad reputation. As a former teacher who worked through Bangkok teaching agencies and also got jobs directly through Thai schools, I’d be wary about signing up with a teaching agency and recommend going the direct-through-the-school route if possible.
With pros and cons for both, I found out the cons often outweighed the pros for every teaching agency I worked through and many other Bangkok teachers have discovered the exact same thing.
Photo – school children in Thailand by JChong, Creative Commons License