Should You Teach English at a Thai University or are There Better Jobs?

Thammasat University, Bangkok - copyright Kwanz, Creative Commons

To many western teachers new in Thailand, working at a Thai university sounds like the most prestigious teaching job in Thailand. However, they’re often surprised when they get that job interview to find out universities in Thailand are not like universities in western countries and, in fact, that a university teaching job may or may not always be the best choice in Thailand – depends on the situation. Here’s why.

University Jobs in Thailand are Usually Low-Paying – Weirdly, most universities in Thailand pay low salaries for western English teachers. When I first arrived in Bangkok, I interviewed at Siam University and was told the salary was 30,000 baht ($1,000) a month, 25,000 less than the teaching job I eventually accepted and, seven years later, Siam University is now paying less.

Other universities in Bangkok also pay similar salaries as they are set at government rate (most Thai universities are government owned and run), which has not been increased for many years. The current government salary per month is around 18,000 baht per month, plus a housing allowance, which brings the average university teacher up to 30,000. For any westerner to try to live on 30,000 baht a month in Bangkok, is nigh on impossible – if you want any kind of life, that is.

University Jobs Have Low Teaching Hours – One good thing about most university jobs is the number of hours per week you are expected to teach is often low. With schools demanding between 18-30 hours of teaching per week, working at a university with only 10-14 teaching or contact hours is a dream come true for some teachers. Especially if they don’t have to be on university premises when they’re not teaching – this however depends on the Thai university.

University Jobs Often Offer Overtime Hours at Good Rates – Because there are so many Thai students at Thai universities, many of the universities actually offer extra hours teaching at overtime rates. These can be between 1,000 and 1,500 baht per hour, a very high rate, and can easily bring your salary up to 50,000 baht per month, with just a few overtime teaching hours. But, of course, that does mean you work longer than a regular full-time job, just to make the extra money.

Qualifications To Teach May Be Stricter at Universities – Not every teacher is qualified to teach at a Thai university. All Thai universities require a verifiable degree (and they will check it!) so the legions of English ‘teachers’ in Thailand without degrees are not qualified. On top of this, the top universities like Chulalongkorn and Thammasat universities often require a Masters degree. But candidates with a Masters degree will often still be making the usual 30,000 baht ($1,000) a month.

Working at a Thai University is Prestigious – To the Thais, anyone teaching at a Thai university, particularly a top school like Chulalongkorn or Thammasat is working at a prestigious job. To anyone outside Thailand though, if you put a Thai university on your resume, it doesn’t much. Even the best Thai universities cannot compare to just about any western university.

Universities Have Good Vacations – With Thai universities giving teachers anything from 2-3 months paid vacation every year, that alone is often a good enough reason to work for a university for some teachers.

Location of Thai Universities – If you want to work at a university in Thailand, but don’t want to live in Bangkok, then your options are limited. Almost all Thai universities are located in Bangkok and, with the exception of Chiang Mai University and a couple of others, the ones that aren’t are usually low-standard.

Overall, there are pros and cons to working at a Thai university teaching English. You have to decide what’s important to you and what’s not and then make the decision whether teaching in a Thai university will work for you or not.