Why It’s Not Smart to Work Through a Teaching Agency in Thailand

Many English (EFL) teachers come to Thailand and are offered teaching jobs through a Thai teaching agency. What this means is you don’t work directly for the Thai school or company, but instead you work for the agency.

The teaching agency pays you, the teaching agency gets you a work permit (well, they are supposed to but many don’t) and the teaching agency sorts out any problems between the Thai school or company and you.

I have worked both through teaching agencies for a Thai company, and worked directly for two Thai schools. After my latest experience with a Thai teaching agency in Bangkok, I would never work for one again, and here are a few reasons why.

Salary Through a Thai Teaching Agency – In my last teaching job in Bangkok, I worked for an international company, but through a Thai teaching agency.

The going rate for a full-time 40 hour a week job teaching corporate English in Bangkok, is around 75,000-85,000 baht (approximately $2,173 to $2,500) a month.  I was paid 60,000 baht a month (approximately $1,739) as the other 20,000 baht a month (approximately $600) the international company paid for my employment went directly into my agent’s pocket.

My agent got me the job but, in a year and a half of my working for the company, did nothing other than that. He rarely answered phone calls, he certainly didn’t deal with any job-related problems, and if I had any questions, concerns or needs I had to deal with the company I worked for direct.

Pros and Cons of teaching English to children in Thailand

My agent pocketed more than $7,000 a year from my work, and did absolutely nothing for it. Friends working for other Thai teaching agencies report similar situations.

If I had worked directly for the company, I would have been given a higher salary and would have had complete power to deal with any work-related problems myself, most of which would actually be less as my agent caused more problems than he solved.

Benefits Through a Thai Teaching Agency – Benefits through a Thai teaching agency are usually non-existent.

In a year and half working for the Bangkok agency I worked for,  I was promised a pay increase, a one-year contract, two weeks paid vacation, a paid work permit and health insurance. I received none of these.

Needless to say,  after struggling with the agency for well over a year to be given the things I had been promised, I resigned my job and would not consider working through an agency full-time in Thailand again.

After all, if I was to work directly for a company  here in Bangkok, I would receive health insurance, two weeks paid annual leave, and 10 sick days. Plus a work permit paid for by the company (I currently pay for my own).

Reliability and Ethics of Thai Teaching Agencies – Thailand isn’t known for reliability or ethics when it comes to teaching English (EFL). Western teachers are lied to often, and what we get is usually not what we were told we would get when we were offered the teaching job.

Teaching agencies are some of the worst culprits of this, even the bigger and more ‘ethical’ ones. Salaries can be late or are not what they said they would be (all of a sudden hidden ‘fees’ or ‘problems’ can appear), and problems can occur at work because the agency is not following through with the things they told the client (the place you are working!) they would do.

At both of the Thai schools I worked for directly, I was still lied to. The difference, however, was I had bargaining power myself as the parents and the children liked me and so, when done in typical Thai fashion, I eventually ended up getting what I was promised.

Will a Masters degree guarantee you a higher salary when teaching English in Thailand?

With a Thai teaching agency, they ‘negotiated’ for me but, as the negotiation was only to the end that it benefited them, none of their ‘negotiation attempts’ ever got me anywhere.

Threats by Thai Teaching Agencies – If an English (EFL) teacher in Thailand has problems at work, it is common knowledge in the farang (western) teaching community in Thailand, Thai teaching agencies will often threaten the teacher with loss of work permit, reporting them to the Ministry of Education or, at the worst, deportation from Thailand.

While none of the agencies have this power, for an unsuspecting teacher, it can be extremely distressing. If you work directly through a school or company though, you are much less likely to experience this kind of treatment.

In an ideal world, working through a teaching agency in Thailand should be a good idea. A teaching agency should protect the teacher, protect the employee and, for a reasonable fee, make sure both parties are happy.

Unfortunately what does often happen in Thailand where teaching agencies are concerned is, as most are ‘cowboy agencies’ that will rip-off both the teacher and the employee with little regard for both, the teacher ends up the loser.

And let me point out, this seems to be the same whether the agency is run by Thais or non-Thais, as several of my friends have had problems with teaching agencies in Thailand that are run by westerners.

This is why I do not recommend that any qualified English (EFL) teacher work through a teaching agency in Bangkok or anywhere else in Thailand for that matter.