Will a Masters Degree Guarantee You a Higher Teaching Salary in Thailand?

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As western economies continue to falter, more and more western teachers are moving to Thailand to teach English. As a long-term resident of Bangkok and a former teacher, I’m meeting many more western teachers with Masters degrees nowadays, all of whom have arrived in Thailand hoping to find a job at a Thai university, an international school or a higher end private school.

That’s because, in their minds, these places will likely pay a higher salary for someone with a western Masters degree. But is this, in fact, true?

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

Unfortunately, no, it won’t and many a westerner has been surprised when they’ve arrived in Thailand and discovered that. In all honestly, with a Masters degree from a western university, whether it is in Education or anything else, you aren’t likely to earn much more money than someone with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics.

For instance, the average salary for an English teacher in Bangkok is around 40,000 baht a month (approximately $1,280). If you were hired at a similar school with a Masters degree, you might garner an extra 3,000 to 5,000 baht a month ($95 to $160). Hardly the huge jump in salary you might expect.

I worked at a private school in my first teaching job in Bangkok. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and am TEFL certified, and my salary was 51,500 baht (including a housing allowance) or $1,650.

Another western teacher also working at the school had a Masters degree in English. His salary? 53,000 baht, or $48 a month more than I was making, and that increase was only because he had worked at the school a year longer than I had. His starting salary, with a Masters degree, however, had been the same. This, unfortunately, is true across Thailand and in most schools.

Teaching at a Thai university with a Masters degree

Where having a Masters degree will help you is getting a job with a Thai university as, like in any other country, having a Masters degree qualifies you for a university position . However, before you become excited about the prospect of teaching in the Thai university system, you should be aware that most Thai universities pay the lowest salaries for English teachers in all of Thailand, with some universities starting their teachers of with a salary as low as 28,000 baht ($897).

As numerous Thai friends have told me, teaching at a Thai university is looked at as a prestigious job (members of the Thai royal family have done it in the past), and, therefore, a high salary should not be the most important thing.

During my second year in Thailand, one of my closest friends worked at a Thai university. With 15 years teaching experience in Thailand and Japan, a Masters degree and a TEFL, his salary was 32,000 baht a month, or 19,500 baht ($625) less than I was making.

Yes, he only taught 12 hours a week and I taught 18 hours and he wasn’t required to be on campus when he wasn’t teaching, as I was. With a Masters degree and so much experience, however, at a western university you could expect to be paid a markedly increased salary. In Thailand? That’s simply not going to happen. You will, however, get excellent benefits.

International schools in Thailand

International schools in Thailand do pay more for a teacher with a Masters degree, as they operate on the western system. As they hire from outside Thailand, however, they are not an option for a teacher already in Thailand or for one that plans on moving to Thailand and job hunting when they get here.

If you do want to be paid a higher salary for your Masters degree, this is the almost guaranteed way to be able to get it. Competition for teaching positions, though, is incredibly high with most international schools asking for several years teaching experience as well as a teaching certification in your own country, so consider those factors as well before you apply.

That’s why, if you have a Masters degree and are planning on coming to Thailand to teach English thinking you will garner a higher salary, think again. Consider places like Japan or Korea instead.

If, however, you are coming to Thailand to teach English because you love the country and want the experience, go for it. More jobs will likely be open to you because you have a Masters degree, but a higher salary will likely not come with them.