Thousands of ESL instructors have managed to teach English in Thailand without degree credentials that are normally required to land employment in the tropical Southeast Asian gem.
The reality of the ESL situation in Thailand is that demand for teachers forever and greatly exceeds the numbers of available professionals to fill those positions. As a result, schools are often willing to accommodate applicants that don’t meet the “on-paper” formal requirements.
Let’s get into how to teach English in Thailand without a degree.
What You’ll Need to Teach English in Thailand Without a Degree
As you start off your job search without a degree, you are slightly “behind the 8-ball,” so to speak, in terms of your competitiveness. The best way to overcome this disadvantage is to make yourself as attractive as possible to employers in other ways. These can include:
- TEFL certification. If you want to present yourself as a serious candidate for the position you seek, you are likely going to need a TEFL certificate. An accredited 120-hour online TEFL course from a reputable provider will give you a huge leg-up in the job search.
In addition, you should ideally meet one of the criteria below:
- Hold a passport from a native English-speaking country (more on that later)
- If you do not hold a passport from a native English-speaking country, have proof of a 600+ score on TOEIC or a 5.5+ score on IELTS
How to Teach English in Thailand Without a Degree
My former colleagues in the Land of Smiles – including the non-degreed likes of a former Eastern European radio DJ, a retired British sailor, and a Canadian ex-nanny – are living testaments to the possibility of finding meaningful, long-term work in Thailand.
Here is how to do it.
Finding Jobs That Don’t Require a Degree
As a general rule of thumb, if you are on the hunt for a job but don’t have a degree, your best bet for finding work is likely going to be outside of Bangkok — “in the provinces” as they say, or even just on the outskirts of the metropolis.
Competition for jobs, naturally, is fiercer in the Big Mango and, accordingly, employers generally have more stringent standards. In the great hinterland of Thailand, though, you will find much greater leniency.
Keep in mind, also, that even though a job ad might list a degree as a requirement, that might not always be a hard-and-fast rule. If you really want the job, apply anyway and put your best foot forward. You might be surprised at the amount of interest you generate.
The two best ways to get your foot in the door at an institute of learning in Thailand are:
- Work with a reputable local agent (a “non-formal” employer)
- Get yourself legally classified as a “classroom assistant” (a competent agent can help with that)
What Kinds of Jobs Can I Get in Thailand Without a Degree?
If you are uninitiated into Thailand’s ESL scene, you might be surprised how the industry – and it is indeed a large, lucrative, growing industry – actually works.
An enormous percentage of the market is controlled by agents who pair teachers with schools. While working with an agent certainly entails some degree of risk, it also carries potential benefits – namely, in this context, working around the traditional requirements for landing ESL employment in Thailand.
When you sign a contract with an agent, you are actually working on his or her payroll, not the school’s where you teach. The agent, whose job is to know the ins and outs of visa and work permit legalities, can help you navigate the tricky legal terrain to stay on the right side of the law.
A well-connected agent can find you legal employment at:
- Public schools
- Private schools/language centers
An agent can also facilitate your classification as a “classroom assistant,” which does not carry the same formal requirements for obtaining a work permit and visa as designation as a “teacher.”
Getting a TEFL Certificate
Whether you have a degree or not, investing in a low-cost, high-value 120-hour TEFL certificate is a surefire way to demonstrate your commitment to teaching and prove that you’ve invested in yourself as a teacher.
Teachers with TEFL certifications generate significantly more interest among hiring managers than candidates without them.
Which Passports Qualify You as a Native Speaker?
The nationalities traditionally regarded as “native English-speaking” include:
- South Africa
- New Zealand
- United States
Get Your Teaching License
On paper, the Thai government requires that its teachers have a teaching license. Teaching licenses are most commonly awarded to teachers with a bachelor’s degree and a post-graduate teaching certification/degree.
However, with the following documents, you can apply for a multi-year temporary teaching license:
- Passport with a non-immigrant Business (B) OR marriage visa (O)
- Thai work permit
- Any relevant academic transcripts
- Passport photos
- Certified criminal background check (may be obtained locally)
The temporary teaching license will waive the standard requirements, allowing you time to get your credentials in order for later application.
Health Insurance and Housing
Basic health insurance packages and free housing (typically a small apartment near the school) are standard benefits of an ESL job in Thailand. They can shave costs from your monthly expenses, so keep an eye out for them during the job search.
Teaching English in Thailand Salary
The complete guide to teaching English salary in Thailand details what you can expect to earn. As a rule of thumb, without a degree, you can expect to earn between $1,000-$1,200 per month in Thailand – not enough to get rich, but certainly enough to live well given the relatively low cost of living in the Land of Smiles.
The Bottom Line on Teaching English in Thailand Without a Degree
Despite the perception that finding international ESL work in Thailand or elsewhere is near-impossible without a degree, such claims are not borne out by the practical reality of thousands of non-degreed teachers who have found long-term ESL employment in various institutions in the country.
When you diligently research your options, keep your nose to the grindstone, and enlist appropriate help from an agent or experienced teachers who know the local ESL scene, you are sure to uncover opportunities you had no idea existed.
The jobs are out there. Carpe diem.