The Low Down On Teaching English In Chiang Mai

If you are thinking of moving to Thailand for teaching English.

Chiang Mai field
Photos: Laura Patterson

Thailand is one of the most popular countries for teaching English in the whole world, and it is easy to see why. The people are kind, the weather is beautiful, the beaches are incredible and the cost of living is low.

If you are thinking of moving to Thailand to teach English, specifically in the city of Chiang Mai, then the list below will be very handy to have a look over.

1. Chiang Mai is nowhere near the coast:

If you are moving to Thailand specifically for the beach life, then Chiang Mai is not your destination. The city is found in the Northern part of Thailand, and is surrounded by mountains, not sea. BUT the surroundings are still incredible, and there are jungles, lakes, waterfalls and many other beautiful natural delights.

Chiang Mai Thailand view
Photos: Laura Patterson

2. How much do English teachers get paid?

The average salary in Thailand for English teachers is significantly lower than the rest of the world, but keep in mind that the cost of living and traveling here are much lower than most other places. An English teacher at a Thai school can earn anywhere between 30,000 to 40,000 Thai Baht, which is roughly equivalent to USD $1000 – 1300. But if you manage to land a job at one of the more prestigious international schools, then you should earn a bit more.

3. What do you need to teach English in Thailand?

The government requires a bachelor degree for anyone wishing to teach English in Thailand. It doesn’t matter what you have studied, but the degree is essential.

Some sort of teaching English as a foreign language course needs to be completed, such as TEFL, TESOL and CELTA, for the Thai schools (this can be done at home or in Chiang Mai), and usually a degree in education for the International schools is required.

Flickr Official U.S. Navy Page Teach English Thailand
Photo: Flickr/Official U.S. Navy Page

4. How to look for a job:

Unlike somewhere such as South Korea, it is very difficult to land a job before getting to Thailand. There is also very little online advertising for teaching jobs in Chiang Mai, and I found that the most successful route was actually going to every school that I could and give them my CV. Make sure you dress professionally and most importantly always keep a smile on your face.

5. What is the cost of living in Chiang Mai?

This obviously differs from person to person, but it is easy to live on a salary of 30,000 baht if you don’t eat lots of western food, or party excessively. I’ll use myself as an example here: I live in a shared house and my rent is about USD $120/month, my scooter costs me USD #75/month, and the rest is all for my enjoyment. An average Thai meal from the roadside stalls and restaurants cost about USD $1 to 3, and a large bottle of local beer sits between USD $2 and 4 (where most of my cash goes). Stick to these and you’ll do just fine on a lower salary.

Chiang Mai Thailand countryside
Photos: Laura Patterson

6. How easy is it to travel From Chiang Mai?

There is an international airport, a train station and numerous buses that you can use to travel elsewhere in Asia. The flights are generally very cheap and the overnight train to Bangkok costs less USD $30. Traveling options from Chiang Mai are easy, affordable and very accessible.

7. When is the best time of year to look for a teaching job?

There are generally jobs going year round, as there is a high turnover of teachers in Chiang Mai. However the best time to come would be April, as this is the Thai New Years, and the new term will start in May.

8. Do I recommend teaching in Chiang Mai?

If you are looking for an extremely high paying job, that can accompany a pacey lifestyle, then no. But if you are looking for somewhere beautiful, cheap and laid back, Chiang Mai is the perfect place for you. 

Living in Chiang Mai has been one of the most challenging yet adventure filled times of my life, and my priorities have completely changed with regards to what I expect from the next few years. Those job, marriage and picket fence years don’t seem to be hurtling at me as fast as I once though, and I actually think I may just put them off indefinitely. Teaching English is not just a rewarding and important profession, but also a great way to travel and make money, and I think Chiang Mai is one of the best places to do it.

Laura Paterson

Laura's favorite country and where she calls home is Zimbabwe, Southern Africa. Her travel style is laid back and she often ends up on the greatest adventures by mistake. She also can't travel without laughter.

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