Teacher Tim's TEFL International Blog January 29th, 2011

The Sky Is Falling

In the fable, a twig fell on the head of Chicken Little and so she ran around announcing “The sky is falling!” Some folk believed her and made fools of themselves.

Today in Thailand there’s a similar silly rumor being spread by academic Chicken Littles, to wit: “No teaching without a University Degree!”

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this twaddle from prospective teachers who have scared themselves into missing a wonderful opportunity here in the Land of Ten Thousand Smiles.

Take my own example.

When I got my TESOL certificate from TEFL International back in 2001 I did not have a university degree – I’d dropped out prior to graduating. But I found immediate work up in Bangkok, mostly at the many commercial language schools. I also found work at regular schools, as well.

Okay, that was ten years ago. Things have changed! Things are tighter now! Oh, really?

A friend of mine just got a classy job as an English creative writing teacher at a parochial school in Bangkok. No university degree, but he’s a great writer and was able to show the school administrator an outstanding writing portfolio. I’m actually envious of him – he works about half the hours I do, and makes a good deal more!

On a lark, I’ve contacted a few Thai consulates around the world to ask if Thailand requires a university degree in order to teach English in Thailand.

Their response has uniformly been NO. (Of course, just how much faith you want to place in the Thai diplomatic corps’ knowledge of their own government’s workings is another matter altogether.)

But don’t take my word for it that it’s possible to find work as an ESL teacher in Thailand without having a university degree. Here’s an email I recently received from another friend, a former co-worker at TEFL International, Sienna Lytle, verbatim:


Sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you. Out internet just got turned back on.

I didn't get the job at St. Joe's for lack of experience with young learners, but my lack of degree probably had something to do with it as well. It took me roughly around 3 months to find a job without a degree in Rayong. Obviously if I had gone to Bangkok the situation would have been very different. As it was, I spent many weeks looking for a job and was continuously told "no" because I had no Bachelor's. It was extremely frustrating.

Now I work at Guanghua, a Chinese-Thai school in Rayong. I am the only westerner here and the only English teacher (except for the Thai teachers that teach grammar). My job is specifically to teach pronunciation and conversational skills. They overlooked my lack of a degree because they don't have the money to spend on an English teacher and do not want to pay/deal with the whole work permit issue. I, however, am stoked to finally have a job and gain the experience I need. Next semester perhaps I will apply at St Joe's but I'm pretty happy where I'm at.

That being said, let me add that it certainly is a good idea to have a 4 year university degree if you want to make a career of teaching English in Thailand. In my case, as I said, I started out teaching without such a degree, but I soon realized that the opportunities and pay would be better if I did have a degree, so I went back home to Minnesota and finished my BA in English at the University of Minnesota.

I’m glad I did it, but I am certain that if I had not done so, I could still find good teaching gigs here in Thailand.

The lack of a university degree should not discourage anyone from coming to Thailand to try their hand at teaching. The sky is not falling.

But you better get here before the monsoon starts!