So you want to teach English in Thailand, but you don’t have a college degree? I’m sure you have lots of questions —
Is it possible? Is it legal?
In this article, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about teaching English in Thailand without a four-year college degree. So buckle up and get ready.
So first, let’s start with a couple of burning questions I’m sure are on your mind.
Q: Is teaching in Thailand without a degree legal?
A: Teaching English in Thailand without a 4-year college degree is not legal. It’s illegal.
No if, ands, or buts about it. Unless you are taking part in some sort of volunteer program, teaching at a school is illegal if you don’t have a four-year degree. If you’re being paid to instruct, you’re technically breaking the law.
Now here’s the funny thing: there are hundreds of foreigners who don’t have degrees that are being paid to teach in Thailand.
The demand for foreign English teachers in Thailand is huge. Parents are willing to pay high dollar for special English programs led by foreign English teachers, and many schools are hungry to meet that demand.
With the Thai education system is somewhat of a constant turmoil, visa laws in a constant state of flux, and military coups happening regularly, teacher turnover is relatively high. Don’t get me wrong, Thailand is an awesome country full of beautiful people, but there are also a lot of teachers who just don’t want to stay long.
For these reasons among other factors, there are generally still a lot of schools willing to hire foreign teachers who don’t have a college degree. Generally the Royal Thai Police Force doesn’t target degree-less teachers, but that’s not to say they won’t act on information or their duties.
In my three years in Thailand, I only knew three teachers who were sent home for teaching without the proper documentation, and they were all picked up in the same raid on a school. All of them were deported out of the country.
Overall, your chances of being jailed or deported are relativity low, especially if you’re respectful and keep a low profile. That being said, it can happen, and in no way am I encouraging you to break the law.
I only want you to be aware of the legality of the situation.
Q: Can you get a Thai Work Permit for teaching without a College Degree?
You need to have a college degree for a Thai work permit if you are going to be a teacher. Even if you have a related college degree, but you have no teaching license, you can only teach in the country for a maximum of three years. After that you will either need to get a teaching license, or find new employment in another sector.
So then, what are your visa options for teaching in Thailand sans degree?
Situation 1: Teaching on a Thai Tourist Visa
Tourist visas are for 30-60 days if you enter the country via an international airport. If you enter Thailand by land, you will only have 15 legal days in the country.
Q: Do you need to show proof of onward travel?
In the past I’ve heard rumors that this law wasn’t strictly enforced. Times are changing though, and now it seems that this has become a steadfast requirement. If you’re planning on teaching in the country, it’s not a bad idea to book a second flight a couple days before your visa expires to a city that has a Thai embassy (Vientiane, Kuala Lumpur, Manila).
Situation 2: Teaching on a Non-B Thai Visa
A Non-B Immigrant Visa is basically the business visa. The purpose of the Non-B visa is that it is supposed to be turned into the work permit.
While there used to be a multiple entry Non-B visa, those sweet days are gone, and now there is only one type of Non-B visa, the single entry. The single entry basically means that once you leave the country, you will need to get a new visa before reentering the Kingdom.
How do you obtain a Non-Immigrant B Visa?
In order to obtain a Non-B visa, a company or institution will have to sponsor you, and you will have to provide a series of documents. The required documents will vary depending on how the company or institution chooses to label your sponsorship, but will most likely require a criminal background check, passport scan, photo, and any credentials you can supply.
How many days can you stay in Thailand with a Non-Immigrant B Visa?
The Non-Immigrant B Visa is good for 90 days at a time. Before 90 days is up you will either have to do a border bounce, or you will have to turn your visa into a work permit.
Whats the Cost of the Non-Immigrant B Visa?
Situation 3 : Teaching on an Education Visa
An education visa is issued to those who wish to study, or do an internship in the Kingdom. Once again, you have to be sponsored by an institution, typically a university.
The Education Visa will allow you to stay in the country for 90 days at a time.
This is typically the best type of visa you can get if you want to teach in Thailand without a degree. Click the link here to see the requirements for a Thai Education Visa.
One of the reasons that an education visa is so valuable is that you can usually tie it to the institution you’re working for. So not only will you be able to stay in the country for a longer amount of time, but it will also be easier to mask the fact that you are working without a work permit.
Your best chance of obtaining an education visa would be to try and find employment at a university.
Q: How much money will I make as a teacher without a degree?
A: The average wage for a non-degree holder in Thailand is around 25,000 baht/ $750 USD.
This will fluctuate of course, but that’s the average. Some schools will offer free housing, and others may not. It really just depends on the position you get.
One thing to take into account are visa runs. If you’re a non-degree holder teaching in Thailand, you need to budget for trips out of the company every 2-3 months.
A plane ticket to a neighboring Southeast Asian country can be as cheap as 80$ USD, With food, lodging, and visa costs you’ll be looking at between $150–$400 for visa trips.
Q: Is teaching in Thailand worth it, if you don’t have a degree?
This is pretty much an impossible question to answer, as it will vary for each person and their individual experience. That being said, I can think of a couple of simple factors that can greatly influence your ability to achieve success and happiness as a teacher in the Kingdom of Thailand.
- Money saved
The more money you have saved the more likely you are to have a good experience. That’s not to say you need to be Wall-Street balling to be successful. Thailand does have a low cost of living, and you will eventually make a salary.
That being said, you may have to go without pay for a couple weeks or even months when you first arrive in Thailand. It could take awhile to find a good employer, and sometimes positions can easily fall through. Setting up a life in a new country costs money. You will need school supplies, clothes, lodging, food, and you’ll also have to do border bounces.
Be sure to save up a considerable amount of money before moving to Thailand to teach English. For an in-depth cost analysis of just how much money you will need, click the link here.
- Willingness to Travel
Border runs are a definite reality, and if you’re teaching full time, you may find yourself on a time crunch to get back to your school as soon as you can.
You’re going to have to be ok with long bus rides, spur of the moment flights, travel delays, and unexpected visa trips. Don’t get me wrong, visa runs can be a lot of fun. They are a great opportunity to see another country. Just know that if you’re planning on teaching in Thailand without a degree, you will have to do a fair number of these.
- Length of Time expected to Live in The Kingdom
Are you planning to live the rest of your life in Thailand, or do you just want to have an amazing cultural experience and give back to the community while doing it?
If you’re considering staying in Thailand for over a year to two years, I would sincerely urge you to consider going to school and getting a teaching license.
Teaching in Thailand without a degree can typically be done easily for a year or so, but longer amounts of time can be a serious challenge. The more that you stack visa after visa in your passport, the more red flags start to show at immigration.
If you don’t have a degree, and you want to live long-term in Thailand, you might consider other business opportunities.
- Willingness for Professional Development
While a lot of schools will employ non-degree holding teachers, it’s no secret that the institutions really prefer candidates with bachelor’s degrees and above, especially if they’re in a related field (education, English).
Therefore, being a non-degree holder puts you at a slight disadvantage to many other candidates who do have a university education.
In order to differentiate yourself from the crowd of other non-degree holders, it’s a good idea to do as much professional development as you can: teacher training, volunteer teaching, summer camps/English camps. Schools will want to see that you have some experience in the classroom, and with students. The more experience and commitment you can show to teaching, the more likely schools will be to overlook not having a degree.
- Professional Openness
Lastly, since schools will likely be taking a chance on you as a non-degree holder, they may give you a high amount of work to really test and see if you are dedicated, capable, and committed. You may feel that you have an unfair amount of work at first, and that you are given very little direction. It’s important to be brave, confident, and to ask for help in a positive and friendly way, and to rise to the challenge.
The more you can show your school that you are capable of being an inspirational teacher, the more your school is going to want you to settle into the role of teacher.
Teaching in Thailand without a degree poses several challenges, but is not impossible,and there are lots of people who have been teaching degree-less in Thailand for years. With that in mind, these challenges require a high-level of patience, commitment to the experience, and understanding of the position.
If you go to Thailand with good intentions in your heart, with the purpose of making a positive impact on the local communities, and expanding your perspective on the human condition, then I wish you the absolute best of luck.
If you’re still unclear about something, or you’re curious if you may or may not be able to teach in Thailand, drop me a line on the contact page.
Happy travels and teaching.
Everyday is an opportunity for learning and growth 🙂