Do I Need a Degree to Legally Teach in Thailand?
There’s a lot of misinformation surrounding this question. The short answer is that, yes, you can teach in Thailand without a degree.
There are 5,000+ teachers in Thailand instructing without a degree—many who’ve been teaching for many years if not decades..
What does Thai Law Says about Degrees
It’s true that the law states that schools are not allowed to sponsor the work permits of foreign nationals who do not have a degree.
So how do they do it?
The law's wording stipulates that formal, government schools cannot sponsor the work permit of a foreign English teacher without a degree.
The key word is ‘formal.’
So what does 'Formal" actually Mean?
A formal government school is one where the students a put into classes of approximately the same age and they all follow the same curriculum approved by the Ministry of Education.
Think back to your fourth grade class. Most everyone was ten years old—give or take a year—and you all studied together. And the course was approved by your country's educational authorities.That's a formal school.
A private language academy, private group classes, individual tutoring or online teaching are all examples of non-formal schools where you don’t need a degree--though you would probably only get a Work Permit through a private academy. .
Legal Loopholes to Teach in Formal Schools
So the first loophole is for teachers without a degree to find employment through agencies. These agencies actively recruit teachers and work with us to find jobs for our TEFL graduates typically in formal schools.
The reason an agency can recruit the teacher without a degree is because an agency is a non-formal school.
So the agency can provide the Job Offer Letter required to obtain the non-immigrant B Visa, and the subsequent work permit.
The agency then subcontracts the teacher out to a formal school for full time teaching. The catch is that you work for the agency—not the school—and the agency sponsors your visa and work permit and pays your salary.
A Second Legal Loophole
The second loophole is to classify a teacher as a “classroom assistant”.
In a broad, big picture way of thinking, this is technically true, because although the teacher is working full-time, they are part of an English program that is assisting the other teachers in teaching children English.
For example, an English teacher may be employed to teach English to a number of classes belonging to other teachers, and therefore the foreign English teacher can be classified as an assistant.
Even when this is not absolutely the case, it is highly unlikely that a government official is ever going to visit the school and investigate this matter. The point here is that the word assistant is broad and can be interpreted in a number of ways.
A Third Option--The Research Visa
Vantage has partners who can hire you as a ‘researcher’ and obtain a visa and subsequent work permits under that visa. You work as a full time teacher, but you will technically be classified as a researcher doing surveys.
Research visas are limited and are not always available, but we’ve placed previous TEFL graduates in schools under this program.
Why the Loopholes?
In short because there is a huge demand for English teachers.
In February of 2020, Thailand’s Education Minister said "There are currently some 7,000 foreign teachers in Thai schools...another 10,000 teachers are required." He said it again in September adding that the coronavirus crises has just paused this plan—not changed it.
Thailand wants native speakers, educated to a bachelor’s level and TEFL certified. The reality is that there just isn’t enough of the ideal teacher candidates around.
Parents are willing to pay a premium tuition to get their children into classrooms led by foreign English teachers and schools that provide international English programs.
Thailand has a very immediate need to increase its English language proficiency to compete in the worldwide economy.
All this means that there is a broad tolerance to letting proficient English speakers teach English even if some of their qualifications are lacking.
So if you don’t have a degree, you might have to go through an agency, but this is not going to prevent you from getting a job.
Additionally, the many private foreign language schools in Thailand are also non-formal schools.
Having said this, if you don’t have a degree, holding a full TEFL certification becomes that essential as the schools want demonstrable proof that you know how to teach.
Is a TEFL Qualification Required for a Work Permit?
The Thai Ministry of Education does not require foreign teachers in Thailand, to hold a TEFL certificate to teach in Thailand.
But remember government regulations are one thing and market forces are another.
For the better jobs, you will be competing against several applicants—many of whom will be TEFL certified. As more and more new English teachers become certified every year, you may find yourself increasingly uncompetitive in the teaching job market.
And if you don’t have a college degree, holding a TEFL is that more important.
Your chances of being invited to interview are greatly increased when you demonstrate to a potential employer that you have both studied teaching theory and have practiced those techniques on actual non-English speaking students in observed teaching practice classes.
In short, it proves that you have been trained to teach a language.
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