Teaching is the most popular job for expats in Thailand. It's popular because there is always an abundance of teaching jobs available, and because it is a quick and easy way to get into employment for those looking to stay long-term.
When one thinks about teaching in Thailand, young gap-year students tend to spring to mind. and that's why I'm often asked whether there is an age limit for teaching in Thailand, whether there are opportunities for those in their late 40s, 50s and 60s.
The short answer is no there is not an age limit for teaching in Thailand. Thai teachers tend to retire at around the age of 60, but that doesn't mean that if you're a 60-year-old expat that you can't teach and won't find work.
In fact, there are plenty of 50 to 60 year old expat teachers in Thailand, and some between the ages of 60 and 70. It might take you a little longer to get a job, part of that is because you're going to be somewhat picky about the job that you take on.
You might have read that there is age discrimination in Thailand. To a certain degree there is because in Thailand you're allowed to advertise a job with an age range, and even a gender.
But that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of opportunities for older teachers. Quite the opposite. In fact, if you use your experience to your advantage, you'll do just fine.
Moreover, from a cultural standpoint, age is respected in Thailand, sometimes naively, but that's just how it is.
So as a teacher of 50+, you will automatically command a certain level of respect from kids that your 20-something peers won't. This is a solid foundation upon which to build a productive and respectful relationship with your students.
In a nutshell, you can become a mature teacher in Thailand with a rewarding career. And in this post I'll run through 4 opportunity pathways you can explore outside of state school teaching.
4 Career Pathways for Mature Teachers
1. Language Schools
A language school is probably a better teaching environment than a public school for someone 50+.
Young kids can be a handful and not all are there to learn, as we all know from our personal schooling experience.
Some teaching jobs (not all) can become more like babysitting than teaching – probably not something you want to deal with at this stage of your life.
That said, if you're energetic and enthusiastic and want to make a real difference to the public school system by delivering some high quality teaching, by all means go for it; many do and enjoy the challenge.
As a side note: public schools tend not to have air conditioning either, which isn't the most comfortable situation in the heat. They do have fans, but a number of teachers have mentioned to me that they think this might be why many children find it difficult to concentrate in class.
Language schools are centres where students voluntarily pay to go and study. In general, they are there because they want to be there.
Students range from teenagers seeking to advance their English as a pathway to going to study abroad, right through to business professionals and the Thai partners of foreign nationals who want to improve their English skills.
A language school is a more professional environment to teach in and may well be better suited to someone with prior teaching experience. They also have air conditioning!
Language schools come with less baggage too. I'm talking about a big chain of command, parents, and big class sizes.
2. Private School Teaching
It goes without saying that private school teaching is better paid.
Those who aren't really interested in the extra money because they already have a solid pension fund may choose not to go down this route because they prefer to teach kids who can't afford private education.
But money aside, there are some distinct differences between private and state school teaching.
Firstly, unlike state schools, private schools tend to recruit teachers in specific subjects. So if you're someone with teaching experience in a particular subject such as English, maths or one of the sciences, it is worth approaching the private schools with your resume.
Private schools want to attract the best teachers, because they want their students to go on to the best colleges and universities in the world. This is what enables them to justify the price tag of attending the school.
Secondly, private schools have smaller classes, which are easier to teach. The kids are also likely to be easier to teach because they come from better home environments. Controversial, maybe, but true.
The reality on the ground is that a private school is far more likely to employ a 50-year-old teacher with an extensive resume than a gap year student who simply wants to spend some time in Thailand and earn a bit of pocket money. They value experience and good references.
3. Corporate Teaching Opportunities
If you have experience in the business field, perhaps in management or sales, you're probably well-suited to teaching English in a corporate environment.
Many companies hire agencies to provide teachers to deliver a teaching program in their workplace, and some may hire in a private English teacher to lead a program in a full-time position.
This teaching pathway is certainly better suited to older teachers who have a solid history of work experience.
A friend of mine hires a private English teacher to come into his company once a week and take a class in one of the meeting rooms. The class is optional for members of staff, but there's always a good take-up.
This is a good gig to land because the students will usually be in their 20s and 30s and keen to learn. If you can make the lessons fun and interactive, it can be a welcome break from their daily routine and something they look forward to and enjoy.
Moreover, if a company can employ an English teacher that not only teaches English but can also teach business management, marketing or sales, this is of great value. It won't matter if you're 45 or 60 – they'll jump at the chance.
4. Private Teaching
Private teaching is a good pathway if you don't want to work full-time, don't want to work in a school or a regimented environment, or if you want to earn some additional money on top of your regular teaching salary.
Private teaching is a bit of a grey area, because technically you need a work permit to work in any capacity, but you can't obtain a work permit without working for a company or setting one up yourself; which would be worth doing if you are just teaching a few hours a week.
People do it anyway. Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies.
So generally, those who do private teaching are doing so outside of their day job, or just doing it through word of mouth referrals. Typically you would look to charge between 400-600 Baht per hour.
I have personal experience of this because my wife once had an English teacher. The teacher taught for a language school that teaches business English to professionals in the evenings. This meant she had mornings and afternoons free to do private teaching.
Many teachers who start out private teaching end up in a position where they could potentially give up their day job.
Consider that the average salary for teaching in a public school (full-time) is around 30,000 Baht per month, and now consider that the same salary can be earned by teaching privately for just two hours a day privately, Monday to Friday.
Private teaching often centres around a specific student goal. For example, there is an increasing number of students from middle-class families who want to study for an IELTS certificate to go abroad and study.
Many of these students end up going to language schools, which can be quite expensive. Moreover, not all the teachers at language schools are native English teachers. Not to say that the teaching isn't of a good standard, but as a preference, having a native English teacher for one-on-one teaching when studying for a specific exam is a huge benefit.
Your Next Read: The Greatest Beginner’s Guide to Teaching in Thailand – Ever!