TEFL 101: Frequently Asked Questions


Some people are able to pin point exactly the moment that they decided that they were going to pursue a TEFL adventure abroad, for others it is more of a slow build up than a sudden realisation – however you come around to it, soon enough thoughts of sunshine and new surroundings and cute children and idyllic classrooms begin to fill your mind.  You begin to peruse the internet reading TEFL blog after TEFL blog, looking at this course and that course, this destination and that destination…  with all of the options that are out there it can be a confusing world of TEFL courses and Internships and online courses and 60 hours and 120 hours and Asia and Europe and South America and… Here are some of the questions that I am asked here on the blog and on my facebook page, and I expect this page to grow – I will continue to update with more FAQs as they appear…

Is an online course worth as much?

Put simply (not simply) – yes, and no.  If you are just looking for a piece of paper to land any teaching job (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, especially if you are only looking at a short term TEFL stint) then the online courses are not only cheaper, but can be completed from the comfort of your own home, in your home country.  You could even complete an online TEFL before you have even thought about booking flights or looking for a job. However, if you are looking to actually gain some in-depth learning and experience from your TEFL course, then a classroom based course is much more worth it.  Whether completed in your home country or in your destination of choice, being able to interact with other people and try out different teaching methods and activities is priceless.  Another benefit of taking part in a classroom based TEFL course, especially in your destination country, is that you will develop a network of friends that will provide a great base for future friendships throughout your time working abroad.

Are the TEFL packages offering ‘guaranteed jobs’ too good to be true?

I chose to do my TEFL course with TEFL Heaven – taking part in their 120 hour course in Koh Samui.  This course came complete with accommodation , support from TEFL Heaven before, during and after the course, and a guaranteed job at the end of it. The team at TEFL Heaven have a vast network of schools and agencies across Thailand and it does offer some sort of reassurance that there will be a job offer at the end of your course.  These jobs are mostly your run of the mill, Thai government school in a random town kind of jobs, but this is realistically what you would be looking at as a first time TEFLer anyway.  When I did my TEFL, everyone was placed near at least one other TEFL trainee from their course so no one was left completely alone and in the sticks. For me, it was a case of having the stress of a job search in a foreign land taken out of my hands, and it added a sense of adventure not knowing where we were going to end up.  I was lucky enough to get placed in the south of Thailand (hello beaches!) and although I have moved around a bit, I have always stuck to the south, so for me it really worked out well.

Which country should I pick?

This largely depends on why you are choosing to embark on your TEFL adventure. If you are in it for money, then look at countries like South Korea, Taiwan, Japan or the Middle East, or out in the sticks where it is impossible to spend any of the money you earn.  Countries in Europe also pay well, but this is offset by high costs of living. If you are looking for culture shock, countries outside of the comforts of the Western world check all the boxes, with Asia being a popular destination with TEFL opportunities in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, South Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan… each offering their own unique cultural differences. If you are looking to change the world or do your bit for humanity, then lower paid or possible unpaid positions are available all over the world, from working in the favelas of Brazil to teaching street children in India. You will also need to consider the requirements for each country – some will require a degree or will only accept those with teaching experience under their belt.

Can I get work without a degree?

This completely depends on which country you are looking at and what kind of job you are going for; countries including China, Cambodia, Russia, Mexico and Peru do NOT require a degree.  However, the majority of countries do require a degree; and in fact this will not only be a requirement to gain employment but to secure a work permit and legal visa.  Here in Thailand, plenty of people work without degrees but they are either not working as a teacher (for example, you can work in a language school as an instructor without a degree) or they are working illegally.  With immigration clamping down on every type of visa here in Thailand it is becoming more and more risky to do so.

When is the best time to look for a teaching job in Thailand?

There are many different types of schools in Thailand and so there are multiple academic calendars being followed within the country.

If you are looking for a TEFL teaching position in a Thai government school or Thai private school, their school year runs from May to October and November to March.  Most recruitment takes place during March/April for a May start, but with a high annual turnover of staff and a general lack of organisation, most Thai run schools tend to be looking for someone throughout the year.

International schools in Thailand usually follow the academic calendar of the country that their curriculum is based on, with some minor adjustments.  Most British international schools will run from August/September until June/July and most recruitment will take place during Jan/February as these schools tend to have a more rigorous interview process with multiple stages to get through.

Are you in the midst of making plans for your TEFL adventure?  Feeling lost in an ocean of TEFL confusion?  Ask away in the comments below – I promise I don’t bite!

TEFL FAQs: Getting a working visa for Thailand (Part 1)

What kind of visa do I need to work in Thailand?  How do I get a working visa before I leave my country?  Can I arrive on a tourist visa and change to a working visa?  These are some of the questions that I am asked time and time again.  I am no visa expert but I am able to tell you how I got my visa.  I have had to split this into two parts as I have now had two very different visa experiences.

Part 1 – Gaining a non-immigrant B visa in my home country

Part 2 – Changing from a tourist to a non-immigrant B visa – AKA the visa run

Read on for part one…

TEFL FAQ visa part 1

When I first decided to come to Thailand, I signed up to a TEFL programme that promised to hold my hand every inch of the way, from the interview right through to job placement and beyond.  This meant that the visa process was completely issue free for me, I just had to send the right documents with the correct form and it was all sorted before I had got on the plane at Heathrow.

A letter (in both English and Thai) confirming my upcoming employment was provided by the TEFL agency, and together with my passport, degree certificate and transcripts and police check, this was enough to get my non-immigrant B visa in my home country, trough the Royal Thai Consulate in Hull.  Aside from the wait, and the ever so slight worry that the good old Royal Mail were going to lose my documents, it was a completely stress free process.

That isn’t the end of the process however.  You are usually issued an initial 3 month non-B visa which you then need to get extended to the full length of time required (up to one year).  To do this you need to get a work permit.  Luckily for me I was was with a teaching agency who once again arranged most of this for me.  I had to provide them with a copy of my teaching contract, my TEFL certificate and I had to go and have a 20 baht medical check which consisted of the doctor asking me in broken English if I had any diseases, to which I said no, and was on my way.  Once I had my work permit in hand, I was able to go to immigration in the city I was living in and was granted an extension of stay, extending my initial three month visa to an almost-full year (up until the end of my contract).

OK, so I have my visa, I have my work permit.  I’m done!

Not quite, that still isn’t the end of the process.  In fact, the process doesn’t ever really end…

Once you have your work permit and your non-B visa has been extended to enable you to stay working in country until the end of your contract, you are now required by law to report at immigration every 90 days (note: some people on non-B visas have to leave Thailand and come back every 90 days – check which you have).  This has to be done on a work day and so involves arranging a morning off (some schools will do this all for you if they have a big cohort of foreign teachers and a member of HR staff who understands the visa process – I wasn’t quite so lucky).  You just have to go in to immigration and fill out a form confirming your address, and they staple a piece of paper into your passport confirming that you have reported.  It’s just to keep tabs on your whereabouts and to make sure that you are still in the city you are supposed to be working in.

You may have noticed that throughout this whole process, I didn’t have to leave Thailand.  But what about the infamous visa runs that teachers are always going on?  That is because I had my visa approved in my home country and was lucky enough to have my work permit issued and my visa extended before the initial three months granted were up.  Some are not so lucky.  Some come into the country on tourist visas and then have to leave the country to apply for a non-B once they gain employment (in fact, it is possible to have your visa changed over if you go in person to immigration in Bangkok and you have a contact with the know-how – so this rarely happens).  Some don’t get their work permit sorted in time and have to leave and come back on a tourist visa and start the whole process over again.

Every situation for each person can pan out differently and this is just my experience.  What I would say is common among many is that the process can take a while, so it is most definitely recommended to arrive in Thailand with some sort of visa – whether that is a pre-approved non-B like I had, or a 60 day tourist visa – don’t arrive with nothing and think that you will have everything sorted within the 30 day visa exemption you are granted on arrival – it probably isn’t enough time and with the current clampdown on visa runs you might have a pretty stressful time sorting it out.  Save yourself the worry!

If you have any more questions, here are some useful websites that may be of help;

For UK residents applying for a visa in your home country – The Royal Thai Consulate, Hull

For more information on different types of visa in Thailand – The Thai Embassy English language website

For discussions on visa issues check out Thai Visa – but be warned, some of the forum users are bitter old expats who are angry at everyone and everything – you have been warned.

Check back for Part 2 – Changing from a tourist to a non-immigrant B visa – AKA the visa run.