At the outset, my departure from the UK did not involve any intention of teaching in Thailand. My main objective was to explore the country, engage in scuba diving and enjoy myself. Working in Thailand was never part of my initial plan, and the idea of staying there never crossed my mind.

After developing a strong affection for Thailand and a Thai woman, I made the decision to inform my employer in the United Kingdom that I wouldn't be returning. Although I lacked knowledge about teaching, my Thai girlfriend, who was employed at SCB, recommended that I consider giving it a shot. She had been attending a language school and my finances were gradually decreasing, so I felt the need to take action.

I didn’t know a degree was needed but I had heard of Cambodia and that one could legally teach there without a degree, but what about my Thai girlfriend, Noi? Leaving Thailand was no longer an option, I wanted to live here for good. I had little interest in teaching and knew nothing about the profession. Nevertheless, I needed money and had to act quickly; it was April 2018.

Fortunately, I had the advantage of already knowing someone who was teaching. This person was an Irishman whom I had met in Chiang Mai. He not only had a university degree, but he also held one of the most highly respected TEFL diplomas, the DELTA, and had taught in multiple countries, gaining extensive experience in the field.

I was in Bangkok at the time, so decided to message him via Facebook’s messenger explaining to him the dilemma I was in and basically asking him for advice. He suggested I look for agents but didn’t have any names as he was working for the school directly. He did tell me that teaching isn’t for anyone and that I’d better get trained up before even considering teaching, and that he was willing to send me a box filled with study books that I could study at my leisure in my apartment in Bangkok and at the same time look for an agent willing to help me out.

I accepted his offer and received the box in Bangkok a few days later. I started studying at home and also checked Facebook groups related to teaching in Thailand. I sent my CV to numerous job postings on these sites and forums for weeks until I received a call from an agency just a couple of days before the new school year started. They needed a replacement teacher urgently as someone had dropped out. I had only two days to prepare myself with a shirt, slacks, and new shoes.

In short, after studying the books sent by a friend and spending two months at a school, the agency owners offered a work permit which would make the job legal and eliminate the need for border runs. I had grown to enjoy teaching primary and secondary kids and felt uncomfortable with my previous illegal status. I felt relieved and proud to have become a respected member of the school's teaching staff. The weight of the fear of deportation was lifted off my shoulders.

Do I advise anyone to work at a school while holding a tourist visa? Absolutely not! It's considered illegal in Thailand and can lead to imprisonment. However, in my case, I had no choice but to demonstrate my capabilities, show my intention to stay, and wait for the agency to resolve my visa situation.

Some of you may wonder how I managed to obtain a work permit without a degree. I explain. The process is the same as any other work permit, and documents from any sponsor. Some formal schools may refer to their teachers as classroom assistants. Meanwhile, agencies that operate as non-formal schools can offer non-immigrant B visas and work permits to teachers who don't hold degrees. These agencies then outsource their teachers to formal schools.

There is a shortage of native-speaking English teachers in Thailand, this is a fact and I strongly believe that this has worked to my advantage. If the school or agency likes you they can find a way to employ you e.g. I know someone working without a degree because the school employed them as a consultant rather than a teacher. In my case, in my school, I am considered a teacher assistant, not a teacher.

And this is where agencies come in handy. Some can fix this “degree problem” for you but don't expect the best teaching rates. I’m not advocating for teachers to work in Thailand illegally, quite the opposite, I feel that if the teacher has proven his worth and sticks to teaching English, his mother tongue, and he’s doing well, he should be given the opportunity to work legally at a school because let’s face it, too many non-degree holders work for months on end for schools and language centers on tourist visas simply because their school or agency does not want to help them get the paperwork sorted. This is not right and it is highly risky. Jail and deportation await you when caught.

Teachers who are working illegally in Thailand are required to make frequent border runs. However, after the initial excitement wears off, the trip to Vientiane in Laos can become unpleasant due to factors such as the expense and the risk of being stopped by Thai immigration upon returning.

To my understanding, larger agencies have the ability to obtain more work permits for their teachers. However, it should be noted that many schools and agencies do not hire native-speaking teachers without degrees due to the complicated paperwork and challenges involved. Therefore, I feel fortunate to have obtained a work permit and the ability to legally teach English in Thailand without a degree.

During the 1980s and 1990s, there was no Krusapha, the Teacher Council of Thailand, and the Ministry of Education approved degrees without verifying their authenticity. However, this changed in the late 1990s when Thai authorities started conducting background checks on all submitted degrees. Anyone found with a fake degree would receive a stern warning and have their application for a teaching license rejected. Teachers who already had a work permit were allowed to remain in the system, but this also meant they were unable to transfer to a better school. If they left their current school, they would need to reapply to Krusapha, and this would likely result in their application being rejected, leading to serious consequences.

I understand that certain schools and agencies in Thailand may be able to secure a teaching license for individuals who hold diplomas or associate degrees, but only if they make an exceptional effort to do so. However, it's important to note that in Thailand, associate degrees are not considered valuable and a bachelor's degree is legally required to obtain a work permit for teaching. Additionally, TESOL certificates do not carry much weight in the country.

In order to work full-time at a language center in Thailand, it is required to have a degree. Although universities, language schools, and vocational schools are not governed by Krusapha the teacher's council, a teaching license is not needed. However, a degree is still mandatory to teach legally and with a work permit at a language center in Thailand. Some teachers who already have full-time jobs at schools with work permits in Thailand, work part-time at language schools doing corporate work to supplement their income. They don't need or care about work permits, and language school owners may also prefer this arrangement.

Is it possible to secure employment without a degree? Yes, certainly. However, it would be unlawful. Moreover, you are unlikely to receive esteem and fair compensation. Unless you are one of the fortunate few, myself included, you may end up being used as expendable labor, putting yourself at risk of being exploited and even facing the possibility of deportation.

If I could start my career again and was still young, I would pursue a degree without hesitation. This is because I am aware that I won't be able to switch to another school in the future if I choose to do so.

I believe that if your school or organization is not willing to assist you in becoming legally authorized to work, then it is not worth taking the risk or enduring the stress, especially if the compensation is very low.

It is important to keep in mind that while there are some reputable agencies out there, the majority of them are not trustworthy. Therefore, if you happen to come across a reliable agency, it is advisable to remain loyal to them.

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Blog by Obe Kanobe

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Note that the author of the blog is expressing personal thoughts and musings, which do not necessarily reflect those of KruTeacher. Therefore, KruTeacher.com cannot be held responsible for any potential inaccuracies that may be present in the blog.

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