Readers sometimes ask about teaching English in China versus teaching English in Thailand and we will try to help sort that out for you here.
As two of the three largest EFL markets in the world, it is a good idea to understand the differences between these two countries.
What are the differences and advantages/disadvantages of China versus Thailand?
Basic Requirements for Teaching English in China and Thailand
For China – a TEFL certificate is generally required (sometimes not if you have previous teaching experience) and often a degree is NOT required.
For Thailand – a degree AND a TEFL certification is required. You’ll also need to provide a criminal background check (not a bad thing!).
Wages and Benefits Compared for Teaching English in China and Thailand
Wages for entry level positions are about the same between the two countries. You can earn about US$1000 per month. But benefits differ greatly. There is, of course, quite a bit of variation in wages in both countries depending on location, type of school and the qualifications and experience that you bring to the tabel
In China you will usually get free accommodation and reimbursed airfare. Big expenses that Thailand does not usually offer to cover.
Contracts in China also often offer free internet in your apartment, plus a computer in the apartment as well as subsidized utilities (usually about 200RMB per month – sometimes enough to cover all the costs). That is not going to happen in Thailand where you will need to find, rent and pay for your own apartment, utilities, internet and computer. Sometimes though, a computer with internet connection is provided at work, but you will sometimes need to share that computer with other teachers.
Though wages are modest in both countries, because of the benefits provided you can probably save about US$2-300 a month in China, but it will be difficult to save anything in Thailand. For Thailand, you should consider bringing with you enough money for your flight home. You’ll earn enough in Thailand though, to have a good look around the country and travel a bit regionally.
Thailand interviews will almost always require you to be on the scene and often to present a demonstration lesson before you will be offered a position. China usually hires you directly from abroad after a Skype or telephone interview.
Because Thailand requires a degree and TEFL certification, they tend to expect more of their newbie teachers. Classroom numbers tend to be high and if you are teaching at a public school, you might have as many as 50 students in your class. Really a tough way to get started.
China seems to be a bit more ready to accept totally newbie teachers, probably because even the TEFL certification requirement is fairly new and they were quite used to taking teachers literally off the street. Because of this they tend to offer smaller classes, fewer teaching hours and (very often) a Chinese teacher assistant in the classroom with you.
Living Conditions and Culture: Thailand versus China
Thailand is know as probably one of the easiest places to live and adapt to the culture and lifestyle. It truly is a wonderful place to live and enjoy life. Thailand has a long history with foreigners in the country and easily accepts them and you can find yourself quite comfortable there – from day one.
China is often a bit more difficult for people to adapt to as foreigners. Especially in out of the way cities, foreigners have not been around much. You can easily find people staring at you and they can be quite curious about you – though in a polite way. Thais, will tend to not pay you much attention unless you are in a very rural area.
TED’s Tips™ #1: In almost every category, China offers better options for the new teacher. BUT, most people find Thailand a more enjoyable and easier place to live. You’ll need to decide for yourself what works best for you. If you need to save a bit of money and are not confident about your teaching skills (yet), then China is probably a better option for you.