Is it your dream to live in Thailand? A lot of people want to make the move to Thailand, but the biggest thing that holds them back is money. Sure, you might be able to live for one or two years without working, but eventually, your money will run out (unless you have unlimited funds or some sort of income from back home).
To solve the money problem, most younger ex-pats go job hunting when they visit Thailand. The job market is decent if you have a specific skill that is in-demand over there.
The jobs in Thailand pay much less than what you would make in a Western country. For this reason, most people decide to work back home and then visit Thailand for parts of the year. I know some people who work 6 months abroad and then live in Thailand during the Winter season. If you have a high paying job already, your best option is to cut your expenses back home and save your money.
Only business owners, digital nomads, professional coaches, or International teachers can make comparable money in Thailand. Trainers and coaches typically charge a similar rate to what you would pay for a coach back home. If you are lucky enough to land a job with a global company with a branch in Thailand (usually in Bangkok), you can command western wages (even better in some cases).
If you are looking to work for a company in Thailand, the salary is much less than what you would make back home. This is why I always tell people they are better off making money and saving and then finally coming to Thailand. Working in Thailand is only good if you are determined to live here and don’t mind making a lot less money.
The one advantage of living in Thailand is the cost of living is much lower. If you look for local housing, a simple studio Thai style apartment, you can easily find a place for USD $150-200 in rent per month. Meals can be bought for USD$1-3 depending on the type of food you get and Western food is usually around USD$6-10. So while the wages are much less than you make back home, the living expenses help balance it all out.
I currently know half a dozen people who are living in Thailand and working as English teachers online. While these jobs are not in Thailand, the amount of money that you can make teaching English can provide you a good life in Thailand. Most of the students you end up teaching are in China, so the hours are usually in the evening in Thailand between 4-8 pm. To apply for one of these jobs, you need to come from an English speaking country and have a University degree from a reputable University.
Most of the job opportunities are available in bigger cities. If you want to work in a small tourist island such as Koh Phi Phi or Koh Lanta, most likely you will need to start a business to sustain yourself there.
Popular ex-pat destinations such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, and Phuket offer the best opportunity to find a job as a foreigner because there are large numbers of both tourists visiting and ex-pats living there. The more ex-pats and foreigners who live in an area, the more chance you will have at landing a job.
The following is a list of the most common jobs you see people doing in Thailand.
1. Teaching (English and International Schools)
Job Availability: Very High
Teaching English is by far the most common job for people who want to live in Thailand.
But there are two levels of teaching jobs: English teachers teaching at private or public institutions and English teachers teaching for international schools.
The Non-International School Teacher
The easiest gig to land as an English teacher is just a regular English teaching job that’s NOT at an international school. This job does NOT require proper certification (depending on where you apply — some schools may require it). It might be possible to land a gig teaching at a private English school without say having a bachelor’s degree. You may or may not be required to have ESL certifications — and if you don’t, you can take some courses within Thailand to get that cert (it will cost you though).
If you teach English at a Thai school, the pay is around 250-350 baht (USD$7-10) per hour. If you work full time you will make a salary between 25,000-35,000 baht (USD$700-1000) for full-time work.
While people think this is easy work, the reality is that you end up spending 9 hours a day teaching a massive class of Thai kids. My girlfriend taught English at a Thai elementary school and she was completely exhausted after only 2 hours of teaching per day. The language barrier can be quite the task, especially without any assistants. Part-time teachers make between 10,000-15,000 baht a month, not including private tutoring.
This is not Korea, Japan, Taiwan, or the like where the romantic idea of spending 3-4 hours a day, 4-5 days a week teaching some kids, then heading down to the clubs to party it up. Go to Korea or Taiwan for that. Thailand is not that place.
You work. A lot. The more you work, the more you earn. Don’t expect to cruise in here, put in a couple of hours a day, and walk away with 30,000 baht (about 1000 USD) a month. You are often expected to work 7-8 hours a day, 6 days a week!
Now there is an opportunity to make more on the side, teaching private lessons here.
English teachers who are teaching a lot of private lessons can makeover 50,000+ baht if they are putting a lot of extra hours in. While this is one way to make money, you would make more money per hour working a job at McDonald’s, with the only advantage being that you get to live in Thailand.
I want to make this clear. If you come down to Thailand, decide to take up a gig as an English teacher to fund your stay and you plan to train Muay Thai (or spend many hours a day chilling at the beach or partying), don’t even consider that. You’ll be working all day and part of the weekend. If you came down to train Muay Thai, your teaching hours will NOT be compatible with Muay Thai training times.
If you are a professional teacher back home, you can apply for an international teaching position. This can be an English teaching position or other positions (science teacher, biology teacher, etc). The key hers is that international schools require teaching experience and certificates.
Just being a falang (foreigner) who speaks English is not good enough. If you have a BA, you probably won’t be hired either. For most of these positions you actually need to have a TEACHING certification from a western country. That typically means a BA or Masters and an educational degree/certificate on top of that. I’m not sure what the US or Europe requires for this, but in Canada, that’s at least 4 years for a Bachelor’s degree and 2 more years for an educational qualification on top of that.
If you can land one of these international gigs, then you’ve hit the jackpot. These jobs pay between 75,000-150,000 baht. You can have an excellent lifestyle in Thailand and you work NORMAL hours.
But you cannot apply for these higher-paying teaching jobs unless you have experience as a teacher in North America, UK, Australia, New Zealand, or another English speaking country. Unfortunately, most of these schools hire directly through international teaching websites and don’t advertise locally.
Keep in mind that you are going to put in the hours if you teach in Thailand, especially if you want to get one of these positions.
2. Fitness/Cross Fit/Yoga Teachers
Job Availability: Moderate
Thailand has rapidly become an international hub for fitness fanatics. There are fitness gyms popping up everywhere that offer Strength and Conditioning, CrossFit, and Yoga. If you have a background in the fitness industry then there are jobs available.
If you take a trip to Phuket on Tiger road you will see dozens of international trainers/coaches/yoga teachers who are all working full time. I won’t comment on the exact pay, but I do know that busy trainers can make some decent money when they have a list of clients.
There are a lot of independent trainers that aren’t associated with particular gyms who advertise their services. So if you have a fitness background and are confident in your abilities you can find clients if you are willing to put in the work.
The biggest hurdle with these jobs is that there is A LOT of competition. You are going to be up against other ex-pats who’ve been doing the same thing for years though and already have a list of clients. That means you are going to have to steal those clients or find new ones. And new ones are either going to be other ex-pats, who usually already have another trainer or a tourist who’s down for a few months. If you find them later, you won’t have much luck in the low season. And of course, this depends on where you live. Phuket will be slow. Bangkok might have more options. The small islands will be tough.
Because the salaries are pretty decent (much better than teaching), trainers can charge 1000-1500 baht (USD$28-45) per hour for private lessons. With wages like that, a lot of people want to work in this industry.
There are a lot of Fitness trainers and Yoga instructors already living in Thailand, so you have to really stand out if you want to get a job.
If you are a beginner who plans on becoming a fitness trainer, forget about it. Just being passionate about yoga or loving CrossFit is not going to get you hired.
I would only recommend someone with a lot of experience try to go job hunting in these particular industries. And be prepared to knock on a lot of doors by going to various gyms in person to ask.
3. Professional Skill (Music, Dance, Art, Singing, etc.)
Job Availability: Niche Market
While fitness trainers and coaches are a dime a dozen in Thailand, specialty teachers are in greater demand (certain fields). In Phuket, there are thousands of ex-pat kids who go to school and their parents are looking for activities to put their kids into. Activities such as Art, Singing, Musical Instruments, Dance, and even private tutoring are in demand.
Anyone who specializes in a field that is popular among kids/teenagers after school is going to be able to find clients who will pay for their services. Most international schools will, in fact, hire teachers who specialize in these areas so they can offer extra-curricular activities after school. Wages can be very good if you teach private lessons and build a list of clients.
Soccer (football) is the biggest sport in Thailand (way bigger than Muay Thai), so if you happen to be a high-level coach then you will also find a job. Keep in mind the competition for Soccer is extremely high, so you would need to be someone who stands out.
4. Sports Therapist/Physio Therapist/Chiropractor
Job Availability: Niche Market
While there are locals who specialize in all of these fields, the standard is, unfortunately, lacking compared to the West. Anyone who has experience and certifications in these fields will find a list of ex-pats looking to acquire their services.
There is a huge number of retired/senior ex-pats (65+) that live in Thailand. These retired ex-pats are all aging and a lot of them are in need of rehab etc. If you specialize in rehabilitation or physiotherapy, then you will find a niche. I suggest talking to a Western-owned Fitness and Muay Thai gym and you may be able to land a position working for the gym.
5. Start a Business
Job Availability: Low to Medium (also requires money)
A common scenario that I’ve seen is, an older ex-pat comes to Thailand and falls in love with a young bar girl. The old guy gets bored and figures that he should start a business with his new wife. These guys have no idea how to run a business, just that they want to kill some time. So they open up another restaurant, massage shop or bar and figure it will pay for their living expenses.
Yes, there are some very successful foreigners who run businesses in Thailand, but these people usually know what they are doing. If you plan on opening a business in Thailand, I suggest you live in ONE area for a few years and see what works over time.
You will notice the level of competition is pretty insane, so unless you do something really well, you are likely to fail.
Don’t come down to a brand new area and decide to open a new business without doing months of research first.
I have seen hundreds of restaurants open and close within a few years. In fact, even the successful ones often end up closing down after a few years. Unless you understand marketing and business, I wouldn’t suggest you open up shop in Thailand. Usually, only restaurants that offer something unique (and like great food) do well here in Thailand, especially in local areas that rely on ex-pat business.
And for the love of God, don’t open yet another massage parlor or bar, you’ll likely fail at one of those.
6. Professional Writer
Job Availability: Very High
One of the best jobs for people who live in Thailand (or any country) is to write for blogs, magazines, or large publications.
Obviously, writing jobs require you to be able to write. Since writing is a practiced skill, if you work hard enough you can teach yourself to become a passable writer.
If you are a good writer there are endless writing jobs available online. The thing about writing jobs is that the more experience you have, the more money you can make. So if you just start off you may end up working for pennies until you start to gain a reputation and find some repetitive clients.
Writing jobs are by far the best way to live in Thailand because you can find work online without relying on the local Thai economy. This will allow you to live anywhere in Thailand and live cheaply. As long as you have a good internet connection you will be good to go.
You’ll probably have to look at freelancing online as an option. Check out places like Freelancer.com and Upwork.com. Like any new DIY job you start at, it WILL take you a while to find clients and get regular work. I would not come to Thailand and start trying to become a freelance writer to support yourself here with only a month or two of funds left! It may take you six months to a year to get a stable income like this.
You might also be able to write for local magazines, but these jobs are likely competitive.
7. Designer/Programmer/Online IT Jobs
Job Availability: Very High
If you work online, then you should pack your bags and move to Thailand. Anyone who works online as a digital nomad is not reliant on any local area for their income. If you are a web designer, online business owner, programmer, or have any job you do online, going to Thailand is a no brainer.
In fact, there is a huge number of digital nomads who move to Thailand to live and work. Chiang Mai is by far the most popular area for digital nomads. They have a huge community of nomads and even have many co-working locations with fast internet and work stations for a monthly rate.
I suggest you look up freelancer.com to find specific jobs you can do online (including writing).
8. Video/Photographer for Gyms
Job Availability: Low
Most of the big Muay Thai gyms have someone who works for the gym dealing with their videos/photos and social media.
If you have skills in these areas, you can train at a gym and ask them if they have anything available. Thai gyms are unlikely to hire you, but you may be able to find a job at Foreign-owned gyms. The salaries are low, but you might be able to squeeze out free training and accommodation at the gym.
This is the perfect option for people who want to train and work while they are living in Thailand.
9. Hotel/Restaurant Manager
Job Availability: Moderate
A lot of hotels, spas, resorts, and restaurants are looking for foreign staff. If you have any experience in the hospitality industry you can find jobs that are related to your field. The key here is to ask around and be persistent. You have to have a bit of luck and hope that someone is leaving when you arrive.
These jobs usually pay around 35,000 – 70,000 baht depending on your experience level and your role in the company. If you speak multiple languages, then you will have more opportunities. The more experience you have in these industries the easier it will be to get a job.
10. Diving/Kite Surfing Instructor
Job Availability: High (competitive)
Working as a Dive instructor is one of the most popular jobs for people looking to have a good life in Thailand. To be a dive instructor you have to get certified with all the necessary certificates. Most of the diving shops hire internally, so if you get your certification through them you might be able to work for them at the end of it.
There are also jobs related to Kite surfing available as well. You will need to contact the different Kite surfing schools and ask them for more details. Kite surfing is much less popular than diving, so there aren’t that many jobs in this sport.
Both of these jobs are seasonal in nature. The number of available jobs will fluctuate depending on the high and low season. You can talk to a dive school and ask them about their policy for working for them.
Jobs Require Work Permits
If you want to work in Thailand you need a work permit. This is pretty standard for any country that you plan on working in. Some foreigners work under the table, but you are at risk of being caught and deported. Immigration is always on the lookout for sly foreigners trying to work under the table. And trust me, all it takes is a peeved off local (or some competition) to report you to the immigration police. And it happens. A lot.
The risk is especially high if you are dealing with some sort of public business — working in a restaurant, a store, a dive shop, a bar, or some business that has walk-in customers or one that markets to tourists, Immigration loves to raid these types of establishments, shake things up and see what falls out.
If you want to work, I suggest you get a work permit.
Most of these jobs will require you to get your own work permit, so you have to keep that in mind as an added expense.
The key to being successful working in Thailand is to have a niche skill that you can teach. There are pole dancing instructors, Latin Dance teachers, Ballet teachers, and all types of specialty occupations that you wouldn’t even think about. If you have a specific type of skill that is not easily found, then you will be able to find a niche for that skill.
Getting a Job in Thailand
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
When I did a working holiday in Australia one of my close friends decided he was going to get a job in Cairns. When we went to Cairns everyone we talked to said there was no job availability. There were hundreds of backpackers who wanted to work, but apparently nobody could find a job. Since everyone believed there were no jobs, most people sat around and didn’t even bother looking for a job.
Fortunately, my friend is a cut from a different breed.
When we arrived he told me, “I’ll have a job within 3 days, just watch me.” The same day he arrived he went to every restaurant and bar with confidence that he would be hired. Within a day he was hired at one of the popular bars in Cairns. When he got the job, all the other people who sat around saying there were no jobs couldn’t believe he landed a job.
Just because someone says there isn’t a job available, doesn’t mean that it is actually true. If you are determined to find a job, you can get a job no matter where you are.
Persistence is often the key to landing a job.
Sometimes it takes 1 week of looking and other times you may need to search for 6 months before a position opens up. Don’t give yourself a few weeks and think that you will magically get a job.
If you have a specific skill that can target a niche market, then you can work for yourself as a freelancer. Jobs that are focused on targeting ex-pat children are ideal because these parents are dying to find things for their kids to do after school.
There’s a lot of very niche jobs available in Thailand that you may find if you stay in a location for a few months and network with other ex-pats. Many of these jobs are as a manager of a resort/business. A lot of this type of work is under the table and does not include a work permit (which costs a business a LOT of money to set up), but it may be something to consider if you are desperate.
Keep in mind that Thailand bans specific occupations from working in Thailand. So check and make sure that your field isn’t one of the banned occupations that are not allowed to work in Thailand. Good luck!