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Want to teach English in Thailand? Get some tips and advice and figure out how!
Railay Beach

Whew! I’m nearly two months into my teaching job in Thailand (nearly three months in Thailand overall) and things have been great. I like my students, I like the lessons I get to teach, and it’s been an overall positive experience so far.

I wanted to give a review of ATI’s Special Thai Project. I took part in the April 2016 3-week 120 hour course provided by American TESOL Institute’s Special Thai Project. The course was so helpful and make me glad I decided to take an onsite course rather than doing it online.


Those are the first two things I would say about ATI’s Special Thai Project. When I first starting looking into the program, I was concerned to the legitimacy of it. ATI has a dozen different websites and their social media profiles look like they’re run by a spam robot.

Despite initial concern, American TESOL Institute and it’s Special Thai Project program is real and legit. 


The course I took was the 3-week 120 hour TESOL course in Bangkok. Accommodation was provided for at JL Bangkok Hotel. Class took place from 9am to 4:45pm with an hour for lunch and two 15 minute breaks. Teaching practice days (during 3rd week of course) had slightly different hours.

The cost for the program is frequently advertised as “1590 USD/1142 GBP – -1390 USD/998″ GBP. ATI usually offers a discount of $200 USD, so the course cost me $1190 USD.

A thing to keep in mind is you will not be getting your first paycheck until around two months after your arrival. 

I arrived to Thailand on Thursday, March 31. I didn’t receive my first paycheck until May 31. I arrived on the 31st, did the course April 4-22, had a free week, then started my teaching job on May 2.

While ATI does provide accommodation during course, there are the other fees you have to think about. The costs below, in US dollars, include daily living costs, trips to Pataya, Krabi Town, Island touring, and Chiang Mai, and my deposit for my apartment once I got my placement (the school doesn’t cover this).

  • $515 | Flight (one-way, Texas>>>Thailand)
  • $1190 | ATI: Special Thai Project 3-week TESOL Bangkok course
  • $1400 | (2) Two months of expenses
  • $475 | Apartment deposit (I paid 16,500 baht for apartment deposit. 11,000 baht will be refunded to me upon moving out)
  • $650 | Flight home (one-way)(this is something I’m just over estimating but still planning for)
  • $4,230 | TOTAL 

Yeah, seeing that number can be a tough to swallow, read on below to find out more about it. Course and experience so far has still been super worth it!


One of the biggest benefits of taking the course is the guaranteed job placement. Upon completion of the course, you are guaranteed a job placement with 30,000 baht per month salary and free accommodation/monthly housing stipend.

It’s important to note: you do not become TESOL certified until you complete the course AND the one semester of teaching. 

You don’t find out your job placement right away. It’s usually during the 2nd week of the 3-week course that you find out where you will be placed. This is usually due to ATI working out placement deals with schools based on number of students in course and finding schools to place you in.

The number of students in each course is usually around 25-30. My course had 11 students in it, a lower than normal amount. six of us got placed at a school near Bangkok, three got placed in Khon Kaen, one in Rayong, and one decided to opt out of placement and find a job himself.

The teaching jobs will be standard 40-ish hours a week and involve 20-25 hours of classroom teaching. Here’s what my schedule looks like:

daily schedule for TESOL english teacher
weekly schedule as a Grade 1.3 teacher
weekly schedule for TESOL english teacher
weekly schedule as a K3 English teacher

Job placements can include being placed in more urban areas (my placement) or more rural areas. Most of the people in my course were happy with their placements. Even if they weren’t immediately happy with their new living and job situation, the experience quickly grew on them.

What happens when you don’t like your placement or want to opt-out? A few options.

The first one is speaking with the person who is overseeing the placement process. For my case, it was Pak. She handled the placement process and getting us set up in our apartments and explaining the visa process. Talk with the person and see if there are any other areas you can be placed.

Another option, if you finish the course and don’t like where you are placed, you may opt-out of it, pay $500 to get your TESOL certification and work on finding a job on your own.

A third option is to opt-out of the placement, abandon your TESOL certification and either go back home or go about looking for a job yourself. You don’t need a TESOL/TEFL certification to teach English abroad, it just helps a lot in getting jobs and getting a better pay rate.


Participating in ATI’s Special Thai Project was worth the investment. I’m really glad I decided to do an onsite TESOL training course rather than an online one. A big positive to doing the course was the teaching practice and networking. 

As part of the course, you get lesson planning and real in-classroom teaching practice. I was able to do four days of teaching practice: two days at an elementary school teaching Grade 5 and Grade 2, one day at a preschool teaching K2, and one day at a 7-11 college teaching 15-16 year old teenagers.

Our course’s teaching instructor, June, gave all of us feedback and advice after each day. Thai classrooms often have anywhere from 30-50 students in them. The teaching practice helped develop classroom management, confidence, resourcefulness, and ways of teaching different age groups.

It was so awesome getting to practice and learn before going and doing the real deal later on at my teaching job!

Networking and socializing with the other course participants was another plus. Discovering Thailand was easier and more fun when around other people starting out like you.

Having Pak from ATI, made apartment finding and signing easier as well. For my placement, I am provided with a monthly housing stipend instead of accommodation. Pak assisted me and the other five with finding apartments, talking to the landlords (who didn’t speak much English), and negotiating leases with the landlord based on our semester teaching contract.

The Special Thai Project offers classes two times per year. Check them out. 

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

I put together a list of frequently asked questions you may have. Feel free to reach out if you have any other others!

What are the requirements to teach English abroad?

  • bachelors degree (in any major, it doesn’t have to be education)
  • native english speaker

What’s difference between TEFL/TESOL/CELTA?

TEFL and TESOL are basically the same thing. Having either one of them will better help you for a job teaching English.

TEFL: Teaching English as a Foreign Language

TESOL: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

CELTA: Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA is a more intensive and formal certification for people who are really planning some serious long-term teaching)

Why ATI and the Special Thai Project program?

A big benefit? Guaranteed job placement with a known monthly salary of 30,000 baht. Finding a job, especially for first-timers, is overwhelming. Researching, setting up countless interviews, and trying to see if the school is even real…

ATI takes some of the stress and confusion out of moving abroad to teach English. Getting to be around a group of fun and diverse people was great. The people who worked with ATI, the teaching instructor and placement coordinator were helpful in providing assistance with visa things, Thai culture, accommodation, and more.

Is this only for young people?

Despite many of the people who do ATI, and other programs, being in their twenties, there were many people of many ages who participated in the course. Three of the people in my ATI course were mid-career professionals in their 40’s/50’s!

In the school I work at, there are several teachers in the English program who are in their thirties or forties.

Remember, what’s important is you have a bachelors degree and are a native English speaker.

Is the monthly salary enough to live on?

Yes. Thailand has a relatively low cost of living. My monthly salary of 30,000 baht, which is around $850 USD, is enough to live on.

Monthly expenses:

Food: 7,000 baht

Transportation/Travel: 2,500 baht

Utilities: 1,700 baht (1,000 baht electric, 100 baht water, 600 baht internet)

Rent: 500 baht (my school provides a monthly stipend of 5,000 baht, my rent is 5,500 baht)

Misc: 3,300 baht (toiletries, Thai cellphone, buying new shirts for school dress code color, random)

= 15,000 baht total (per month) | 15,000 baht saved (per month)

Now, this isn’t a perfectly set budget obviously. Keep in mind unexpected costs like visa expense and so forth. I did the course in April, started working in May, and now it’s June. In May I didn’t save any because I hadn’t gotten my first paycheck yet and the month had several unexpected expenses: visa expenses, cleaning and moving costs (buying sheets, towels, mats, and cleaning supplies, etc for apt), having to buy three shirts for school (my school requires we wear certain colors on certain days. Purple, yellow, blue, and gray).

What is it like in Thailand? Is it good? Is it safe?

Thailand is great and very safe. I love the beautiful landscapes and personality of Thailand. Remember patience is necessary. Patience is key

“Thai time” is a popular phrase used in Thailand. It’s a funny thing that can be taxing at times. When the people at the visa office were being unhelpful and slow, when people at the embassy were being unhelpful and slow, and so on. The key is to be patient. Understand that you are in a new place and there is an adjustment period.

Why choose to teach English in Thailand? 

Since you’re researching teaching English in Thailand, I’m sure you’ve read about other places to teach English. South Korea is a popular one.

So why teach in Thailand? Thailand is a good place for first-time TEFL/TESOL English teachers. You are able to get experience in lesson planning, classroom management, and learning to teach to certain age groups in a small amount of time.

Thailand is a good place to “get you feet wet” in teaching English abroad. The contracts are only for a semester (4-5 months) rather than the typical 12-month year long contract you would find in other places (like South Korea).

How much money should I bring?

I would have around $4,500 USD saved up. Keep in mind this includes the course fee of $1190-1390 USD, see the cost breakdown in the above cost section of this post.

What type of visa did you get before coming to Thailand?

I got the single-entry tourist visa. It cost $40 USD to get from my local Thai consulate office. This is the type of visa ATI will probably suggest to you and it was the most common one when coming over for the majority of people in my course.

How is the accommodation during the course?

I can only speak for the course I did, which was the 3-week TESOL course in Bangkok. Accommodation was provided at JL Bangkok Hotel. The hotel was good and clean and decent free Wi-Fi internet was provided. No breakfast provided.

Many of the students in the course didn’t completely like the Ramkhamhaeng area where JL Bangkok was located because there wasn’t much to do. Not many bars/nightlife or general things to do. They were happy with accommodation, just yearned for more to do. We often had to take taxi’s to other parts of the city.

There is a mall, internet cafes, grocery stores, and lots of other places to keep you satisfied for day-to-day stuff.

After finishing the course do I start teaching right away?

It depends on your placement. For me (and the other five placed with me), we had a week break in between finishing the course and starting our teaching job. I traveled around to different islands in the south during the break.

One woman in our program finished the course on Friday and started teaching the following Monday. Other people in our program had as much as two or three weeks off break between finishing the course and starting their teaching jobs.

Accommodation is provided, right?

Yes, sort of.

Either accommodation will be provided or you will be given a monthly housing stipend. My school gives a monthly housing stipend. The housing stipend is 5,000 baht per month.

The cheapest apartment I could find that ATI showed me was 5,500 baht. So I have to pay 500 baht per month in rent (around $14.20 USD per month), nothing big but worth mentioning since ATI often touts free accommodation.

I have a one bedroom apartment I live in by myself. Some of the other ATI members share an apartment.

How does banking work?

You don’t need to switch to an internationally recognized bank before coming, although it certainly helps. Check with your bank and set up a travel plan so you are able to use your debit card to withdraw money at Thailand ATM’s.

So far, I have not, and don’t really need to, set up a bank account in Thailand. This may be different based on your placement and paycheck distribution method (my school just gives us cash every month on payday).

Have more questions? Let me know below!

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Colin // RebelwithaPlan

Colin Ashby is the writer behind Rebel with a Plan, a website dedicated to people who choose to rebel against the norm of living in debt and feeling financially unenlightened. He believes everyone has an eccentric quality to embrace and that lattes are sometimes a necessity (despite what the personal finance community tells you).

Latest posts by Colin // RebelwithaPlan (see all)

3 Comments on Special Thai Project (ATI): Review

  1. Julie @ Millennial Boss
    July 13, 2016 at 2:10 pm (5 years ago)

    Jealous! Teaching abroad has always interested me but I never did it. I did study abroad though. Hope you enjoy the semester. Seems like an amazing life experience!

    • Colin // RebelwithaPlan
      July 13, 2016 at 3:00 pm (5 years ago)

      It’s going so well. It was very rough at first but now I feel comfortable. I think I might even extend for another semester! Thailand is really awesome.

      It’s good you still got to study abroad. Where did you study?


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