Finding a Job in Thailand
Thailand seems like such a happy-go-lucky, cheap as hell, carefree place when you here on vacation from your icy cold place in the winter back home. And it is a wonderful country with nice people. But if you make the decision to move to Thailand it would be foolish to think that you can live here without income. So assuming you don't already have enough money to retire, the entrepreneurial know how to start your own business or run any of the other money making ideas on this site, you'll have to find a job in Thailand to make ends meet.
What kinds of jobs can you find in Thailand? All kinds, but some are easier than others.
Finding a Job in General
What are the first steps? Think about how someone back home might have found a job 10-20 years ago. That is how it is done in Thailand today, with a few exceptions. By all means, check online job posting sites like craigslist.org, monster.com, idealist.org or sites related to your field. But you may have to search long and hard for just a few opportunities that are not so great.
One of the easiest ways is to check the papers, like people used to do 10-20 years ago. The first paper to check is the Bangkok Post. Buy a copy or subscribe rather than checking the online version. It's just so much faster and easier. Then you can check local English papers for jobs too. You can find these at big magazine and book shops and many of the Farang oriented and owned establishments in the area. For example, Paradise Pizza in Chiang Mai has copies of all the papers for customers to read. Also try 7/11, Starbucks always has papers to look at.
Even more effective than the papers are just getting to know people in the area you are looking to live already doing the job you want to do. For example, English teachers in Chiang Mai flock to the UN Irish Pub on Quiz Night. You can meet teachers here and find out about jobs before they are posted anywhere, and you can find out if the job is horrible or not. Connections really matter in Thailand when it comes to job hunting.
Another quality that really matters in Thailand is what you look like and other genetic characteristics you can't change. You may have noticed in the posts requirements such as "Must be Female, aged 18-22, Thai nationality only" to work at a bar. That's just the way it is. Fortunately, if you are lucky enough to be born with white skin or other qualities nearly worshiped by Thais, you can sometimes use this to your advantage. In addition to white skin, Thais tend to like to hire young guys with short hair who shave every day and dress nicely. Blonde hair and blue eyes are a plus but not required. Piercings, smoking and excessive tattoos are frowned upon and they absolutely despise Farang who have dreadlocks. This is mostly because business owners only want to hire people they think will bring in more customers, and they think that customers base all their decisions based on the looks of the staff.
You must consider if it's better to find a job before or after you arrive in Thailand. Some are much easier to get into one way or another.
Lastly, You must also accept that there are some jobs you just can't do in Thailand legally. Here is a list of a jobs you can't do as an expat in Thailand. Also, don't ever, ever pay money to get a job in Thailand. You wouldn't believe how many people I've meet here who forked over $2000 US or more to get a 'job' teaching English, running a marketing campaign for an NGO or bathing elephants. These are scams. Now lets get on to the common types of jobs foreigners can find in Thailand.
English Teaching Jobs
Teaching jobs are the easiest jobs to find in Thailand, and also have a high chance of getting a work permit. If all you want is money, you don't really need to have any qualifications except be a native English speaker. But if you want higher pay and a work permit, it helps if you have a 4 yr degree and a teaching certificate.
For best results in finding a job as a teacher in Thailand you'll want to have your TEFL certificate you can get an Online TEFL course done without any hassles. I heard somewhere that you must have a TEFL certificate in order to teach but i'm not sure about that.
These jobs are easy to find either before or after you get to Thailand. If you wait until after, make sure you have a 60 day tourist visa or better as there are certain rules about getting a work permit when you only have a few days left on your visa.
For a teaching job in Thialand you'll have about 20-30 teaching hours a week. You'll make more in Bangkok. Not great, but it pays the bills and lets you continue to go out living something approximating a decent lifestyle. You can find English teaching jobs just about anywhere in Thailand. If your just getting started it will be easier to take a teaching job in a remote area for experience before you try the big universities.
"Volunteer" and NGO Jobs
"Volunteer" is in quotes because lots of times you can actually get housing and a stipend that exceeds the salary of a native Thai! I once knew a few people who had a stipend of 40k-80k baht/month because they secured fellowship funding from the ivy league university they went to before flying over! Keep in mind that legally speaking you need a permit, even to volunteer for 0 baht/month. Authorities may turn a blind eye, but consider that your boss will have you by the balls. Thai bosses are not like Western bosses. Among other characteristics, they don't like employees who question things, which is what we do best. If (when) something goes wrong, you will have no recourse, no reference on your resume, no job, no money, no honey, no boom boom, no baby, you die. Don't let these people cry poverty to you. Take a look at what they drive. If it's a 2011 Toyota SUV, they have money.
You can find these jobs on idealist.org, or more often by looking at magazines within your own field of expertise if you are trying to find something before you arrive. Afterward, try places like quiz nights, movie nights, photography clubs, fundraisers and running races. These jobs are concentrated in cities or anywhere there is conflict so besides Bangkok and Chiang Mai you could also try border towns like Mae Sot. Talk about how passionate you are to help 'all those poor people' and you're sure to get a job.
Scuba Diving Jobs
These are lifestyle jobs that you don't do for money. Diving businesses will hire Farang probably because they are also Farang owned and they believe that customers perceive Farang divers care more about safety and staff with good English. But these jobs rarely issue work permits and only the pay is lousy but you get to dive all the time so if that's your thing then it's the perfect job to have. You'll also need to be licensed to Divemaster or Dive Instructor from an agency like PADI, NAUI or SSI and need all your own equipment. This can set you back thousands. They are hard to get online. Better to go out there and get the job from the people you do the course with.
Once in a while there is a story about a big bust by the cops where they will photograph Farang workers heading out on the boat, so be wary. Places to look are the Similan Islands, Koh Tao or any of the islands, Krabi province or Phuket. You can also become a freelance diver where you might make a per dive rate in Koh Tao. You'll sometimes be expected to go out to the bars and 'sell' to people, that is, convince them that they should come dive with you. Don't expect the dive outfit to reimburse your bar tab. These jobs are also seasonal, slowing down in most places during the rainy season. Some of these business owners are quality but many have a big head because there are so many people who want these jobs, sometimes they treat their employees like dirt.
Expat and Oil Jobs
These are really the best paying and most interesting types of jobs you can get, but you need to be an expert in your field and you can really only find these jobs back home. That said, you'll meet people vacationing from these jobs all over Thailand but also working in cities especially like Bangkok and Ranong (oil). At the very least you can pick the guys brain and form connections that might help you for when you go back home. These jobs pay Western salaries, fly you back home all the time, give lots of vacation time, give the best visas, have decent Farang bosses, upward mobility, and pay for plush housing and transportation. But they are also hard work and not for the person just trying to live a Thai lifestyle and be sabaai sabaai.
If you have sailing experience, try this industry. The best place to go is Phuket. There are plenty of rich people that stop here in yachts on the way to or from Australia and many other places in the world. There are posts online, but amazingly many posters will want you to pay for the privilege of working on their yacht. You are better off 'walking the docks', but be careful. Traditionally back home you would find this sort of job by offering to do all the grunt work like painting and sanding and such. This is exactly the type of work that will get you in trouble here. Better to act like you already work there and be confident when walking the docks so as not to arouse suspicion. Or try hitting the bars by the docks later on and make friends with the captain, owner or crew. You never know, maybe they just set off from Thailand and one of their crew decided to go back home to his parents. They need somebody to fill the spot, and you are in the right spot at the right time. That is how you get these jobs.
Online Jobs and Online Trading Work
More and more, people are finding work online on freelance job sites like elance.com, guru.com and odesk.com. Though not strictly a job, if you develop a reputation or a connection with a few clients, it should not be hard to find steady work. These jobs are nice because you can get paid more and do work that interests you, wherever you are in the world as long as you have decent network and phone access. You can also daytrade. I knew one guy who made plenty of money to live and travel by trading a couple hours a day on sites like optionsexpress.com or etrade.com, but you need to already have a lot of money to make money. You won't get a work permit but its a gray legal area anyway. If the client is in your home country, do you need a permit? That's like saying a business executive who answers email while on vacation in Indonesia needs a permit. Not the case. Anyway, unless someone is watching over your screen, you might as well be chatting with your friend on Facebook.
The problem is you will be competing with individuals and firms in places like India and China that work for obscenely low rates. But if you can hustle more than these notorious hustlers, you can actually do OK. One strategy these people use is to bid low with a very narrow project scope. When the project inevitably goes outside that scope, they claim a breach of contract and charge much higher amounts to get the job done after some amount has already been paid. Or they do the first job low and do it well, then charge more for the next job once you have a relationship. If you want to win at this game you'll have to think like those annoying kids who are always trying to sell you flowers or wooden frogs at the bar. You've got to hustle!
Remember all the Farang in Ong Bak? They came from somewhere in Thailand. Just flip on the TV, they usually have some Farang dressed up like a clown that the other actors make fun of. You'll also see them on advertisements. The most in demand types are white people who might look slightly Asian or especially half Thai-half Westerner (Thai krung). You can really only find these jobs in Bangkok. Check craigslist, but use the other methods discussed, the specifics of which are beyond this article. Acting experience really helps.
Other jobs to consider are sales jobs and writing jobs, which again make use of your native English abilities. These are in Bangkok mostly but increasingly found online in a work from home type of environment.
Do you have a good or bad experience with finding a job in Thailand? Do you have any more advice? If so, post your thoughts below in the comments section.