Can I do TEFL without a degree?

One great thing about TEFL is that it is open to just about anyone, young or old, from any background, whether you’re a native or non-native English speaker, and whether or not you already have some teaching experience. The number and diversity of teaching positions around the world is reflected in the number and diversity of people filling them, such is the demand for teachers of English as a Foreign Language.

But one of the questions we get asked most often is “Can I teach English abroad without a degree?”

Fortunately, teaching English without a degree is very possible. There are plenty of language schools who will hire you regardless of your educational background. It’s true that there are more opportunities and options if you do have one, but if you haven’t got a degree, there’s no reason to let this stop you following your dreams of becoming an English teacher abroad.

Why do I need a degree for some TEFL jobs?

Just like with many other professions, the question of whether you need a degree to actually do the job is quite arbitrary. There is no particular reason why someone with a degree would make a more effective English teacher than someone without one. As with a lot of other jobs, certain qualities (passion, commitment and the ability to develop rapport with your students, for example) are more important than being educated to degree level. It’s important to note though that these qualities should be backed up with knowledge of teaching that you will gain from your TEFL course – although you can teach abroad without a degree, teaching abroad without a TEFL qualification is less easy, and we go into this in a lot more detail in this article about getting TEFL certified.

Whether or not you need a degree for TEFL then normally comes down to the country where you are going to teach. Regulations or restrictions in some countries require foreign teachers to have a degree in order to get a work visa or permit. Language schools and other employers have to respect these legal requirements, and so will specify in their job adverts that you must have a degree.

If you hear about teachers who have got around these visa restrictions, they are most likely either volunteering or taking part in an internship program. They could also be working illegally, something you attempt at your peril and that we strongly advise against. You leave yourself open to exploitation by less than scrupulous employers, not to mention the potential to get into big trouble with authorities.

All this means that there are more opportunities available if you do have a degree, but there are still plenty available if you don’t, and ways that you can maximise your chances of finding one, which we’ll look at next.

Steps to finding a TEFL job without a degree

Before we look at where you can teach without a degree, here are a number of proactive things you can do that will boost your chances of finding a job with the qualifications and experience that you do have.

  1. Make sure you have a TEFL qualification

    Even if you don’t need a degree, you will almost certainly need a TEFL qualification (and even if you don’t, there are many good reasons to get one anyway). Without a degree, your range of options will be much wider with a TEFL certificate under your belt.

  2. Enhance your CV further with a specialised TEFL certificate

    A certificate in Teaching Young Learners or Business English will help you stand out from the crowd.

  3. Find out what your options are

    Look at the list of countries below, and research jobs available in these countries. Be positive and proactive of course, but be realistic at the same time. Don’t expect to arrive in Vietnam and walk into a language school without a degree and land a paid job. If employers have to respect visa regulations, no amount of interview skills will persuade them otherwise. Instead, consider some of the points below…

  4. Consider volunteering or internship programs

    There are a lot of these programs available that don’t require you to have a degree, even in countries where a degree is required for paid teaching jobs. They can be up to 6 months in duration or longer. A lot of programs will include accommodation and meals, but you may have to pay to participate in the program, and for flights and other expenses. Even so, they can be a great way to get started, gain some experience, and get your foot in the door in a country, as well as being a rewarding experience.

  5. Look at other teaching programs

    In a country where a degree is normally required, there may be other ways in where you don’t need one. For example, the Talk program in South Korea only requires an Associate’s Degree or to be enrolled in the third year of a Bachelor’s degree. With the Teaching Assistant Program in France, you can be a teaching assistant in a French school without a degree. Summer camp programs in some European countries are another type of program that often don’t require you to have a degree, and these can be a great way to get some Young Learner teaching experience on your CV.

  6. Go to the country where you want to teach and apply for jobs on the ground

    Compared to applying online, being there in person where you can show what you can do can make a big difference. Many employers only recruit in this way anyway, rather than through online job sites.

  7. Think outside the box

    Knowing some of the local language can be a plus for employers. Knowing what time of year to apply can save you wasting time when schools just aren’t recruiting. Having any required police background or medical checks already done can make your application smoother.

  8. Teach online

    The demand for online English teaching is growing fast, and many online teaching companies don’t require that you have a degree. This means that, in theory, you can teach online from anywhere in the world, although you should fully research any visa implications of doing this in the country where you’ve chosen to live.

Where can I teach English without a degree?

Europe

If you’re a British or Irish citizen you can teach legally anywhere in the EU (although this may of course change for British citizens after Brexit). This means that a degree isn’t required unless the employer specifies it. Such is the competition for jobs in some European countries though that many employers prefer you to have one anyway. If you’re already on the ground though, there are still opportunities if you don’t have a degree.

Countries like Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia and Ukraine have more opportunities for teachers without a degree.

Asia

Asia’s English teaching market is huge, and many of the more popular destinations, including China, South Korea, Thailand, Japan and Vietnam require you to have a degree.

Cambodia and Laos are probably the best options in Asia for teaching English without a degree. Cambodia has a huge demand for English teachers, and most schools will hire you without a degree as long as you have TEFL certification. For higher paid jobs at international schools or universities though, you may well need a degree. India and Sri Lanka are other options. In India, because English is an official language, competition for teaching jobs is quite high due to lower demand. This means that for teaching English without a degree in India, there are more volunteer positions available than paid ones.

Central and South America

This region probably has the most opportunities for TEFL without a degree. Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru and Uruguay are all options if you don’t have a degree.

Middle East and North Africa

Most countries in the Middle East set a high bar for TEFL jobs, with many requiring a Master’s degree, a Diploma level TEFL qualification, and/or several years of experience. However, it may still be possible to find a job without a Bachelor’s degree in countries like Jordan, Morocco, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar.

List of countries where you can teach abroad without a degree

Here’s the full list of countries we mentioned above. Please remember that requirements change frequently – if you know of any countries to add to or remove from the list, please let us know in the comments below.

  • Argentina
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Bulgaria
  • Cambodia
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Czech Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • Greece
  • India
  • Jordan
  • Laos
  • Mexico
  • Morocco
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Peru
  • Poland
  • Qatar
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Slovakia
  • Sri Lanka
  • Turkey
  • Ukraine
  • Uruguay

You can teach English abroad without a degree

If you don’t have a degree, there are still many opportunities to teach English abroad. If you have TEFL certification and are willing to teach in one of the amazing countries we’ve listed here, or even if you prefer to go down the volunteering or internship route, there is absolutely no reason why not having a degree should stop you!

Need to get TEFL qualified?

Check out some TEFL courses in the amazing countries listed above.

Written by Keith Taylor
Keith is the founder of Eslbase. He has been an English teacher and teacher trainer for over 15 years.

2 comments

  1. Ruth Wilson

    I have heard that China very often accepts teachers without a degree. But it is still more reliable and better for your career to have a degree – it will not so much add to your reputation, but will make you more confident and versatile thinking.

    • Eslbase

      Hi Ruth

      Thanks for your comment.

      Regarding China, we would advise everyone to fully research the requirements for obtaining a working “Z” visa for China. At the time of writing, a “Z” visa is required for foreign teachers to work legally in China. So as long as a degree remains one of the criteria for obtaining this visa, we would advise you to be wary of any recruiter or employer offering a job without a degree.

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