The question of whether it’s possible to teach abroad without a degree or not is one of the most frequently asked by our students – and no wonder when so many occupations seem to require an unattainable array of qualifications, skills, and expertise!
Rather than beat about the bush, the short answer is: yes; you can TEFL without a degree. Nevertheless, where and who you teach as well as how much you earn may be limited. It’s a good idea to know where a degree is and isn’t required, either due to visa restrictions or because of stringent school standards. Where a degree isn’t necessary, a teaching qualification or experience will almost certainly be – sometimes both! Thankfully, those two are a lot easier to acquire than a 4-year long degree.
Degrees aren’t the only qualification that matter when it comes to teaching abroad. In fact, they occasionally aren’t even the most sought-after. Oh no – an accredited TEFL certificate from an internationally recognized provider will often carry more weight, particularly in Europe.
Without a degree, a TEFL certificate with a large number of hours is definitely preferable. We recommend a course containing at least 120 hours as this is often the minimum asked of applicants by employers.
Ensure the provider you train with is accredited and that their accreditation is legitimate. For example, we hold the most accreditation out of any TEFL provider in the UK. You can check ours here.
The best way to build some experience for a paying job is to volunteer. There are many amazing opportunities to teach abroad as a volunteer. Whether it’s in summer camps in North America or Europe, refugee camps in Africa, or assimilating with locals in South America, there’s a broad range of possibilities to explore. Let’s write lots and then you teach abroad with all the gusto you can handle
Obviously, as is the nature of volunteering, you won’t be earning anything. However, it’s not so uncommon for certain benefits such as accommodation, meal, and flight reimbursement to be included. On top of that, you have the ability to make a true difference. Just make sure to avoid ‘voluntourism’ companies who only offer short-term volunteering trips – holidays, essentially – which barely benefit those who need it.
From the busy canals of Amsterdam to the sun-kissed, winding streets of old Athens it’s easy to see why Europe is such a popular destination for English teachers. However, with up to 50 countries within its borders, and each one with its own visa restrictions, it can take some thorough research trying to narrow down where would match your interests and qualifications the most.
The main problem you will have in Europe are school requirements and demand, rather than visa restrictions (especially within the EU). The likes of Germany, France, Benelux, and Scandinavia are the countries you might find tough. This is thanks to either low demand due to high levels of English proficiency and an emphasis on experience as well as good qualifications. German employers, for example, will sometimes place experience before degrees or TEFL certificates.
South Europe, such as Spain and Italy, definitely sees the highest demand for teachers. Luckily, schools there are usually more lenient which is great for degreeless American teachers.
Read our blog on TEFL in Europe for more information!
Visas are a bit more of a difficulty in Latin America. It’s pretty common for only fully-qualified teachers to be eligible for official work-permits. This doesn’t stop thousands of teachers from flocking to South America and its neighbors every year to teach and bask in the delightful cultures and environment. If it was really that difficult then it wouldn’t be so popular. Working on tourist visas is commonplace and is perfectly doable.
Where schools are most likely to request degree-holders are those countries which are somewhat more economically developed. For instance, Chile and Argentina are where you are most likely to see schools asking for a degree. Mexico too; however, there is enough variation here and a large enough demand that those lacking a degree would do fine. North American teachers are at an advantage in Latin America due to the popularity of US English as opposed to British.
As a whole, Latin America’s schools tend to have low requirements and are a fantastic option for aspiring teachers. Living costs tend to be low, but so do the wages. The experience, on the other hand, is unbeatable.
Interested? Here are the five best places to teach English in South America.
One of the biggest TEFL industries is in Mexico where US English is in huge demand. Check our blog post here.
Without a degree, you haven’t really many options to choose from in Asia. China, South Korea, Japan, Thailand etc. all require teachers to have bachelor’s degrees to attain a visa. Cambodia is the only real chance teachers have. Degrees are not required by the government. In fact, they’re very relaxed, and landing a job here shouldn’t be too difficult. Just make sure you hold a decent TEFL qualification.
Don’t expect much in terms of wages or benefits packages from your employers, not that they’re needed – the cost of living is very low! There is a fairly strong demand, like the rest of East Asia. If you’re looking to make the most of it, go as soon as possible. You never know if, or when, they’ll introduce stricter measures.
Where to avoid…
There are some places it’s best just not to bother with. This is largely due to visa regulations, but also because of very high standards of teaching. Unfortunately, they often tend to be the countries with the most lucrative benefits packages and salaries!
Here are the main destinations to avoid without a degree: South Korea, Japan, China, Thailand, and the Gulf States.
It might be common in some of these countries to work on a tourist visa when the law requires you to have an official work permit. We don’t condone this sort of behavior as it’s illegal and can be more trouble than it’s worth if you get caught.
Hopefully, you learned a lot reading this blog post. You don’t need to spend a whole four years at college to teach abroad.