At The TEFL Org, we’re more than used to a range of questions about teaching English overseas. One of the biggest remains a tricky one: is a TEFL qualification all I need to teach English abroad?
The honest answer to this depends on where you want to teach. You need a degree to teach in certain countries due to visa requirements, but don’t worry if you don’t have one. Even though a number of countries have strict regulations on working visas, let alone individual job requirements, there are still opportunities out there for TEFL-qualified teachers who don’t hold a degree!
When it comes to teaching in Asia it’s true that your options are limited, as almost all countries require a degree. South Korea, Japan and China remain the most popular TEFL destinations, and all have very restrictive immigration policies. However, this isn’t the case everywhere.
It’s possible to work in some for a period of time on a working holiday visa if you meet those requirements but this can be tricky and there are often a lot of restrictions. Thankfully, there is one incredible country that does welcome teachers without degrees – Cambodia!
Why teach English in Cambodia?
You won’t get rich teaching English in Cambodia, but money isn’t what draws teachers to this mysterious and culturally rich country. That said, you can expect to earn enough to live comfortably and be able to explore the country with the wages on offer in Cambodia.
The lower entry requirements draw in teachers who don’t have a degree but are keen to experience Asia. It’s a country often overlooked in favour of its neighbours, Thailand and Vietnam, but with stunning landscapes, a fascinating history, and extremely friendly people, Cambodia offers a lot to EFL teachers who choose to work there.
Why should I go to Cambodia?
What can you expect to see in Cambodia? The capital Phnom Penh represents the largest urban area in what is a generally rural nation. Drawing from a range of cultural and religious influences across Asia, Cambodia’s natural landscape and ancient sites are both breathtaking.
Take, for example, the Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious building, built in the early 12th Century – and today, Cambodia’s main tourist attraction. Or, the tropical paradise of the Koh Rong Samloem island, where hammocks and scuba diving gear are welcomed equally?
If you’re into temples, and Angkor Wat doesn’t scratch the itch, try the dramatic and stunning Prasat Preah Vihear, a UNESCO heritage site nestled on the border with Thailand. Throw in vast rainforest, stunning views from coast to coast and the relatively cheap cost of living, and it’s little wonder Cambodia is growing as a popular destination for TEFL teachers.
What’s more, TEFL teachers are sorely needed. Cambodia ranks 97th out of 110 nations in the English Proficiency Index. That’s an drop – having come 94th in 2019, the level of English in Cambodia is demonstrably decreasing.
Little wonder, then, that Cambodia is more lenient when it comes to TEFL teachers and entry requirements. No degree or experience? No bother; just as long as you have TEFL certification, ideas and wherewithal to teach English, you’ll likely be more than welcome.
Teacher Experience in Cambodia
TEFL Org graduate, Daniel Gillard, who completed our 140-hour TEFL course, fell in love with the country on a trip through Southeast Asia in 2015. The next year he was TEFL qualified and on a plane back!
After a year and a half teaching English in Cambodia, Daniel returned to the UK at the start of this year only to realise just how much he’d fallen in love with the country and realised that was where he felt at home. He’s recently taken up a fantastic position as an English lecturer at a university in Phnom Penh and feels like the “luckiest TEFL’er in the world!”.
Here’s what he has to say to those thinking about teaching in Cambodia:
“If you’re thinking about moving to Cambodia, remember that it’s known as The Kingdom Of Wonder. Or alternatively, ‘The Kingdom Of I Wonder What On Earth Is Going On?!’ Logic takes a back seat here, giving way to the ebb and flow of life in and around the beautiful Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers.
“Whether it’s Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Sihanoukville, Battambang or the Khmer provinces that you head towards, you’ll find students keen to learn in a country keen to welcome you. It’s a truly strange and foreign land, but one that makes you feel at home and bit by bit takes hold of your heart. Once you arrive, you might never leave…”
Can I really teach in Cambodia without a degree?
Yes! The reason you can’t teach in neighbouring countries such as Thailand and Vietnam is because in those countries a degree is a legal requirement for a work visa. No such rule exists in Cambodia!
It’s true that some employers may prefer applicants to have a degree but there’s enough demand for English teachers in Cambodia that you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a job without one.
Cambodia is one of the only countries in Asia where you can easily, and legally, teach without a degree. Read more: Teach English in Cambodia
Do I need a TEFL qualification?
It’s only becoming harder to find a position teaching English without a TEFL qualification. It’s not impossible, but we don’t advise it.
That’s not just because it’s unfair on students to pay for lessons from someone who hasn’t been trained to teach English, but because a TEFL qualification will secure you a better wage with a better employer.
Remember, employers who don’t show any concern about the credentials of their teachers are often best avoided! Remember that finding a job is a two-way process; you’ve got to be as encouraged by an employer and as thorough about them as they are about you.
The industry standard is 120 hours of TEFL Certification. However, taking Advanced TEFL courses can really give you a boost if you’re lacking a degree – a TEFL qualification in Business English, for example, would help in an emerging economy like Cambodia’s.
Check out our Advanced TEFL Courses page for more information.
How much can I earn?
Teachers can expect to earn around $10 to $14 per hour teaching in Cambodia and most teachers work 20 to 25 hours a week. With low living costs this salary will more than cover the essentials and leave you with enough to enjoy your time in the country.
As is the case with most countries, EFL teachers with more qualifications and experience will be able to command higher salaries. There are, also, always opportunities to top this up with private tutoring.
Alternatively, you can find work preparing students for English proficiency exams. Tests like the IELTS or TOEFL exam can be crucial for Cambodians who want to live or work in English-speaking countries.
Your chances of finding work are better in-country rather than online. Cambodian employers often want to trust that you’re committed to living locally, and so it’s often easier to find work on-the-ground as opposed to applying online.
That doesn’t mean to say that applying online for jobs prior to moving out is a bad idea. In fact, sorting a job before you head out is probably the instinctually safe move, and it makes sense, too! Keep an eye on jobs boards and join relevant Facebook groups – don’t let adverts that state a degree is required put you off, there are plenty of jobs for those without!
It’s also well worth utilising LinkedIn, which is a great resource for finding Cambodian schools, or recruiters on the hunt for perfect TEFL candidates. Or, indeed, going directly to a recruiter can really expedite the process of finding a job.
There are pros and cons to using a recruiter, as explored in this blog post. Phnom Penh is where you’re most likely to find work but the popular tourist destination of Siem Reap also presents opportunities. Though much of the country is rural, as mentioned earlier, that doesn’t mean opportunities aren’t there.
Where else can I TEFL without a degree?
If Cambodia doesn’t take your fancy, there are loads of other countries looking for TEFL teachers who don’t have a degree.
The main options for TEFL without a degree are to be found in Europe and South America. There are other notable examples too – Lebanon and Jordan don’t require a degree certificate to be a TEFL teacher.
South America, though, is a booming TEFL destination. Argentina doesn’t require a degree as a mandatory requirement, nor do any of Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Nicaragua or Uruguay. There are some enormous countries in that list, so just imagine the number of schools, companies and universities looking for TEFL teachers!
Although Asia can be restrictive, it’s also possible to teach in Nepal, who – similarly – do not require a degree for a working visa.
Don’t think that not having a degree means you’re excluded from the most exciting parts of the world, or from teaching English more generally. That just isn’t the case, as Cambodia shows! Find out more about teaching without a degree here.