Can I get hired as an English teacher abroad if I don’t have a four-year college degree? If so, where can I teach English abroad without a degree? What can I do to enhance my opportunities to teach English abroad without a degree?
The great news is that almost any English speaker, even without a college degree, can teach English abroad. With approximately one billion people learning English globally, demand for native English-speaking teachers is so high that thousands of schools in dozens of countries routinely hire foreign English teachers who do not hold a degree. That said, if you do not hold a four-year college degree it is important that you understand that there can be limitations and challenges, and there are steps you should take to enhance your opportunities for teaching English abroad without a degree. Follow these pointers and you'll be well on your way to securing the perfect English teaching job abroad.
Understand Your Options
Standards will vary from school to school and especially from country to country, so it is important that you learn in which countries allow schools to hire foreign English teachers without a four-year college degree.
In some countries, it is essentially a legal requirement that foreign English teachers hold a four-year degree (and an authenticated diploma must be presented). Such nations include developed Asian nations like South Korea (though college students who meet certain criteria can teach in the TALK Program) and Japan.
Developing East Asian nations such as Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia, countries where hiring standards were often lax in the past, have also upped requirements and now typically require a four-year degree as well.
It is also a standard requirement for English teaching positions in most Persian Gulf countries in the Middle East like the United Arab Emirates (including Abu Dhabi and Dubai), Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman. Some schools in countries like Egypt do hire English teachers without a degree, particularly those who are already on the ground locally.
In other countries, it is entirely common for foreign English teachers to be employed without a degree, particularly if they hold a TEFL certification and/or have prior teaching English. These regions include much of Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. Be mindful that individual schools will often maintain their own standards regardless of government policies. These countries will be your best options if you're trying to teach abroad and do not have a college degree.
Top Destinations to Teach English Abroad without a Degree
Before you pack your bags and hit the airport runway, you'll want to select a destination that will have some job opportunities warmly awaiting you. Here are the best regions for teaching abroad without a college degree.
An estimated 300 million Chinese take English classes annually and China has the largest job market for English teachers in the world. While both schools and governments on the national and regional levels have raised the standards for hiring foreign English teachers, schools in China routinely hire foreign English teachers without four-year degrees and many provide benefits like free housing and/or reimbursed airfare.
However, they almost always require a TEFL certification and/or prior teaching experience. In popular job markets like Beijing and Shanghai, most schools commonly require a four-year degree, so if you don’t have one, be flexible and concentrate your job search on other major cities. There are more than 100 cities in China with more than 1 million people, so you will have plenty of options.
Though not nearly as large as China, Cambodia is a fast-growing job market where schools also routinely hire foreign English teachers without a degree. Schools don’t typically offer the same pay or benefits, like housing and airfare, that may be offered in other Asian countries, but Cambodia offers a fantastic array of Southeast Asian culture and cuisine as well a tropical climate (and beaches!).
While it’s not usually a legal requirement to hold a four-year degree to teach English in most European countries, in Western European nations like Italy, France, Germany, most schools do look to hire English teachers with four-year degrees.
If you are on the ground and have a TEFL certification and/or previous teaching experience, you may be able to land opportunities, but far more opportunities can be found for those without a degree in Eastern European countries like Russia and Ukraine, two huge job markets that offer a great European experience.
From Mexico and Peru to Argentina and Ecuador, schools throughout Central and South America often hire foreign English teachers without college degrees, making the region one of the best options for those without a university diploma. The only potential downside is that the pay in Latin American countries is often much less than you would find in Asia or the Middle East. You can expect to break even at the very least. Teaching in Latin America as an ESL teacher is a natural fit if you'd like to brush up on your Spanish skills simultaneously.
Important Things to Remember
- Get a TEFL certification. Receiving training and holding a recognized credential will immensely enhance your chances of gaining employment teaching English abroad. Language schools and institutes will not typically hire you off the street simply because you speak English. They want to hire teachers who have been trained in teaching methodologies, lesson planning and classroom management. Read our guide to TEFL certification for more tips.
- Be flexible and patient in your job search. Be aware that without a degree, it may take you a bit longer to line up teaching jobs and many schools that may be willing hire English teachers without a degree may not be located in the best known cities.
- Consider looking for opportunities locally in the country where you plan to teach. Woody Allen is believed to have said that “90% of life is showing up” and this is often the case for landing English teaching jobs abroad. Sometimes, being in the right place at the right time really can make all the difference. In many countries - including most Latin American and European countries – a high percentage of foreign English teachers are hired locally.
- Be mindful of hiring seasons. In Europe, most language schools hire new English teachers primarily in September and January, while in South America, schools tend to employ new teachers in March and April. In some countries, like Mexico and China, demand for English teachers is so high that jobs open throughout the year, particularly in cities.
- Consider volunteer opportunities. You may not get paid (though some volunteer programs provide room and/or board), but volunteering abroad offers great opportunities around the globe to enjoy a fantastic international experience, make a difference in the lives of others and to gain some great experience for your resume. In addition, it is one of five ways individuals can teach English abroad without a TEFL certification.
- Be prepared to take part time jobs and give private lessons. Many schools, particularly in Latin America and Europe, hire English teachers on a part-time basis, especially to start. Also, taking on private students provides a great way to make extra money while teaching abroad and to meet locals on a personal level.
With approximately one billion people learning English globally, demand for native English-speaking teachers is so high that thousands of schools in dozens of countries routinely hire foreign English teachers who do not hold a degree.
With some hard work and dedication, it's completely possible to teach English abroad even if you don't have a college degree. The most important thing to remember is to never let limitations or obstacles stop you from pursuing your dreams. Just because Dubai and Paris may not be realistic options shouldn’t stop you from reaching your goal of teaching English abroad and enjoying the international experience of a lifetime. From China and Costa Rica to Cambodia and Russia, you have options!