This is a much-asked question in the TEFL world. The simple answer is yes… but with limitations. Here’s the low-down.
Several TEFL locations require you to have a bachelor’s degree (as well as a TEFL/TESOL/CELTA) to teach English. Why is this?
Well, most of the time it is due to work permit requirements. For example, in Thailand, you cannot get a work permit as a teacher without a degree – this is not for all work permits, but specifically one as a TEACHER. You will, on the rare occasion, find teachers in Thailand without a degree, who actually DO have a work permit, but in these cases, they are most likely listed as ‘teaching assistant’ or ‘language consultant’ or perhaps they are teaching in a resort or other industry, where it isn’t required. These jobs are few and far between however, and MOST teaching jobs will require you to have a degree in order to teach and do so via the legal route, with a work permit.
Other countries that also require a degree in order to get a work permit are China, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, and South Korea. Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia often require a PGCE or Ed degree.
Yes, you will hear of people teaching without degrees in these locations, but chances are slim that they are doing so with a work permit, and are most likely there on a tourist or other visa. In some countries, such as Vietnam, you’ll find the majority of teachers are teaching without the correct paperwork… and getting away with it. Other countries are much stricter. Whether you want to take the chance of getting caught is up to you, and not something we advise. Getting in trouble with the law in a foreign country is never advised.
Sometimes a job listing will state that a degree is required, even if it’s not a requirement for the work permit application. Why is this? Often, students or their parents have a strong preference for teachers with degrees, as they believe they will be more professional after investing several years in further education, and hence the school can draw more students by citing that their teachers have degrees.
So what are your options for teaching if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree?
There are countries that can issue a work permit without a degree, such as Cambodia, Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Russia, Peru and Spain. Most South and Central American countries do not require a degree, as do many countries in Europe, although these sometimes give preference to an EU passport holder, as it means no work permit is required. The only SE Asian country that does not officially require a degree is Cambodia.
Another option for non-degree holders is teaching online. This has become popular, and the pay can be very lucrative, with average salaries being 15-20USD/hour. Often a demo lesson is required, and you do need to have a good internet connection with a quiet location, a TEFL certificate and a bubbly personality to keep the attention of your online student. A few online companies do require their teachers to have a degree, but there are many which don’t. At Samui TEFL we provide our trainees with a comprehensive list of online teaching companies.
For those who are only after the experience of teaching while travelling, then volunteer teaching with no remuneration is also an option.
Many non-degreed teachers decide that they love teaching and want to make a full-time career of it, and therefore choose to obtain a bachelor’s degree in order to increase their work prospects. They often do so by studying online with a reputable university, while working at the same time.
So it’s not all bad news for those who want to explore the TEFL world and don’t have a bachelor’s degree.
If you’d like a detailed info pack, email email@example.com
Tatyana tells us how being a TEFL teacher has changed her life
After completing the course, Tatyana went on to teach in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, and has now headed back to Thailand to teach. This is what she had to say about her time on the course and how being a TEFL teacher has changed her, as well as her lifestyle.
Where to go after your TEFL course
So, you are holding a TEFL certificate, a magical key to many doors, a visa to most of the countries. Where to go? Too much choice spoils. Any new job posted in Facebook seems a better option than the one you’ve got. That island looks beautiful, this school offers attractive bonuses, that offer sounds tempting… Oh, if only I had waited a little longer! And then you change your job just to find out that any job is inevitably imperfect – either the cost of living is too high, or the classes are too numerous, or there’s too much work to do, or the city is too big/too small/too polluted/too boring/too noisy...
But any job inevitably has some delights to offer, let it be beaches, a nice school, good management, friendly staff, high wages… After all, we do essentially the same job, enjoy the same small pleasures (mine, for example, are morning yoga on the roof and making lesson plans in a cozy café), travel around (so what that it’s mostly visa runs and border bouncing), learn new languages and make new friends absolutely everywhere.
I think it is natural to always have this feeling that there’s a better place and greener grass somewhere else. But since I love what I do and I live in comfort, it doesn’t matter where I got the last “arrived” stamp in my passport, does it?
How my TEFL job changed me
If tomorrow they tell me something like, “The human race is evacuated to Mars, your spaceship leaves tomorrow”, I’ll just put my poker face on and ask, “What’s the luggage allowance?” Seriously, I should mention “stress-resistance and adaptability” as my strengths at the next job interview, my only strengths, probably. A TEFL job leaves you no time to panic. I have covered classes (on a very, very short notice) for someone who suddenly left the job, fell sick or is late from a border run more frequently than I hit the gym (and just for the record, I used to be a fitness model). I spend more time preparing lesson plans (and resources) than actually teaching. I don’t waste time regretting my mistakes, but I rather look for a way to correct them.
This job has changed my way of life. Formal shirts compile 75% of my wardrobe. All my possessions fit into two suitcases of total weight no more than 30 kg (6 of them are books. Weird, considering that I have a Kindle, PaperWhite and Audible app). I can pack and unpack all my stuff in 15 minutes. I catch myself duplicating my words with gestures while talking to people. I learnt how to keep my voice low when all I want is to raise it. I can easily find my way without Google Maps after spending 3 days in a new place (to be frank, I lose my way only if I rely on the maps). One can learn geography of Southeast Asia by my passport. And, honestly, I’ve never felt better in my life.
Would I recommend Samui TEFL?
“What TEFL course would you recommend – online or in-class?” someone posts in Facebook every day. Seriously? You think you can learn how to teach well (WELL is the keyword here) purely theoretically? Let’s be conscious, please, teaching is a responsible job. I understand that not everyone has money for an in-class course. I understand that those who have money, don’t always want to invest it into something they aren’t going to do for the rest of their lives. I understand that someone just wants to volunteer, or to move to the another country following his/her partner.
But aren’t we who we are mostly thanks to what and how we’ve been taught? Don’t we enjoy what we do when we do it well? Aren’t we feeling satisfied at the end of the day when we know we’ve done a job to the best of our abilities?
The Samui TEFL course was one of the best experiences of my life, and it entailed a lot of other great experiences. It was absolutely worth every penny, second, and effort spent (and I’m not talking of the beaches). It gave me a profession that is in high demand, but even if I quit teaching tomorrow, the knowledge, skills and memories I acquired will remain with me. Thanks to the course I became more organized, more adaptive and flexible, I learnt how to make my explanation memorable, how to encourage my students, how to elicit the right answer from them, how to keep them interested and busy all the time and how to discipline them. I’ve learnt to anticipate possible problems and to do things fast. Thanks to the course I can do my job well, and that says it all.
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