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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Tefl from Thailand, to Japan!
Hi, my name is Chelsea, I’m 25 years old, have been abroad for 15 months, and have loved every minute of this wonderful journey.
I started my journey in Koh Samui, Thailand, with Samui TEFL. My experience with Samui TEFL was outstanding. Kathryn and Rosanne are professional, experienced, and throw you into the real world of TEFL with full support the entire way. Kathryn really brings the classroom alive and instils excitement into her students with what I can only believe to be genuine passion and vast experience in the industry. I quickly found that the Samui TEFL accreditation was well respected and known among schools in Thailand, and for good reason! Kathryn and Rosanne still keep in touch and support me today! It makes a huge difference being well equipped and to feel supported, especially as you begin your TEFL journey.
Thailand was wonderful, challenging, eye opening, cultured, beautiful, thrilling, and so much more. I was lucky enough to interview at an international school on the paradise island of Samui, and got the job. It was all quite a whirlwind when the school opened. I was thrown into a classroom with children from all over the world that all spoke completely different languages, of different ages and abilities, and this was where I really appreciated how well Samui TEFL had prepared me. The challenge was so exciting and rewarding. The grounds of the school were beautiful and I made some amazing friends. Although it was disorganised in places, I really enjoyed where I was. The school definitely had its challenges, but all of which were worth it! The kids made every day so rewarding, I was working in paradise, making great friends, and really enjoying life. The skills attained and the lessons learned were invaluable. I still speak to many of my 5-6 year old students from Thailand now and keep in touch with their parents! One of the most rewarding experiences for me were two boys who were in my class, one that spoke only Russian and one only Thai. They were both very shy and had difficulty when they first arrived in all aspects of school. By the time I left, they were best friends, conversing in English and always smiling in class! Beats an office job!
The Thai culture is simply amazing. They are very respectful, kind, welcoming and I felt privileged to be able to immerse myself in such a wonderful culture. The weekends were never dull, whether you are on a beautiful beach, climbing a waterfall, engaging in a local festival or simply trying some amazing food at the local markets with friends, I can’t imagine ever getting bored! Thailand was definitely the wonderful experience I was looking for when I decided to travel.
After nine months I finished my contract in Thailand, and was contemplating what to do next, stay in Thailand or further my travels. I loved Thailand, but I felt that I needed more experience to further my career, and broaden my experience. I had been learning Japanese and did a lot of research into areas of Japan. My experience in Thailand, and accreditation with Samui TEFL led to endless job offers from all over the world, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, South Korea etc.
Japan was more challenging; they required multiple interviews and screening. I finally landed a job in Okinawa – which was perfect! Okinawa is the southernmost point in Japan, it’s also a paradise island! A lot of people don’t even know Japan has such places! I was excited to go further my language skills, immerse myself in another culture, especially as the Okinawan culture is very unique. When I first arrived, I was excited to be in a first world country again. I was quickly taken aback by the fast paced, strict way of life I encountered, especially compared to Thailand! I did not enjoy the job at all. It was disorganized, lonely and very long hours. I almost gave up but applied to another job on the other side of the island. After 8 interviews at a science and tech institution, I was offered a job at the university’s child development centre! I was to be the English kindergarten teacher for 3 year old children of scientists and PhD graduates. Did I know how to teach 3 year olds? No. Did I know how to potty train? No. But I did my research and learned very quickly. I’m still working this job now, and I absolutely love it. The facilities are beautiful, the hours are great, it comes with private healthcare, pension, insurance, housing allowance, and the opportunity to partake in scientific research if I want to! The university grounds are like a little community and I have met some amazing people. I’m even going to apply to do my PhD in Developmental Neurology at the university next year! It’s funny where life takes you.
The culture here is wonderful, calm and welcoming. The beaches are beautiful, there is a lot to do and experience and mainland Japan is only a couple of hours away! Actually, as are many countries – I just got back from a trip to Taiwan! Japan is built up, so you have all your Western amenities and first world conveniences and security. Things are done by the books here, unlike Thailand. However, people do not speak English on mainland Japan, but the Japanese are very accommodating and will do everything they can to help you! It’s an amazing country. Northern Japan has the beautiful snow, ski slopes and cabins, Tokyo has the main city vibe, Kyoto has its 4 seasons, cherry blossoms and unique food and really flourishes their culture, not to mention the historic sites and influences all over the country! Then down to Okinawa that is a little hidden paradise. I miss Thailand very much and will definitely return though! I’m extremely excited to be where I am now, with the opportunities in front of me and the experiences I have had already. Not to mention I’m being sent to LA for a conference in June! The opportunities that arise are endless. I would have had none of it without the Samui TEFL course, and the ongoing support from Rosanne and Kathryn.
Samui TEFL Blog