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
Joe Moore completed his TEFL course in November 2011. Since then, he's taught in several locations in Thailand and China, and more recently, he's now teaching in Saudi Arabia. Here's an update from Joe on what it's like teaching in the Middle East.
It has now been six years and four countries later since I completed my Samui TEFL certification. Now, I find myself teaching college students ESL at King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
So far the kingdom is nothing like I thought it was going to be. My students are attending a preparatory year to boost their knowledge of English and prepare them for medical school.
The Saudi people are kind, curious, and friendly. Saudi Arabia is the guardian of Mecca and Medina. It is also the heart of the Islamic religion and Arab culture. All around the city of Riyadh construction can be seen as the kingdom is modernising with skyscrapers, glitzy malls, and a new sky train system which will alleviate the traffic in Riyadh.
There are plenty of teaching positions here. Hiring takes place all year around, but the months of August and September hold the best promise for securing a position. In the ESL circuit the Middle East remains the top region in which to stack large amounts of money in a short amount of time. The universities, colleges, and poly-tech schools all hire large amounts of ESL teachers every year. Most employers are seeking someone with a few years of ESL teaching experience. Packages include salaries which begin around $3000 USD a month tax free, accommodation, 30 days paid vacation and round-trip airfare. With very little in the way of distractions and a low cost of living, a budget-minded ESL teacher can easily save $25,000+ USD in a single year of teaching.
Culturally, there are a few things that must be adhered to when teaching. These include avoiding certain subjects including politics, the King, civil rights, religion, and women not being able to drive (yet). All the schools are segregated. Outside of the classroom women are required to wear the abaya (a black gown from head to toe), from the moment you enter the kingdom. For non-Muslim women the (hijab) head scarf is unnecessary. Men are allowed to wear shorts, but must go below the knee. Prayers are held seven times a day. The prayers begin at approximately 4:30am and end at midnight. Muslims are required to pray five times a day. The call for the prayer can be heard in unison from anywhere in the city over loudspeakers. The times for prayers change slightly everyday. All shops close during these times, so it's important when going out to plan for them. There are a few other important rules to mention. Alcohol is forbidden. And fraternisation with the opposite sex is a serious crime.
Being an international city, Riyadh has a variety of foods from all over the world. Middle Eastern selections of grilled meats, bread, and rice, as well as all the Western fast food chains are available. Most living takes place at night due to the heat of the day. Malls dot the landscape and provide opportunity for exercise, shopping, dining, and socialising with families.
To sum up, Saudi Arabia is a great destination for an ESL teacher. There is much to explore in this region of the world that most people will never get to experience. Your TEFL certification truly is a ticket for freedom and a life of adventure. I know, I’m living it!!!
Samui TEFL Graduate November 2011
To read Joe's account of what it's like teaching in Thailand and China, read here
Samui TEFL Blog