Can you teach English abroad without certification?
Teaching English has become the sexy career choice for young people. I mean, we’ve all got Instagram, and my Instagram has to be the best, right? I want “candid” photos of me dancing in a sundress through ancient walls! I want followers!!
Or, even if you want the experience just for yourself, to learn a language or experience a new culture, teaching English abroad is pretty much one of the easiest ways to accomplish actually getting over there.
But, in today’s world of professional Instagram accounts, we also have expensive college degrees and other kinds of certifications generally standing in the way of the jobs we really want. With a bachelor’s degree you can get a solid minimum wage job (if you can beat out your competition who has more experience than you), but if you can’t get a degree? Well, you can get a certification to teach English abroad, which means you get to keep the left leg you’d have to sell to afford college, but that can still be a few thousand bucks, which a lot of us can’t afford.
So we’re left back where we started. We have a dream, but we might not have the paperwork. So can you teach English abroad without a certification? What about teaching English abroad without a degree?
Requirements for teaching English overseas
As a general rule, you’re going to want a bachelor’s degree of some sort. It doesn’t really matter what the degree is in, but you’ll find the lack of one kind of narrows down the countries you’ll be able to teach in. If you want to teach English abroad without a bachelor’s degree, I suggest you try looking in Europe and Asia – about half those countries require a degree if you want to get paid to teach English abroad, but the other half only prefer it.
Unless the following information has changed since the posting of this blog (entirely possible, so always double check), below is a list of countries that do not require a college degree for you to teach English.
And do be warned that these things do change, like how the requirements for teaching English in Thailand have recently changed from only needing a TESOL certification to a college degree AND a certification.
So if you don’t have a degree, is there still hope? Can you teach English abroad without a certification?
Teaching English abroad without a degree
Now, certifications are the next step up. While a bachelor’s degree basically communicates the idea that you’re competent, a TESOL, TEFL, or TESL certification says that you’ve put in the time to really learn how to teach. If you’re looking to teach English abroad with no degree, I highly recommend you look into one of these certifications.
You should note that these certifications do not take the place of a college degree – while the experience and resources you get are more or less the same as what you’ll get from a college degree, they don’t hold the same weight on paper. That being said, just because you don’t have a college degree doesn’t mean you need any kind of certification – it just means that you might want to consider the extra bump to your resume.
Now, if you’re really slumming and feel the gut-wrenching need to travel abroad, but don’t have the time or money, teaching private lessons is always an option, as well. While it is a more difficult option, it is an option. As with starting any sort of business, you’ll need to put the time into creating a network, honing your skills, and you’re going to be going quite some time without paying rent. So hey, if you’re up for a challenge, bombs away!
But this does all mean that, like any other job, teaching English is a commitment. Katie from Study Hard Travel Smart, for one, has talked about the struggle with people moving abroad to teach English without any qualifications, and therefore not having the slightest idea what’s going on. That there’s a pretty good reason to not teach English abroad, eh?
What’s the difference between TEFL, TESL, TESOL, and CELTA?
If you do get a certification to teach English abroad, you have a few to choose from, and they all provide need for slightly different situations, depending on how you plan to use your certification.
First we have TEFL, which is generally recognized as the certification for teaching English abroad. This is for the American going to a non-native English speaking country to teach students who speak a language that is not English. Going to Spain to teach English to Spaniards. That sort of thing.
Next we have CELTA, which is pretty much a TEFL; it’s a specific kind of TEFL taught by Cambridge University. A CELTA is sometimes seen as more prestigious than a TEFL, though, and is kind of nudging the TEFL into a more standardized, respectable state. As time goes on, they are viewed as more or less interchangeable. Amy can tell you more.
Then we have TESL, which is more for teaching English to foreigners who uprooted themselves to live in English speaking countries. This one is staying at home in America and getting a job in an American school teaching English to people from non-English speaking countries.
Last but not least we have the TESOL. This certification is TEFL and TESL combined, though it’s newer, so it may not be as well-respected.
All these certifications are also a real good help if you’re considering the digital nomad life teaching English online, but do remember that TEFL is the golden standard!
How to get a TEFL certification
So, once you’ve decided which certification works for you, there are a zillion programs out there for you. If you haven’t decided which country you want to go to, or through which program or what you’re looking for, you have your options pretty open for you. One good piece of advice, though, is that if you’re going to pay for a certification, you need to make it work for you. This means having some sort of in-class time, gaining experience as a teacher of English as a second language.
Of course, these will generally be the expensive ones. I personally took a TESOL course for a couple hundred bucks, completely online, with no experience involved. I mean, I can put it on a resume for sure, but if it was put to any more scrutiny, like being interviewed and asked what this certification did for me, I would have to do some BSing. If you’re gonna do it, I suggest you do it right, and make sure there’s some actual classroom time involved.
One great option for you, if you have the funds and the flexibility to do it, is enrolling in a program that provides you TESOL training and then shoots you out to an actual guaranteed job. While I don’t have any personal experience with it, that seems like a great way to get genuine experience and to put something real on your resume. The TEFL Academy, for example, has several programs combining TEFL certification courses with actual jobs teaching English abroad.
So if you’re really interested in pursuing all this, degree/certification or not, check out a couple bloggers who have gone through this for themselves:
Once you’re ready, get the job!
Phew, that was a lot to get through, I know. Worry not – you’ve got the hard part down. The next step is getting the job. Fortunately for you, I’ve collected all the resources you’ll need in my guide that you can have for yourself below.