We get a LOT of people asking us if it’s possible to teach abroad without a college degree. And the answer might surprise you…
Yes! It is possible to teach English in certain countries without a degree, as long as you meet the other requirements.
While it is possible to teach abroad without a degree, it is NOT everywhere. Knowing where you can teach legally, and how to meet the requirements is essential for maximizing your experience and avoiding scams.
And for non-degree holders, scams are unfortunately quite common.
However, you’ve now got Destination TEFL on your side! We’ll show you how to navigate these muddy waters, and find yourself a nice, clear lagoon to chill in.
The most important thing is to know where you can teach legally without a degree, which we’ve put at the end of this guide to keep you reading!! Feel free to scroll down though…
How to Avoid Scams as a Teacher Without a Degree
We want to start with a warning.
Due to the amount of uncertainty in international travel, scams are unfortunately common. This is one reason we stress doing your research and partnering with reputable programs.
Scams are especially common for teachers without degrees. Many of the most popular countries to teach English, including Thailand, Japan, China, etc. do require degrees. However, programs will promise jobs in these countries for non-degree holders only to leave you stranded or in a…less than desirable situation.
Knowing how to avoid scams is critical if you want to teach abroad without a degree. Here are some recommendations for avoiding scams when teaching abroad.
Know the Requirements
You need to do your homework and learn the requirements for each country.
Let’s take Thailand, for example. There is a LOT of misinformation online, even from the most reputable blogs, about the legality of teaching in Thailand without a degree.
However, a Bachelor’s degree is required by law to obtain a work permit as a teacher. This is not a desired qualification from the employers, it doesn’t even come from the schools. Having a Bachelor’s Degree is a legal requirement set forth by the Thai government for teachers to obtain work permits in the kingdom.
This means that ANY job offering a work permit for you to teach involves breaking the law.
Are there loopholes you can exploit? Kind of.
Are there schools and employers willing to break the rules? Always.
Are you putting yourself at enormous risk by working illegally in a foreign country? Absolutely.
So while it is possible to teach in Thailand without a degree, when you understand the requirements you’re more aware of the massive risk you are taking.
A risk which, in our opinion, is simply not worth it.
Moral of the story: do plenty of research around the requirements for where you want to teach abroad.
Read Reviews Online
Scams exist because they work. But we live in the digital age, an age in which bull***t has a shelf life.
Because if any program scams enough people, people WILL get the word out.
This is why online reviews are so important. Not reviews on their website (duh), but objective online reviews from third-party sites.
Here are some review sites for teaching abroad programs that we recommend:
You should also do a routine Google search (“______ reviews”) for any program you’re interested in. Compare their reviews across multiple sources and you’ll get a much better understanding of how much value they’re actually providing for their participants.
Ask the Right Questions
You can also tell the credibility of a program through how much information they are willing to share.
Good programs won’t shy away from questions about accreditations, job placements, or even contract specifics.
On the contrary, you can’t get us to shut up about them.
And that’s because good programs provide real value. We have real answers to these questions, discovered through years of in-country experience. People who have real answers are usually eager to share them, especially if you’re interested in possibly joining their program!
This means that if a program is avoiding questions or giving roundabout answers, that’s a yellow flag.
So then, what are the right questions to ask?
Here are some questions we recommend asking any TEFL program:
- Is your program internationally accredited? Who are you accredited with?
- Who will be running the training? What are their qualifications?
- What will we actually be learning during the course?
- Are there any in-classroom teaching practicums? Are they with real students or just pretending with our classmates?
Here are some questions we recommend asking any program offering a job teaching abroad:
- Where will I be teaching? Which province, city, school?
- What is the expected salary for this position? Is this paid at the end of the month, or at another time?
- How many teaching hours will I have per week? Is there a maximum number of contact hours?
- Will I be able to see the contract and review it before signing? (If they say no, it’s a scam)
As you do more research you’ll come up with questions of your own. The most important thing is to ask away! Good programs will have good answers, bad programs will deflect.
What Do You Need to Teach Abroad Without a Degree?
While not every country requires a degree to teach, they will still have requirements that you need to meet.
Meeting these requirements not only makes it easier to find a job, it will make you more successful when you actually get a job and start teaching.
So here are some requirements you’ll want to meet before teaching abroad without a degree!
18 Months on Your Passport
That’s right, throwing you a curveball right out of the gate. Most people don’t even check their passport before teaching abroad.
However, no matter which country you teach in, from Thailand to Taiwan, is going to require enough time on your passport to process the visa and work permit. That’s why the first box on your teaching abroad to-do list is to make sure your passport has at least 18 months to expiry before coming over!
Teaching abroad can rack up passport stamps as well, so it may be worth in investing in a traveler’s passport. A frequent traveler passport in the UK is only £10 extra and no extra charge in the US. Considering you get 16 and 24 extra pages respectively, it’s well worth the minimal investment!
You absolutely do need to be fluent in English in order to teach it. For native-English speakers, this is a given (ego check: we did nothing to earn it). For non-native English speakers (NNES) you’ll need a TOEIC or IELTS score to prove your fluency.
Different countries will have different minimum scores for each test, but a good rule of thumb is:
- TOEIC – 800+
- IELTS – 7+
Lower scores on these tests might not prevent you from employment, but they definitely won’t work in your favor. The higher your scores, the more competitive your application will be.
At Least a 120-hour In-Person TEFL Certification
Degrees aren’t necessary for being a great teacher. There, we said it.
Specific training on strategies and tools unique to ESL teaching IS necessary for being a great teacher.
However, even apart from actually being a good teacher (which is still important) a TEFL certification is essential to obtain for multiple reasons.
First off, many schools around the world are beginning to require them. They’ve seen the difference between certified teachers and uncertified teachers, and they want better teachers.
Honestly, it’s like watching Manchester United play against a rec league pickup team…
As a non-degree holder, anything you can do to boost your CV is also a plus. Thus, having an in-person TEFL certification with at least 120 hours is going to be the boost that can be the difference between being employed and being passed over.
I actually used to run the top corporate language center in Thailand and hired over 40 teachers in my time there. A TEFL or CELTA was a minimum requirement, and online TEFLs weren’t even considered
It had to be a TEFL (or CELTA), it had to be at least 120 hours, and it had to be in person.
Having actual teaching experience will give you a massive advantage when applying for jobs teaching abroad.
But what if you don’t have experience? Isn’t that kind of the point of teaching abroad in the first place?
That’s another reason a TEFL course is so damn valuable.
TEFL programs (the GOOD ones, at least) include in-classroom teaching practice with real students. If you’re teaching abroad, then the students will even be locals from that country, giving you invaluable experience teaching real students from that country.
This teaching experience can then be added to your resume, demonstrating that you have experience in that country, teaching real students!
At the end of the day, experience trumps all. With enough experience and the right connections (which usually come from…experience), anything is possible.
However, you need to start somewhere. Even with a TEFL and a bit of teaching experience, most countries still require a degree in order to teach legally.
Most countries, but not all.
So the question of the day is…
Where Can You Teach English Without a Degree?
Your best bet is to start out working in a country where you can legally teach English without a degree. It might be possible to get a job somewhere like Thailand or Korea, but that doesn’t mean it’s smart. After all, deportation is never a good time.
So let’s explore some safe, secure country options for traveling educators who want to teach English abroad!
Cambodia is our top destination for teachers without degrees. This ‘kingdom of wonders’ is the hidden gem of Southeast Asia. Wages compared to the cost of living are great, and you’ll have plenty of money to travel, have fun, and even save!
In fact, with salaries of up to $1,000 per month Cambodia is one of the highest-paying countries to teach English without a degree!
Nestled right in between Thailand and Vietnam, Cambodia is also a great base camp for exploring Southeast Asia! A bus from Siem Reap to Bangkok is only around $30, and Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh is the same!
Best of all, Destination TEFL has a training center in Cambodia. This means we can help you enter the country, train to be an amazing teacher, and even find a teaching position for you in Cambodia!
In fact, with our 2-Country program it’s even possible for non-degree holders to train in Thailand or Bali, then get job placement from Destination TEFL in Cambodia!
Apart from Asia, South America is one of the coolest places in the world to teach English abroad! Luckily for non-degree holders, Argentina does not require a Bachelor’s degree to teach English in the country.
Argentina is an adventurer’s paradise, with places like Patagonia and El Chalten being world-renowned for hiking and outdoor activities. Teachers can make up to $1,000 per month, so you’ll have more than enough for some epic adventures!
Most of the demand for English teachers is in the business sector, especially in cities such as Buenos Aires and Cordoba. Specializing in business English may be a smart choice if you want to make even more money teaching English in Argentina!
Many countries in Central America don’t require a degree, and Mexico is the top spot in the region. A degree isn’t required to teach English in Mexico, but a TEFL certification is needed in order to receive an FM3 visa.
Salaries are a bit lower in Mexico than in places like Cambodia or Argentina, around $800 on average, but the cost of living is more than manageable. Mexico also has more relaxed restrictions, so even non-native English speakers are able to find work teaching in Mexico.
With gorgeous coastlines along the Gulf of Mexico, Mayan ruins scattered throughout the jungles, hidden beauty all over the country, and a vibrant culture Mexico is also a fantastic place to immerse yourself and explore!
Eastern Europe is often left out of the conversation when it comes to cool countries to teach abroad. But with its epic castles and beautiful landscape, Romania is one of the coolest places in the world to teach without a degree!
Salaries vary quite widely depending on the position, anywhere from $300 to $1,000. You will, however, need EU citizenship or Native English proficiency in order to obtain a work permit in Romania.
We put Spain last not because it isn’t an incredible place to live and teach. Spain might actually be the most desirable place on this list to teach. Located in the heart of Europe and with a culture and natural landscape that’s hard to beat, Spain is a traveler’s dream.
The problem is, while it is possible to teach in Spain without a degree, it is quite difficult to actually make a living doing so. The cost of living is much higher in Spain than any of the other countries on our list, and the job market is MUCH more competitive.
Most non-degree holders volunteer and teach at homestays in exchange for room and board. While it’s not necessarily a long-term gameplan, it is a fantastic opportunity to truly immerse yourself in Spanish culture. After all, it doesn’t get more immersive than living with a Spanish family!
Destination TEFL’s newest program is actually a 3-month internship doing just that in Catelona, Spain! If you’ve ever dreamed of teaching in Spain, we can help make that dream your real life.
Moral of the Story: Don’t Give Up!
Teaching abroad without a degree is a bit more of a challenge, but it’s far from impossible! There are thousands of teachers traveling the world and doing amazing work teaching English without a Bachelor’s. Just because you don’t have a college degree does NOT mean you have to give up on your dream of teaching abroad. It IS possible, you CAN do it, and we are here to help!
Our team at Destination TEFL has helped find jobs for hundreds of teachers without degrees throughout the years, and we have the tools, resources, and network to help make your dream a reality!