Teach English Abroad

Do I Need a Bachelor’s Degree to Teach English Abroad?

Nick Paul

Nick Paul

June 22, 2017 4 Comments

If that travel bug has bitten you and you yearn to make a big change in your life, ditching your 9-5 in favor of a global adventure, you’ve probably considered teaching English abroad. Many people, maybe like you, with this dream don’t have degrees for a variety of reasons: you’re too young and are just on a gap year, you couldn’t afford one or perhaps you decided to shun the crowds and do things your own way, hoping to be the next Zuckerberg, Jobs or Assange.

But you’ve probably heard that you might need a bachelor’s degree to qualify. So let’s explore this and get your questions answered!

teacher in Thailand with students

Degrees might not be required for Thailand, but they do often make getting a job easier.

So how important is it to have a degree?

In most circumstances the requirements to teach English overseas will include a bachelor’s degree. This is particularly true of destinations like Vietnam, China, South Korea and Colombia among others where a bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite to signing up and being offered a job.

A lot of the time the local governments set these rules but occasionally it’s the schools or language centers who set this requirement and with the sheer number of degree-holding applicants applying, particularly from North America, there is no short supply of qualified would-be teachers.

Ho Chi Minh City City Hall Vietnam

Vietnam is an exciting destination to teach in – one catch though, you will need a bachelor’s degree to qualify to teach here.

I’m still waiting for my degree certificate, can I apply?

Perhaps you’re in the process of completing your degree or perhaps you’re graduating soon but haven’t received your certificate yet. That’s not usually a problem, so long as you have it by the time you’re ready a few weeks prior to starting your job.

Countries like Thailand and Vietnam might require you to have it 6 weeks or more prior to starting, South Korea will require you to be in possession of one in order for you to start interviewing and Colombia usually requires you to have your certificate in possession when you apply.

Women in traditional dress walk in South korea

South Korea is a country where ancient tradition and a high tech modern lifestyle collide. You’ll (almost always) require a degree to teach English here.

Is there anywhere that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree?

Out of all the destinations, one of the most exciting doesn’t require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree in order to teach there. That’s right, you can teach English in Thailand without a bachelor’s degree! They require a minimum of you being 20 years or older, you’ve completed high school (grade 12) are a native English speaker with a good command of spoken and written English with a clean criminal record and hold citizenship of one of 7 countries.

It must be pointed out here that bachelor’s degree holders are generally preferred in Thailand as they’re in highest demand, however there’s still a chance that you could get placed without one. Also having one will often mean you will be paid more than if you did not have one.

Teachers in Thailand posing at the base of a giant Buddha statue

Thailand is a destination which is usually open to hiring teachers without Bachelor’s degrees. You’ll need to have excellent command of the English language though!

Why is a degree so important for teaching English abroad?

Well for one it’s a quick way for employers to see the calibre of person they’re getting. While not all hard working people hold degrees, most degree holders would have proven their ability to work hard having put in the time and dedication to complete a degree. It also shows employers a level of intelligence as most bachelor’s degrees have high requirements for enrollment and for passing and are regulated to some sort of internationally recognized standard.

It will also show them that you have the ability to communicate effectively; having completed written assignments, presentations and exams in English means you know how to explain yourself to others. Finally though, the parents of the children you’ll be teaching and sometimes the students themselves (particularly if you’re teaching adults) want peace of mind that the often high fees they’re paying to have their kids taught are securing the highest calibre teachers.

Teacher with her students in Thailand

Tebello, pictured here, had a BA degree with honours in English. While not 100% necessary for teaching in Thailand, it certainly didn’t hurt her chances of getting a job

What about diplomas and associate degrees?

While these often require you to do just as much work as a bachelor’s degree unfortunately they’re just not held in as high regard internationally. There are a number of reasons for this, particularly that colleges offering these aren’t required to be kept to the same internationally recognized standards as those offering bachelor’s degrees.

Courses can vary wildly in terms of standard and requirements for both enrollment and passing and it makes judging the quality of the certificate really difficult. This means that schools in general, the world over, have a blanket rule of not accepting diplomas and associate degrees as a qualifying certificate.

 

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4 Comments

  1. Why do I need Tefol if I have a degree?

    Reply
    • Nick Paul

      Hi Yeshantha, thanks for reaching out!

      You’ll need a TESOL, TEFL or CELTA certification to teach abroad as these courses prepare you to teach English to speakers of other languages. This can be quite different from teaching English to those who are first language English speakers. Almost all private language schools and much of the public schools in the countries we place teachers in require applicants to hold one of these certificates in order to qualify for a job there.

      The certificate will help with many smaller details around dealing with presenting English to your students, from presenting sounds to grammar to vocabulary, a TESOL certificate (or similar) will prepare you for these tasks. Added to that, we have TESOL courses in South Korea, Vietnam and Thailand which are tailored specifically to teaching speakers of the local language in that country and will detail things like common mistakes Korean speakers make with pronunciation and why and how to overcome that. Or perhaps a common word order error Vietnamese speakers make and how to explain the concept to them effectively.

      I hope this helps answer your question 🙂

      Reply
  2. Is a Bachelor’s degree still not a legal requirement to teach English in Thailand?

    I’ve conducted some personal research on the web and a lot of forums are stating that it’s required by law to have a degree in order to obtain a work permit in Thailand these days. However, these forums also state that there are loopholes one can take at their own risk, such as buying official-looking Bachelor’s degrees online.

    I don’t have a degree, nor do I have the resources to obtain one. However, I have a TESOL certificate and would love to teach in Thailand.

    Reply
    • Nick Paul

      Hi Aubrey, thanks for reaching out!

      You are correct in saying that legally one needs a bachelor’s degree to be able to teach English in Thailand – I think we should update the post to include this.

      Our organization and local partners in Thailand have a long history of successfully placing non-degree holders however. Every year, about 30% of the teachers we place do not possess bachelor degrees. Many stay for years and years. Some settle permanently in Thailand teaching as non-degree holders. Overall in Thailand, there are an estimated 5,000 non-degree holders teaching English across the country.

      Many visa types are temporary, which means that teachers will have to make regular visa trips (trips crossing the border into another country). The options are outlined below:
      1. The tourist visa is a main way that teachers without degrees work
      2. Volunteer Visas and Research Visas are also becoming more popular and they are legitimate but it is not guaranteed that the agent or school can provide this.
      3. About 20% of non-degree holders may actually get work permits. They are able to do this through local relationships between the school and labor department.

      So to answer your question, yes, technically it’s illegal to work in Thailand, but the Thai was is often not to enforce the rules. So while technically you could be deported for working illegally without a degree, for the vast majority of non-degree holders, things have worked out fine for years and show not much in the way of signs of changing seriously.

      We do however always try to keep on top of the latest developments and will notify our participants and applicants of any serious changes which might occur.

      Hope this helps!

      Reply

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