Ask the Expert

Published on November 16th, 2015 | by tefl


Can I teach English abroad without a degree?

The demand for English teachers is at an all-time high on a global scale, with well over a billion people estimated to be studying English as a second language at any one given time.   With such a high demand for the skillset, hundreds of thousands of schools worldwide hire native English speakers to teach English, many of whom do not hold a four year university level degree.  The way around the degree, of course, is the one hundred and twenty hour TEFL qualification, and numerous exciting destinations in Asia, Europe, and South America will happily hire native English speakers qualified to teaching English as a foreign language.

While it’s true there are many countries worldwide, such as Japan and South Korea within the Asia region as example, which will want an English teacher with a four year degree, more numerous still are developing nations that are happy to employ teachers with the TEFL qualification alone.

Places to Teach English without a Degree:

St. Basil's Cathedral and Spasskaya tower at sunset

Russia and Eastern Europe

While many western European countries will require English teachers to hold a four year university degree, the demand for English teachers in Eastern Europe and Russia is so high that many TEFL qualified teachers can find a job relatively easily.  Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia are popular choices in the region for TEFL teachers looking to experience the bold Russian culture, and it’s not unusual to find language schools which not only pay a basic salary, but also for accommodation, airfare, visa costs, and local transport.

Rio De Janeiro, Brazil in twilight

Latin America

So many gorgeous countries in the region offer the adventure and experience of a lifetime to a new TEFL grad, from Mexico and Nicaragua to Peru, Brazil, Argentina, and more, the list of possibilities is virtually endless.   Latin America is a great destination for the TEFL graduate without the four year university degree, perhaps looking to fund travel or backpacking opportunities throughout the region, all the while picking up Spanish as a second language along the way.   This area is known for its culturally rich and authentic experience, although the downside is you can expect to be paid significantly less than you would in a job within the Europe or Asian markets.   As well, for the UK citizen it can feel a bit far from home at times, but many find the experience more than worth it.

Mt. Fuji with fall colors in Japan.


China by far hold the largest demand for English teachers over any other country in the world, with nearly three hundred million people studying English as a second language.  While the largest cities in the country, such as Bejing and Shanghai, will likely have competition from those with four year university degree, there are plenty of other opportunities in the region for the TEFL teacher without a degree.  Not only that, but many language schools supply the native English teacher with more benefits than just a salary, oftentimes covering housing, insurance, airfare, and more.   Many newly qualified TEFL teachers find Asia to be one of the most culturally rich and diverse regions in which to gain their first teaching experience, and with salaries being better than just the living wage, the opportunity for travel around the region is endless.  What’s more, China isn’t the only Asian country hungry for English teachers, and there are literally hundreds of thousands of teaching jobs available throughout Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand.

A Few Important Notes

  • You will still need a TEFL qualification. While many of the regions listed above are all too eager to hire an English teacher despite not holding the four year university degree, you will still need to obtain your one hundred and twenty hour TEFL qualification from an accredited source recognised worldwide.   Do your research and find the school that is right for you, as they will be responsible for equipping you with all the skills necessary to teach English as a foreign language.  Additionally, a TEFL school should help you find job placement in your country of choice after passing the course.
  • Volunteering, especially in the country you are aiming to teach in, is a great way to gain valuable experience for your resume in lieu of not having a university degree.  It will not only prep you for what’s ahead in any paid teaching position, but it will put you locally in the country you want to teach in, thereby increasing your chances of finding a paid position.
  • Be Flexible. Competition for paid teaching positions is going to be a lot higher in the big cities of the region you’re looking to live in (such as Bejing in China) and as such, the pick of the jobs tend to go to those with degrees and experience in teaching.  Be flexible in your options, consider taking up a position in the lesser known areas of the country you choose, or consider volunteering just to have the experience listed on your resume. You also have the option of going freelance, and picking up one or a number of private students for tutoring.  If you don’t succeed at getting a job in your first choice city, it’s entirely possible to work up to that over time with the right experience.

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