This is one of the most common questions asked by our TESOL course trainees and the answer is quite simple. Yes, you can teach ESL without a bachelor’s degree. Anyone who is TESOL qualified will have a wide array of destinations to choose from all over the world, regardless of their previous educational record. If you have a degree in any subject you will certainly have a few more options, but non-degree holders are in no way excluded from ESL teaching in many parts of the world.
Which countries require a degree to teach ESL?
In recent years some countries have made it compulsory for foreign teachers to have a degree if they want to obtain a work visa that allows them to work legally as an ESL teacher. This is most noticeable in Asia where some of the biggest markets for teachers such as China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan all now require teachers to have a degree when applying to live and work in the country. Another region where a degree is commonly required is the Middle East where high salaries and generous benefits are widely available for those who meet the specified criteria. However, if you are keen to teach overseas and are reasonably flexible when it comes to your destination, then there are plenty of great options out there.
Why do I need a degree to teach ESL in some areas?
We have already mentioned that having a degree is a legal requirement in some countries, even though it typically has no bearing on an individual's ability to be a good ESL teacher. These laws are usually put in place to cap the number of foreign teachers that are eligible in areas where teacher numbers are particularly high. Elsewhere, many countries have no specific restrictions on who can apply for ESL teaching jobs, so it is left to individual schools and language centers to decide for themselves what requirements they put in place. In some countries or specific areas that attract a large number of job applicants, the schools are able to set their standards very high. Because of this approach, non-degree holders can sometimes struggle as their applications can be overlooked in favor of those applicants with a degree. However, despite these issues, there are a few simple tips that can help those without a degree to get their foot on the ESL job ladder.
How can a non-degree holder boost their chances in the ESL job market?
Regardless of anything else, completing a reputable TESOL certification course with an established course provider such as ITTT is the very best thing you can do before applying for jobs in any country. Employers all over the world know and respect our courses, which means our graduates often have a head start on the competition. Putting your time, effort, and money into gaining teaching qualifications also demonstrates that you are serious about teaching and that you have the basic skills and knowledge required to get the job done.
Another important thing that first-time teachers can do to make themselves more attractive to potential employers is to gain some classroom experience before applying for their first teaching job. This experience can come in many different forms, such as a few weeks volunteering in an established volunteer teaching program at home or overseas. You could also offer your services to local community centers or other venues where free or cheap lessons are offered to foreign immigrants or refugees. You could even provide lessons to individuals in their own homes or in a public space such as a cafe or library. Whatever kind of teaching experience you can get before applying for mainstream jobs will really help your chances.
Are there any areas that are particularly good for ESL teachers without a degree?
If you follow the advice laid out above and complete a TESOL certification course and then gain some teaching experience via a volunteer program or other route, your prospects in the international ESL job market will undoubtedly increase. However, if you are also willing to be a bit flexible when it comes to choosing a teaching destination, your prospects will grow even further. The most popular areas for teachers without a degree include Southeast Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. Within all these large regions there are dozens of countries with sizable teaching markets that crucially have no restrictions on your previous education.
One final bit of advice that can really help in your job search is to actually travel to the country you want to be in and then apply for vacant jobs on the ground. Being available to immediately interview in person is a real advantage as it can save the employer a great deal of time and hassle. It also gives you a great chance to make a good impression face-to-face, making your lack of a degree even less relevant.