The simple and straightforward answer to this question is: No, you do not need a degree to take a TESOL course or to land a teaching position abroad. While it is true that having a degree means you will have a wider choice of job options, those without one still have plenty of great options available in a wide range of countries across the world. Whatever your academic background, teaching English in your home country, overseas, or online is still a very realistic option.
Why do some TESOL jobs require a degree?
Whether a degree is required to teach English is usually determined by the authorities of each individual country. Some countries where ESL teaching is very popular have imposed restrictions on foreign teachers that insist they have a degree in order to qualify for an official work permit. In these situations, schools and language centers have to stick to the rules and only advertise for teachers with a degree.
The simple truth is that having a degree has little impact on whether you will make an effective English teacher or not. It is more important that you can demonstrate certain traits that are actually necessary when teaching in the classroom, such as passion, commitment, and the ability to create rapport with your students. However, even people with these important traits will still need to back up their job applications with the skills, knowledge, and certification gained by completing a TESOL course. As mentioned, it is certainly possible to teach English without a degree, but teaching English without a TESOL qualification is significantly more difficult and frankly not advisable.
It is not uncommon to hear stories of non-degree holding teachers who have managed to get around the system and are working in countries with degree restrictions. In the vast majority of these cases the teacher is working illegally and is in very real danger of getting into trouble with the local authorities. This is why we strongly advise our graduates to stick to any rules laid down by the authorities in the countries they want to work in.
Finding a TESOL job without a degree
If you do not possess a degree but are still set on teaching English, there are a few things you can do to boost the opportunities open to you.
Get TESOL certified
Irrespective of whether any particular job requires a degree, most will require you to have a quality TESOL certification. Even if you find jobs advertised that don’t specify a TESOL is required, there are plenty of reasons why you should still have one. Not least, by completing a TESOL course you will actually have the skills and knowledge you will need to complete the job you are hired to do. As long as you have a teaching qualification in your toolbox you will have a great chance of getting the jobs you really want, even without a degree.
Get an additional specialized TESOL certificate
By adding additional ESL qualifications to your portfolio you will stand out from the crowd and be a much more attractive candidate when applying for teaching jobs. The most common and popular specialized qualifications are in teaching young learners, teaching business English, and teaching English online.
Apply for jobs in person
If you are able to actually be in the country of your choice and apply for jobs in person you will be ahead of the game. In person you have the opportunity to demonstrate your abilities and your suitability for the job, rather than being just another name who has sent in their application from the other side of the world. Many employers are particularly keen to meet their job applicants in the flesh before offering them a job. In-person job hunting is particularly common in Europe and Latin America.
Teach English online
If you are planning to stay in your home country and teach or you like the idea of teaching remotely while traveling from place to place, online English teaching could be perfect for you. Due to the huge and growing demand for online lessons there are hundreds of potential platforms to choose from and many of these do not require a degree.
Where can I teach English without a degree?
If you have an EU passport you can teach anywhere within the EU zone without a degree unless the individual employer states otherwise. However, many countries in this region have very strong competition for every available job which leads some employers to hold out for applicants with a degree. Despite this, there are still some great options to consider. If you want to teach in Europe without a degree it is typically better to look towards Central and Eastern European countries such as Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia.
The job market for English language teachers is enormous across much of the Asian continent and many of the most popular destinations including China, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam, all require job applicants to have a degree.
Outside of these countries, Cambodia and Laos are popular options for those without a degree. Demand for TESOL qualified teachers is particularly high in Cambodia and most schools are happy to take on teachers without a degree, provided they have completed a recognized TESOL certification course. India is also an option, although there is typically a lot of competition for each position as English is an official language in India. This means that there are usually plenty of local teachers hoping to beat you to each vacant job. Overall, your options are much better here if you are looking for a stint as a volunteer teacher.
This region is often regarded as the best option for TESOL course graduates who do not have a degree. The demand is significant in many countries but most schools lack the resources to advertise extensively outside of their own immediate area. This situation leads many employers to go with teachers who they think will fit into their ethos, rather than looking for those who have additional qualifications on paper. The largest markets can be found in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay.
North Africa and the Middle East
Many countries in the Middle East have very strict requirements when it comes to foreign English teachers. It is common for employers to require a Master's degree, a Diploma in TESOL, and/or several years of teaching experience. However, there are often options for non-degree holders in some of the smaller job markets such as Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar, and Turkey.