Let's first recognize that while certain teaching positions in some countries require a degree, these often exist alongside other opportunities for degree-less teachers. This circumstance requires adaptability on the part of the teacher concerning the job type and conditions. Pursuing volunteering or internships, as we will discuss later, are examples of this adaptability.
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It is important to note that a myriad of teaching opportunities are available in many countries without a degree, assuming you possess certain other qualifications that potential employers find valuable.
One globally recognized credential for ESL teachers is a TESOL certificate. With a minimum 120-hour certification, you should be eligible for several job openings. Enhancing your basic 120-hour certificate with an ESL specialization can also be beneficial. Potential areas of specialization include:
- Teaching English Online
- Teaching Young Learners
- Teaching Business English
Also read: What are specialized TESOL Courses?
Teachers without a degree will find plenty of options in online teaching, where many companies only require TESOL certification. Alternatively, jobs can be found in many countries where there is no degree requirement, as we will explore next. Latin America, Asia, and Europe host the majority of ESL jobs worldwide, and each offers employment for TESOL certified teachers.
Salaries for ESL teachers in Latin America often surpass the countries' average income, with few restrictions on degree-less teachers. Jobs are available in the larger cities of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, and Uruguay, among others.
Asia has some rapidly expanding ESL markets. While China is undergoing changes that need specific attention, Cambodia, one of the fastest-growing markets, doesn't require teachers to have a degree. Vietnam and Indonesia also follow similar norms.
There are attractive choices for those holding a TESOL certification in Europe. Spain and Italy, with no official degree requirements, are popular destinations. Other viable choices include the Czech Republic and Turkey. As you venture further East in Europe, restrictions generally loosen.
Also read: Can Americans teach English in Europe?
In Spain, employers typically require a TESOL certificate, and this is applicable to language schools and private English tutors. The path to working legally varies with nationality, with Europeans having the easiest access (post-Brexit, UK applicants must follow the latest advice from Spanish government websites). Canadians and Australians can often secure a working holiday visa allowing a fixed work period (check with the Spanish embassy in your home country). For US passport holders, one option is a student visa, which allows part-time work while enrolled in a Spanish language course.
The primary employers in Spain are private language academies in larger cities such as Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, and Valencia. However, the private tutoring sector has seen a recent uptick, particularly beneficial for Americans eligible only for a tourist visa.
These options, even in countries where a degree is typically required for teaching, offer great opportunities. Programs usually last six months to a year and often include basic accommodation and meals. They provide valuable teaching experience and immersion in the country's culture, making them a compelling choice.