Planning a TEFL Career Abroad: Your Education

This post was inspired by a man who wrote the following:

Hi, I am 20 years old and trying to figure out what to do with my life.   Recently I heard about teaching abroad and this is now my goal. I’m about a semester away from my associates degree [a two year degree in the USA] and was wondering whats the next best step I should take.

This is a great question and as mentioned in the last post, one of my few regrets I have about living the TEFL life abroad is that I didn’t even KNOW about it as an option until I was 37.  If I had known as this young man does at age 20 – I would have been raring to go!    Good for him that he has found something that fires his imagination for living an extraordinary life.  He has already proven he is smarter than I am!

A Few Realities Intrude . . .

My advice to this  young man was to finish university with a bachelor’s degree.  Though if he would like to just go out for a year and teach to see if it is what he hopes it is – then he should just grab an online TEFL certificate and go for one year to a country like Cambodia where the TEFL certification will do him just fine.  And then get back to school and get the next level of degree.

Degrees and TEFL

A BA/BS degree is quickly becoming a requirement and while there are still a few places where you can work without one, the choices are shrinking by the day and you would only ever be getting jobs from the bottom of the barrel.  You might even think you could talk an employer into hiring you without one – based on your charm, skills and experience, but usually the degree is a legal requirement for your working papers.  Thus your potential employer usually has no choice but to hold out for the degree holder.

Get that degree.  There is another reason too.  And that is if you intend to be an educator, it is good to have demonstrated your own belief in education.   I sometimes find it amazing the number of people who say that you don’t need a degree to be a good teacher.  They are right, you don’t.  But how do you intend to sell your students on education if you as an educator don’t have one and demonstrate your disinterest in it?

Get that degree.  In fact, if you have a BA/BS and find you like teaching abroad – I usually recommend that you RUN – don’t walk – to get a master’s degree.  The differences between a BA and an MA are about as huge as between no degree and a BA.

A graduate degree will make you eligible for college and university positions, a more likely candidate for teacher training jobs and Academic Director type roles and wages along with the amount of paid time off can improve dramatically.

During most of my teaching career I had anything from ten to twenty (yes – that’s 20!) weeks paid vacation per year.   All that paid time off is a special treat if you love to travel or if you need to earn a little extra.

Many teachers take a short paid job while on vacation to boost their savings.  Others use the time to visit family and see even more of the world.  And many of us did both.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Okay – I’ll say it a THIRD time: Go get that degree!

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