Be Professional and Do It Right
In the country where I used to live, it was required that teachers of English have a university diploma and a TEFL certificate in order to get proper working papers.
Well, really, the above sentence should read “it was OFTEN required” for teachers to have the proper credentials, as there were many loopholes in these regulations and some schools in the country were able to waive the requirements, and individuals who had experience in another field, for example, tourism could sometimes get jobs as “trainers” rather than as “teachers.”
And, even though I know what the black-and-white regulations are, I would often hear from teachers who tell me they found jobs teaching without a degree, or that they know someone who has worked there without a degree. The question that then comes up, is WHY do I keep on telling people that a degree is necessary for teaching English in that country!?
Here’s the answer: You don’t need a degree to teach English there. But, you do need a degree to teach it LEGALLY. If you look at the situations where people were teaching without a degree, it usually becomes clear that the person was working illegally.
Should this matter to you? Well, many people treat teaching English abroad as a way to travel and stay afloat abroad for a short time. But even to people who aren’t treating teaching English as a true career choice, I do not recommend doing shady, risky or illegal things, especially because these activities will take place out of their home country. The same kind of people who do this are the people who end up on TV reality shows like “Locked Up Abroad,” crying to the cameras from their jail cells about how it just isn’t fair.
Just like in your home country, breaking immigration law and working without the proper working papers is a serious infraction. And why would you think otherwise? The two main countries that supply English teachers worldwide are the USA and the UK. Both of these countries have strict, difficult, exacting immigration policies. If it’s not a new idea to you that it’s risky for foreigners to work under the table in your home country, then it shouldn’t be a huge stretch for you to understand that the same risk applies to you when you work abroad without the right paperwork.
Unbelievably, I’ve even heard incredibly naive people who laughingly say something along the lines of, “Whatever, let them jail me! What are they gonna do? Throw away the key?” These people may be poking fun at it now, but they run the risk of finding out that foreign countries take their laws seriously and don’t care how long scoff-laws are imprisoned. And, these scoff-laws don’t realize how expensive it can be for friends and family to get someone out of jail in another country.
As you might be able to tell, I find this situation really frustrating. First of all, I feel like the whole EFL industry is brought down by people who work without the right papers. It tars all of us with the same brush. Secondly, people who are willing to work under the table make it possible for shady, unreliable schools to continue business hiring people “off the books.”
TED’s Tips™ #1: I strongly suggest that if you go abroad to teach English, you do it legally. If you do not have a degree, then choose your target country carefully. There are places where people who don’t have university diplomas CAN work legally. Check out Latin America, Cambodia, Laos, parts of China, Indonesia and others.
TED’s Tips™ #2: Research, research, research. Before you pack up and move abroad, make sure that you can get the right paperwork when you arrive. The Internet has many websites that can help you determine what your legal status will be when you arrive. Job postings should also give you a clue: what paperwork or credentials are employers consistently asking for? If you see that all of the schools in your target area ask for degrees, then odds are you’re going to need one to get your working visa. You can start checking things out at ESL Jobs Now.