Too Old, No Degree, Want To Teach English?

One of the best things about this blog is that I get great questions from people who want to teach English abroad, but wonder about their circumstances and if they can make it happen or not.

Here is a recent email:

I have been considering teaching English in a Spanish speaking country, preferably Spain. If not there then Central or South America. I am 62 yrs old and in excellent health. I have been with [a major international bank] for 11 plus years. I am semi-bilingual, since my wife is Colombian. What do you think of my age? Am I too old? How do I find out if I would be eligible to teach in Peru for instance? I have an Associates degree only (a two-year vocational type degree). I have taught a little in a voluntary setting. Can you share your thoughts with me?

My response follows – and I want every person reading this blog and thinking about working abroad to apply such thinking to their job search.

Hi Bill,

You wrote:

What do you think of my age? Am I too old?

You are only a couple years older than me – not too old – you have a lot to share.

And . . .

How do I find out if I would be eligible to teach in Peru for instance? I have an associates degree only. I have taught a little in a voluntary setting.

For Peru specifically contact Sharon – she is a bit of a Peru specialist – but she also knows Latin America well: naturegirl321 @ yahoo.com

You can tell her Ted sent you.

BUT – I would say that you can create your eligibility – you have eleven years with [a major international bank]? Teach Business English, teach Banking English, create a few courses, sell yourself to corporations, banks, etc as someone who knows business and Business English – see this page:
http://tefldaddy.com/Your_Special_Skills.htm

Yes, you are going to be limited by your two-year degree if you just go and search for any old regular English job, so focus on your Special Skills.

Start here: www.BusinessEnglishEbook.com — get that ebook and start to create a few courses for the specialties you already know. Go to a new country offering something (specialized knowledge and training) rather than going asking for something (a job).

Good luck! Go get what you want.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Most people have some sort of work history. You can CREATE a demand for your specific skills if you focus your job search in that area. Again see: Special Skills.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Search for a job OFFERING something: special skills, special knowledge or if nothing else flexibility and a willingness to adapt – rather than searching for a job just asking for a job.

What’s up in China? Learn about a great internship program on offer if would like to Teach English in China

How to Teach English Overseas and Secrets to Success Abroad
TEFL Boot Camp  is offering a free download of their new publication Seven Secrets of Success Abroad – and along with it comes a bi-weekly installment and revision of their eBook called How to Teach English Overseas.

Great reviews for the Secrets of Success eBook – in spite of the hokey name – and the How to Teach English eBook is being updated and rewritten and sent out in installments as it is ready.

Here they are – click on the eBooks to get your FREE copies! Great information and the price is right, from our friends at TEFL Boot Camp – CLICK HERE FOR THE FREE EBOOKS.

HowToTeachOverseasCover

SevenSecretsCover

Please let me know what you think of the ebooks – use the comments section below.

I confess both eBooks are written by yours truly – hoping to inspire others to head overseas and live life BIG out in the real world. I would value your feedback!

Author: Ted

Retired EFL Teacher/Teacher-trainer working and living abroad since 1989 in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

104 thoughts on “Too Old, No Degree, Want To Teach English?”

  1. Hi, The main question I have is whether I’m too old to be hired. I’ve earned BS and MS Ed degrees in the 70s and taught Japanese kids in Japan 10 years ago. Are my degrees too old and am I too old to teach in Taipei?
    Thanks for your thoughts,
    Rives (a retired American who wants to teach)

  2. Hello Rives,
    For us older teachers, sometimes the only way to really scope out the market is on the scene. For anyone over about 55, I tend to recommend scouting the job scene in person. In part because you are then the “bird in the hand” versus the one in the bush and also your potential employer can see that you are energetic, positive, healthy and ready to go to work. Look over TEFL Newbie and also http://www.TEFLteachertraining.com for the articles on job search for older teachers. There are several on both sites.
    I hope that helps.
    Ted

  3. hi Ted, I am 35 interested in teaching overseas. i have a past history of depression though stabilized. Is it true that certain countries would not allow me to teach English there because of the diagnosis? If so which ones?

  4. Hello Fi Kat,
    Korea is the only country that I am aware of that MIGHT not allow you due to such an issue. Most countries require either no health exam or only a cursory one that is usually looking for STDs, HIV and contagious diseases. I don’t usually share my personal health information when applying for a job unless they specifically ask about a certain issue. And even then, if I don’t feel it is their business, I won’t tell them. But that’s just me. Some countries will do drug testing – but even that may not reveal anything – and/or you may not be taking any medications. If you have been stable for a long time, you are possibly okay. I don’t usually recommend that people with mental health issues go abroad as adapting to working and living in a new setting is often stressful and you are not able to access your usual support systems. Culture shock can be a major issue even for people with no previous mental health issues. To some degree though – it is really up to you and your level of confidence in yourself and in your ability to adapt and meet the challenges such changes will bring to your daily life.
    I hope that helps.
    Ted

  5. Hi Ted,

    First off, this website is great and a wonderful resource for those looking for information, thanks. My friend and I are considering taking a Trinity TESOL course in Bali, Indonesia sometime within the next few months. I currently have an Associates Degree and my friend a Bachelors Degree. From my understanding the Trinity certification is comparable to the CELTA in quality and recognition (please correct me if I’m wrong). I’m wondering if it will be possible for me to land a decent job in Indonesia with a Trinity TESOL and an Associates Degree, I’m guessing that my friend (with a BA) will have no difficulties.

    I’m also considering continuing my education and getting a bachelors degree through distance education while teaching English. Let me know your thoughts.

    Thanks in advance,
    James F

  6. Hello James,
    Both of you should have no problems with a Trinity certification and finding good work in Indonesia. Yes, get your BA/BS as soon as possible as it will open up many more employment options for you. Get your degree from a reputable college/university and then the online/distance part should be no problem at all.
    Ted

  7. TEFL Newbie is a great and a wonderful resource for those looking for information like me. Thank you Ted I get a lot more information than I think. But I have one question on my mind. I will get my BSECE next year and plan to get a TEFL certficate and want to teach kids abroad somewhere like Saudi Arabia since they have more oprtunities for women, but the thing is I don’t thave exprience at all. What would be my chances?

  8. One of the reasons that countries in the Middle East usually pay so well is that they also tend to require at least a year or two of previous experience. You are right and you know what a lot of women don’t know – that there are a lot of good high-paying jobs for women in the ME. Some people would say don’t go there as women are oppressed, but it is – in fact – education that frees women. You might want to get a couple of years of experience before you head to the ME. Then you will have no problem landing a good job. Try Korea if income is important, China if it is not.
    I hope that helps.
    Ted

  9. Hi Ted,

    Your posts here are very informative. I’m curious about what you might think my current options are for working overseas. I’m an EU citizen, and have been living in the US for about 20 years. I’m 31 years old, and bilingual in English and German. I don’t hold a degree. I know you’ve said that this is a major hindrance, but I was hoping to get your advice. With TEFL certification, is there any hope for teaching abroad? Are there any other certifications to keep in mind? Do online courses carry a disadvantage?
    I appreciate any advice you have to offer.
    E

  10. Hi Ted,

    I was just wondering whether you knew if it’s still legal to teach in Indonesia without a degree (I have a TEFL Certificate).

    Joey

  11. Hi Joey,
    My understanding is that there are still a few jobs in Indonesia where a degree is not required, but it does seem like all the major employers these days are requiring a degree. China and Cambodia are probably two better options for people without degrees.
    Ted

  12. Hi Ted,

    I’m Amy and I’m also looking to teach abroad. I’ve been in advertising for four plus years, and am thinking of enterting the teaching field.I have a degree from Auburn University in Communications. Would I need a TEFL certification to teach in Cambodia?

  13. Hi Amy,
    Cambodia has a lot of teachers who went there from Thailand where a TEFL certification is required. So – yes – to best market yourself, it would help to have a TEFL certification. Required? No. Helpful? Very.
    I hope that helps.
    Ted

  14. Hi Ted;

    I am 48 years of age and wish to have a change of life. With this in mind I enrolled for a TEFL course. I do hold a degree (BCom) and a Diploma in Math/ Electronics and have been employed in this field for the past 25 years. Would you suggest that I market these skills as well when marketing myself abroad; I am keen on working in Asia. Secondly, how would my age affect my chances? Many thanks. Danny

  15. Absolutely, yes, market yourself with your previous skills and degree. Age is becoming more of a factor as you approach 50, but if you are on the scene you will do fine and luckily won’t be hired to teach preschool!
    Ted

  16. Hello Ted:
    i have done BEd HONOURS (KS 1&2) specialist in Theology/RE from Newmans University college.

    I am interested in teaching in saudi arabia and i was wondering would i need to do an tefl coursse?

    also if my husband was to do the tefl course would he be able to teach english there as well? He does not have a degree.

    thankyou
    Ambreen

  17. Hello Ambreen,

    If you don’t have a degree specifically in TEFL or a closely related area, most Saudi employers will then require a certification. Schools there will almost always require a degree. I don’t know of any exceptions.
    I hope that helps.
    Ted

  18. Hi Ted,

    I’m a 26-year-old looking to move abroad for a year but have a job to support myself. I’d like to teach English, but I did not obtain my degree. I don’t think my seven years at my previous job in office management and international sales can necessarily be a skill set to offer. Any suggestions on what avenue to take? Appreciate it.

  19. Hello Jessica,
    You might do fine in China – a degree is not required. Cambodia is also open to non-degreed people. China will require a TEFL certification. Cambodia does not, but to be competitive there, you will need one.
    Ted

  20. Good morning I’m a female of 49 and was very interested teaching english abroad however only have std 8 have called several reputable agencies and all say I need a degree which I don’t have.All my work experience has been gained through corporate work experience can you refer me to someone that can assist?

  21. Hello Lorraine,
    You’ll probably need to apply directly to schools rather than through recruiters. Recruiters are generallly paid to acquire better teacher candidates than a school can find for themselves – thus they are always asking for more qualifications, such as a degree. China and Cambodia are both good options for you. But, do you have anthing to offer? Have you taken and completed TEFL training? Get some training if not and also considered applying for jobs IN PERSON. Without a degree, no TEFL training and no experience most schools will look for someone else. You need to give them a reason to seriously consider you. TEFL training is one. Being able to start tomorrow is another. Add those two together and you will likely be in good shape.
    I hope that helps.
    Ted

  22. Hello Ted,

    My name is Olivia Graham and I am currently finishing my final year in college. After college in August I will be headed to China to live out my dream and study kung fu at shaolin temple for 5 years. I love asia/southeast asia and would love to teach english in Laos, Thailand. I do have a few questions 1. Do you have any suggestions for any programs/classes that arnt too costly to get TEFL certification 2. I am a double major in music (concert piano) and Anthropology but i have taught many camps and at schools for volunteering. Do i have any possibility of getting a job with these degrees. Or do the schools only employ those with Education Degrees.

  23. Hello Olivia,
    Your degrees are fine. The requirement is usually for a bachelor’s degree but rarely is a major specified. A good low cost TEFL certification can be had at http://www.TEFLBootCamp.com – but fair warning, I am the Academic Director there. With a TEFL cert and degree, you will do very well in China. Good Luck!
    Ted

  24. Hi Ted,

    I was just online researching different job opportunities in South America, and I’m at a loss. I am only 19 years old, and I have spent one year abroad studying in Italy. Ever since then, I have wanted to travel and work abroad. I do want to attend University in a year or so, however, I would like to travel and earn money abroad before.

    Teaching English or working in a camp with children is something I am interested in. Even if it is an assistant in a school, since I do not have a degree in teaching. Do you have any ideas for me? What would you suggest I look for?

    Thank you very much for your help!

  25. Hi Hilary,
    Job opportunities for people without degrees are out there, but somewhat limited. Some Latin American countries are okay, but often without legal working papers. Cambodia and China are both fine and you can work there legally. But, no degree and then looking for short-term employment greatly diminishes the possibilities. My best recommendation? Run, don’t walk, to that bachelor’s degree and then a huge number of opportunites will open up for you, long and short term. Probably not the answer you were hoping for, but maybe the best one I can give.
    Ted

  26. Hi Ted,

    I am 55, have a B.A. in Communications, an M.S in TV/Radio. Worked as an award-winning producer/director in TV for 14 years, a a freelance writer and for the past eight years as a publisher of a magazine. Looking to live abroad and teach English. Will I require some sort of special accreditation to do so or are there positions that offer on-the-job training? Also- while technology has changed, might my knowledge of producing, directing, editing and formatting a good story or short documentary also play into a position abroad?

  27. Hello Patricia,
    You might want to look at our post about Teaching EFL Using Previous Skills here:. You are starting to bump up against the age at which most language schools will not hire you, but some universities and colleges will (it’s a problem for me too). Look for a college or university that teaches your specialty. I know Korea has a university specifically devoted to TV/Movie/Journalism/etc. They are more likely to hire you even if only for teaching English. This is sometimes the back door into teaching other topics – often in English. I’ve taught business topics, management, accounting and even psychology – all in English – at schools where I was initially hired just to teach English. Explore that path. But use English teaching to get your toe in the door. DO get some TEFL training first – an online course is fine for China, Korea, Japan and many other countries. At our age, you’ll need some help and that will help.
    Ted

  28. Thanks Ted. I think my skills would honestly be better suited to producing and directing projects in Asia directed for an English-speaking audience. However I looked further on your site and found the China internship quite intriguing. I feel my personality, high energy, youthful appearance, enthusiasm, sense of wonder and great facility with language belies my statistical age. Might I be a qualified candidate for the China internships and are you involved in this particular program?

  29. Hello Patricia,
    The only way we could tell you if you qualify for the internship program in China would be to go ahead and apply. Yes, fair warning! I am the Academic Director for the project. Go over to http://www.TEFLinternships.com and apply and let’s see if it is a good fit for you and the schools.
    Ted

  30. Hi Ted,
    I am 25, French and I am doing my final year BA Early Childhood Studies. I would like to teach French and English in Canada, North or South America, or Asia. But I am not a native English, I do not have the TEFL, I have any experience in teaching and I am not sure that my degree on its own is valuable. Can you please tell me what are my options?? Thank you

  31. Hello Kalia,
    Most schools look for native speakers of English, but many schools in China (for example) are happy to accept European non-native speakers of English. Your options and job offers will be somewhat limited, but the demand for teachers is great and you should have no trouble landing a decent job. Your degree will help a lot as many newbie teachers first teach kindergarten or other young learners.
    China is your best option. Cambodia might be a good option too.
    I hope that helps.
    Ted

  32. Hi Ted,
    I have barely begun my college experience and after constant changes to my major, decided to go with English since I have always dreamed of Living in Japan and teaching. Now, teaching is NOT my forte, it was actually the LAST thing I thought I would ever do. However I was willing to face my shyness of public speaking for the dream of being able to teach English in Japan. My question, although I am So far away from it is, would an associates degree suffice for eligibility to teach? or might as well go for the bachelors right? I also plan on taking Japanese lessons before going and completing the TEFL course as well. I cannot take that course yet since i am not 21 years old yet. Another thing, would I be at a disadvantage if I am younger? I don’t want interviewers to think I am too inexperienced… What are you’re thoughts on this? THANKS ^_^

  33. Hello Jennifer,
    To the best of my knowledge you don’t need to be 21 years old to take a TEFL course – certainly not for any course I have been associated with. Being young is fine, though you’ll often be sent off to the kindergarten classes. There is a Japanese program for people with only a two year degree, but you will limit your options so much that it would be worth doing the full four years. Do it, get it done and get on with life – just my opinion!
    Ted

  34. Hi Ted,
    I’ve been reading your posts and they they are so helpful! I’m hoping you can give me some advice.
    I’m a 20 year old student looking to pursue a career in teaching. I’ve done one year of my BA and would need another 3 to complete my Teaching degree. I’m a Korean female living in New Zealand as a permanent resident and speak English fluently albeit I speak it with a Kiwi accent. I’m looking to pick up my degree again next year but for now want to take the rest of this year to do a TEFL/TESOL course and teach English overseas. Do you have any reliable TEFL courses you can recommend? And also if I were to look towards teaching in Cambodia would the fact that I’m not a native speaker make it harder for me? Do you recommend me to just finish my degree first? I really want to do a little travel before being tied down to an intense 3 trimester degree for the next three years.
    Thanks so much

  35. Hello Amanda,
    I always recommend that people complete their degree as soon as they can. And if you have the inclination and ability, complete a graduate degree as well. As a non-native speaker you will need a few “extras” to help you compete. Also, you just never know when thing might change, so while you can get that education – get it. It is a real bias of mine – sorry!
    As a non-native speaker with no degree, you will always be at the bottom of the pecking order even if you are the best teacher of all. If you are going to teach, arm yourself with superior qualifications. Go get ’em! After you get your degree. Ted

  36. Hi Ted my name is Joan I’m from the Caribbean St Kitts and Nevis to be exact, I’m looking into taking the 120 hrs TELF course but I dont have a degree I only have a certificate in secretarial studies from London collage of management,and to other vocational training certificates, since everyone is asking for a degree do you think it make since to even bother with the TEFL since I’m already in my forties.

  37. Hello Joan,
    A LOT of people teach without having a degree. China and Cambodia are both good options. Should you get a TEFL cert? Of course, you should learn how to do your new job well. AND as you in your 40s it will help make you more desirable. Forties is not bad. I started in TEFL in my early 40s.
    I hope that helps.
    Ted

  38. Dear Ted,

    I approached my life very much the same as I approached the majority of things in my life, with a let the wind carry me where it will. I never took into consideration what I really wanted to do, as I never took myself seriously enough to really think I could accomplish things that I dreamed about.

    I spent a few years working in the middle east for the US gov, which I really enjoyed. TRULY enjoyed. Rough times sure, but very rewarding.
    I made a trip a few years ago to South Korea, and absolutely fell in love the same way I fell in love with Afghanistan and Iraq. They were amazing places, and once I got up the nerve after returning to the US I decided to try to finish my bachelors degree.

    I currently have my associates degree, and very little practical experience except in Special Ed, and volunteering in Iraq with orphaned children.

    I have found it impossible to find employment in Korea without a bachelors degree, but I am terrified that by the time I finish my degree I will be too old to be seriously considered.
    I have been advised by several close Korean friends to take a chance and try to find work outside the ‘Normal’ channels. I have been extremely reluctant to attempt this as I do not want to have my future chances ruined by getting caught. I recently turned down a position in China because I was almost certain I had been accepted in Korea in a government sponsored program, however, my age I believe sealed the deal and I was rejected for the third time.

    I must admit desperation is kicking in and before I make a critical decision that could have untold consequences I felt I would break my silence and sound out for some advice.
    Do you have any you would be willing to impart?
    Lance

  39. Hi Lance,
    You would do fine in China without a degree. A TEFL cert is required though. You age is not really barrier until you start getting into your late 50s and even then universities often look for “more mature” teachers.
    Ted

  40. Hi ted I am currently living in the uk I have a trade and I’m very good at it I have college certificates but no degree I’m looking for a change in life and something I can use to travel and work abroad. I have been looking into TEFL courses and also CELTA but trying to decide on what courses are best for myself as I have no degree! I came across a four week TEFL course but spread out to six and it’s in thailand and also get the opportunity to teach as experience are you aware of this course and what is your thoughts on this course or could you advise me on something better?
    Kind regards: William

  41. Hello William,
    Most TEFL courses are fine – the six week program you ask about, I think is one of the better programs (if it is TnT?). It will give you plenty of time to learn the skills. It’s not quite super busy rush that the four-week programs are.
    I hope that helps.
    Ted

  42. Hi Ted,
    I am a female native speaker in my early 40s. I have been teaching in China for 2.5 years but I have no degree.I am ready for a change of scenery and wondered if Myanmar or Cambodia would accept me with three years of teaching experience and no degree.

    Thanks in advance : )

  43. Hello Stephanie,
    You would do fine in Cambodia without a degree. To be competitive for decent jobs though, you will need a TEFL certification. Online is okay. Myanmar is only now opening up and I think would be a fascinating option, but I know nothing about what is required there. Sorry! Ted

  44. Hi Ted,
    I have a college degree and just enrolled to take the online TEFL class, then head to Thailand in December with my boyfriend. However, my boyfriend does not want to teach. Do you think it will be impossible for him to find a job there? A non-teaching job?
    Thanks!

  45. Hello Kara,
    If your friend does not want to teach, he will need to have a skill set that is in great demand in order to obtain legal employment. Otherwise, I will probably not be able to legally stay in the country for very long.
    I hope that helps.
    Ted

  46. Hi Ted,

    I’m looking to teach English overseas next year, perhaps in Prague. I have completed a Bachelor of Business in Human Resources and Marketing and have worked in the HR field for the last 3 years and am looking to do something different for a while! I am also fluent in Greek, so thought I could perhaps work in Greece as well if there was a demand? Could you tell me how hard it will be to find a job overseas. I will be going to a free information session tomorrow night about the various courses available for TESOL. I’m looking to teach for around 6 months. Could you tell me if you think once course will be better than another and how hard it will be to gain employment as a teacher?

    Thank you

  47. Hello Faye,
    If I was planning on seeking work in Europe, I might prefer a CELTA as it is relatively popular there. Most of the rest of the world doesn’t care much about name brand, only that you got some training. I don’t personally know the jobs market in Prague, so can’t recommend one way of the other for there.
    Ted

  48. Hi Ted,

    I am looking into different options for teaching English in Italy. I am of Italian decent, first generation, but it turns out my parents were naturalized before my birth. Because of this I will need to reside in Italy for 3 years before obtaining an EU citizenship. I have an Associates degree and am planning to take a TEFL course (from previous posts, you’ve mentioned CELTA to be the one I should go for). Will I be able to work in Italy, legally, with just an Associates degree and the CELTA certification? Also, do you know if the job market for ESL teachers is better or worse in Sicily vs. Italy?

    Thanks for your help on this!

  49. Hello Vera,
    For specific country legal requirements, it is probably best to ask on job boards like Daves ESL. Things change quickly and one person can’t really keep up like a community of people on a forum can.
    Ted

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