No Degree, but Want to Teach English?

This is a common question people have.  They ask:

I don’t have a degree, can I still teach English abroad?

Well . . . the answer is YES.

But, know that if you don’t have a degree, your options are going to be limited.  You will need to do everything you can to enhance your prospects.   Getting a TEFL certification becomes much more important and not so much an option as a requirement to get your foot in the door.  You’ll need to seek employment in the “right” countries.

The main countries where you can obtain legal working papers without a degree are Indonesia, where a TEFL certification is required; Cambodia, where no certification required, but it is becoming a competitive market and a TEFL certification is often preferred; and China, where – technically – a degree is required, but often away from the megacities, you can land a decent job with just a TEFL certification (required).

There are a few countries in Latin America where you can land a job without a degree, but that job will likely come without legal working papers.   So – if you want to work legally (recommended!), Asia is the place to go.

We have many posts on this blog about doing an active “go get ’em” job search and this is one situation where you will need to do that.   Employers won’t likely come to you.  Nor will recruiters usually work with you.  Though schools will hire you, they are not willing to pay a recruiter to find you.  They pay recruiters to find people with degrees and TEFL certs.

That means you need to go and find the school.  To be on the scene, “boots on the ground” and go get that job.

Check our menu to the right and our archives for previous posts on active job searching.  In a nutshell, you usually need to be on the scene and interview in person to land these jobs.   You make yourself more attractive by being on the scene and ready to go to work tomorrow, versus the guy/gal still overseas who might show up. Its the old “bird in the hand” thing working in your favor.

TED’s Tips™ #1: If you don’t have a degree, do everything you can to enhance your attractiveness to employers.  That includes being on the scene to interview in person AND having a TEFL certification to demonstrate that you are ready, willing and able to do a first class job.

Teaching Internships in China

ESL Blog Carnival – EFL Blog Carnival

TEFL Newbie is Hosting the ESL/EFL Blog Carnival this month – a group of bloggers from quite across the spectrum.  Lots of experience and wisdom (from the other bloggers, not me!).

. . . from TEFL Tips:

So you’ve got the job and now it’s time to move.  Only problem is that you have to fit your whole life into a couple suitcases.  What do you take and what do you leave behind?  Find out by reading Sharon de Hinojosa’s blog at TEFL Tips

Sharon has been teaching English since early 2003.  She started posting on Dave’s ESL Cafe shortly after and found herself regularly helping out other people and giving advice to newbies.  Over time, things progressed and she thought it would be a good idea to compile answers to FAQ that newbies often have about TEFLing and that’s how her wonderful TEFL Tips got started.

. . . from Jenna Makowski:

TEFL is certainly more than just teaching. Teachers working abroad often have to navigate the waters of visas, work permits, international documentation and other culture- or society-specific policies long before they can open their books. Here, Jenna Makowski narrates the amusing experiences she endured in order to become an “official” teacher in the eyes of the Polish government.  Read it at her blog  (I love her great photography!).

Jenna also has a good post on Cultural Differences in the Classroom – you can find it here:

Jenna Makowski currently teaches English as a second language in Wroclaw, Poland. She has previous teaching experience in Moscow and Chicago. She thinks that the best lessons are the ones where the students talk more than the teacher, and that the best students are the ones that teach. Follow her blog at:

 . . . from TEFL Newbie:

Someone wrote me recently saying: I had wanted to go to *country deleted*, but I had a friend (who knew people who went there), who told me that like 85% of males who go end up in jail, and 95% of females end up raped, because they have an ‘everything goes’ culture. I’m taking this with a grain of salt, but I’d still appreciate your opinion.

My response to that, about a country in which I lived for years is here:  TEFL Rumors and TEFL Myths . . .

 Ted Tucker is your host here at TEFL Newbie and I’ve been working/living abroad since 1989 when I joined the Peace Corps and went to Botswana.  I started in TEFL in 1992 in Korea and have loved the lifestyle and opportunity that has provided.  I have been fortunate enough to live for about two to ten years in Thailand, Korea (twice), Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and Botswana.  I am a lucky man.  But I also think that you make your own luck . . .

TED’s Tips™ #1:  Enjoy the guidance from this group of people who,collectively, have loads and loads of experience overseas.

Teaching Internships in China



TEFL Rumors and TEFL Myths

This week’s post is inspired by a very good question from a reader and I hope it provides some guidance on avoiding believing rumors and myths that you hear about the wonderful wide world out here . . .

The question was:

I had wanted to go to *country deleted*, but I had a friend (who knew people who went there), who told me that like 85% of males who go end up in jail, and 95% of females end up raped, because they have an ‘everything goes’ culture. I’m taking this with a grain of salt, but I’d still appreciate your opinion.

My opinion follows and it may be too strong, but it is real:

The people who told you that are either idiots or have never been there or both.  I lived in *country deleted* for quite a few years – with my American wife.
Of the people I have known and worked with during the time I was there, none that I know of ever spent even one night in jail and none of the females have been raped.  And I met a lot of people as I was doing teacher training most of the time.
Now – I realize – I only LIVED there – I didn’t pass through on vacation and believe all the great stories people told me . . . I hope you get my sarcasm!
Your “friend” who “knew” people who went there was probably told lots of cool stories – because they are lot more fun to tell than to just say – “Yeah, everything worked out fine . . .”
It is a fine sport of people who live in countries to meet “travelers” passing through and to sit in a bar with them and tell them the wildest tales – just to watch their eyes grow big.  🙂   Lonely Planet style of vacationing is perhaps not all it is cracked up to be.
If, In fact, you examine your “friend’s” statement it is completely contradictory.  If it is an “anything goes” culture, why do so many people end up in jail and why do so many women get raped (isn’t everything available?) ??

TWO things to know about *country deleted*.  It is, in fact, a more conservative culture than America (where I am only guessing you are from) – as is all of Asia and 2. you will be much safer there than where you are now.

My wife felt safer there and we talked it about it from time to time about what a relief it was to be away from all the crime in the States.   There is – of course – crime there – but most of it is mafia type stuff, as long you don’t get involved – no problem.

TED’s Tips™ #1:  Be smart, as this reader was, and ASK questions from people who have been there and really know.  DON’T listen to people who “know someone” who did “something”.  Can you imagine?  This reader might have avoided going somewhere she really would have loved and missed the opportunity of a lifetime.    Life is and should be about OPENING doors, not closing them.

TED’s Tips™ #2: I have purposefully deleted the country name as I didn’t want to accidentally perpetuate such rumors and myths as we have reviewed here today.

Teaching Internships in China




IT People Make GREAT EFL Teachers

Technology = TEACHnology = Good TEFL Method

This comes up so often that it is worth talking about.  This is actually the first time – and possibly the last – I have ever written specifically to a particular occupational group.  Strange?  But not.

Yes, people who work in information technology (IT) – in my experience as a teacher trainer – often make the BEST EFL/ESL teachers.

What?  Why?

I’ve taught a lot of IT people to be teachers and I have also communicated with a lot of them about changing their careers.  Something about IT seems to encourage people to get OUT.  Perhaps it is the cubicle work environment or even the tedium that can come with systems design and work.

If you work in IT and are thinking of a career change – TEFL may be a pretty good choice for you.  Why do IT people do so well?  It is largely because of the step-by-step process by which they are used to analyzing their work.   It is very method intensive.  This works, so you add a step.  If something doesn’t work you back up step-by-step until you can make it work – then you begin to add steps again.

Step-by-Step Method is great for TEFL

That kind of careful analysis and that method of approaching problems is exactly what your EFL students need.  That kind of method translates super well to designing lessons for your students.   And with so much practice, IT people just seem to “get it” much faster than other TEFL trainees.  They are very used to and familiar with PLANNING what they do.  And if it doesn’t work – going back and taking it apart piece by piece to find out why it didn’t work.

This kind of approach, which is second nature to IT people, is often difficult for TEFL trainees (EFL teachers in training) to get a good handle on.


I remember taking a FORTRAN class back in 1970 or so – and it taught me some good skills that I still use today.

So . . . IT people – all I am saying is that if you wonder if you might do well in TEFL.  My answer will almost always be YES, you probably will do very well.

For the rest of us non-techies, we can do pretty well too, but sometimes we struggle with the process.  Not a big deal – it’s not rocket science – pretty much everyone gets it during their training, it’s just that it comes very naturally to the IT folks.

TED’s Tips™ #1: If you work in IT and you wonder if TEFL will be easy or difficult for you, I am telling you here that it will likely be a very good transition for you.  Go for it!

Teaching Internships in China