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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


Semi-retired EFL teacher/teacher-trainer working and living abroad since 1989 in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

11 thoughts on “No Degree, but Want to Teach English?”


  2. Hello Nigel,
    For Thailand, I believe you will need a 100+ hour TEFL Certification. Thailand hires on the scene, so you best course of action would be to go there and interview in person. In fact, that is generally the ONLY course of action to land a job in Thailand. Consider taking a good TEFL course in Thailand where you can do your teaching practice with Thai students.
    I hope that helps.

  3. Hello Ted,
    I am new to this and would love to teach aboard, but if I want to get a degree in the shortest time what would you recommend? Is online BA in education fast and cheap?

  4. Hello Amir,
    I don’t know that any kind of good degree is going to be “fast and cheap”. If it is too fast, schools will wonder about it and probably not accept it. There are probably some decent online bachelor degree programs and the prices probably vary a lot. But I am not an expert in that area. Sorry!

  5. Hi

    Been actively looking for English teaching post in Saudia Arabia or roundabouts, but many require you to have a MA. I haven’t a degreee, but have a teaching certificate, a TEFL qual and a Level 5 English qual. I particularly looked in this area as the salary is tax-free. Any advice for a ‘newbie’. Also downside is I’m 60!

  6. Better jobs in the Middle East are usually going to require a graduate degree, it is probably not worth banging your head against the brick wall of the requirement if you have no degree at all. Try Indonesia, Cambodia and rural China where you can do fine without a degree. At age 60 you will probably need to apply IN PERSON on the scene to get hired. There are several posts here about job search strategy for older teachers. Read them and take them to heart.
    I hope that helps.

  7. Hi Ted,

    First, I’m SO happy to have found your blog! I have been googling for weeks researching teaching abroad. I want to teach in Korea or even Japan. I have no degree but, I do have my TESOL certification. Please tell me I can still find a recruiter or program that will take me on! I have some experience working with kids as well.. also, I used to live in Japan and I’ve traveled to six countries in Europe. Will my little experience overseas and working with kids help me land a job if I only have a TESOL certificate? I really do not have the time or the money to go back to school. I have visited so many sites/recruiters who always say “Bachelor’s required” where are all the ones that say a TESOL is all you need?! I am feeling a bit discouraged. .


  8. For Amir: It’s hard to get an online BA in Education, since you usually have to do teaching practice. But there are places, like the U of Maryland, that allow you to get a degree quickly, are affordable and legit. Here are some more.
    ● Bowie State with the University of Maryland for people in Japan
    ● Chadron State College
    ● Eastern Oregon University
    ● Excelsior
    ● Fort Hays State University
    ● Open University
    ● University of Maryland Asia
    ● University of Maryland Europe
    ● University of Maryland Online

    Also, there are ways to finish more quickly.
    1. Outside credit by examination. ACE, ECE and CLEP are tests that are often accepted.

    2. The college’s credit by examination. Each college might have exams that you can take.

    3. AP. AP courses are studied during high school, but you don’t have to be in high school to take the exams.

    4. DANTES (DSST), these are usually for people in the military.

    5. Subject specific exams, such as Criminal Justice/Police Proficiency Examinations and Medical Terminology Examination. Wilbur Wright College is one college that accepts these.

    6. Applicable certifications, such as Military credits, Foreign credentials, Certified Child Development Credentials, Emergency Medical Services (paramedic certification), and Licensed/Practical Nursing certifications are just a few that may be accepted.

    7. Life experience. It never hurts to ask and some schools will give you college credit if you have documented work or volunteer experience. This is usually applicable to mature students and you may have to create a portfolio to document your experience.

  9. Thanks so much for the information, Ted

    You wouldn’t happen to know of any Indonesian programs/recruiters do you?

    thanks again,

  10. Hi Alicia,
    For jobs in Indonesia – check out the SE Asia jobs pages at http://www.ESLJobsNow.com.
    Female teachers are always in demand, don’t wait for a current advert. Look though the jobs there and send your resume and details, schools are almost always looking for female teachers to try to balance their faculty.
    Good luck!

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