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

“Winging it” in TEFL: It’s Just Teaching English . . .

A reader in our comments section once wrote: I think I could wing it.

Well . . . maybe you can!
Or maybe you can’t.

After all, many people think that if you can speak English, you can teach it.  But, I don’t really agree with that idea.

There are effective ways of teaching English and there are ineffective ways and most untrained teachers have no idea what really works and what doesn’t.  And one of the most difficult and frustrating issues for learners of English is pronunciation and untrained newbies almost never know how to teach pronunciation in a useful way that helps their students.

What many people are proposing when they suggest “winging it” is to go to a developing country and take the money of poor people who are paying what is for them a LOT of money to sit in your classroom.  These people are paying good money hoping that you know what you’re doing and hoping that you will impart skills that will improve their future.

Is that really the approach you want to take in starting your new life abroad?  I hope not.

Even the most basic of online TEFL training classes can help you understand the basics of method and give you some idea of what works and what doesn’t.  And that you need to minimize “teacher talk time” and why.

Come on, get some training.  Feel good about what you are doing and do it right.  It really is as simple as that.

TEFL Training isn’t rocket science and even just a bit of good basic training can make a huge difference in what you deliver to your students and how much they learn.  And if they feel they are getting their money’s worth from you or are being scammed.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Deliver what your students are paying for.  They deserve your best efforts.  They really do!  Get some training.

The BEST EFL Teaching Jobs in China: Government Colleges, Universities and Secondary Schools offer the most reliable and worry-free jobs in China. Click on the Link if you would like to Teach English in China

How and Where to Start Teaching English Abroad

What to Consider when First Seeking a Job Teaching English Overseas

Once you have made a final decision to look for an English teaching job and head overseas, it’s time to make a decision about where you would like to work and how much you would like to earn/save.

You’ll have to balance the two according to your qualifications, area of the world in which you wish to work, the general availability of jobs in that area and what your financial goals might me.

Here are some additional things to consider along the way.


You’ll also have to decide if getting some training is important for you – or not. If you do decide to get some training (good for you!), I would encourage you to get that training overseas, ideally in the country in which you intend to teach.

There are several reasons for this. First, it’ll give you a chance to live overseas and know better if you will like it (very different from vacationing or traveling overseas). It will usually also give you a chance to meet people who are already doing what you want to do and a chance to network for good jobs.

Another consideration is the opportunity to do your teaching practice with students similar to those you will teach on the job. Once you have a lot of experience this will not be so important, but as a TEFL Newbie – it will help you get up to speed much more quickly.

I’ve taught EFL in four different countries and students in each have their own unique pronunciation and grammar problems. Even experienced teachers take some time solving the new problems they are confronted with when they change countries.

One last super advantage, if you intend to teach in a country where it is common to have to interview in person, is that you will obtain in training a good idea of what students want, need, like and don’t like. Again, different countries and cultures can be very different.

Relevant English games built into your lesson are an absolute must in Thailand – but a bad idea in Saudi Arabia. It is best to know this BEFORE you interview or do a demonstration lesson.

In some countries a “demonstration” lesson is commonly requested as part of the interview process. If you have done your training in that country you will be far far ahead of the newbie who arrives with no idea of the common problems they will be faced with in the classroom.

Finally, TEFL training overseas is generally cheaper than taking it in developed Western countries and can be much cheaper by the time you add in the cost of food and board during training.

I believe though that the biggest benefits are networking and just getting a feel for life in another country.

Recruiters, or not?

One major decision that you must also make is if you want to use a recruiter or not. There are many people who are absolutely adamant that you should never use a recruiter. Some have had bad experiences with them, others believe you will find much better circumstances negotiating a deal on your own. Both ways are fine to me – I’ve done both.

I used a recruiter to find my first job. There were some problems, but the recruiter took care of all of them for me. It was very useful as I was not yet confident and really didn’t know much about the business – I was a true newbie – and the recruiter took some of the pressure off me.

Know that there are some recruiters out there, who just want to place you as quickly as possible and get their fee from the school. They won’t care if you are a good “fit” or not.

Try to communicate with the teachers at a school before deciding to go there, whether you use a recruiter or not. Are there problems there? What are they? Are they critical or minor? Are the teachers happy or not? Why or why not?

Other Issues

Take a look at the other pages on the blog and you will, over time, see many issues to consider and we will try to get to most of them early in the blog to help you know what to look for.

Some issues to consider right away though, before you tie down a job:

The types/ages of students you might be interested in teaching? Do you want to teach corporate executives, resort staff, kindergarten/preschool or even nursery students?

Should you set up your job before you go or not? This can depend a bit on the specific country and a lot on your personal self-confidence. Some countries will require you to be on the scene to be considered for a job, some tend to hire almost exclusively from overseas.

All these questions and many more are important and all will be addressed on this blog.

TED’s Tips™ #1: For your first country you might want to try countries that are well known as being “Newbie Friendly”. The Middle East and Europe are known as being difficult places to get started (argumentative and opinionated students).

China and Korea are probably two of the easiest places to get started. Both have cultures of respect for teachers, typically hire from abroad and pay for airfare and accommodation.

Thailand is a popular place for many new teachers, but is not one of the easiest places to work. The culture, food, friendly people and nice beaches tend to swing the balance to make it a popular destination. But you’ll have to be on the scene to land a job and pay for your own housing and plane tickets.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Sort out and stabilize your finances BEFORE you go. Know what your financial situation will be in your new setting. Not much could be worse than showing up and finding out you can’t meet those student loan payments and it’s back to Walmart for you . . .


Your First Job Abroad

Accepting that First Job Teaching English Abroad

What to ask – How to decide

Getting that first serious job offer is a very exciting thing! But, after you dance around a few moments – stop and catch your breath and start to think about things you must know before making a final decision.

You got the offer, but should you accept it? This section is designed to help you know if you should take that job or not.

Don’t be shy, there are important things to know before moving yourself halfway across the world (if you are to be hired directly from abroad). But, don’t ask all the following questions in one shot. You’ll scare your potential employer. Spread them out a bit.

Some important questions to ask:

What is expected of me on a daily basis?

How many classes a day will I be expected to teach?

How long is each class? Is each class considered “one hour” even if it is only 40 or 50 minutes long? Some schools will pay you for a full teaching hour even if the class is only scheduled for 40-50 minutes. Others will pay you only 5/6th of your hourly wages for a 50 minute class. This often depends more on the country than the individual school.

Will I be expected to stay at the school even when I don’t have classes? Will I have “Office Hours” that I need to keep?

Will I have responsibilities other than teaching? Will I be paid for that time? Like cleaning your classroom or the school, recruiting students, evaluating students for placement, handing out flyers for the school, etc.

Does the job provide housing? Is it furnished? What does “furnished” include? How are the bills paid and who pays them? How far is the accommodation from the school? Is it easy to get to work from there? Do I have to pay a deposit for my housing? How big is it? Will I have to share my accommodation? Are there any required monthly fees I must pay for?

Who is my boss? To whom do I report? Who evaluates me? Who decides if I am doing a good job or not and what criteria is used to decide if I am successful?

How much sick and vacation time do I get? Who decides when I can use it? Can I use my vacation time all at one time? Does it accrue monthly or can I only use it at the end of my contract?

Is there a bonus or gratuity payment at the end of my contract? How much is it? How is it determined? Bonus payments are standard and required by law in many countries but employers sometimes pretend that it is something nice they are doing just for you . . .

What teaching resources does the school provide? Teacher’s manuals? Photocopy machine? Who regulates its use? OHP? Internet? Great for lesson plans and finding activities., Computer? Printer? Paper? Chalk/Markers? Really! Some schools don’t provide even the basics or make it so difficult to access them that you will go ahead and buy them yourself. Not a super big deal if everything else works fine.

Is there air conditioning and/or heating in the classrooms? This can be important! I still remember asking my very first EFL employer in Korea for a heater for the classroom on a bitterly cold morning and my employer with frosty mist coming from her mouth said, “It’s not cold”! So, I taught with a heavy coat, long johns and mittens . . .

How many students are in a class? How are they placed or evaluated for placement? There is a big difference between 100 people or 5 in a classroom – I’ve taught both. One requires a lot more preparation than the other.

How do we decide if the students are progressing or successful? Does everyone pass or are you supposed to implement a strict grade curving system? A grade curving system usually means you will need a very well organized testing system that is thorough and fair. Language schools tend to just pass everyone.

Will I have a work space available at the school? A desk, an office?

Are there other foreign teachers at the school? Can I talk to them before I make my decision? Red flag the job if they don’t want you talking to existing or previous teachers, but do realize everyone has a different experience abroad – so take any opinions under realistic consideration.

Those basic questions should help you get started.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Find out as much as you can about the job BEFORE you accept it. Once you are on the scene is too late.
Obviously you can’t find out everything and much of what you find out will be filtered either by your employer or by the good or bad attitude of an existing teacher.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Understand that each individual’s experience abroad is unique and individual.
What others hate, you may love. Every school – good or bad – will have past and present teachers who love it and hate it. Your job is to interpret what they say and translate it into something that is meaningful and useful to you. I have certainly worked at schools where some of the teachers hated it and I loved it. Much of this is about an individual’s attitude toward life in general and you will need to filter out the attitude to get to the specifics of how a school operates.

Checking your Potential TEFL Employer’s Reputation

How do I check the reputation of a TEFL school employer?

This post is for Tricia – who asked the question in the “Request a Topic” section – I hope it helps answer her questions.

It’s important to check the reputation of your employer. You can ask directly on the Internet’s discussion boards, but there are at least two problems with that approach. First is that people with bad experiences tend to dominate the discussion boards.

Good for them, they want to warn you off of something that didn’t work for them. But there is an imbalance on the discussion forums – the happy people are out living their lives and enjoying themselves. The unhappy people are busy trying to burn a former employer.

This is not to say that there are not employers who should be “burned” – but understand the imbalance and what is going on with discussion boards.

Second, the Internet’s forums can’t know every school in the world.

So, bottom line, your best bet is to talk to the other foreign teachers at the school where you intend to work.

Ask! Be sure to ask more than one teacher at that school. Be aware that everyone has a different and very personal experience abroad and while one person loves the job and employer, others may not. Ask more than one person. Ask specifically what they like or don’t like about the employer. Interpret what they say as to what might bother – or not bother – you.

Wages and Salary: Some employers, in some countries, are well known for not paying on time, or paying less than was originally agreed to. Be sure to check this issue with the current employees. A very good friend of mine once worked for a school with these problems, but stayed for several years knowing – from talking to others and over time seeing it – that the employer always made good on amounts owing – at the end of the contract.

Problem? Yes, but she loved the job and the students, so she tolerated it knowing the money due was coming. And she was paid in full at the end of her employment there. It worked out just fine. And she saved an additional bundle courtesy of the employer holding back some of the funds.

Is a contract worth the paper it is written on?

In some parts of the world, particularly Asia, contracts are looked at as “flexible” instruments – quite a different understanding from how we view them in the West. Once again, ask the current employees if the contract is followed – and if not, why and how it is violated.

These issues should not always be the kiss of death for a potential job. Some small issues are not so important in the big picture if you really like a job, its location and what you will be doing and are getting paid.

TED’s Tips™ #1: My personal opinion is that too many people worry too much about “scams” and being hustled.

Yes, there are problems out here, but worrying about a “boogie man” behind every tree isn’t the solution either. People who worry too much, who are too suspicious NEVER leave home, never leave the confines of their safe, soft and boring worlds to get out and experience the bigger world out here.

I sometimes think that people who are overly concerned are really just looking for a reason to NOT go. That’s okay, they probably shouldn’t go as the real world out here is not the safe, cuddly and nurturing world they are looking for. It is a fantastic place – but by no means perfect.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Risk = Reward

Yeah, all this requires a leap of faith and much of your NEW care use amongst online buyers of medications experience will require that you kind of hold your breath and just hope it works out. And – 98% of the time it will. I can’t tell you the number of times I have signed blank contracts, forms written in a language I could not yet understand, even contracts that were different from my original one to “keep the authorities happy”.

I am NOT suggesting just signing anything that comes your way – I am suggesting that things often take a direction that we from the Western world are not familiar with and becoming outraged or going ballistic, leads to nowhere. Yes, you might end up at home and safe – but is that what you really wanted?

Know that probably 95% of schools pay on time, treat their employees fairly and follow the contracts that they have signed. You just don’t hear about them. Their happy employees are out enjoying their new world.