Can You Still Teach Overseas Without a Degree?

It seems like almost every week I get an email with this question in an email. The answer is a “qualified” yes… for now. More and more countries do not grant a work/teaching visa to anyone unless they have a degree. Some countries are more bureaucratic than others. Here is an example:

In Thailand, where I taught for 14 years, three ministries are involved in the process: Education, Immigration and Labour. They cannot officially teach without all their seals of approval. Suppose you receive a job offer from a school in Thailand. What you then do is go to the nearest Thai embassy or consulate and obtain a 3-month B visa for non-immigrants. The ‘B’ allows you to travel to Thailand and work while your documents are being checked and processed. You must also get a letter from your local police station saying you are a good person and not on anyone’s wanted list. Once you arrive in Thailand your school should be able to do most of the legwork for you… if you are employed by a government, private or international school. Some employ so many foreign teachers that they have set up a special department to handle visas, extensions, etc. You send your documents to the Ministry of Education. You cannot obtain your work permit until this ministry approves it. Something that all aspiring teachers should be aware of is that Thailand and some other countries now require your original documents: degree, certificates and diplomas. If you only bring copies you would expect delays, so always make sure you know exactly what to bring. In South Korea, you can bring copies certified by the nearest South Korean embassy or consulate.

BTW – education ministries are up to date with graduate mill degrees so don’t even think about trying that route.

In some countries there are still opportunities to teach without a degree.

Option 1: If you don’t have a degree and want to teach, there are opportunities in countries like China, Vietnam and some Eastern European countries. I believe these will eventually increase their requirements as well, but opportunities still exist at the moment, although perhaps not in the larger centres. These are constantly changing, so you would need to check with your nearest embassy or consulate. Most of these would also be online. A TESOL or TEYL certificate will help your cause.

Option 2: You can try to find an apprenticeship in a company. Almost all companies want their managers, supervisors and anyone dealing with foreign customers, suppliers, head office, branches, visiting dignitaries, etc. to be able to communicate in English. While many send their staff to local English schools, some find it more cost-effective to hire in-house trainers. If you’re lucky enough to find a job as a teacher in a corporation, take a different route to getting your state permits. Being accepted into their staff as a “specialist” and a degree, while helpful, is not always a requirement. A TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certificate or a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate is definitely helpful. It shows that you have an actual education that will serve you well in modern classrooms.

How would you find these opportunities? You could either search the internet or take a trip to the country and explore there (presumably as a tourist). Having found a job there may mean traveling abroad and entering the country on a different visa. Be prepared. The countries differ significantly in their requirements. If you happen to get an interview, make sure you “dress.” look like a teacher Have your CV ready, neat, grammatically correct and accompanied by a photo (required abroad). Foreign teachers usually wear a suit and tie. Knee-length skirt and a conservative blouse for women.

Possibility 3: Do you have specific skills that a particular school might need? This could be as an aircraft technician, for example. If a company needs someone with your knowledge and skills, this would be another opportunity to hire you as a ‘specialist’ with special permission to work/teach in the country.

Possibility 4: Contact organizations looking for volunteers to teach in specific countries. See what their educational requirements are and ask for their advice. Maybe you can keep up with them and see what comes up while you’re abroad. As a volunteer you will not normally be paid, but room and board will be provided. Who knows what teaching opportunities might arise?

Non-Options: I mention these because some people try to circumvent the law by entering a country with visas such as tourist, education or pension. None of these will allow you to work/teach… at least not in Thailand. Some of these visa holders want to stay longer than their visa or budget allows, so they look for schools to teach and earn money to allow them to stay longer. Some schools care less about the regulations than they do about bargain-price teachers. These may be suitable for hiring teachers who are willing to work for less than the usual rate due to insufficient qualifications or who are a friend of a friend. They would not be listed as teachers on the school’s payroll and would be paid in cash under the table. I know this happens, but I’m not advocating using this plan. It is not enough to plead ignorance of the law. They could end up being imprisoned or deported.

I strongly encourage you to find a way to continue your studies. If you are lucky enough to find employment, you can complete your degree online for a period of time. Even many of the old, established brick-and-mortar institutions are now offering online degrees. If you are serious about teaching, you should also be serious about advancing your education. I believe so. In my experience, the best teachers are lifelong learners, and I hope you will be one.

In addition to your degree, I have already mentioned that it is good to have a TESOL or TEFL certificate. Many schools now require one of these in addition to a degree. There are also other valuable teaching certificates:

CELTA – Certificate in Language Teaching to Adults (British)

TEFLA – Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Adults. (similar to CELTA)

TEYL – English lessons for young learners

These three are specific to an age group and are therefore excellent as additional qualifications. First of all, you need a broader certificate – TESOL or TEFL. Why am I saying this? Many schools specifically ask for one of these two qualifications, and even if your goal is, for example, to “teach adults in Europe”, most schools are actually looking for someone who can take a position in primary or secondary education. FYI – Western Europe is difficult to reach for new teachers and schools there generally want British qualifications. Fine if you have them, but I always suggest you “fish where the fish are”. In other words, look for an apprenticeship where there are many vacancies. You have a much better chance of finding a job, and if you don’t have all the qualifications that other jobs would require, you have a better chance when supply and demand are tipped in your favor. Think of it as a chance to a) find out if you enjoy teaching, b) gain hands-on experience, and c) work towards your degree. Once hired you will find adult tutoring opportunities that will be offered to you for evening or weekend work if you so desire. Take it. It’s more experience for you and a step towards your ultimate goal. Any black money earned could be deposited into a special account for that elusive amount.

Every week I post a new ESL job listing on my ESL job board and China leads the pack with over 200 jobs to fill most weeks.

Final Thoughts…

As a teacher, you want your students to respect you. If you teach them and don’t even have a bachelor’s degree, will you gain that respect? There are many reasons people don’t go to college/university right out of high school. Many cannot afford it. A four-year college degree can cost upwards of $100,000 and leave you with a huge debt load. Not such a great start to your career, is it? I didn’t get my bachelor’s degree until I was in my forties. While teaching abroad, I completed my Masters and then my PhD.

So can you teach abroad without a degree? In some countries this is still possible, but the possibilities are becoming scarcer by the minute. My best advice is to get your TESOL or TEFL certificate first. This is a qualification that schools are looking for. Then look for one of these teaching opportunities so you can quickly find out if teaching is for you. Once you have your certificate, go to Google, Yahoo or Bing and search for “Teaching jobs in ____”. (try China or Vietnam first). Send politely worded requests to schools with a one-page resume. Make sure you use correct English in your cover letter and CV. Remember you are applying as someone qualified to teach English. Your request letter and CV must reflect this! Spelling mistakes quickly lead to the exclusion of your application. Let schools know you’re working on your degree. Once you get hired and start working, you can do that – even if like me it takes a few years to complete. You will feel much better. You set a good example for your students. Self-respect is good to have and will affect your students if you encourage them not to drop out of school or settle for a high school/secondary degree. Your degree will also open many more doors to better jobs for you, so I urge you to do yourself and your future students a favor and work towards a degree. Become an inspirational teacher and a lifelong learner. Thousands of students are waiting to learn from you.

Thanks to Dr. Robert W. F. Taylor | #Teach #Overseas #Degree

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