If you know English well enough, you can theoretically teach English at any age. You can get involved in TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language) whenever you want.
On the ICAL TEFL Certificate Course, for example, we have had students from 16 to well into their 80s! But after the course, once the teacher is trained, how easy is it for a younger teacher to get work?
TEFL Qualifications & Teacher Age
To teach private TEFL lessons you do not always need higher qualifications. Obviously if you’ve taken a TEFL course you will be able to teach far better, but if you are teaching your neighbor, or a friend, you can be any age. It is an agreement between you and them and there are usually no legal requirements for qualifications and so on.
Which means for private lessons you could be any age!
However, if you are teaching in a school then things begin to get more involved.
First, most jobs require you to have a degree along with your TEFL certificate. This means you will need to go to college and this means that you will graduate when you are in your early twenties. Most new teachers in schools are around this age.
But there are also jobs for teachers without a degree. In these cases you could theoretically head off and teach in a school with just your TEFL certificate. Let’s say aged 17 or so.
But there are a couple of points to think about here though.
Firstly you can’t realistically speaking head off to teach in a school until you’ve finished your own school. In most countries that means you must be over 16 before you start work.
Then, you also need a passport if you are heading off overseas. In some countries you will need your parental consent to get this if you’re under 18 years old (this figure varies depending where you are, so check it out) and some parents may not agree to letting you have your own passport if you are likely to disappear off around the other side of the world!
There is also the issue of signing a contract. If as a signatory you are younger than the age required for your signature to be legally binding then the contract you may sign could be void. You should find out first how old you need to be to sign a contract that would be be valid in the country where you want to teach. The likely scenario is that no decent school would enter a work agreement with you if you are underage, and those who get you to sign a contract even though you have no standing as a minor, are likely to exploit you. So be careful!
Finally think about what it will be like to teach in a class. Many TEFL students are teenagers. If you – as another teenager – step into such class do you think you will have the presence and authority to gain their respect? You might do, but will a school owner think the same and hire you?
And what about teaching Business English? Many classes are full of business people of all ages. Could you teach a room full of middle-aged business executives?
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is this: Yes, you can teach at any age but it’s probably best to start off taking your TEFL course and then doing private lessons and then taking a degree before you head off into a school.
It’s not impossible for a young teenager to work in a school and teach, but you do have to be a special kind of mature teenager to make it work!