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Which Degree to Teach English Abroad?

A Visa is an official document stating that a person is authorized to enter the country or territory for which it was issued and teach there. Depending on your own nationality, you may or may not need a visa to work in certain other countries.

For more, see Visas for TEFL Teachers Abroad.

TESOL or Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages is usually used to talk about teaching English to people who do not already speak English. It's more commonly used by American teachers.

For more, see TESOL - Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

A TEFL Certificate is the basic qualification to teach English to non-native speakers. Good ones are usually 120hrs and cover teaching methodology, classroom management, lesson preparation and so on.

For more, see TEFL Certificates.

When a student learns English‏‎ in order to live and work in an English speaking country we say they are learning English as a Second Language. Compare this to someone who does not live in an English speaking country but learns the language to do business in another country; they learn English as a Foreign Language.

For more see Foreign Language‏‎ and Second Language.

Students learning English are often described as Beginners, Intermediate or Advanced. Roughly speaking this is their level, i.e. how much English they know, how well they can speak and understand and so on.

For more, see Learner Levels‏ in TEFL.

TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Simply put, this is usually used to talk about teaching English to people who live in a non-English speaking country and who want to learn English for business or to take an exam, etc.

It is pretty much equivalent to TESOL and TESL.

For more, see TEFL‏‎ - Teaching English as a Foreign Language.

A student throwing their cap in the air on graduation day.

The basic usual teaching qualifications for the majority of TEFL‏‎ jobs are a degree and a 120hr TEFL Certificate.

Although sometimes you can find work without a degree in some countries, this article looks at the type of degree which is best to have to teach English and which degrees are not usually acceptable.

Which Type of Degree?

By degree we mean a 3 or 4 year BA (or sometimes a BSc) degree from an accredited college or university in your country.

Remember, however, that Associate Degrees, Foundation Degrees and other shorter course qualifications are not usually accepted as degrees in most countries.

Which Major/Minor?

The degree is usually required for visa or work permit purposes; it is used to show the authorities in the country that you have a certain level of education.

So it’s often the case that the subject of the degree is not that important and certainly you will find teachers of English in entry level jobs with degrees in everything from Medieval English Literature to Mechanical Engineering to IT to Sociology.

This means that if you have a BA or BSc degree in almost any subject regardless of which major or minor you have then this will often be sufficient for a work permit and getting a job in a school.

However, having said this, to help get the job and show the school you know what you are talking about it’s obviously better for your degree to be English or language related. So you will find that most English teacher abroad have degrees in:

  • English language
  • English literature
  • Linguistics
  • A foreign language

But to reiterate, don’t be put off you have a degree in a completely different subject. It will be fine for most English teaching jobs abroad!

Choosing a Degree Subject

What this means in practical terms is that if you are looking towards a career (or at least a few years work) in teaching English abroad then you can take a degree in almost any subject.

So if you are thinking about which degree to take, you might want to think about taking something which interests you! There’s little point in spending 3 or 4 years studying something you dislike when, at the end of the day, you would be in the same position as if you’d studied something you enjoyed.

TESOL or TEFL Degrees

Some universities offer degrees in TESOL or similar. Bear in mind that if decide at a later date to leave the TEFL industry and enter mainstream employment back home then most employers will not know what this is. A degree in English is sometimes better since most people will be able to recognize this.

See Also

Masters Degree.- for a further qualification if you are heading towards a career in TEFL.

TEFL without a Degree‏‎ – if you do not possess a degree and wish to teach.

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