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Essential Qualifications to Teach English

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Stand out from the crowd.

Are you looking for the right kinds of Qualifications to teach English as a Second or Foreign language?

If so, this article is for you. It is the essential guide to TEFL teaching qualifications so you can land a job.

What Do I Need?

That’s the key question. The answer is, however, that there is no single answer.

Some schools ask for one set of qualifications and another school will ask for a completely different set.

One country will ask for a degree; the country next door won’t care; and the country next door is willing to turn a blind eye to it all.

Which means that for teachers there’s a lot of leeway. You can find work if your briefcase is bulging at the seams with qualifications and you can find work if you have just a single certificate to your name.

But of course remember that the more you have to offer in terms of qualifications and experience, the better your chances of landing a well paid job with good opportunities.

That means: if you can get qualifications and experience, then do it!

I don’t have ANY qualifications at all!

If you have nothing – no degree, no TEFL certificate – then as you might imagine your choices are limited.

First off, to get work you should really be in the country and knocking on school doors. If you are lucky then you might find a school which is in desperate need of a teacher and is willing to give you a few hours a week teaching English because… well because you speak the language.

But it’s not an approach we’d recommend because there are often problems here.

Firstly you should know what you’re doing in class and if you have no training this means you’ll be short-changing your students who have paid good money to learn English. So TEFL training is a must.

Secondly it is unfair to yourself. You will almost certainly flounder and find problems if you do not have even a basic grasp of teaching technique and subject matter. If you have training, you will find the work much easier and much more enjoyable.

And there’s often another problem, too. Many schools who employ teachers without qualifications are likely to be breaking the law as most countries have minimum legal requirements for teachers. This being the case you will not only be paid less but be also employed illegally.

There are often spot checks on schools and if you are discovered working illegally you will at best be forced to leave the school and possibly the country, and at worst be imprisoned.

I have an Associates Degree

Again this isn’t really sufficient for most jobs. When a job advert asks for a degree then they are looking for a full 3 or 4 year BA degree.

For more on which degrees you can teach with, see the links below.

I have a BA Degree

A degree is usually the minimum required for teaching jobs. In many countries it is also needed for the visa. It usually doesn’t matter what subject your degree is in as long as it’s from an English speaking university.

If you have a degree then you stand a good chance of getting a teaching job. However, you will stand a much better chance if you also have taken a 120hr TEFL Course and these are the usual minimum requirements in many schools and countries.

Plus, of course, if you’ve taken a TEFL course it will make your teaching so much better and you’ll be more confident in class. This can make all the difference in the world to your first year’s teaching!

I have a Degree and a TEFL Certificate

A Degree and a TEFL Certificate is generally accepted to be the basic qualifications for a new teacher in most schools and most TEFL jobs. You will have a lot of choice when it comes to where you want to teach and can go virtually anywhere (for a look at where you can teach see the links below.

Note that when we say TEFL Certificate this means TEFL Certificate, TESL Certificate, TESOL Certificate, etc. These acronyms‏‎ are virtually synonymous. Also note that a CELTA is a high-end TEFL certificate.

I have a TEFL Certificate but NO Degree

There are good possibilities for you if you have a TEFL certificate but no degree. Some countries do not ask for a degree when it comes to foreign English teachers.

For example many countries in South America as well as Russia or the Czech Republic.

To get this kind of work it’s usually best to be in the country itself and knocking on doors although it’s still worth checking out the job adverts for work.

Note that you might also be able to pick up work on the “black market” as it were. These are going to be in schools which are desperate for a teacher and who will hire you even though you don’t have a degree. This happens a lot in places like China. The problem here is that you will be working illegally which means that there’s no recourse if your boss doesn’t pay you and likewise the standard of the school is not going to be that high.

For a more in-depth look at teaching when you don’t have a degree, see the links below.

Useful Links

Which Degree to Teach English Abroad? – a look at acceptable degrees to find work as a TEFL teacher

TEFL without a Degree‏‎ – how to find work if you don’t have a degree

Where Can I Teach? – the destinations most TEFL teachers go for – more options for where you can teach

How to Find Teaching Jobs Abroad – how to find work as a TEFL teacher

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