For years, I’ve had people asking me if you can still teach English abroad without a degree.
When I started teaching online, I still got the same question… Can I teach English online without a degree?!
It was the one thing holding some people back. They knew English, they had a native English tongue, and they were enthusiastic… Why couldn’t they teach English online or abroad too?
I started off teaching English in Thailand and soon after I started teaching English online.
Soon enough I realized I could make enough money living in Southeast Asia solely off working online as an English teacher. It was a great job and I’m perpetually reminiscing on those years because they are what started it all for me.
They enable me to continue traveling for years and soon I moved on to other ventures but it DID all start with teaching abroad and online.
And while I DO have a degree (in Criminal Justice and International Affairs, mind you), I wanted to provide my readers with the answer they deserved. Can a native English speaker still teach English online or abroad without a degree? I’ve finally put it all together for you!
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1. Should I Get a TEFL Certificate?
Can I Teach English Online Without a Degree (or Abroad)?
Yes, once upon a time, before the real world caught up with sticklers for rules and regulations that often have no practical purpose, you would need a degree to teach English online and abroad. And it makes sense, right?!
Companies that purport to teach people English as a foreign language don’t want their reputation ruined by illiterate middle school dropout looking to make a quick buck. (No offense to middle school dropouts. The struggle is real.)
But these days, with technology as advanced as it is, companies can now do background checks, run references, and even check your TEFL certificate (see below for more on this).
Also, they can use their common sense, Skype with you and see, yes, you can, in fact, speak English just fine.
Further, people who want to learn English as a foreign language don’t really care about the difference between “affect” and “effect” or whether the “i” actually comes before the “e” or not. They want to understand what people mean when they say “what, for real?”
OK Seriously, I did have to explain the difference between effect and affect but in reality, that’s not what this is about…
It’s about conversation more than anything, not winning spelling bees and learning to become the next grammar nazi.
Many students are looking for work that requires fluency in English; the demand is up, which means the demand for English teachers is on the rise as well.
This means you have more negotiating power. When people merely want to be able to converse, suddenly a fancy degree doesn’t seem all that important.
Short answer: Yes.
Especially if you’re aiming to use the job as a way to travel, quit your day job, or some other unpredictable plan.
You want to link in with a reputable company that will keep you gainfully employed. Reputable companies are going to want some reputability reciprocity.
Look, the certificate for Teaching English as a Foreign Language is relatively cheap and pretty simple to get. It can’t hurt you, and it can only make you more marketable. And in this increasingly globalized and free market, marketability is the name of the game.
Here’s how to choose a great and cheap TEFL without getting scammed like I almost did!
Something else to keep in mind, while a school may say they don’t need one sometimes the COUNTRY needs it to issue you a work visa. This was the case for me in Thailand, a country that requires a TEFL and your original degree in hand to issue you a work visa.
I literally had to phone my poor mother asking her to kindly rummage through my junk in her attic and find my degree. She had to express mail it to Thailand in time for me to get my visa!
Once you have your TEFL certificate in hand, your options expand infinitely. You can teach from home online, or you can head out into the world of adventure and teach on site.
→ Get a discount on your TEFL here using code: Nina35!
[box]RELATED: How Not to Get Screwed Over While Choosing the Best Online Tefl Course[/box]
When considering where to teach English abroad without a degree, you want to think of what else you’re looking for. Some companies will pay more. Others will provide more benefits. Still, others will allow you to have much more fun or ease at work.
Remember that just because you’re American (/Brit, Canadian, Aussie), doesn’t mean you will be paid like an American elsewhere in the world. You gotta browse your options a bit to discover which place is right for you.
So, if you’re looking to teach English abroad without a degree, there are plenty of countries that will accommodate you.
There are a few important notes to make before continuing to read though, while the places below (at the time of writing) claim to not anyways need a degree to teach English, some school may require it or strongly prefer it.
Some of the countries listed below are also known for accepting English teachers without a degree but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always 100% legal.
Generally, you’re fine, and I definitely don’t advocate breaking rules such as these but it is generally accepted and many people do it which is why it’s being listed below.
Going abroad to teach English without a degree will be harder than if you had a degree.
Remember who you’re competing next to, others who have a TEFL and a 4-year degree, possibly a masters, and possibly on top of it all, experience! It can get rough out there but that’s not to say you should lose hope.
It’s 100% possible to teach abroad without a degree, you’re just going to need to try harder, look a bit deeper, get more connections, DEFINITELY get a TEFL before even looking for work, and perhaps save a bit more money to keep you afloat while looking for work.
Teaching English in The Americas
You’ll find quite a few opportunities in Central and South America for teaching English without a degree and if you’re from Canada or the US, you won’t have to go too far either.
The number one bonus to Mexico is that it’s America’s closest neighbor and therefore this Latin American country isn’t a “scary” leap and a great place to start.
The cost of living is cheap and the demand for American English is high. Thanks, globalization! You’re typically better off getting your certificate and heading to Mexico to look for work in whatever resort town or major metropolis you want to start in. But it might be easier to find work in the smaller towns which aren’t as big of a stickler for those without degrees.
Remember, more people, more companies, more demand for English teachers.
Nicaragua is small and growing in population and economy, so English language learning is on the rise.
Get in and get your position soon. The cost of living is cheap and the schools typically hire in person, which is why that TEFL certificate is so crucial to get prior to attempting to teach abroad without a degree.
Argentina sees itself as the Europe of Latin America. Needless to say, English language learning is in high demand and will only rise.
Get yourself a TEFL and a flight to Buenos Aires and start pounding the pavement. To save some money, you could even take two positions and get a housemate.
Due to the high demands of teachers, Brazil isn’t being picky, yet! You can grab a quick TEFL and be on your way to teaching English in Brazil in no time.
Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Colombia are other great choices for finding work as an English teacher abroad without a degree.
Teaching English in Europe
Stiff competition in Europe, I can’t lie.
And because of the high cost of living in most countries here, teaching English in Europe without a degree will be a bit rough, but have faith!
Learn to live modestly, get smart (aka fine some side jobs teaching or a nanny gig) and don’t get too tempted to eat out often and drink a lot—which is NOT easy to avoid in Europe!
The main country in Europe where it’s said the least amount of English is spoken.
Before you travel all the way to Spain, investigate a bit. Check out the local companies and see what the requirements are.
Spain is relatively cheap but not everywhere! Heading there with no dollars in your pocket, no TEFL certificate, and no prior knowledge would probably mean returning home with your tail tucked between your legs.
Learning a bit of Spanish (due to the lack of English) under our belt before you head off to teach English abroad with no degree wouldn’t be a bad idea either.
Keep in mind that while you may not technically need a degree to teach in Spain, the competition is so high, it will certainly be more difficult.
It’s often recommended that if you don’t have a degree to teach English abroad in Spain, that you should try to pick up private lessons instead.
Helllloooo paradise. While you may not be lucky enough to find a teaching job on one of the idyllic islands, you can still live in Greece and teach English abroad without a degree.
You can gorge yourself on olives and baklava all day… if you can afford it.
Jobs often don’t pay super well but you can make it work if you live modestly or pick up some side work.
Cold! Yes. But, the demand for English teachers is HOT.
Head to St. Petersburg or Moscow, or really any other metropolitan area, and you’ll be teaching English abroad without a degree in no time. You are also likely to pick up not just a paycheck, but also room and board to boot!
So bring your boots, and your parka, and get started.
Romania, Czech Republic (Czechia), Georgia and Ukraine are other options to look for jobs that don’t require a degree to teach English.
[box]RELATED: Everything You Need to Know About Teaching English in Prague, Czech Republic[/box]
Teaching English in Asia
Asia is perhaps the easiest continent to live and teach English abroad without a degree.
It’s where I started, it’s where many start and for good reason.
Aside from being amazing, and having good opportunities for jobs, it’s cheap and if you’re super lucky, there can even be some perks.
This is perhaps the easiest country for teaching English abroad without a degree!
First, it’s massive, so options are almost endless, and the demand is damn strong. On top of getting a job rather easily, they often include airfare and housing in the deal although without a degree this sweet deal may be more difficult to find.
You will very likely need a TEFL to get work here though and Beijing and Shanghai will have tough competition with plenty of teachers that are teaching with a degree, so try the less popular cities (there are tons).
There may be some “hacking” to totally make it as an English teacher in China like coming over on certain visas that don’t technically mean you can teach but that allows you to remain in China for longer.
While it’s technically not totally legal, it happens very often. My friend Richelle has tons of info on teaching in China.
[box]RELATED: A Guide to Teaching English Online to Chinese Students[/box]
Ah! So far from home and so foreign to American life! But, alas, Cambodia is easily one of the most beautiful places in the world, it is cheap to live and work, and English teaching jobs are in high demand.
While it’s certainly preferred that English teachers have a degree, it’s still possible to land jobs here.
This landlocked country is absolutely stunning and getting to live here and experience life will be worth every effort.
Myanmar, Thailand, and possibly Vietnam are also other countries that have potential opportunities to hire teachers without degrees.
I know, I know, you want to get paid. Who doesn’t? However, if you’re heart is really set on a country that DOES require a degree to teach English abroad, then seek out a volunteer position instead.
They often don’t have any requirements because at the end of the day, if they need volunteers how picky can they be? Many countries will accept you without a degree and what happens from there can only be good…
First, you’re doing a good a thing and helping people who really can’t afford fancy English classes or live in rural areas without a school or teacher in sight.
Next, you’re getting experience under your belt, which could only be a positive thing for someone wanting to teach English without a degree and without experience.
And lastly, you never know what can happen! Perhaps you make a few connections? Perhaps you stumble on some other work? Make a new friend who knows a school who’d love to have you?
There are plenty of good things that can come of this and at the end of the day, volunteer work doesn’t make you stay for very long, and at the least, it’s an experience.
I actually have some more info below on internships and volunteering, keep reading!
Africa is the most popular continent for volunteer teaching opportunities but they are available in almost every country around the world that doesn’t speak English.
[box] NOTE: There needs to be some serious vetting on your part for finding volunteer opportunities especially when children are involved.
The best way to make sure you are not creating more of a problem (AKA they have these “children in need” because it’s a money game) is to make sure you’re not paying to volunteer. A bit of money to take care of your housing, food etc, is totally fine, but a crazy amount of money “that goes to the kids” while you work for free? This can be a red flag.
This is another post entirely but there’s plenty of volunteer organizations in place as a money-making scheme at the expense of the children and it’s up to you to vet and choose the right ones.[/box]
I know, not what you wanted to hear, right? What else do you want from me!? And what is it?!
The problem is, I can’t answer that, only the country and then the specific school can.
Some school will want a background check, some will need the original certificates, and some may even want you to be under the age of 55…
Luckily, the documentation is often a requirement for those going into it that are fully “legal” so there’s that, but there are no guarantees that you won’t need further documentation to get a job.
There are other “quirks” of being an English teacher abroad degree or not… So there will need to be further research into the particular country you choose. Just a fair warning.
Don’t worry, you got this!
Just an unfortunate note I have to make for full transparency here…Some of these countries can be racists and they may choose the white person over the black/Asian person despite there being literally no difference.
I know… Not at all OK. I’ve seen first-hand black teachers getting paid less than white teachers for the exact same job in Thailand.
This is more often an “Asian country” thing in my experience. No words, totally not OK, but it’s the truth and I felt I should mention it.
So what about teaching online? Perhaps moving abroad isn’t for you, maybe you are already abroad but want to supplement your income a bit?
Maybe you scored a teaching abroad job without a degree already and now, you want some extra cash OR to completely turn nomadic by teaching online…
It’s all possible, my friend, it really is!
After hours and hours of research and even speaking to other teachers and friends around the world, I did find some schools hiring online English teachers without a degree.
It may not pay all the riches in the world, some may need experience, most require a TEFL (are we seeing a theme yet?) but there are jobs out there that you can nab online so you can teach in your underwear.
Oh, wait, was that only me? Seriously though, no pants required for teaching online, it’s great.
Teaching online, aside from not needing pants on, is a fab way to get around the world while making some dough. I did it for years.
At first, I was a teacher in Thailand, then I did both at a school in Thailand and online, then I switch to teaching online full time.
It’s part of the reason I am where I am today. Teaching abroad and online afforded me the money to live while I explored other ventures in my life and I’m forever grateful for those opportunities.
Requirements for Teaching English Online Without a Degree
Pretty much every single school out there will have the same requirements…
- A TEFL. Seriously, just get it already.
- A headset
- A good laptop
- A good internet connection
- A camera on your laptop
- A white or plain background (AKA nobody wants to see your hoarder style closet or collection of Beanie Babies in the back)
→ Get a discount on your TEFL here using code: Nina35!
Pretty easy requirements! You will also likely need to go through a round or two of Skype interviews as well as maybe even giving a few mock lessons.
Some online schools prepare everything for you, as in, there’s a PowerPoint presentation already prepared or some other program. Some require you to provide the material. They often pay more if you’re required to make your own lesson plans.
I found it was much easier to get paid less and have the materials provided. My level of effort was almost nonexistent, and it was great. I mean, come on, guys. I didn’t even wear pants!
But I valued my time more than money at the time. After all, I was living in Thailand and eat $1 lunches. I did this so I had time to work on other ventures (hello, blog life). So this is something to keep in mind! Also, “back then” there weren’t as many options for teaching online, it’s come a looooong way!
OK, right, so which schools can you actually teach English online without a degree?
It’s not super cut and dry but after hours of research, this is what I came up with. Of course, this was all accurate the time of writing and using the power of just Googling and finding threads and real-life people teaching on these sites…
I hope to keep this updated and hopefully not too many schools change their requirements over time.
Below you’ll find the list of online schools that hire English teachers without a degree.
The notes stating that a TEFL is required is because it literally said that on the site, it doesn’t mean the others are saying you can get away without one.
For those that require experience, get to moving! Those often pay their teachers more and you can gain experience either abroad or online with another school but the good news is, they DON’T require their online English teachers to have a degree.
|Teach English online without a degree at one of these online schools:||Notes|
|1. English Hunt||No degree required,
|2. Cambly||No degree required|
|3. GoFluent||Degree preferred,
Some college required
|4. Lingoda||No degree required,
|5. RypeApp||No degree required, experience required|
|6. Open English||TEFL required|
|7. iTalki||No degree required|
|8. Palfish||No degree required|
|9. OKPanda||No degree required|
|10. NiceTalk||Only TEFL required|
|11. Same Speak||No degree required|
|12. Learn Light||No degree required, experience required,
|13. Open English||No degree required|
|14. CafeTalk||No degree required|
What if I told you I have a way for you to gain experience abroad that’s essentially guaranteed…
Don’t worry, I’m not a tease, I’m being for real, guys!
I have THREE options for you to choose from where you can gain experience teaching English abroad without a degree AND get your TEFL certification at the same time.
Dreams do really come true… If you’re really not sure where to start, what country you’re “feeling,” how to go about getting this silly TEFL thing, and are simply not confident in going out there and just winging this thing on your own, let me show you a program that can get you through it.
myTEFL is the TEFL company I’ve been recommending (because trust me, I’ve vetted the F out of them and they are legit) and aside from offering a great and cheap online course for getting your TEFL they also offer intern programs abroad.
These programs are a great way to get your feet wet but the best part? They literally are there to accept people WITHOUT degrees to help them get an “in.”
Say wwhhaaa… I know! Pretty sweet, huh?
So just to recap, you can get TEFL certified and get real experience teaching English abroad, all while not having a degree. The cherry on top? The program places you in a school that provides a salary or at the least, offers housing.
So what’s the low down? Where do you get more info? Where are they offered?
What is this unicorn job you speak of, Nina?!
Here’s more info on how to get a guaranteed job teaching English abroad without a degree while getting your TEFL:
→ It’s legit, guys. It says right here no degrees are required, and yes, I’ve emailed and doubled checked for you too.
More good news? If you use code: nragu5 at checkout, you’ll get 5% off the program! (and nragu10 gives you 10% off the Thailand internship.)
Note this discount is just for this program, code: Nina35 is the 35% off just the online TEFL certification course.
This would be a great experience to put on your resume if you’re teaching English online without a degree and are looking for a way to stick out from the crowd, travel a bit, but not commit to living abroad.
- GET A TEFL! – Did we get that yet? Most school that don’t necessarily require a degree will certainly want you to have a TEFL and honestly, without a degree and experience, you should want a TEFL. It’s giving you a preview of what life will be teaching abroad and how to do it properly. Do everyone a favor and grab one.
- Get experience under your belt. Go volunteer abroad or at the least, if you can’t afford it or have time, find a local school with an ESL program and ask to be a volunteer. This is what I did before teaching abroad and it was a great experience and made me look damn good on paper.
- Go for the smaller cities. You will have much better luck going to the smaller towns, lesser-known spots, poorer villages and getting out of the megacities. The popular places to teach English will have an abundance of competition, most of which will have degrees and experience. Your chances of finding jobs significantly diminish here and for those places where it’s not totally kosher to be teaching without a degree, you’re way more in the spotlight in the bigger cities, get out and watch your opportunities rise.
- Go for tutoring gigs. Tutoring vs working in a school could work out WAY better for you in most countries and even online. You’re often marketing yourself, so it does take more legwork, but doing private lessons and tutoring could work out way better as there’s often less red tape to go through.
- Up your skills. Start working on your degree online and mention that you’re working towards it, start working at a camp with kids, volunteer in a related filed, DO something to make yourself look better on paper and to show you really want this.
- Play up your skills. What skills do you have that are related? Play them up! Talk about being a camp counselor, even if it was a while ago, it can show you love children and teaching. Did you complete some college? Do you have some teaching experience even if it’s not English? Do you speak the local language of the country you’re wanting to teach in? If you want to teach English online without a degree you’ll need to stand out even more since everything is so impersonal.
- Be professional. This is a given, with anything. Make yourself look good in any way, remain positive, be bubbly, dress right, be enthusiastic, study the school, etc.
- Understand that you can grow. Not every country on this list or every online school will be your ultimate cup of tea but remember you can always grow. We all start somewhere, nobody is a tree and therefore they are not stuck. Take opportunities, learn and grow from them, and move on to the next one until you reach your ideal place.
- Have a nice picture. Well, this is awkward. Since when is needing a picture of yourself a job requirement? Well, since you wanted to become an English teacher. I know, it’s not right to be judged by the way you look and the color of your skin but the reality is, it does matter to many countries abroad, especially countries in Asia. I laughed when I heard I needed to include a picture of myself with my CV for my school in Thailand. Is this a joke? Nope, it’s a thing. So get a nice one done to have on hand. Tip: Make sure your shoulders are covered and your neckline isn’t low.
- 120-hours or nothing. Don’t try to slip a fast one and think you can do the cheapest TEFL with the least amount of effort and get on just fine. You MUST take the 120-hour course, this is the only one that will be internationally recognized and can be used for a work permit.
→ DON’T FORGET! Get a discount on your TEFL here using code: Nina35. Don’t fall for the wrong TEFL certificate as I did. It’s an expensive mistake and could leave you out a chunk of cash and with a worthless piece of paper!
I really hope this helped you realize it’s possible to get a job abroad or online teaching English without a degree, I know you can do it!
Will you be looking for a job teaching English now? Did this help you find a job? Where will you start teaching? I’d love to know what worked out for you! Leave a comment below!
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Nina Ragusa is an adventurer, messy bun master, breakfast fan, and full-time travel blogger. She’s been abroad and epically failing at the American Dream since 2011. Her sassy yet informative blog, Where in the World is Nina? is all about how to work abroad to live a more adventurous life. If you want to travel longer you have to work to wander.