What Qualifications Do I Need To Teach English Abroad?

The Great Wall, Teach English Abroad, China

Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) has become a popular career choice for many people who love to travel and experience new cultures. If you’re wondering how to teach English in another country and if it’s a possibility that you can achieve, well you’ve come to the right place. Teaching English abroad is not as far off a concept as many people thing and I’m here to tell you about my experience and help you along if you’re thinking of starting your teach abroad experience.

Did you know, there are over 1 billion people learning English around the world as a second language. This means the demand for English teachers is extremely high! That being said, every country is different so it’s important to understand what the requirements are, where you meet the requirements and which country is the best for you.  

What are the requirements to teach English abroad?

The qualifications needed to teach English abroad vary depending on the country and the specific job you’re applying for. As a general rule, the majority of countries require you to:

  • Be a native English speaker (or have a fluent level of English)
  • Have a valid passport
  • Bachelors’ degree in any subject
  • TEFL / TESOL certificate
  • Clear criminal record
The Summer Palace, Teach English Abroad, China

Be a native English speaker

Most schools or language centers require that you have a high level of proficiency in English, both in spoken and written form. This means that you should at least be a native English speaker or have a near-native level of proficiency.

Have a Bachelor’s degree in any subject

Many countries require a bachelor’s degree in any subject as a minimum qualification for teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL). It’s also important to note that some countries (especially those in the Middle East) have stricter requirements for potential teachers and require you to have a teaching qualification.

Some schools or language centres may also require that you have prior teaching experience while others are a lot more flexible and don’t necessarily need it. Don’t worry though, if you don’t have any teaching experience, you will definitely be able to find an entry level position that still allows you to teach without teaching experience.

It’s important to note that the qualifications required may vary depending on the employer and the position you’re applying for. It’s always a good idea to research the specific requirements for the country and position you’re interested in to ensure that you meet the qualifications needed.

TEFL/ TESOL certificate

A TEFL or TESOL certification is often required for teaching English abroad. TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language while TESOL stands for Teaching English To Speakers Of Other Languages.

TEFL or TESOL certificates provide you with the necessary skills and knowledge to teach English to non-native speakers.

The Great Wall, Badaling, China

What’s the difference between TEFL and CELTA?

There’s often confusion between obtaining a TEFL or CELTA and different schools or learning centers may ask for either one. A TEFL refers to a certificate that can be obtained from various training organizations that certify teachers to teach English as a second language abroad. A CELTA on the other hand is a specific qualification that is offered through a global leader in the education of the English language – Cambridge Assessment English.

The main difference between the two is the length, price and practical training. TEFL certificates are usually much cheaper and don’t always require hands on practical training. CELTA certificates on the other hand, are a lot more expensive and can last between 1-month full time to three months part time. With a CELTA, there will always be some formal teaching practise.

Choosing between a TEFL or CELTA really depends on you – how much money you want to spend, how much time you have and if you want to gain some practical teaching exposure before you leave.  

Teach English Abroad, China

Valid passport

As a minimum pre-requisite, you will need a valid passport to travel into the country where you will be based. Most recruiters will ask for a copy of your passport to check that there is still valid time remaining. This is also important for the country where you will be based to issue your work visa.

The Summer Palace, China

Do I need a visa to teach English abroad?

This is dependent on the country you’re going to be based in, but as a basic, assume you will need a visa to legally live and work there.

Some countries in Asia make it a fairly straight forward process to apply for a visa that allows you to live and teach abroad, while other countries like those in the Middle East and Europe make it a lot more difficult to obtain due to stricter regulations when issuing work permits.

It’s important to remember that regardless of where you go in the world and what passport you hold, you will need a work permit that allows you to legally work in a new country.

Teach English Abroad, China

What qualifications do I need to teach in Asia?

For teaching in major Asian countries like China, Japan and South Korea, you will need a bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certificate. You will find that some countries like Cambodia for example are more relaxed about university qualifications, though a TEFL certificate is still required.

What qualifications do I need to teach in Europe?

Teaching in Europe is more difficult due to visa restrictions on non-EU citizens. As a general rule of thumb, European countries have to be able to justify why they would choose a non-EU citizen over a local which can make issuing visas difficult. European countries will require a bachelor’s degree and either a TEFL or CELTA. Some countries actually prefer a CELTA certificate. Also, having previous teaching experience can also make your application look more competitive than others.

What qualifications do I need to teach in the Middle East?

Middle Eastern countries are often a lot fussier when it comes to qualifications. Many of these countries actually specify they are looking for teachers with a bachelor’s degree in teaching; or a bachelor’s degree plus a post graduate degree in education and registration with professional teaching bodies in your home country before you can apply for a teaching post.

Teaching English abroad is a really fun and exciting way to make money while still travelling, experiencing new cultures and having the adventure of a lifetime all in one! It’s not always an easy process but it certainly is a life changing and rewarding experience.

As you can see from the above post, the requirements differ from country to country and in some instances from school to learning centre. You may experience a few rejections before being offered the right teaching post so remember, don’t give up. It’s important to know why you’re personally going abroad on this adventure in the first place because that’s going to be your motivation!

If you still have questions about your qualifications and any other requirements when it comes to teaching abroad, leave a comment down below and I’ll try my best to answer any questions you may have!

Good luck on your teach abroad journey!

Posted by

I'm Shalinee - a Geminian scientist who loves to travel, write, draw and eat chocolate. I've visited over twenty countries, published a Environmental Science encyclopaedia and somewhere along the way started a science communication company to help students and corporates translate that hard-to-read data generated in a lab. Other than that, I'm just searching for the magic still hidden in the world.

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