I hear this question from prospective TEFL teachers at least once a day and there is no definitive answer. While I’d love to be inspirational and say “Bill Gates didn’t need a degree, neither do you,” that’s not always the case. Governments in countries like South Korea, China, Japan and most recently, Vietnam, require a bachelor’s or university degree to obtain a work visa. In these countries, you must have a work visa in order to gain entry and remain in the country teaching English. And, since it is a government stipulation, no amount of experience or TEFL savvy can get around it.
But rest assured there are still plenty of other places to go. Staying within Asia, we find that employers in Thailand always prefer a uni degree, but some may not require one. In Cambodia, where the beer is cheaper and the women are even younger, you are much more likely to find work without a degree. Most employers are more interested in your TEFL certification and any experience that you may have.
Outside of Asia (yes the TEFL world is round), employers in Mexico, Central and South America do not always require a degree. Western Europe is a hard place to crack, degree or no degree, but most schools will only hire teachers with one. In Eastern Europe, it is usually required to get the work visa with the occasional exception, like in Georgia, where they are happy to get TEFL teachers regardless of degree or experience.
The Middle East is probably the most selective in terms of hiring, so yes, a degree and onsite TEFL certification will be necessary here. In the end, it helps your job prospects everywhere to have a degree, but you can certainly get by without one.
Visit BridgeTEFL Jobs for more info on requirements to teach English in specific countries.
This post was written by Rachel Spillane.