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Texas ISD School Guide
Texas ISD School Guide

Articles for Teachers

How to Teach ESL Overseas Without a Degree
By:Dr. Robert W. F. Taylor

English as a Second Language (ESL) has always been an attraction as a good way for people to explore other countries, learn about new cultures and have their travel expenses paid for. Many factors have contributed recently to the huge global need for English teachers. The popularity of the Internet has created a desire in millions of non-English speakers to learn to communicate in English. The speed in which we can travel around the world has truly made the world a global village. Multinational companies operate globally and need English language training for their international management and staff who need to communicate by phone, fax and e-mail with head office, suppliers and customers. The demise of the Soviet Bloc and opening up of Eastern Europe is another contributor. All around the world, people want to learn to communicate in English. The need for English language training far outstrips the available teaching workforce.

You mean I don't have to have a degree to teach in a foreign country? In some countries, that is true. Of course, schools would prefer their teachers to have degrees, ideally in education and naturally the better your education, the more doors that will open to you for teaching jobs. However, the reality of the situation is that if you have a TESOL certificate, but not a degree, that will be sufficient in many places. As I said above, the need is huge. Literally thousands of ESL teachers are needed in China alone and thousands more in South Korea, to name only two countries.

So, if I want to teach overseas but I don't have a degree, what should I do?

First, decide what part of the world you would like to go to. I'll tell you that Asia has the largest need for ESL teachers and thus is often less demanding of teaching qualifications. Second, find a good TESOL course to take. There are many available and they range in cost from $250 to $1500. What is the difference? The higher priced courses are usually offered in universities and take longer to complete. What you need to satisfy the requirements of many schools (and local immigration departments) is a course that is 100-120 hours. This is about one-term. Some courses can be completed in as little as a week. An extra benefit is a course that offers transferable credits that you can then apply to a degree if you wish. Once you start teaching, you may like to consider completing that missing degree by distance learning. Many colleges and universities offer degree-completion programs. Depending on your experience, you could complete a BA in as little as a year. This is worth considering because if you do have a degree, you will find more opportunities open up to you.

By the way, you will see many acronyms for ESL teacher-training courses: TESOL, TESL, TEFL, CELTA, TEAL, TEYL and TEFLA are some. I recommend TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). It is recognized around the world and gives you a good basic training in ESL teaching methodologies. CELTA is a British program (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults). My preference is TESOL because it trains you in methods that work for all ages whereas CELTA focuses on adults. New teachers will usually find themselves teaching in a regular school and so should have a good grounding in methods, techniques and strategies for teaching young and school-aged children.

If you are serious about teaching overseas, even if you don't have a degree, start by earning a TESOL certificate, learning about countries in which you have an interest and then place your resume on as many ESL teacher recruiting sites as you can find. Before you know it, job offers should soon start to appear in your e-mail.

I did this and, though I did have a degree, in one night received a phone call from Indonesia followed later by one from Thailand. I accepted the job in Thailand. Teaching overseas can easily change your life and you don't need a degree to do it! If you would like a copy of my ebook "Introduction to Teaching Overseas", contact me at

Robert W. Taylor

Dr. Robert Taylor has been teaching English in Thailand for close to ten years. He also teaches the online TESOL course for Sunbridge Institute of English http://www.teachesl.org

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