How Come You Don’t Need a Teaching Degree as an English Instructor Abroad?

teaching degree abroad
How come you need a teaching degree at a public school at home, but don't require one when teaching abroad?

Last Updated: Jul 6, 2017

How come you don’t need a teaching degree to teach English abroad?

How come you can be a TEFL teacher without having a teaching degree?

Sure, TEFL certification programs like CELTA prepare you in 4 weeks, but this isn’t the 2+ years you need to study for a teaching degree.

Actually, it’s a combination of several factors:

  • Occupational licensing
  • Public schools at home are more demanding
  • Higher demand, lower supply

Not to forget that each country also makes it’s own rules and guidelines as to who can teach there. Because the situation and pay scale varies by country, so do the requirements.

Occupational licensing limits the number of “professional” teachers

In my hometown, you can’t even cut hair without a license. In reality, it’s the same for most occupations. Plumbers, lawyers and physicians all need to be licensed to pursue their profession. It’s the same thing teachers who need a teaching degree in your home country.

esl worksheets

Occupational licensing is a regulatory body or standard that ensures the profession meets a certain standard. In reality, occupational licensing mostly just reduces the supply by keeping unlicensed individuals from working with the public. Because teaching English abroad isn’t regulated in most countries, the standard of acceptance is lower.

This doesn’t mean that all English teachers abroad aren’t to standard. It just means that it’s easier to become a TEFL teacher because there isn’t occupational licensing. English teachers abroad can gain valuable experience, as if they are teaching English at home. In other words, it prepares them with in-class experience if they want to pursue a teaching degree when they return to their home country.

Schools abroad are less demanding to teach English

Some argue that schools at home are far more demanding. It is a lot more paperwork. Teachers have to be involved with parents, writing curriculum and human development. Every school board has different curriculum and different expected learning outcomes teachers need to cover. The center of attention for teachers at home is to work in that specific school system.

Teaching degrees prepares you to understand pedagogy. That is, teachers have to be knowledgeable of the specific ways to teach in your field and psychology. When a student refuses to learn at home, it’s the teacher’s responsibility. Teaching English abroad doesn’t have as much liability.

Even if you have a four-week CELTA certificate, it doesn’t produce the caliber of teacher expected by many schools in your home country. However, this type of TEFL certification is sufficient for markets like China where the demand far exceeds supply. Besides, could countries abroad really fill in the positions they need for English language education?

Demand for teachers abroad far exceeds supply

Just like most things in life, the ESL industry is controlled by supply and demand. People demanding English lessons is greater than supply of qualified teachers.

TESOL certification international student

Certainly, school systems abroad prefer candidates with a teaching degree, but instead must settle for someone with a 120 hour TEFL certificate. Meanwhile, international schools only accept licensed teachers, or teachers with a number of years of experience.

Of course this does open up the argument about qualifications and what really makes a good teacher, but employers like qualifications. In TEFL, generally people who get into it are a bit more spontaneous and less committed. A lot of people want to do it for a year for the experience or as a way to see the world. TEFL certificates are initial qualification that introduces trainees to teaching skills and systems in one context.

Do you think teachers abroad require education degrees?

From teachers, we’ve heard both sides of the story:

For example, if you teach English in China for several years, you’re more prepared to be a “real” teacher back home. It’s just more paperwork, meetings, professional development, parent care, procedures that you can pick up in a month.

Alternatively, some teachers express that you can’t even compare teaching English abroad to teaching at home because of their differences.

What do you think?

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