Teaching English online without a degree

A TEFL course is ideal for those wanting to enter the online teaching industry. It deals with not only the practicalities of teaching, but also about setting yourself up, how to deliver online lessons and how to market yourself.

Any career in teaching automatically assumes the involvement of formal qualifications, which is usually correct. But is this still completely accurate? In fact, education is not the be all and end all of teaching English, especially if you’re doing it online. It’s easier if you have a BA degree, but not having one isn’t prohibitive. You might have skills which aren’t reflected in assessed grades. But if you don’t have a degree, is that going to affect your chances of teaching English online? The short answer is – yes, it is. It’s going to be more difficult for you than for others with a degree, but it’s not impossible. It just cuts your options right down. If you’re in this situation then it’s essential that you do your research to avoid wasting time applying for jobs that you are ineligible for. Here are some points that help to explain the TEFL market.

Why is a degree required by some companies?

Often this is mainly to do with having a visa. A lot of countries require their teachers to have at least a BA degree before they can apply for a work visa. It’s a practical step rather than a punitive one.

As an example, China holds the world’s biggest TEFL market, including online and lots of big online platforms are based there. At the start of 2019, things changed in China. Their Ministry of Education brought in changes which now require prospective teachers to have a 120 hour TEFL qualification from an accredited provider AND a BA degree on top of that. The reason being that it’s more in line with visa requirements. And if China is leading the way then you can be sure that most of the western world will follow. The reality is as someone who wants to work teaching EFL, there will be far fewer opportunities to take up.

However, that doesn’t have to be the end of your aspirations, there are options. You can still teach English without a degree, you just have to know where to look for these opportunities and make sure that you’re in the strongest position possible for securing the job that you have your eye on.

What if English isn’t my first language?

Clearly it goes without saying that fluency in English is a must for teaching it, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a barrier to preclude non-native speakers from teaching it. However, as a non-native English speaker without a degree, you will have to work exponentially harder to become successfully employed within this market and it’s much more than a challenge. In fact, it’s a huge challenge, but jobs do exist for someone in this position.

As a non-native you can expect testing for proficiency in the English language, plus other positive indicators that you have a firm grasp of the English language.

What do I actually need to teach English online?

As a basic requirement you will need at least 120 hour TEFL qualification. If you want to have a chance at getting a decent job then this is essential without a degree.

Choosing the right TEFL course

The TEFL qualification is an extremely popular one and you’ll find a plethora of options for completing a course in it. Unfortunately, these include cut price courses which claim to equip you with a TEFL qualification, but actually are not worth the paper they’re written on. Examples include courses through sites and apps like Wowcher or Groupon and by taking one of these you are actually costing yourself, rather than increasing your chances of employment TEFL. Why?

  • There are often hidden fees buried in their Ts and Cs.
  • They lack decent accreditation which means that potential employers won’t recognise it and therefore you’ll be ineligible for the vast majority of jobs because a lack of accreditation means a lack of quality control.

To help your chances, spend time on perfecting your CV to stand out. But be aware that if it comes down to you having a TEFL qualification but someone else has the same plus a degree, they will be in the stronger position, so think carefully about which jobs you should aim for.

Competing with those who have a degree

One way to do this is to complete an advanced TEFL qualification which goes beyond the required 120 hour one. It’s worth bearing in mind that it isn’t necessarily the time learning that you’re gaining, it can also allow you to develop one specific part of your skill set. So not all about hours, it’s about relevant experience – like teaching English online.

That said, an advanced TEFL course can make your CV stand out because it demonstrates particular skills to your potential employer which will benefit them. There’s no rule that you can rely on for accessing online teaching platforms, building up your own business can be a very sound way to go if you want to TEFL without a degree.  Marketing your services online through your own website can lead to a position earning a full time income. The benefits to this include:

  • No degree needed
  • No commission to pay, 100% of your fee is retained by you
  • You have full control over your schedule and hours and you are free to fit them in and around existing commitments in your life.

So while becoming an English teacher working online without a degree isn’t the easiest option, it certainly isn’t impossible. The key to this is research your market thoroughly, careful preparation and presentation to showcase the skills that you have to make you a good candidate for the position and tenacity. If you have knock backs and rejections, you’ll just have to pick yourself up and try again until you get where you want to be.