What Qualifications Do I Need to Teach English Abroad?

on January 26, 2017

So you want to explore the world, make a difference to the lives of those in the communities in which you work and get paid to do so? Teaching English abroad is a great way to tick all these boxes. But what qualifications do you need in order to get started? This is a question we at TravelBud get asked a LOT! And it’s a great question because there’s not exactly a simple answer. Let’s explore everything you might need in order to be able to teach English abroad.

Do I need teaching experience?

Short answer: No, you don’t.

Most placement locations don’t require you to have any prior teach experience, let alone any English teaching experience. Countries like Thailand, Colombia, Vietnam and South Korea all accept applicants with no prior teaching experience. The same applies for teaching English in China for certain locations like Shanghai, provided you’re a Canadian, American, Irish, British, Australian or New Zealand citizen. Other locations like China’s highest paying one, Beijing, require prior English teaching experience; also citizens of South Africa will require prior English teaching experience to enroll in the China program.

Do I need a teaching degree/diploma?

Short answer: No, you don’t.

While teachers with teaching qualifications, especially those at a degree-level are quickly snapped up by teach abroad programs, it’s not a requirement to be able to teach English abroad in almost all the popular locations.

Do I need a TESOL/TEFL certificate?

Short answer: Yes, almost always.

A TESOL/TEFL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certificate is mandatory for almost all teach abroad destinations where you’ll be teaching English to non-first-language speakers. Some countries like South Korea will accept applicants without a TESOL, but only if they have a teaching qualification. The good news is that, at least with most of our programs, you can do a TESOL qualification as part of the program. Regardless though, a certification like this is hugely helpful, particularly if it’s tailored to a specific teach abroad destination, as it prepares you not just for the different techniques you’ll need when dealing with non-first language speakers but also for how to deal with specific cultural differences which are crucial to being respected and to making a difference in the lives of your students.

Some programs like teach English in Thailand and teach English in Vietnam have in-country, in-class TESOLs where you spend 120 hours, spread over 3 or so weeks in a classroom, with an instructor in the country you’re going to be teaching in. With a program like teaching English in South Korea, we’ve got a highly respected online TESOL course which you can do to ensure you’re properly certified for the very specific requirements the Korean government has for foreign teachers. Programs like Colombia and China require you to do your own TESOL course independently. If you already have a TESOL/TEFL certificate, you can still enroll in one of our programs as we have placement-only options which include everything in the all inclusive program option, except for the TESOL course.

Do I need a degree?

Short answer: Almost always, yes.

For many programs a bachelor’s degree is required, especially for China, Vietnam and Colombia. For South Korea, the highest paying programs all require you to have a bachelor’s degree and can be quite particular about you having done all your studies in English. There are sometimes alternative programs in South Korea which require one of either a bachelor’s degree, a diploma, an associate degree or 2 years undergraduate study as part of a bachelor’s degree, these aren’t always available unfortunately, so just inquire to find out if one is currently running. Volunteer teaching in Thailand has the lowest requirements where no tertiary study is required to enroll – just be warned though that bachelor’s degrees are needed the regular Teach English in Thailand programs.

Does it matter what my degree is in?

Short answer: No

It doesn’t matter what your degree was in, we’ve had lawyers, engineers, psychologists, geneticists, teachers and designers (to name but a few) who’ve all applied to teach English overseas before. Potential employers abroad are really just interested in the degree as a sign of intelligence, work ethic and reliability.

Can I apply while I’m still studying?

Short answer: Some of the time, yes.

For some programs where a bachelor’s degree is required, you’ll need to be able to send a copy of your degree when applying. So, if you don’t have it yet, that will pose a problem. However many programs will allow you to apply without having your degree on hand, so long as you’re able to supply it within a few weeks of departing or by when you apply for your visa. We suggest you contact us to check how it works for the program you’re interested in.

Do you accept all nationalities?

Short answer: No

Most teach abroad destinations the world over accept applicants who are citizens of majority English-speaking countries only, the list of nationalities is limited to Canada, USA, Ireland, United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. If you are not a citizen of one of these countries you cannot enroll to teach English abroad on any of our programs. These requirements are not set by ourselves but rather by the immigration departments of the countries in which the teach abroad programs operate. Unfortunately the rules are pretty inflexible in this regard, so just be aware that if you don’t hold any of the above citizenships your application will be rejected outright.

Interested in Teaching English Abroad? We’ll send you more info!



You might also want to read:

About Nick Paul

Nick is the Marketing Manager for Travelbud and has had a long history in the travel industry working in student travel and even a big multinational online travel agency.

He regularly presents at travel conferences and has spent a great deal of time traveling the world from the US to Europe, Africa and most recently South East Asia.

Nick is super passionate about travel and his best travel memories include his recent trip to Vietnam, Thailand and South Korea to meet face-to-face with some of TravelBud’s teachers.

Read more about him and other TravelBud authors.

Filed under  Teacher Talk 


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  1. Gerda

    Hi there!
    I still don’t know what the first course is that i have to complete in order for me to be able to teach abroad?
    Please excuse my ignorance, but I don’t know what to Google anymore to just find out WHERE DO I START
    Kind regards 🙂

    • Nick Paul

      Hi Gerda,

      thanks for reaching out. The qualification you’ll need depends on where you’re going to teach. Generally though most teach abroad programs require you to hold a bachelor’s degree in any field for you to be considered. Then what you’ll need is a TEFL or TESOL or CELTA certification. Most countries accept courses done online but there are some like Vietnam which insist on the course being conducted fully in a classroom with an instructor. I would recommend that you do a course of at least 120 hours as that is the minimum requirements for almost every program.

      Some of our programs include a TESOL course, either in-class or online depending on the program, these programs are for teaching English in Thailand, Vietnam and South Korea. For other programs like China and Colombia you’ll need to have done your TESOL/TEFL/CELTA course independently.

      If you’d like to chat to our program coordinators for more guidance, you can do that by clicking here: https://travelbud.com/quick-inquiry/

      – Nick

  2. Linda Russell

    Does it matter what school your bachelor’s degree is from? I’m going to a private college that’s probably unknown everywhere in the world except my local area. I haven’t been able to find any information about this anywhere, so would greatly appreciate it if you can she’s some light.

    • Nick Paul

      Hi Linda! Thanks for reaching out. It shouldn’t matter where the qualification is from, so long as it’s valid and accredited. Most private colleges will have their degrees accredited through an independent and recognised academic body of sorts, so it should be okay.

      Maybe get in touch with our program coordinators to chat through the requirements in more detail, do this by clicking here and requesting a call back if you like: https://travelbud.com/quick-inquiry/

      All the best with planning this adventure!

  3. Brightness

    Does the teaching in Thailand program accept Diploma holders? Which other programs may accept this qualification?

    • Nick Paul


      Thanks for reaching out. Currently in Thailand the only way to legally work in the country is on a work permit. Work permits for teaching are only issued to those holding an accredited TEFL/TESOL certificate and Bachelor’s Degree. Unfortunately diploma holders do not qualify to work in Thailand and we are no longer able to accept them on to our programs without breaking the law.


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