Do I Need a Bachelor’s Degree to Teach English Abroad?

Nick Paul

Nick Paul

July 18, 2018 14 Comments

If that travel bug has bitten you and you yearn to make a big change in your life, ditching your 9-5 in favor of a global adventure, you’ve probably considered teaching English abroad. Many people, maybe like you, with this dream don’t have degrees for a variety of reasons: you’re too young and are just on a gap year, you couldn’t afford one or perhaps you decided to shun the crowds and do things your own way, hoping to be the next Zuckerberg, Jobs or Assange.

But you’ve probably heard that you might need a bachelor’s degree to qualify. So let’s explore this and get your questions answered!

teacher in Thailand with students

Degrees might not be required for Thailand, but they do often make getting a job easier.

So how important is it to have a degree?

In most circumstances the requirements to teach English overseas will include a bachelor’s degree. This is particularly true of destinations like Thailand, Vietnam, China, South Korea and Colombia among others where a bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite to signing up and being offered a job.

A lot of the time the local governments set these rules but occasionally it’s the schools or language centers who set this requirement and with the sheer number of degree-holding applicants applying, particularly from North America, there is no short supply of qualified would-be teachers.

Ho Chi Minh City City Hall Vietnam

Vietnam is an exciting destination to teach in – one catch though, you will need a bachelor’s degree to qualify to teach here.

I’m still waiting for my degree certificate, can I apply?

Perhaps you’re in the process of completing your degree or perhaps you’re graduating soon but haven’t received your certificate yet. That’s not usually a problem, so long as you have it by the time you’re ready a few weeks prior to starting your job.

Countries like Thailand and Vietnam might require you to have it 6 weeks or more prior to starting, South Korea will require you to be in possession of one in order for you to start interviewing and Colombia usually requires you to have your certificate in possession when you apply.

Women in traditional dress walk in South korea

South Korea is a country where ancient tradition and a high tech modern lifestyle collide. You’ll (almost always) require a degree to teach English here.

Is there anywhere that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree?


One of our newest and most exciting programs won’t require you to hold a bachelor’s degree to teach there: Teaching English in Myanmar. Sandwiched between Thailand, India, Bangladesh and China, Myanmar is an country full of unique culture, mysterious ancient ruins and stunning scenery.

The striking Dhammayazika Pagoda , Myanmar

While Myanmar had been shut off from the outside world until recently, it recently opened it’s doors to foreigners and is looking to attract many English teachers to help it grow it’s tourism business and provide a better future to it’s citizens from employment to study abroad opportunities for which the ability to speak English is a necessity.

While bachelor’s degrees are preferred, non-degree holders are regularly accepted to teach here also. This makes Myanmar a great option for anyone wanting to use the country as a springboard to explore the region, whether that be a wild weekend in Bangkok or wandering around India’s Taj Mahal or even hiking in the Himalayas. Myanmar is a great option!


[UPDATE: 2018: You are now required to hold a bachelor’s degree to teach English in Thailand, except for if you’re joining the volunteer teach program]

Out of all the destinations, one of the most exciting doesn’t require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree in order to teach there. That’s right, you can volunteer teach English in Thailand without a bachelor’s degree! They require a minimum of you being 20 years or older, you’ve completed high school (grade 12) are a native English speaker with a good command of spoken and written English with a clean criminal record and hold citizenship of one of 7 countries plus the EU.

Teachers in Thailand posing at the base of a giant Buddha statue

Thailand is a destination which is usually open to hiring teachers without Bachelor’s degrees. You’ll need to have excellent command of the English language though!

Why is a degree so important for teaching English abroad?

Well for one it’s a quick way for employers to see the calibre of person they’re getting. While not all hard working people hold degrees, most degree holders would have proven their ability to work hard having put in the time and dedication to complete a degree. It also shows employers a level of intelligence as most bachelor’s degrees have high requirements for enrollment and for passing and are regulated to some sort of internationally recognized standard.

It will also show them that you have the ability to communicate effectively; having completed written assignments, presentations and exams in English means you know how to explain yourself to others. Finally though, the parents of the children you’ll be teaching and sometimes the students themselves (particularly if you’re teaching adults) want peace of mind that the often high fees they’re paying to have their kids taught are securing the highest calibre teachers.

Teacher with her students in Thailand

Tebello, pictured here, had a BA degree with honours in English. While not 100% necessary for teaching in Thailand, it certainly didn’t hurt her chances of getting a job

What about diplomas, associate and foundation degrees?

While these often require you to do just as much work as a bachelor’s degree unfortunately they’re just not held in as high regard internationally. There are a number of reasons for this, particularly that colleges offering these aren’t required to be kept to the same internationally recognized standards as those offering bachelor’s degrees.

Courses can vary wildly in terms of standard and requirements for both enrollment and passing and it makes judging the quality of the certificate really difficult. This means that schools in general, the world over, have a blanket rule of not accepting diplomas and associate degrees as a qualifying certificate.

If, however, you hold a tertiary qualification in education/teaching, which is not a bachelor’s degree, please apply you may qualify! These are sometimes accepted as you can demonstrate you understand some basics of teaching.


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


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  1. Why do I need Tefol if I have a degree?

    • Nick Paul

      Hi Yeshantha, thanks for reaching out!

      You’ll need a TESOL, TEFL or CELTA certification to teach abroad as these courses prepare you to teach English to speakers of other languages. This can be quite different from teaching English to those who are first language English speakers. Almost all private language schools and much of the public schools in the countries we place teachers in require applicants to hold one of these certificates in order to qualify for a job there.

      The certificate will help with many smaller details around dealing with presenting English to your students, from presenting sounds to grammar to vocabulary, a TESOL certificate (or similar) will prepare you for these tasks. Added to that, we have TESOL courses in South Korea, Vietnam and Thailand which are tailored specifically to teaching speakers of the local language in that country and will detail things like common mistakes Korean speakers make with pronunciation and why and how to overcome that. Or perhaps a common word order error Vietnamese speakers make and how to explain the concept to them effectively.

      I hope this helps answer your question 🙂

  2. Is a Bachelor’s degree still not a legal requirement to teach English in Thailand?

    I’ve conducted some personal research on the web and a lot of forums are stating that it’s required by law to have a degree in order to obtain a work permit in Thailand these days. However, these forums also state that there are loopholes one can take at their own risk, such as buying official-looking Bachelor’s degrees online.

    I don’t have a degree, nor do I have the resources to obtain one. However, I have a TESOL certificate and would love to teach in Thailand.

    • Nick Paul

      Hi Aubrey, thanks for reaching out!

      You are correct in saying that legally one needs a bachelor’s degree to be able to teach English in Thailand – I think we should update the post to include this.

      Our organization and local partners in Thailand have a long history of successfully placing non-degree holders however. Every year, about 30% of the teachers we place do not possess bachelor degrees. Many stay for years and years. Some settle permanently in Thailand teaching as non-degree holders. Overall in Thailand, there are an estimated 5,000 non-degree holders teaching English across the country.

      Many visa types are temporary, which means that teachers will have to make regular visa trips (trips crossing the border into another country). The options are outlined below:
      1. The tourist visa is a main way that teachers without degrees work
      2. Volunteer Visas and Research Visas are also becoming more popular and they are legitimate but it is not guaranteed that the agent or school can provide this.
      3. About 20% of non-degree holders may actually get work permits. They are able to do this through local relationships between the school and labor department.

      So to answer your question, yes, technically it’s illegal to work in Thailand, but the Thai was is often not to enforce the rules. So while technically you could be deported for working illegally without a degree, for the vast majority of non-degree holders, things have worked out fine for years and show not much in the way of signs of changing seriously.

      We do however always try to keep on top of the latest developments and will notify our participants and applicants of any serious changes which might occur.

      Hope this helps!

  3. Hi Nick

    I have a three-year diploma in journalism from a university in South Africa. I have work experience in the communications field, and would need to complete an additional year of study to obtain my BTech degree (at the same institution). Would a BTech enable me to get a teaching job in Asia (if I do a TEFL course as well)? Do they recognize these degrees? Or will I have to start from scratch and get a BA.


    • Nick Paul

      Hey Lee, most programs in Asia accept a bachelor’s degree or higher from any field, that can be in the form of a BA, BEd, BSc, BMed, BEng, BTech or any other recognised Bachelor’s degree. So I don’t think you’d need to start a new degree from scratch.

      If you’d like to make enquiries about one of our programs, just click here to get in touch with one of our program coordinators, they have all taught abroad themselves as well:

  4. Hi Nick,

    I have a national Diploma in analytical chemistry and multiple certificates because of my work. I know that this qualification is higher than a normal diploma course. I was wondering would I still have to complete my btech or can I still obtain a visa with my qualification?

    • Nick Paul

      Hi Roche, thanks for reaching out!

      For Vietnam, South Korea and Thailand, a full Bachelor Degree is required in order to work legally as a teacher in those countries. With your qualifications, it sounds like you may qualify for our Teach English in Myanmar program where a Bachelor Degree isn’t required. For more on this program, visit:

      If you complete your BTech, you definitely will have a bunch more options open to you in terms of teaching abroad.

  5. Good day Nick,

    I am considering teaching abroad.

    I completed my LLB (law) at an university in South Africa.

    Does this degree count toward proving that I have the “skills” employers want?

    Thank you in advance.

    • Nick Paul

      Hi Harmann, thanks for reaching out! Yes, an LLB should be accepted, you certainly wouldn’t be the first LLB holder to teach English abroad. As for my knowledge on the subject the B in LLB stands for Baccalaureus, the same B as in a BCom or BA which are accepted for teach abroad programs – so, so long as your certificate stipulates your degree level, you should be fine.

      Just click that Enquire Now button and reach out to our enrolments team for them to assist, select on the form there that you have a bachelors degree and you can talk through your options with them based on the degree you have.

      All the best!

  6. Hi Harmann,

    My husband and I are both considering completing a TEFL course and teaching abroad… However, only I hold a degree… Would it be possible for us to start in a country that doesn’t require a degree and for him to complete a degree online and then teach in one of those countries? Would teaching experience count and allow him to teach without a degree in the long term? We would lile to do this long term and visit a variety of countries before settling down in one of them, but I feel not having a degree limits us a lot…p

    • Nick Paul

      Hey Alex, thanks for reaching out.

      You could definitely consider teaching in Myanmar where a bachelor’s degree is not required, you’d both like be able to get positions, provided you hold citizenship for one of the following countries: Canada, USA, Ireland, UK, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand.

      Myanmar is currently the only country where one can legally work as a teacher without a degree. It is occasionally possible in Thailand but the authorities have seriously clamped down on it, making us very hesitant to send teachers there.

      Click the Enquire Now button and reach out to our enrolments team for their advice also. They’ll be happy to help!

  7. hi I have a Journalism diploma so I would like to know if do I have any chances to teach English abroad, and if yes which country would you recommend?

    • Nick Paul

      Hi Loiso!

      Thanks for reaching out. You may qualify to teach English in Myanmar, currently they accept some applicants who don’t hold bachelor’s degrees.

      Click the Enquire Now button to reach out to our enrolments team to chat through your options.

      – Nick


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