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

Nick Paul

Nick Paul

July 18, 2018 30 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

  8. Hi Nick,

    How are you doing?

    I have a national university diploma in HR and 120 TEFL certificate. I am currently in the process of completing a 2 year Post Graduate Certificate in Education, which in SA is considered on the same level as a B.ed. I would like to know if there are countries in Asia which I will qualify to teach in?

    • Nick Paul

      Hi Cal!

      Thanks so much for reaching out. I have chatted with our enrolments manager and he suggests that South Korea would be the easiest to get in to as they’re the most familiar with this qualification. When starting your enquiry with us I would suggest that you select that you have a diploma and that it’s in education. Just remember that you’ll need to have the certificate in hand in order to be offered a job usually.

  9. Hey, I hold a professional diploma in accountancy and am doing my TEFL online. Would I be able to teach in Thailand with this?

    • Nick Paul

      Hi Becky,

      thanks for reaching out, the current rules for our programs allow for anyone with a bachelors degree or a diploma/foundation degree/associate degree in education to qualify to teach at our network of partner schools.

      Unfortunately if you don’t hold either of those qualifications, for our program, you won’t qualify at this time.

  10. Hi Nick, recently one of my South African friends was rejected from the immigration in South Korea because she only had a 3-year degree. Is the new standard a 4 year degree? Or is it only related to South Africa.

    Would be glad if you could share some light.

    • Nick Paul

      Hey Mackenzie, typically a South African 3 year degree is accepted, so this sounds a little odd. I know the US do their bachelors degrees over 4 years, but almost all South African bachelors degrees are 3 years and we’ve had plenty of people go over on those without issue. The only time we’ve experienced issues have been with degrees from the University of the Free State where the authorities weren’t satisfied that the certificate was legitimate due to the printing process used which they felt may have been forged.

      It could be that your friend arrived without an apostilled degree, this process is essential to being allowed to work legally in Korea. With all our participants we work through each of these processes to allow you to work in Korea without incident.

      I hope this helped answer your question.

  11. Hi Nick, cheers for taking the time to answer all the previous questions. Would you happen to know whether it’s possible to legally teach in Thailand or China without a bachelor’s and only a masters in TESOL (awarded by university of Bath – UK). I also hold a CELTA, TEFL and TESOL certificate. Cheers

    • Nick Paul

      Hi James!

      For China, the rules are pretty strict in that a bachelors degree is required for the work permit. You will probably find some employers/agencies allowing employment without a bachelor’s degrees, these are almost universally dodgy deals where you’ll be handed a fake degree certificate upon arrival or be put on a student visa and made to work on the sly as part of the university you’d be affiliated with.

      There are China programs such as our internship program where you work for a set limited time as an ESL teaching intern, on an internship visa. This is legal as you aren’t earning more than a living stipend and don’t sign long term contracts as a teacher.

      For Thailand, the official line is that a bachelor’s degree is required in order to teach in Thailand. It’s something we have to abide by, however you may find ways of getting in without a bachelor’s degree – Thailand’s rules are notoriously bendy and are at best, partially enforced. This is often done by staying in the country illegally (because you’re employed) as a tourist and doing border runs every couple of months to renew that tourist visa at the border. Sometimes one can get some sort of affiliation with universities or school on a sort of student visa and work there like that. Most of it will not be above board and if you do (on fairly rare occasions) get stopped by officials you could be deported.

      Because of this elasticity of enforcement with the rules, we’d rather stay on the right side of the law and therefor only send over people who are eligible for a work permit, namely degree holders.

      Sorry I couldn’t have a clearer answer for you, but the situation in both countries is unfortunately murky when it comes to not-so-legal employment.

  12. Hi Nick,

    I do not hold a degree, however I have been an ESL teacher independently for a few years and have also worked for Berlitz Languages for ten years, having been voted Teacher of the Year with them in 1999. I have also worked for Princess Cruises for one year and although I technically lived onboard the ship, I was on and off the American coast weekly, working in an English-only environment. I have been permanently living in the USA since 2011 and currently hold a retail job and although I am succeeding at it, I miss teaching dearly, as I believe it to be my vocational calling. I also speak Portuguese and Spanish fluently and have intermediate skills in French and Italian. What are my chances of getting an ESL job in a country like Thailand or Japan?
    Thank you very much for your input.

    • Nick Paul

      Hi Katia,

      thanks for reaching out! For our Thailand program you will need a degree to take part – this is really down to what’s legally required for you to teach in the country. We can’t be involved in any schemes that place teachers illegally as it would put the rest of our program at risk, for those wanting to work legally. You may find jobs from time to time in Thailand which will take on non-degree holders either as a program through a university where you’re registered as a student there or which are illegally.

      What we could offer you is one of the following:

      1. Volunteer teaching in Thailand (a 1 month program):
      2. Volunteer teaching in Panama (it has a range of durations):
      3. Paid teaching in Myanmar (neighboring Thailand):

      If it’s a long term program which you’re after, Myanmar is a great option. It’s only recently opened its doors to the outside world and has tremendous growth potential it’s only starting to realize. This means there’s a big demand for English language skills to help kids gain the abilities during their school years, needed to find work later in the tourism business, or in international companies or to further their studies at a tertiary level.

      I can’t speak much for Japan as it’s not a program we offer, but my understanding is that they have similarly strict requirements to locations like South Korea where a bachelor’s degree is essential for work permit purposes.

      Hope this helps!

  13. im from the Philippines, i dont have bachelor degree, but i have TESOL certificate can i still teach english in other country?

    • Nick Paul

      Hi Mark, unfortunately none of our programs accept Philippine nationals. It should be possible though to teach abroad, unfortunately just not on one of our programs.

  14. Good day Nick

    I am 48 years of age, I have a national Diploma in Police Administration and have done other training courses as well. I am doing a TEFL course in Januarie 2019. Will I be able to to teach maybe in Maynmar? Or enter the volunteer teaching in Thailand?

    • Nick Paul

      Hi EL, thanks for reaching out.

      The volunteer in Thailand option would definitely be open to you, it’s obviously an unpaid program and there are program costs associated with it there.

      For teaching in Myanmar, it’s possible you could get placement through us there. Degree holders are preferred by the local schools, but there’s no law against hiring those without a degree. Usually though, for those coming without a degree, the schools we work with require applicants to do the in-country TESOL course which we offer, rather than an online course or one done elsewhere. This in-country course is designed to give you experience teaching in a Burmese classroom and ensure everyone is on the same level before they head off to teach abroad. Since diplomas vary greatly in content, education standard and so forth all over the world, this is a way for the schools to ensure everyone is ready to teach.

  15. Hi Nick,
    It seems having a Bachelor Degree is a good idea before teaching English in Thailand, but just to clarify, the Bachelor Degree can be any subject right?
    Plus i intend to obtain a CELTA or TESOL Certificate also.
    Is this correct?

    • Nick Paul

      Hey Keith, thanks for reaching out!

      You’re correct in that the bachelor’s degree can be in any subject. With regards to getting your certificate, if you’re doing yours independently (as in not doing the in-country TESOL course we offer with our program), I’d recommend doing TESOL or TEFL and not CELTA. CELTA is definitely not the preferred methodology for teaching Thai kids and isn’t generally liked by schools as it focusses on adult education with much more emphasis on grammar and professional English whereas the other two are more generally appropriate for kids and focus on spoken and written English at a more basic level.

      Hope this helps answer your question!


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