Can You Still Teach Overseas Without a Degree

It seems as though I get an email asking that question in an email almost every week. The answer is a ‘qualified’ yes… for now. More and more countries are not granting mystical teachings of jesus visas to anyone unless they have a degree. Some countries are more bureaucratic than others. Here is an example:

In Thailand, where I taught for 14 years, three ministries are involved in the process: Education, Immigration and Labour. You can’t teach officially without all of their stamps of approval. Let’s say you receive a job offer from a school in Thailand. What you then do is go to the nearest Thai embassy or consulate and get 3-month Non-Immigrant B visa. The ‘B’ allows you to travel to Thailand and work while your documents are being verified and processed. You also have to get a letter from your local police department stating that you are a good person and not on anybody’s wanted list. Once you get to Thailand, your school should be able to do most of the legwork for you…

If you are to be employed by a government, private or International school. Some employ so many foreign teachers that they have a specific department set up to process visas, renewals, etc. They send your papers to the Ministry of Education. Until that ministry approves them, you cannot get your work permit. Something for all aspiring teachers to note is that Thailand and some other countries are now demanding your original documents: Degree, transcripts, and diplomas. If you only bring over copies, you would face delays so always find out exactly what you need to bring. In South Korea, you can bring copies that have been certified by the nearest South Korean embassy or consulate.

BTW – the Ministries of Education are up to speed on diploma mill degrees so don’t even think about trying that route.

In some countries, there are still ways to teach without a degree.

Option 1: If you don’t have a degree and want to teach, there are opportunities in countries such as China, Vietnam and some Eastern European countries. I believe these will eventually tighten their requirements as well but for the moment, opportunities still exist though perhaps not in the larger centers. These change all the time so you would have to find out from the nearest embassy or consulate. Most of these would also be online. Having a TESOL or TEYL Certificate will help your cause.

Option 2: You can try to find a teaching position in a corporation. Almost all companies want their managers, supervisors and anyone who has to deal with overseas customers, suppliers, Head Office, branch offices, visiting dignitaries, etc., to be able to communicate in English. While many send their people to local English schools, some find it more cost-effective to hire in-house trainers. If you are lucky enough to fall into a corporate teaching job, you go a different route to get your government approvals, being added to their staff as a ‘specialist’ and a degree, while helpful, is not always a prerequisite. Having a TESOL Certificate (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) or TEFL Certificate (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) will definitely help. It shows that you have actual training that will benefit you in modern classrooms.

How would you find these opportunities? You could either search on the internet or take a trip over to the country and explore while there (presumably as a tourist). If you found a position while there, it might entail a trip out of the country and coming in on a different visa. Be prepared for that. Countries vary considerably in their requirements. If you happen to get an interview, be sure you ‘dress the part’. Look like a teacher. Have your resume ready, neat, grammatically correct and a photo on it (required overseas). Overseas teachers generally wear a suit and tie. Knee length skirt and a conservative blouse for ladies.

Option 3: Do you have specialized knowledge that a particular school might need? This might be as an aircraft technician, for example. If a company needed someone with your knowledge and skills, this would be another way that you could get hired as a ‘specialist’ with special dispensation for you to work/teach in the country.

Option 4: Contact organizations that are looking for volunteers to teach in certain countries. See what their education requirements are and ask for their advice. Maybe you can get on with them as and see what comes up while you are overseas. As a volunteer you would not usually get paid but accommodation and meals would be covered. Who knows what teaching opportunities might come up.

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