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Why Do Some Countries Require a Degree to Teach English?

Work and visa requirements vary between countries, as do the expectations of employers. Read on to find out if you need a degree

For those of us who want to teach English, TEFL courses are available in varying shapes and sizes, and are helping more and more people to get the qualifications they need. Whether or not you need a degree does very much depend on where you want to go and how long you want to go for. Some countries will be happy with just a fluent English speaker, whereas some will need someone with a TEFL certificate and a degree. Here's why:


One of the main reasons you’ll need a degree is the long arm of the law. In Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia a work visa for teaching English requires a degree. It’s illegal to work and earn money on a tourist visa, so unfortunately no matter how great your passion for teaching is, you probably don’t want to risk working without the right visa.

Individual countries have individual needs and often legal requirements are the only way of making sure they achieve what’s best for the country. If they're already over populated, or just popular with English teachers, being a little stricter with their specifications may be the only way of limiting the number of applicants.

Higher paid jobs in countries like Japan and South Korea will receive a huge amount of interest and often the only way that schools can ensure they choose the right candidate is to insist on a degree. Fewer applications means more time to consider each application, so their choice of candidate may have nothing to do with their degree but they will be the right person for the job!

Level of English

Teachers around the globe will tell you that it’s a rewarding profession, but it’s no easy option. TEFL courses can have a steep learning curve if your grammar and English language skills are a bit rusty. It's surprising how much you can learn in a short period of time, but a career teaching abroad will require a whole host of skills that a degree and a more in-depth teaching course can prepare you for.

It's to this end that some schools will ask for teachers with degrees even if it’s not a legal requirement. Schools, rightly or wrongly, may assume that having a degree means you'll be a better teacher. The good news though is that they will often negotiate when it comes to this requirement, so you could still be in with a fighting chance in countries like China, Ecuador and Indonesia.


A degree in any discipline won’t necessarily prepare you for everything. But in the same way that a degree often means a better job at home, many countries take it as an indication that you’ve taken more time to develop your skills. Knowledge is power, so make sure you know all of the requirements of your chosen country before you put pen to paper.


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