Requirements To Teach English Abroad: 10 Questions Answered

Kirsten Colquhoun
July 6, 2023

Table of Contents

    Introduction
  • Teaching abroad requirements
  • TEFL certification
  • Visa requirements
  • Bachelor’s degree requirements
  • English fluency requirements
  • Teaching experience
  • Start-up capital
  • Local language
  • Age requirements
  • Country-specific requirements
  • Preparing yourself
  • Start your TEFL journey
Join over 200,000 TEFL teachers making a difference around the world! Download TEFL Factbook Explore TEFL Courses
    Summary
  • TEFL certification is the basic requirement for teaching English abroad.
  • You usually need some kind of a visa when travelling.
  • The majority of countries require some form of Bachelor’s degree or a 4-year diploma to qualify you for a working visa.
  • If you’re a non-native speaking teacher, you’ll be required to prove your level of English.
  • The majority of TEFL employers are happy with new teachers.

If hopping on a plane to find your next adventure sounds just up your alley, you should definitely be considering teaching English as a foreign language abroad. 

Teaching English abroad allows you to travel the world, live your best life, and earn money while you’re doing it. There is no other career which gives you the opportunity for travel that TEFL does – and this is just one of many reasons we love teaching English abroad.

Read more: 5 Reasons To Quit Your 9-5 And Become A TEFL Teacher

Requirements for teaching English abroad

But how can I teach English abroad, we hear you ask? 

Well, that’s a very good question – and luckily for you, we’re the perfect people to help you on your merry TEFL way.

We have seen over 200,000 graduates step through our virtual doors and move onto living their dreams by trusting us with their TEFL journey. 

Our TEFL courses are accredited, internationally recognised and widely acclaimed all over the world. We have graduates from Sweden and Singapore and Scotland  living and teaching in Bali and Brazil and Bulgaria – and everywhere in-between. 

So, how can we help you?

Let’s start by looking at the requirements to teach English abroad.

Do I need TEFL certification to teach abroad?

The easy answer is yes. TEFL certification is the basic requirement for teaching English abroad. While you might be able to find a job teaching abroad with a teaching degree but without a TEFL certificate, these jobs are hard to come by. And to be honest, stepping into an EFL classroom without a TEFL course under your belt isn’t our idea of fun. 

If you don’t have a degree (it doesn’t matter in what field) then getting TEFL-qualified is vital. The reasons for this are two-fold: to act as a teaching qualification on your CV, and to teach you how to teach.

If you have a degree, it’s still advisable to do a TEFL course. Being able to speak a language doesn’t mean you have the skills to teach a language. For this reason, most TEFL employers won’t look twice at a CV without TEFL certification.

What about visa requirements?

If you’ve travelled before you’ll know that you usually need some kind of a visa when travelling. Of course, it depends what passport you carry and where you are travelling to but most times you apply for a tourist visa before you go on holiday. This can be done online, through an embassy, and sometimes on arrival.

If you want to teach in a foreign country, you won’t need a tourist visa but rather a working visa, but the specifics of the visa you need depends on the countries in question – both your nationality and the destination country.

The best way to find out the true visa requirements for a country is to contact the embassy. Find the local branch of the embassy of the country you are going to and ask them what the specific requirements are for working as a teacher there. They’ll be able to tell you exactly what documents you need and how to go about applying for a visa to teach English.

More and more, there are agencies that can take you through the application process. Though they will charge some sort of fee, it’s not a bad idea if you are anxious about your visa situation.

Can I teach without a Bachelor’s degree?

You can, but it’s not as easy. 

The requirement for a degree for a visa depends on the country you are travelling to. The majority of countries require some form of Bachelor’s degree or a 4-year diploma to qualify you for a working visa. 

Bear in mind, this degree can be in any field.

For those who don’t yet have a degree, you can volunteer teach or do an internship. 

Another option is to teach English online. As a remote worker you may be eligible for a Digital Nomad Visa of the country you want to live in. These visas often require proof of employment or income, but they allow you to work online regardless of your other qualifications.

Read more: The Digital Nomad Visa: A Ticket To Your Best Life

Can I teach English as a non-native speaker?

Absolutely.

Being a native speaker does hold some sway in some countries but generally speaking, employers realise that being able to speak a language doesn’t equate to being able to teach a language.

Non-native speakers connect with their EFL students because they have walked the same journey to learning English. They can explain concepts in a manner which makes sense to learners, while native speakers often struggle to explain grammatical rules and natural tendencies.

If you’re a non-native English speaking teacher, you’ll be required to prove your level of English. This can be done by showing you’ve had schooling in an English-medium institution, or by doing an English test such as IELTS and scoring at C1 level or above. Employers will want to interview you to make sure your accent is not difficult to understand.

Read more: TEFL Jobs For Non-Native Speakers

Is teaching experience always required?

Certainly not.

A TEFL course prepares you thoroughly to step into the classroom. It teaches you how to analyse your students’ needs, write appropriate lesson plans, and source relevant materials. You learn theories of learning, and teaching techniques which allow you to carry out your lessons effectively.

To be sure, some higher-paid jobs require some teaching experience, but the majority of TEFL employers are happy with new teachers. If necessary, TEFL employers provide training for their new teachers so they understand the policies and procedures of the school or company. 

Generally speaking, regardless of whether you have been teaching for 10 days or 10 years, new teachers are observed by other teachers who have been at this place of work for a longer time.

How much capital do I need?

How long is a piece of string?

Before you even start looking for jobs, you will need to consider the cost of your TEFL certificate. A TEFL course with The TEFL Academy is known to be good value for money. Plus, if you keep your eyes open you might be able to jump on one of our many sales!

But when it comes to moving and living abroad, how much money you need to start out depends on many factors:

  • Which city you want to teach in
  • Which part of that city you want to live in
  • Your entertainment habits
  • Whether you’re happy eating street food or cooking at home or if you prefer to eat at western-style restaurants
  • When you will be paid for the first time
  • If you’re paying for accommodation or if it’s provided and/or subsidised
  • If you need to cover the cost of your flights

Once you’ve ascertained the cost of your relocation and the cost of living until your first paycheque, this should give you a good idea of how much capital you need.

READ MORE: Start-Up Costs For Prospective TEFL Teachers: How Much To Budget For?

Do I need to know the local language?

Definitely not. 

The basis of teaching English as a foreign language is teaching learners English through English. Studies have shown that language learners learn best through immersion learning, which is exactly what TEFL teachers do.

When TEFL teachers know the language of their students, it can hinder the learning process. For example, if a British teacher was teaching in Madrid and they made use of Spanish-English translation during their lessons, their students will never learn to predict meaning or use contextual clues to understand a word. And what’s going to happen when they can’t read a train timetable in London? Their teacher certainly won’t be there.

Using translation can be a crutch for students. It’s better they learn how to solve their own difficulties as they come up. When dictionaries are used, monolingual dictionaries are the best bet for the same reason.

Read more: Can I Teach English In China If I Don’t Speak Chinese? Yes!

Is there an age limit to teach English abroad?

Not strictly speaking, no. 

While some countries may have a cap on the age of applicants for work visas, your age doesn’t matter when it comes to your TEFL job.

Indeed, many employers appreciate more mature teachers as they have life experience, and possibly teaching experience too.

Read more: Mature Teachers: Is There An Age Limit For Teaching English Abroad?

Are there any other country-specific requirements?

Of course, there may be other requirements which are country-specific. It is up to you to find out exactly what is required in order to apply for a visa and enter a country.

Here are a few examples of what might be required.

1. Health checks

Some countries require that you undergo a health check. This might need to be done as part of the visa process, or it might be done once you arrive in the country.

2. Background checks

Many countries require background checks for visa purposes. It’s not uncommon and usually not complicated to get, though it may take a while to process.

South Africans, for example, can apply for police clearance for a small fee from their local police station. US teachers usually need an FBI check, while UK teachers need a background check.  

3. Drug tests

Some countries might require you to take a drug test. This could be when applying for your visa, before leaving the country, or when arriving in your new country.

4. Professional references

As with any job, your future employer may ask for professional references during your application process. Don’t take this lightly – they really do contact them!

How can I prepare myself for teaching in a foreign country, both professionally and personally??

Teaching in a foreign country is an adventure, but it can be daunting at the same time. Especially if this is your first time abroad, or your first solo adventure abroad, you might wonder what to expect. 

First of all, we’re here to tell you that nerves are normal. It can be a big adjustment so it makes sense that you feel a bit uncomfortable about the whole situation. There is a lot to keep in mind, so it can be exciting and stressful in equal measures. 

From a personal standpoint, make sure all your paperwork is in order. Keep organised and be on top of your finances and admin to make your move as seamless as possible. 

Prepare yourself for culture shock and the fact that it won’t be all butterflies and roses all the time. This makes the adaptation easier.

Professionally, make sure you are fully prepared to step into the classroom. Pack whatever materials you think you may need, but be smart about your packing – there’s no need for the kitchen sink!

Will this be your next adventure?

We don’t see why not! If you’re seeking a new and exciting adventure, look no further! The possibilities are endless when you embark on a journey with TEFL. We believe that there is no reason why this shouldn’t be your next great adventure!

Enrol today in our TEFL courses and sign up for the adventure of a lifetime.

Meet The Author

Kirsten Colquhoun

Kirsten Colquhoun is the Content Manager for The TEFL Academy. A graduate of Cambridge University and DELTA-qualified, she first started teaching kindergarten in Thailand in 2003. A South African, she has also taught in China, the UK, Spain, Qatar and South Africa, but these days she is a teacher trainer and freelance writer and editor.

Table of Contents

    Introduction
  • Teaching abroad requirements
  • TEFL certification
  • Visa requirements
  • Bachelor’s degree requirements
  • English fluency requirements
  • Teaching experience
  • Start-up capital
  • Local language
  • Age requirements
  • Country-specific requirements
  • Preparing yourself
  • Start your TEFL journey
    Summary
  • TEFL certification is the basic requirement for teaching English abroad.
  • You usually need some kind of a visa when travelling.
  • The majority of countries require some form of Bachelor’s degree or a 4-year diploma to qualify you for a working visa.
  • If you’re a non-native speaking teacher, you’ll be required to prove your level of English.
  • The majority of TEFL employers are happy with new teachers.

If hopping on a plane to find your next adventure sounds just up your alley, you should definitely be considering teaching English as a foreign language abroad. 

Teaching English abroad allows you to travel the world, live your best life, and earn money while you’re doing it. There is no other career which gives you the opportunity for travel that TEFL does – and this is just one of many reasons we love teaching English abroad.

Read more: 5 Reasons To Quit Your 9-5 And Become A TEFL Teacher

Requirements for teaching English abroad

But how can I teach English abroad, we hear you ask? 

Well, that’s a very good question – and luckily for you, we’re the perfect people to help you on your merry TEFL way.

We have seen over 200,000 graduates step through our virtual doors and move onto living their dreams by trusting us with their TEFL journey. 

Our TEFL courses are accredited, internationally recognised and widely acclaimed all over the world. We have graduates from Sweden and Singapore and Scotland  living and teaching in Bali and Brazil and Bulgaria – and everywhere in-between. 

So, how can we help you?

Let’s start by looking at the requirements to teach English abroad.

Do I need TEFL certification to teach abroad?

The easy answer is yes. TEFL certification is the basic requirement for teaching English abroad. While you might be able to find a job teaching abroad with a teaching degree but without a TEFL certificate, these jobs are hard to come by. And to be honest, stepping into an EFL classroom without a TEFL course under your belt isn’t our idea of fun. 

If you don’t have a degree (it doesn’t matter in what field) then getting TEFL-qualified is vital. The reasons for this are two-fold: to act as a teaching qualification on your CV, and to teach you how to teach.

If you have a degree, it’s still advisable to do a TEFL course. Being able to speak a language doesn’t mean you have the skills to teach a language. For this reason, most TEFL employers won’t look twice at a CV without TEFL certification.

What about visa requirements?

If you’ve travelled before you’ll know that you usually need some kind of a visa when travelling. Of course, it depends what passport you carry and where you are travelling to but most times you apply for a tourist visa before you go on holiday. This can be done online, through an embassy, and sometimes on arrival.

If you want to teach in a foreign country, you won’t need a tourist visa but rather a working visa, but the specifics of the visa you need depends on the countries in question – both your nationality and the destination country.

The best way to find out the true visa requirements for a country is to contact the embassy. Find the local branch of the embassy of the country you are going to and ask them what the specific requirements are for working as a teacher there. They’ll be able to tell you exactly what documents you need and how to go about applying for a visa to teach English.

More and more, there are agencies that can take you through the application process. Though they will charge some sort of fee, it’s not a bad idea if you are anxious about your visa situation.

Can I teach without a Bachelor’s degree?

You can, but it’s not as easy. 

The requirement for a degree for a visa depends on the country you are travelling to. The majority of countries require some form of Bachelor’s degree or a 4-year diploma to qualify you for a working visa. 

Bear in mind, this degree can be in any field.

For those who don’t yet have a degree, you can volunteer teach or do an internship. 

Another option is to teach English online. As a remote worker you may be eligible for a Digital Nomad Visa of the country you want to live in. These visas often require proof of employment or income, but they allow you to work online regardless of your other qualifications.

Read more: The Digital Nomad Visa: A Ticket To Your Best Life

Can I teach English as a non-native speaker?

Absolutely.

Being a native speaker does hold some sway in some countries but generally speaking, employers realise that being able to speak a language doesn’t equate to being able to teach a language.

Non-native speakers connect with their EFL students because they have walked the same journey to learning English. They can explain concepts in a manner which makes sense to learners, while native speakers often struggle to explain grammatical rules and natural tendencies.

If you’re a non-native English speaking teacher, you’ll be required to prove your level of English. This can be done by showing you’ve had schooling in an English-medium institution, or by doing an English test such as IELTS and scoring at C1 level or above. Employers will want to interview you to make sure your accent is not difficult to understand.

Read more: TEFL Jobs For Non-Native Speakers

Is teaching experience always required?

Certainly not.

A TEFL course prepares you thoroughly to step into the classroom. It teaches you how to analyse your students’ needs, write appropriate lesson plans, and source relevant materials. You learn theories of learning, and teaching techniques which allow you to carry out your lessons effectively.

To be sure, some higher-paid jobs require some teaching experience, but the majority of TEFL employers are happy with new teachers. If necessary, TEFL employers provide training for their new teachers so they understand the policies and procedures of the school or company. 

Generally speaking, regardless of whether you have been teaching for 10 days or 10 years, new teachers are observed by other teachers who have been at this place of work for a longer time.

How much capital do I need?

How long is a piece of string?

Before you even start looking for jobs, you will need to consider the cost of your TEFL certificate. A TEFL course with The TEFL Academy is known to be good value for money. Plus, if you keep your eyes open you might be able to jump on one of our many sales!

But when it comes to moving and living abroad, how much money you need to start out depends on many factors:

  • Which city you want to teach in
  • Which part of that city you want to live in
  • Your entertainment habits
  • Whether you’re happy eating street food or cooking at home or if you prefer to eat at western-style restaurants
  • When you will be paid for the first time
  • If you’re paying for accommodation or if it’s provided and/or subsidised
  • If you need to cover the cost of your flights

Once you’ve ascertained the cost of your relocation and the cost of living until your first paycheque, this should give you a good idea of how much capital you need.

READ MORE: Start-Up Costs For Prospective TEFL Teachers: How Much To Budget For?

Do I need to know the local language?

Definitely not. 

The basis of teaching English as a foreign language is teaching learners English through English. Studies have shown that language learners learn best through immersion learning, which is exactly what TEFL teachers do.

When TEFL teachers know the language of their students, it can hinder the learning process. For example, if a British teacher was teaching in Madrid and they made use of Spanish-English translation during their lessons, their students will never learn to predict meaning or use contextual clues to understand a word. And what’s going to happen when they can’t read a train timetable in London? Their teacher certainly won’t be there.

Using translation can be a crutch for students. It’s better they learn how to solve their own difficulties as they come up. When dictionaries are used, monolingual dictionaries are the best bet for the same reason.

Read more: Can I Teach English In China If I Don’t Speak Chinese? Yes!

Is there an age limit to teach English abroad?

Not strictly speaking, no. 

While some countries may have a cap on the age of applicants for work visas, your age doesn’t matter when it comes to your TEFL job.

Indeed, many employers appreciate more mature teachers as they have life experience, and possibly teaching experience too.

Read more: Mature Teachers: Is There An Age Limit For Teaching English Abroad?

Are there any other country-specific requirements?

Of course, there may be other requirements which are country-specific. It is up to you to find out exactly what is required in order to apply for a visa and enter a country.

Here are a few examples of what might be required.

1. Health checks

Some countries require that you undergo a health check. This might need to be done as part of the visa process, or it might be done once you arrive in the country.

2. Background checks

Many countries require background checks for visa purposes. It’s not uncommon and usually not complicated to get, though it may take a while to process.

South Africans, for example, can apply for police clearance for a small fee from their local police station. US teachers usually need an FBI check, while UK teachers need a background check.  

3. Drug tests

Some countries might require you to take a drug test. This could be when applying for your visa, before leaving the country, or when arriving in your new country.

4. Professional references

As with any job, your future employer may ask for professional references during your application process. Don’t take this lightly – they really do contact them!

How can I prepare myself for teaching in a foreign country, both professionally and personally??

Teaching in a foreign country is an adventure, but it can be daunting at the same time. Especially if this is your first time abroad, or your first solo adventure abroad, you might wonder what to expect. 

First of all, we’re here to tell you that nerves are normal. It can be a big adjustment so it makes sense that you feel a bit uncomfortable about the whole situation. There is a lot to keep in mind, so it can be exciting and stressful in equal measures. 

From a personal standpoint, make sure all your paperwork is in order. Keep organised and be on top of your finances and admin to make your move as seamless as possible. 

Prepare yourself for culture shock and the fact that it won’t be all butterflies and roses all the time. This makes the adaptation easier.

Professionally, make sure you are fully prepared to step into the classroom. Pack whatever materials you think you may need, but be smart about your packing – there’s no need for the kitchen sink!

Will this be your next adventure?

We don’t see why not! If you’re seeking a new and exciting adventure, look no further! The possibilities are endless when you embark on a journey with TEFL. We believe that there is no reason why this shouldn’t be your next great adventure!

Enrol today in our TEFL courses and sign up for the adventure of a lifetime.

Join over 200,000 TEFL teachers making a difference around the world! Download TEFL Factbook Explore TEFL Courses

Meet The Author

Kirsten Colquhoun

Kirsten Colquhoun is the Content Manager for The TEFL Academy. A graduate of Cambridge University and DELTA-qualified, she first started teaching kindergarten in Thailand in 2003. A South African, she has also taught in China, the UK, Spain, Qatar and South Africa, but these days she is a teacher trainer and freelance writer and editor.

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