Interested in becoming an ESL teacher? Interested in teaching English abroad as a career?

If you have already graduated from university and you would like to become an English (ESL) teacher abroad then you may appreciate this advice more. This article is mainly for the person who has yet to decide his or her major in university.

First off you should know that the most basic requirements to teach English abroad in most places are to be a native speaker and to have a bachelor's degree in any discipline. You can follow the above link for more info on that. Since those are the basic requirements then you should also know that most people do not teach English for the long term.

Most people who teach English as a second language abroad only do so for a year or so. Many are college graduates from diverse backgrounds looking to experience something new. It's a field that has a high turnover rate and that any average joe with a degree can do (not necessarily well) for the most part. Although many just do it for a year or so, some will do it for much longer or as a career.

So which major should I choose to teach English abroad?

Many people may tell you that you should study linguistics, literature or major in English. Those are helpful, but there is a better major and I am going to tell you what it is and why you should study it. Of course you don't have to study it as there are other ways, but if you're really serious about teaching English for the long term then this would be best.

How to become an English teacher abroad...

You should study education and become a licensed teacher in your home country. Why? The reason why is that it's a far better qualification than any short term TEFL/TESOL/CELTA course.

Why is this degree best?

1. It's better because it's far more versatile than short term TEFL courses. TEFL/TESOL/CELTA qualifications are mostly only good for teaching English abroad. If you ever decide to teach in the USA or perhaps in your home country those aren't usually worth much.

2. The other point is that if you are a licensed teacher you will qualify for some of the best teaching positions abroad. For example, you will be able to teach English or any suitable subject for that matter in international schools across the globe. These can be really nice positions.

3. While most ESL teachers with bachelor's degrees teach in private language schools and a fewer amount in public schools and universities. You'll also be qualified to teach English in a public school in Taiwan, UAE, and Dubai. These are just some examples of the positions - which are often higher paying than most, that you will be qualified for. TEFL certifications and regular old bachelor's degrees won't cut it in these schools.

You don't necessarily have to be a licensed teacher of "English". You can be a licensed teacher of any subject and still be able to get into these positions. Of course being a licensed teacher of English would be better if you do want to teach English. Being a "licensed teacher" carries a sense of esteem with it. People will respect you more for it and see you as a "real teacher".

So simply said being a licensed teacher has a few advantages.

  1. It's versatile. You can teach abroad with it and/or if you decide to you can teach in your home country.
  2. You'll be qualified to teach English in some of the best schools.

Having those qualifications is a great start to a career as a teacher if that is what you want to be. Later you can always decide to study TEFL more, by taking a course or even getting a master's degree.

What about TEFL courses?

Most schools will consider a licensed teacher a better qualification than a CELTA, TEFL or TESOL certificate. I mean one of this courses can be good for getting some specialized training. But they are not a degree and they don't carry much weight. Degrees are required for getting visas and what not in Asia. TEFL certificates are not.

Are education degrees really the best qualification?

You know it depends on the school. Experience is probably the best after the basic ones like a degree and native speaker. Some universities in Asia require master's degrees.

But as a licensed teacher you won't have a worthless degree like some do, such as myself, haha. I have a degree in fine art.

Which doesn't actually qualify me for many positions. I did learn some valuable skills, however in and of itself a bachelor's degree in fine arts doesn't qualify one for many jobs. Which I don't really want as my goal in life is not to find a good "job".

That could have something to do with why I spent as many years abroad as I did. The other reason was a love of adventure, travel and new experiences. Although teaching abroad is not the same as traveling abroad.

But I wouldn't change it though, as that is what I was interested in at the time. At least I wouldn't now because life is a journey not a destination. So first I would tell you to pursue what you are interested in not in what looks good on paper. If teaching interests you and teaching English abroad interests you then study education and become a licensed teacher.


#6 Ian 2017-02-26 16:42
Quoting Michael:
Firstly, thanks for a great website and blog.

No problem. If you want to teach high school level I could maybe recommend teaching in China or working as an ALT in Japan. In Korea most public school jobs are for teaching elementary children.

In Taiwan you have to be a licensed teacher to do that.
Here's a guide on teaching in Eastern Asia:

Although they could help. You don't need a master's degree or a CELTA to teach there.

If you are interested in teaching in Asia here is an online course that will help you do that:
#5 Michael 2017-02-25 19:39
Firstly, thanks for a great website and blog. I am a native English speaker, have a bachelors in History, English minor, have ESL experience at ELS Language Centers in USA, plus Hungary and Brazil. I am also fluent in German and have experience teaching German to foreigners. Unfortunately I do not have a masters, nor a CELTA, but I would use my savings to get both. Have substitute teaching experience in US Middle and High Schools as well. How can I teach high school level in E. Asia?
#4 Ian 2016-09-10 17:44
Quoting miracle james:
Am not a native speaker of english...
You normally need that if you want to teach English.
#3 miracle james 2016-09-10 08:13
Am not a native speaker of english but am interested was thinking that if I study english in college I'll be more fluent can I gain same goal if I study education?.I really want to see the world,pls comment soon
#2 ian 2016-06-09 01:04
Quoting Lee:

I don't really think it was useless. I was joking when I said that. Just fine arts degrees don't really qualify you for many jobs. But as I mentioned I am not interested in working for someone else neither.
#1 Lee 2016-06-08 00:07
Why do you think your art degree was so useless? Are the creative skills you learnt not transferable to many jobs?

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