The basic requirements to teach English abroad and specifically in Eastern Asia is to be a native English speaker and to hold a 4 year university degree. These are the general qualifications that you need to teach English abroad.

If you don't have these two things there are still possibilities. See at the bottom of this page for more on teaching without a degree.

The general requirements to teach English in Korea, China, Taiwan and Japan

First we'll look at the general requirements to teach English in the following places. After that we'll talk about some other qualifications or preferences schools can have.

In Korea

For an E-2 visa (legal teaching visa):

  1. You need to be a native English speaker from the USA, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand or Canada.
  2. You need to have a bachelor's degree in any discipline.
  3. Clean health check.
  4. Clear criminal background check
  5. Apostilled diploma. More.

If you have a 2 year degree completed or an associate's degree then you can teach English in the TALK program in Korea. The EPIK program has stated a preference for TEFL certification. Here is an online TEFL course for teaching in Korea.

Student, spouse, or heritage visas may also enable you to legally teach English in Korea.

Different schools can have other preferences or requirements as well see below for more.

In China

China is a big country and some of its rules can fluctuate from city to city and province to province.

For a Z visa (foreign expert certificate):

  1. You need to be a native English speaker from the USA, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand or Canada.
  2. You need to have a bachelor's degree in any discipline.
  3. Clean health check.
  4. 25-55 years old.
  5. Have 2 years post grad work experience.

"Like most rules in China they aren't always enforced. Anecdotally it's been mentioned around as two years post graduation but finding anything concrete is gonna be tough. Every province handles their visas differently. I've seen the two year rule only referenced in Shanghai. I'd contact some recruiters and see what they say. There is always a way to teach here if you want."  - cheine on Reddit

I have also known Europeans who got Z visas to teach in public schools in China. Different schools can have different requirements. See below for more.

In Japan

  1. You need to be a native English speaker from the USA, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand or Canada.
  2. You need to have a bachelor's degree in any discipline.

These are the basic qualifications to get a visa teaching in Japan. If you don't have those there are other visas such as spouse or working holiday visas if you are from one of the common wealth countries.

Different schools can have individual requirements or preferences for teachers. See below for more.

In Taiwan

  1. You need to be a native English speaker the USA, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand or Canada.
  2. You need to have a bachelor's degree in any discipline.

Some schools in Taiwan such as Hess will also accept 2 years or an associate's degree and a TEFL/TESOL certificate.

Different schools in Taiwan can have different preferences or requirements. See below for more.

Other qualifications and preferences to teach in Asia

Is being a native English speaker and having a degree the only qualifications that you need? Not in all cases. Those are the basic requirements to get a legal working visa teaching in a public school, private school or university. Sometimes schools can require or prefer additional qualifications. Different schools can have different requirements. Some of the other preferences or requirements that you may find when you start looking for a job are the following.

  1. Experience
  2. TEFL/TESOL/CELTA certificates
  3. Related degrees in English
  4. Teaching license
  5. Master's degrees

1. Experience

Most schools will prefer teachers with experience. The more experience you have the more doors will open for you. But don't despair there are still plenty of jobs and schools that are willing to hire first time teachers.

2. TEFL/TESOL/CELTA certificates

Aside from experience some employers may also prefer that you have a TESOL, TEFL or CELTA certificate. These are typically short term courses that can be taken in-class or online. They can last anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of months. You can teach English without a TEFL certificate in many places. These are not usually legally required to teach in Asia. These by the way do not replace degrees.

These can be a good way to improve your resume if you have no experience. More importantly the point of these courses is to train you and prepare you for your job. A good course will prepare you and a poor one won't.

"I've spent many years teaching ESL without certification, but to be considered for lots of jobs I needed to get one. This course saved me thousands of dollars and reminded and taught me lots of new activities and games that work. I find that sometimes even tired adults like the kind of fun, physical games I learned here...

...Right after I took this course I was offered a job in Saudi Arabia that had stipulated they needed an in-person TEFL in their ad, but when I looked at their paper work after the interview, it looks like they counted this certificate as valid, and I was offered a job. I was really glad I had stumbled upon Ian's site. Thanks, Ian"

Read reviews of ESLinsider's online TEFL courses.

3. Related degrees in English

Any degree is usually fine however, some schools may prefer to see a related degree. Degrees in English, English literature or other related degrees can be looked upon favorably.

4. Teaching license

These are not usually required. However, they are in a few places. To teach English in a public school in Taiwan you will need to have a teaching license from your home country. In Korea, Japan and China you don't necessarily need that to teach in a public school. Also to teach in most international schools you will usually need this qualification as well.

5. Master's degrees

Although they are not common a few schools may also require you to have a master's degree, these are often universities in Japan and Taiwan. Universities in Korea or China do not usually require that.

Final notes

That covers most of the requirements for teaching English in Asia. If you do not have those requirements then you can read more about teaching English without a degree.

*You can also see this information displayed in a graphic image here.