Do I need a TESOL Certificate to Teach English Overseas?
Teaching English Overseas With or Without a Certificate?
Many people who want to teach English overseas ask themselves this question when they first consider taking a TESOL Certificate course. In many cases, it's easy to see why. You may be a native English speaker, possess a degree in a related area, have experience teaching, or just feel you'd be a fantastic teacher don't you already have what it takes? There is some truth to this though times continue to change.
25 years ago you really only needed to be a native English speaker with a passport and a pulse to find a teaching job almost anywhere in the world. Today, getting a job teaching English overseas can be more challenging for someone who doesn't have a TESOL Certificate. After all, other people applying for English language teaching job most likely are certified in TESOL.
Nonetheless, there are certainly circumstances in which a TESOL Certificate may not be needed. For most, earning a TESOL Certificate may be the best first step to take before teaching English overseas.
Watch this: Author Marsha Scarbrough shares
her thoughts on getting TESOL Certified in Santa Fe.
Here are some of the factors that may influence your decision on whether or not to get a TESOL Certificate.
Do I have to get a TESOL Certificate to teach English overseas?
There are a number of reasons why a native English speaker wonders if getting TESOL Certified is worth the effort. The biggest ones have to do with one's education, teaching experience, and joie de vivre.
Here are four people, their backgrounds, and what their options really are. In our group of future English language teachers we have:
- Bill just graduated from college with a degree in Literature.
- Lydia is a retired primary school teacher.
- Cecilia has worked as a reporter for the past 5 years.
- Michael has been involved in theater since graduating from high school 8 years ago.
Each of these individuals has unique circumstances that we can unpack to determine if getting TESOL Certified is worth it and how it might help.
Bill is 24 and recently graduated from college with a degree in Literature. He's been fascinated by Asia for a long time and wants to live in Japan or maybe China for a couple of years.
He's heard you can make a lot of money teaching there, and he's got debts to pay. Shouldn't his degree count for something?
Bill has a degree that is related to teaching English, and that will be a plus on his application; however, his degree alone won't get him a job in either China or Japan. Both of these countries have work visa regulations that require a foreigner must have a valid TESOL Certificate. Many countries have this kind of law. It used to be that only the developed nations had such work regulations, yet this is no longer the case. Bill may be able to find a job in developing part of Asia but the majority of options will be out of his reach.
The competition for English language teaching jobs has tightened over the years. This is especially true for the high paying jobs or employment in well-traveled regions. As a rule of thumb, the juicier the job, the sweeter your resume needs to be.
Thailand used to be such a country. While it has had a similar work visa requirement, it has only been recently that the government has begun enforcing this. One thing Bill may want to consider is the potential risks in working in a school that does not follow its own country’s laws.
Watch: Classics Major gets TESOL
Certified and moves to China
Bill could also get a legitimate TESOL Certificate and find that his degree in Literature has now become the asset he hoped it would be. There are plenty of employers in Japan and China that will be happy to hire him, offer him a reasonable salary, and save him the expense of paying for his own plane ticket.
The fact is, university degrees do matter. Having a BA in a related field does make you more attractive to employers. Having a master’s degree is even better and possessing a PhD will open even more doors.
So, what kinds of degrees are related to TESOL? The first are obvious: anything in education or linguistics is directly related to TESOL. On the next rung are degrees in literature or writing or even communication. Finally, degrees in business administration or fields like nursing can be attractive for an English language teaching position with adults in the business or medical professions.
Nonetheless, the TESOL employment sector is like any other; employers want to hire the most qualified people. Most people who teach English overseas have both a bachelor’s degree and a TESOL certificate.
The engine of the world’s educational institutions is run on certified pieces of paper that demonstrate your educational preparation. If one of the documents you have is a TESOL Certificate from the School for International Training, you’ll find more bountiful opportunities and more fruitful contracts.
In the next issue….Is getting TESOL Certified right for me? Let's look at Lydia, the retired school teacher.