For today's post we're going to take a slightly different approach and handle this specific question by curating answers from various authorities. There are dozens of excellent websites that have answered this question already, and in fact there is more than one answer.
To give you the best information possible, we're going to list some of these answers and give you our own take as well.
First off, you should know that we're using "TEFL" loosely here to refer to any form of ESL qualification, whether it's a TEFL, a CELTA, a Trinity certTESOL, or something similar. We'll also handle the question of whether or not you'll need a degree.
To learn more about the differences between the individual qualifications, click here.
Asking the experts
Let's take a look at how four different experts answered the question.
In their FAQ section, huntesl.com answers the question with the following:
A TEFL/TESOL qualification is increasingly required to teach English, and it's now difficult to find consistently good TEFL jobs without a recogniosed TEFL/TESOL course. Also, for personal advancement a TEFL/TESOL course will expand your extrinsic knowledge of English.
Generally, many European jobs require some kind of teaching qualification i.e. TESOL/TEFL certificate.
In other countries, such as those in North Asia, you can get a TEFL job with just a degree in any subject, however a TEFL Course will help you secure a good TEFL job and prepare you for the teaching environment.
This is in line with what we mentioned above and solid advice. It's always better to have one, and even the most basic certificate will put your CV higher up the pile.
In this article on teaching English in Asia, lovetefl.com says the following about a TEFL certificate:
Getting a teaching job can often be fairly easy, many employers and agencies will actively recruit new teachers whilst still in their home countries, some even offering paid airfares and free accommodation, even going as far as supplying free teacher training and recognised TEFL qualifications before you arrive! Those who arrive in Asia with a little experience and/or a recognised TEFL/TESOL certificate, and a bit of organisation and research, can do so with good optimism, often finding a job within a few weeks, if not days!
Because of the huge demand for good teachers you don’t need a lot of experience to teach in Asia, in some cases you can teach with none at all. It’s very possible to get a job without experience, without teaching qualifications, and even without a Bachelor’s degree, but for every one of the those you do have your opportunity for work increases, as does your potential earnings.
So lovetefl takes a more optimistic approach to job seeking without a TEFL than we do, but they still emphasize the fact that it's much easier WITH one. Your opportunities increase, chances of getting accepted increase, and not to mention your actual teaching skills (and therefore enjoyment of the job) will increase too.
Gooverseas has this very interesting article about ways of teaching abroad without a certification. Here are the four ways mentioned:
- Volunteer Teaching
- Language Exchange Homestays
- Paid Jobs via Recruitment Agencies
- Independent Placements
And a highlight from the article:
From a non-TEFL certification standpoint, these opportunities will allow you to "test the waters" of living abroad as a teacher before jumping into ESL work. If you find after that you want to make this ESL party a more longterm shindig, formalize your accreditation with a TEFL certification.
What's interesting about this article is that even though you can find some good ways of getting hired (or volunteering) without a certification, the emphasis is very much on getting accredited.
The fact they have an article titled "No degree, No problem" should give you an immediate insight into the possibilities of getting a job without a degree, however, this is under the assumption that you get a TEFL instead. As the article opens:
You CAN travel to an exciting, foreign country and teach English without a college degree if you become TEFL certified.
Because of visa requirements or government restrictions, certain countries may require that English teachers hold a four-year degree, but if you don't have a degree, do not let this deter you. There are many, many places throughout the world where you can live and explore while teaching English, even without a university degree.
This is a great point to make. In many places you NEED a university degree in order to qualify for a work-permit, so you must bear that in mind. There is a list of places that are an exception to this rule in the linked article though.
Long Story Short
In short, you CAN find jobs without a TEFL, but they aren't necessarily going to be the best ones, and it's not going to be as easy as you might think. There will be stories about how people who had a TEFL worked in exactly the same jobs as those who didn't have one, but these are often the exception to the rule (or they got hired together).
The result is that in many situations it would be better to have one than to not have one.
Let's summarize the benefits:
- Better job opportunities.
- Some schools and recruitment agencies only deal with people TEFL qualified.
- Better teaching ability.
The quality of these advantages is much bigger than the quantity, so it's recommended that you highly consider a TEFL qualification. If you want to learn more about TEFL qualifications, this is a great page to visit. Or if you'd like our help finding a job in Asia, then select your country here.