If you’ve spent any time looking through ESL job boards you’ll have seen that there is literally a world of opportunity for English teachers with degrees. But, what about wannabe ESL teachers who are still studying, or are just about to head off on a gap year? Can you teach English abroad before you graduate?
Well, yes, you can!
Personally and professionally, teaching abroad can be a great opportunity for undergraduates. Opportunities are so varied that you can easily fit teaching English into a gap year, summer break or while you're deciding which degree you want to do.
In and outside the classroom, you’ll gain valuable skills that will come in handy whatever career you choose to pursue in the future.
Maybe you want to get to know a new culture. Or you're looking to add something impressive to your resume. Perhaps you want to try your hand at teaching. Or you simply want to spread your wings and set off on an adventure.
Whatever your reasons for wanting to work and live abroad, teaching English before you graduate could be just the job you’re looking for!
I don’t need a degree, great! So, what are the requirements for teaching English abroad?
There’s no one answer to this question. Although not having a degree yet may reduce your options a little, there are still teaching opportunities open to you all over the world. None of the following suggestions are always required, but they might put you ahead of the pack when applying:
- Being a native English speaker.
This quality is what makes companies seek you out from all the way overseas. They need you, and your expert knowledge of English.
- Getting TEFL certified.
You don’t need a degree to get a TEFL certification, and, as TEFL qualifications last for life, getting one before you graduate could be a worthwhile investment. Most online TEFL courses are self-paced, making it relatively easy to slot the coursework into your current study schedule.
- Getting some teaching experience.
Taking the time to help out at a local community centre or school will help you figure out whether you actually like teaching, and could give employers and extra incentive to pick you over anyone else.
If you’re ready to throw yourself in at the deep end and lead a class yourself, there are also online English teaching companies that hire English teachers studying for their degree, with and without teaching experience.
So, now you’re ready to roll!
Yes, you can teach abroad before you graduate! Here’s how.
Let’s take a look at the different teaching opportunities out there if you want to start teaching abroad before you graduate:
1. Apply for volunteer teaching abroad programs.
The easiest way to teach abroad before you graduate is by doing volunteer work. If you can stomach not getting paid or a smaller stipend, there are many advantages to taking on a volunteer role.
Firstly, you will most likely be able to travel to whichever destination interests you. If you’re keen to get off the beaten path and experiencing some truly undiscovered locations, now is your chance! Or, if you’d prefer to feel like a local in a classic destination, you can just as easily find opportunities in tourist hotspots like France and Spain.
Volunteers can also often choose whether they want to commit short-term or long-term and, depending on the program, the kind of teaching they want to do. If you don’t feel ready to take on a role as a fully-fledged class teacher, how about working as a homestay tutor or teaching assistant?
So, the pay might not be great, but for an experience that you can tailor to your exact tastes, volunteering is hard to beat.
Read this: All about volunteer English teaching in China
2. Apply for ESL summer camp jobs.
If you just have a few weeks free over the holidays, or want to dedicate a part of your gap year to teaching abroad, why not try applying for an English camp? There’s lots of ESL summer camp jobs throughout Europe - especially in countries like Italy and Spain.
Perks often include food and accommodation (allowing you to save a few $$) and the chance to act like a big kid all summer long. Camp counselors often spend time with the kids outside of the classroom, so while you’re not teaching be prepared to get involved in activities, meal-times and campfire singalongs.
Camp jobs can run through holidays all year, but summer is by far the busiest period, and positions often start appearing on job boards from January onwards.
Alternatively, try searching for summer camp teaching jobs by duration or check out large international brands such as English First. Often all that’s required for positions is a TEFL qualification and a passion for teaching!
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3. Apply for paid teach abroad programs that don’t require degrees.
If you’ve already started studying but are interested in taking a break to teach abroad before you graduate, some international programs accept applications from undergraduate students.
It’s worth doing an in-depth search for any countries you’re interested in visiting, but here are a few of our favorites:
- South Korea’s TaLK program accepts applications from native English speakers who have completed an associate’s degree (equivalent to two years of college/university study). Teacher training is even included as part of the package! Placements last from six months to one year.
- There are also opportunities in Taiwan for associate degree holders who are TEFL qualified. Schools such as HESS Education organize year-long placements.
- The French Cultural Embassy organizes year-long teaching assistant positions throughout France for US citizens who have completed three years of higher education.
Remember that you can only teach English in a country that doesn’t require you to have your degree already. So developed countries like China, South Korea and most countries in the Middle East won’t be an option for you until you get that.
It’s a little-known fact that if you’re already studying for your degree in a related field, like education or linguistics, then your institution might offer funding for students interested in work or teaching abroad for a semester at educational non-profit organizations. Some universities will even count this as course work! So be sure to look into any opportunities like this at your school.
5. Travel to where you want to teach!
Finally, if you’re feeling independent you could just throw caution to the wind and book a ticket to your chosen destination! In some countries, tackling your job hunt in person is likely to have much better results than applying online.
While many countries only issue work visas for teachers with degrees, there are a surprising number of opportunities for those without throughout Asia, Europe and Central and South America.
A few words of advice, though. Not having a degree may limit the kind of jobs you can apply for (in this situation, having a TEFL qualification can definitely help you get your foot in the door).
Instead of working regular hours with one school, the reality might mean working part time for multiple schools as well as organising your own private students, and it can take a while to build up a strong network of employers.
So, if you want to teach English abroad before you graduate, bear in mind that a summer break might not be long enough to make the most of an opportunity like this. If, however you’re on a gap year, or studying abroad for a semester, it could be perfect!
If you decide this is the route for you, finance-wise, it's definitely worth making sure you have enough saved to tide you over for a month or two while you set yourself up. And, as you don’t know how much you’ll be earning, keep aside enough for a flight home in your native currency. Finally, make sure you get the right visa so you can work legally without your degree.
So, paid work or volunteering? Summer time break or all in for a year? And most importantly, where will teaching English take you? Even if you haven't got your degree yet, there are plenty of ways make your dream adventure a reality right now and teach abroad before you graduate.