Depending on the country and the urgency of their need, there are many schools that will hire you to teach English if you have a degree from a recognized college or university. It generally does not matter in what discipline you earned your degree, but the preference is education or arts/humanities. Having said that, you will find that more and more, schools are asking for a TESOL or other ESL teaching qualification in addition to a degree. Just look at the ads in the newspapers and on the ESL websites. The reason is because they want to be sure that the person they hire has received professional training in the area in which s/he will be employed, namely teaching English as a Second Language. It makes sense when you think about it because the reputation of the school is on the line. The have school administrators, school boards, parents and governments to answer to if the quality of their teachers is not up to par. It is particularly important if they receive funding.

Suppose two candidates with degrees apply for the same teaching position. Suppose one also has a TESOL certificate. Guess which one will be offered the job? Right – the one with the additional qualification. It goes without saying that the better your qualifications, the more a school will be interested. This is to your benefit as well. The better qualified you are, the higher salary you should be able to command. I say should because while it usually is the case, it is not always so.

For a normal primary or secondary teaching position, all that most overseas schools usually ask for is a bachelor level degree. If you have a master’s degree or doctorate, it probably won’t get you more money in a regular school. Naturally there are some exceptions. International schools teach a full English curriculum: British, American or Canadian. They are generally accredited by a school in England, USA, Australia or Canada. Don’t even apply to these unless you have a BA or B Ed, a TESOL certificate and a teaching license from ‘back home’. The good news is that, if they do hire you, you will likely be paid a good deal more than regular schools.

On the other hand, if you want to teach at university level, you need to have at least a master’s degree. A Ph D is preferred. The rule is that the instructor should be at least one step higher than the students. Many aspiring teachers go overseas hoping to teach in a university. After all, it is perceived to be more prestigious than teaching in a primary or secondary school. Prestige doesn’t pay the bills though. Universities are aware of the prestige factor and, depending on the country and the institution, salaries at the university level can sometimes fall short of their regular school counterparts. Remember that prerequisite qualifications are higher, too. Oh, and your TESOL certificate is just as valuable as a door opener at the tertiary level as it is in Primary and Secondary.

Teaching experience also helps but for most regular or language schools is not a prerequisite. Experience teaching within the country in which you are applying will be seen as a big plus especially if you can bring good references to the table.

My recommendation is that you get TESOL certified – even if you are still working on your degree. You can usually accomplish this within one term. Your TESOL course tuition will be a good investment that will pay for itself very quickly once you start to apply for jobs overseas. If you have time before your planned venture overseas, and a little free time, why not get in touch with a local community center and see if you can do some volunteer ESL teaching? Check, but it is doubtful that you need a teaching license and this counts as teaching experience. It adds additional selling points on your resume or curriculum vitae!

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