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Can You Teach English Abroad Without Certification?

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Teaching English abroad is a fantastic opportunity for people who want to gain experience in international education, make a career change, or simply jump at the chance to live abroad.

Usually, taking a TEFL course is the first step to prepare for your teaching ESL career.

But you might hesitate to enroll in a course because of the cost or the time commitment, or you already have teaching experience and think you can go without.

Is it really possible to teach English abroad without TEFL certification?

In this post, we’ll go over the likelihood that you can teach abroad without a TEFL based on your individual situation and why you should still consider getting certified to teach English.

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It is Possible to Teach English Abroad Without Certification

  • Are you a native English speaker?
  • Do you have a bachelor’s degree?
  • Do you have proven teaching experience?

If you meet all of the criteria above, then you can teach abroad without certification in plenty of countries.

Even if you don’t have a 120-hour TEFL certificate, many employers will see your credentials and your teaching experience as reason enough to hire you.

Although getting a TEFL certificate would be the icing on the cake, proven teaching experience is still valuable. Employers like to see that you know how to follow lesson plans, manage a classroom, and guide your students through the learning process.

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You should have no problem getting hired in countries in Latin America, Asia, or Africa (although keep in mind that most positions for the latter are volunteer positions rather than paid).

The demand for teachers in these regions is high enough that some countries will hire people simply for being native speakers, regardless of whether they have teaching experience.

Countries in Europe and the Middle East have stricter standards, and it will be hard to find work there without getting TEFL (or similar, like TESOL, CELTA) certified first.

Also, at renowned schools all over the world, a certification is required and you will be locked out from some high-paying jobs unless you are a very experienced “senior” teacher.

Why Teaching English Abroad Without a TEFL Might Be a Bad Idea

Even if you lack teaching experience and a TEFL certificate, you may still be able to find work in certain countries.

Again, countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa are your best bet. However, keep in mind that you will be competing for jobs against people who have teaching experience and a TEFL certificate, so your job prospects may not be as promising.

China has the largest demand for English teachers — with over 400 million Chinese currently learning English. The official visa to teach English in China does not require a TEFL certificate, although teaching experience is recommended. As such, China is a popular destination for people who want to teach abroad but do not have a certification.

However, almost any ESL teacher job ad lists a TEFL certificate as a requirement, like this on, for example:

An ESL teacher job ad
An ESL teacher job ad

Probably you’ve heard of a lot of scams and shady employers in China. Yes, they exist! Be wary of employers who have very little requirements for teachers and promise to hire almost anyone.

Even if it is not a scam, low requirements usually go hand in hand with little pay and bad working conditions.

As TEFL certification costs are really affordable today – starting from $200 –, by not having a TEFL certificate as an aspiring ESL teacher you prove to be unwilling to invest in your career and to do what it takes. Don’t expect to be offered premium jobs.

If you consider teaching abroad to be more than a short episode in your life, I heavily recommend you invest a few hundred dollars and four weeks of your life and take a TEFL course online.

If you still think teaching English abroad without certification is your route to go I won’t judge you.

To make yourself more marketable, consider getting some classroom experience before you go to teach English abroad.

It can be as simple as shadowing an ESL teacher, volunteering at a language school, or tutoring non-native speakers in English. Not only will you increase your chances of getting a job, but you will be better prepared to lead a classroom once you do get hired.

The Undeniable Benefits of TEFL Certification

In order to make yourself really competitive as a teacher abroad, you should have a degree, a TEFL certificate, and teaching experience, ideally in addition to being a native English speaker.

There are so many reputable and affordable programs for getting TEFL certified that it’s in your best interest to enhance your resume with one.

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With a certification in hand, you’ll be able to teach in more countries, have access to better jobs, and receive higher pay than your counterparts without one.

If you’re set on teaching English in Europe or the Middle East, a TEFL certificate is basically mandatory.

Furthermore, being a native speaker with a degree doesn’t necessarily prepare you to teach English. It certainly helps, but you won’t automatically know how to prepare lessons, explain complex grammar, or handle a classroom effectively without certification and some teaching experience under your belt.

Many TEFL certifications also have the option to specialize in areas like Business English or English for Young Learners. This is another way, with minimal time and expense, to set yourself apart and demonstrate that you’re capable of handling various topics in English.

Another reason why taking a TEFL course is really worth it, is that most TEFL course providers have a network of partner language schools, can place you in one of them or at least assist and advise you throughout your job search.

You will save a lot of time, avoid being scammed or making costly mistakes in your visa application. When you teach English abroad without certification, you deliberately forego all these benefits.

Receive lifetime job search guidance as a TEFL course graduate. (
Receive lifetime job search guidance as a TEFL course graduate. (

Another thing to consider is the wellbeing of your students. Would you want someone who had no official credentials to teach you English? Try to see it from their perspective; enhancing your skills is for the students’ sake as well as yours.

Foregoing TEFL Certification is a False Economy

At the end of the day, the time and energy that you put into improving your resume with a TEFL certificate will pay off in the form of better jobs, more confidence as a teacher, and more money.

If you manage to find an only slightly better-paying job with your TEFL certification, you will earn back your costs within a few months and profit from it for a long time.

In most situations, except for when you are already an experienced teacher, teaching English abroad without TEFL certification to save time and money is a false economy.

Learn more about TEFL certification in our starter guide.

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