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Teaching English Abroad Requirements: What Do You Really Need?

a teacher poses with her students in Indonesia.

If you’re considering TEFL, one of the main things you’re probably wondering about is teaching English abroad requirements. When it comes to what is needed to teach English abroad, there are considerations such as type of TEFL certification, degree requirements, minimum years of experience, and being a native or non-native English speaker. So, what do you really need to teach English abroad? That depends mostly on where you want to teach. Each region and country’s requirements can be different, so we’ve got an in-depth breakdown of what you need to teach in locations worldwide!

What qualifications do I need to teach English abroad?

So, what do you need to teach English abroad? If you browse open teaching positions on a job board, you’ll find that most teaching English abroad requirements are related to certification, education, and experience.

TEFL certification requirements

One of the most widespread requirements to teach English abroad is a TEFL certificate, also known as a TESOL certificate. TEFL and TESOL are often used interchangeably, although there are some slight differences. Most employers will require a 120-hour TEFL/TESOL certification. Some may look for specialized certificates, for example, a Teaching English to Young Learners and Teenagers Specialized Certification. Look for online TEFL certification from an accredited provider.

Learn more about the differences between TEFL and TESOL certifications.

Degree requirements

Jobs in some countries or at specific schools may also require you to have a certain minimum level of education, such as a bachelor’s degree. Oftentimes, it doesn’t matter which subject your degree is in as long as you have one. For some jobs, however, you might be required to have a degree in a related field (such as education, linguistics, English, etc.), but this is not the norm. Be aware, too, that the jobs and locations with the strictest requirements may even require you to have a master’s in TESOL or education (more on where that might be later).

Teaching experience requirements

Different schools and regions will have various requirements when it comes to previous teaching experience. Some won’t require teachers to have experience at all, while others will only hire you with a certain number of years of prior teaching experience. When you are researching what is needed to teach English abroad for a location of choice, look at employer requirements for teaching experience and consider how competitive the market is for TEFL jobs. If there are many jobs but few applicants, employers are more likely to be flexible about requirements like experience, particularly if you meet other qualification requirements.

Read about ways to gain teaching experience at home before going abroad.

Can you teach English abroad without a degree?

Yes, you certainly can teach English abroad without a degree! When it comes to teaching English overseas requirements, you’ll find a lot of variance by region, and you can find places that will accept teachers without degrees just about anywhere around the globe.

For example, jobs in many countries in Central and South America, such as Costa Rica, Peru, or Brazil, won’t typically require a degree to teach English, although some employers may prefer one. You may also find some Asian countries, such as Cambodia or Laos, willing to hire English teachers without a degree (find details on this in the following section).

If you’re having trouble finding schools or language institutions in your region of interest (such as Europe) that don’t require a degree, try applying to summer camps or after-school programs there. These types of shorter-term jobs tend to have more flexible hiring requirements. You may also be able to find teaching jobs with smaller tutoring companies that will have you working one-on-one with students.

an English teacher posing with her students.
While some countries may require a degree to teach English, there are many jobs that don’t require one.

Which countries don’t require a degree to teach English?

Below are just a few of the countries where you can teach without a degree.


It might surprise you to see Spain on this list, but it’s one of the European countries where you don’t necessarily need a degree to teach English. Spain is a highly sought-after destination, with tons of cultural activities in the big cities like Barcelona or Madrid, where most of the teaching work can be found. Just remember that it may be more difficult to secure a visa if you’re from a non-European country.

Learn more about teaching English in Spain.


Another European country where you won’t necessarily need a degree to teach English is Romania. Teachers without degrees will find more opportunities in Eastern Europe than in Western, with fewer visa restrictions for non-EU citizens, as well.

Although there may not be as many jobs available in Romania as in some of the larger English teaching job markets in Europe, you can still find positions in Bucharest or the other bigger cities. Romania is an inexpensive, safe, and beautiful country that offers an off-the-beaten-path experience teaching abroad in Europe.


Argentina, in South America, is another country where it’s possible to find work as an English teacher without a degree, as there’s a high demand for teachers. The majority of the teaching positions are located in the capital, Buenos Aires, a cosmopolitan city known as the “Paris of South America,” which is full of opportunities to meet people and explore the culture. Keep in mind that the school year runs from March to mid-December, which is quite different from the North American or European school calendars, so you’ll need to apply accordingly.

Bridge alum Mark, from the U.K., with students who attended his English school in China


A popular destination for tourists and job seekers alike, Mexico is another viable option for English teachers without a degree. Not only is there a large job market for English teachers but, like in many Latin American countries, visa requirements are typically less strict here than in other parts of the world. Plus, with Mexico’s lower cost of living, it can be a good place to live comfortably on a teaching salary.


If you’re looking for a different kind of teaching experience and want to see what it’s like to live in an Asian country surrounded by mountains and waterfalls, then Laos is an option to consider. Like its neighbor, Cambodia, a degree is not usually required to teach in Laos, and the country offers a tranquil setting with tons of outdoor activities for nature lovers.

Wondering about potential pay for teaching English abroad? Read about teaching English abroad salaries, including about countries that pay the most.

What about becoming a digital nomad? Can you teach English online without a degree?

Many teachers choose to become digital nomads to take their teaching adventures overseas! Teaching English online as a digital nomad simply means you offer classes virtually as you move around and travel from place to place. It’s a great way to explore countries around the world while ensuring that you have stable work.

Just like the requirements to teach English abroad in a school or language institute, the necessary qualifications to teach English online can vary. If you teach online for a company, TEFL certification will be required, but you may not need a degree or teaching experience.

You can also start your own online tutoring business by advertising and searching for clients on social media or tutor listing sites – no degree required. Independent, online teachers, or teacherpreneurs, are responsible for all aspects of the teaching business, including marketing, managing their portfolio of students, scheduling, and collecting payments. Training through a program like Teacherpreneur Academy, which includes the Specialized Certification Succeeding as an English Teacherpreneur, helps prepare teachers to successfully take on these tasks.

Many teachers who become teacherpreneurs start by freelancing online with language schools or companies and tutoring for online marketplaces.

Whichever type of online English teaching job you choose, it’s highly advisable that you get a TEFL/TESOL certificate, and specializations like the Teaching English Online Specialized Certification can put you ahead of the competition.

Get both general and specialized TEFL training with the Comprehensive Certification Bundle, which qualifies you to teach both online and abroad!

Bridge alum Rachel Story teaching abroad as a digital nomad. Today, Rachel also shares her expertise with growing independent English teachers as Teacherpreneur Academy Instructor & Coach.

Can you teach abroad without experience?

While many employers may require or prefer TEFL experience, there are plenty of opportunities for new teachers. You can gain experience by adding a teaching practicum to your online TEFL certification, tutoring English online with a marketplace, or volunteering through a program like the English Opens Doors volunteer program in Chile. Many other countries also provide opportunities for volunteers.

In countries like Mexico, Spain, and Vietnam, you’ll find some employers are more flexible about teaching experience. In Spain, for example, many EFL teachers begin in language assistant, or auxiliaries de conversación, programs, which place teachers in Spanish primary and secondary schools and state language schools.

Can you teach English abroad if you’re not a native English speaker?

To address the question of who is eligible for TEFL, the answer is anyone who gets the necessary training! It may seem like there are more teaching jobs available for teachers who are native English speakers, and that’s probably true. However, the English teaching job market is changing, and there are more and more opportunities for non-native English speakers to teach English every day.

For bilingual and multilingual English teachers, having an internationally recognized TEFL/TESOL certificate can make a huge difference in marketability. Another boost to your TEFL resume if your first language is not English is having lived abroad in an English-speaking country. Whether you were there for school, work, or a summer program, this will help you compete with other job applicants.

Finally, teachers should consider using the benefits of being a non-native English speaker to their advantage. For example, point out the pros of being multilingual to interviewers, and use your own journey learning English to show that you can relate to your students and easily identify areas where they may struggle. Your insights into the English learning process will be invaluable as a teacher.

Is there an age limit to teach English abroad?

Some countries do have age requirements for teaching English abroad. For example, you must be between 18 and 60 years old to teach in Vietnam, between 21 and 62 years old to teach in Colombia, no older than 65 years old to teach in Japan, and no older than 55 years old to teach in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Some countries with no age requirements (other than over 18) include Spain, Germany, Thailand, Mexico, and Chile. Some English teaching programs have specific age requirements as well, so be sure to carefully research any program you are considering.

What are the passport/visa requirements to teach English abroad?

Visa requirements will vary for each country, but in many cases, a work visa will be required. Some countries, particularly those in Europe, may allow foreigners from the EU to work without a work visa. Typical requirements for a work visa will include:

  • an application form
  • an unexpired passport
  • a clean criminal record check
  • a medical certificate of good health
  • payment of the visa fee

You will also need to have a teaching contract before applying. However, you can usually visit with a tourist visa to begin the job search or explore the area before accepting a job.

Many countries now offer digital nomad visas for remote workers. Some locations offering digital nomad visas include Spain, Costa Rica, Dubai, Brazil, Portugal, and Indonesia. The basic eligibility requirements for a digital nomad visa include:

  • You must be over 18 years of age.
  • You can show proof of a specific monthly income
  • You are able to prove you have a remote job that can be done from anywhere.
  • You can pay the fee.

The typical documents required for a digital nomad visa include:

  • an application form
  • an unexpired passport
  • identity photos
  • proof of health insurance
  • proof of remote work
  • required qualifications documents (TEFL certification, CV, etc.)
  • a clean criminal record

The required income level to qualify for a digital nomad will vary. For example, Portugal requires you to be able to prove you make four times the national minimum wage, and Costa Rica requires you to prove you have a monthly income of at least $3,000 per month.

What certificate should I get to teach English abroad?

You’re bound to run across the occasional teaching job that does not list TEFL certification as a requirement. However, beware! Reputable institutions will seek trained and qualified teachers. For that reason, almost all positions teaching English abroad will require TEFL certification (one exception to this is for teachers with education degrees or state teaching licenses in their home country).

That said, you may be wondering, “What certificate do I need to teach English abroad?” Of course, the answer depends on the individual country or school where you intend to teach, but here are some tips to consider.

  • Make sure the institute where you’re getting the certificate is reputable and accredited by a distinguished outside body. Bridge courses, for example, are accredited by ACCET, which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, as well as AQUEDUTO, which reviews blended and online courses. You should be very cautious about TEFL certification schools that serve as their own accrediting body or are simply members of organizations that look like accreditors.
  • Get at least a 120-hour TEFL certificate. Though there are options for fewer hours, 120 hours is generally considered the hiring standard for most schools. If you want to qualify for higher paying jobs, teach in a competitive region like the Middle East, or make a long-term career out of TEFL, opt for a course like the IDELTOnline, which gives you graduate-level training which can be used as a pathway to an MA in TESOL at partner universities.
  • Consider incorporating a teaching practicum into your training. Many schools value a teaching practicum with real students in a school setting that includes observing TEFL teachers teaching actual students (mock teaching sessions with other TEFL students do not count as a practicum).
  • Earning specialized training in a TEFL niche such as teaching Business English students or teaching TOEFL test prep can help you stand out to employers and potentially earn a better salary.

Do I need a TEFL certificate if I have a teaching degree?

There are some opportunities to teach English without a TEFL certificate if you already have a teaching degree. This is especially true at private K-12 schools abroad, where qualifications to get hired can be similar to what would be required at home (a state teaching license and a degree in education, for example).

However, many teachers get certified because they have not taught the English language specifically, and they want some training before plunging into their new careers. Keep in mind that teaching English to speakers of other languages is very different from teaching subjects in a student’s native language.

Other teachers get certified because they want to be as competitive as possible when applying for jobs.

Where can I find teaching abroad requirements by country?

Here is a helpful overview of typical teaching requirements by region.

Larissa, a Bridge alum from Brazil, while teaching online in Chile


Countries in Asia typically don’t require you to have previous teaching experience, which makes them a good choice for new teachers. Some Asian countries do require a bachelor’s degree, while others, such as Cambodia and Laos, don’t always require one. TEFL certification is typically required in Asia.


Most European countries require a TEFL certificate and prefer advanced-level online training and perhaps a TEFL practicum. The majority of European countries will also require at least a bachelor’s degree when hiring teachers. Whether or not prior teaching experience is needed depends on the school where you’ll be teaching.

Central and South America

While TEFL certification may be needed throughout Central and South American countries, this region tends to be more lenient when it comes to teaching experience and degree requirements. While some jobs will require the latter two, there are plenty of opportunities for teachers without degrees who don’t have previous experience.

The Middle East

The Middle East can be more strict than other regions when it comes to teaching English abroad requirements. The majority of Middle Eastern countries will require several years of prior teaching experience, a bachelor’s or even a master’s in a related field, and a TEFL certificate. The Middle East is a much better option for highly qualified, experienced English teachers.

How do I become an EFL teacher?

Now that you know what’s required to teach English in different regions, the first step to becoming a teacher is to get TEFL certified with at least 120 hours of study. Once you’re certified, you can continue the next steps in the process of teaching English abroad in a country that fits your qualifications!

Ready to start exploring potential locations to teach abroad? Download the free eBook: Teach English Abroad Destination Guide.

Our diverse, global community of contributors includes experts in the field, Bridge course graduates, online and classroom-based teachers worldwide, and Bridge faculty and staff.