Changing a career is a big step at any point in your life. It can feel like an even bigger step when you’re aware of the hurdles that may get in your way: whether you have the right qualification, are the right age, or have enough experience.
What we’re here to tell you is that to TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages ) you don’t have to let these things stop you. Below, we explain how the following reasons are unimportant if you’re flexible about the opportunities you pursue.
‘I don’t have a degree’
One of the most common misconceptions about TESOL is that you must have a degree. You don’t. It entirely depends on where you’re applying for work.
When a degree is listed as a requirement it’s typically due to visa regulations. The degree isn’t necessarily specific to teaching but required in order to get a work visa. For example, if you’re applying for a Vietnam work visa, you would need a degree, even if the field you’re looking to find work in is entirely unrelated to teaching.
When a degree is a visa requirement there is no negotiating it, so it’s best to set your sights on where you can go without one – you still have plenty of options. Countries in Europe, Central and South America all offer ESL opportunities to non-degree holders.
Find out more about it – Do I need a degree to TESOL?
‘I have no teaching experience’
For many employers, teaching experience is desirable but not necessary. Having some relevant teaching experience behind you will definitely prove useful in your early days of teaching. It’s well recognised in the TESOL industry that many people pursuing careers teaching English don’t necessarily come from a teaching background.
The demand for teachers is so high that employers can’t afford to be overly-specific about their demands unless they’re offering particularly well-paid roles. There are plenty of entry-level job opportunities! Find out more about 17 Tips For New Teachers From Experienced Teachers.
‘English isn’t my first language’
Non-native English speakers make great English teachers because they understand exactly what’s involved in learning a language. How to apply yourself, how to consolidate your learning, the importance of practice – all of it. They have an awareness of problem areas in the language that native speakers would never have thought about, quite simply because they never had to.
If you can speak English you most definitely have the potential to teach it. Which is why anyone with a TESOL certificate can apply to posts. However, there are some limitations as to where you can teach as non-native English speakers.
When applying for jobs you might, unfortunately, experience some prejudices, with native English speakers often favoured for positions, even when it’s not a requirement. Despite this, don’t let it stop you from pursuing TESOL.
There are plenty of great opportunities out there, both abroad and online. You just have to be committed to the job search and be open to applying for multiple positions. Many online teaching companies recruit non-native speakers and while working for them you can become a digital nomad. As a digital nomad, what’s stopping you from teaching wherever you wish?
So how can non-native English speakers stand out against native speakers? Advanced TESOL courses and previous teaching experience would both work in your favour but it could be anything that’s relevant.
In some cases, all employers ask is that you provide evidence of your English proficiency. For example, a degree or passport from an English-speaking country or proof of your language level such as an IELTS certificate.
‘I’m too old’
You’re never too old to teach! However, some visa requirements and employers again play a role in limiting your options. Some do state age restrictions. Just do thorough research to find out if you’re eligible. For example, the age of public school teachers in South Korea is capped at 62 but there are no limits for private schools.
Wherever you are eligible, your life experience may well work in your favour and set you aside from other candidates – it’s all about how you present yourself to employers.
‘I don’t have the time to study for a TESOL qualification’
If you are seriously determined to gain a TESOL qualification then you shouldn’t let time constraints stop you. Often, course providers allow generous time frames for you to complete the course. The course itself should be at least 120-hours. It’s often a necessity in teacher recruitment but it’s also essential to ensure you’ve got enough of an understanding of the job before you get started.
Many courses are classroom or online-based, or a combination of the two. Classroom courses can be attended on the weekends at a variety of locations, fitting around your working week. They’re more intensive but you’ll cover course content quicker and won’t have to commit as much time to self-study.
Whatever your career or educational background, the TESOL industry offers attainable roles in a variety of forms (schools, language centres, tutors, online) and locations. As long as you commit time to do the research and fill out applications then we don’t doubt that you’ll find the perfect job of teaching English.