Where can I teach English without a TEFL certificate?

What qualities and qualifications do employers of ESL teachers look for? First we need to say that there are no hard and fast rules to answer this question. There are a huge range of requirements worldwide, depending on the country, type of school, nature of the job, type of contract and so forth. The information given here is therefore general.

There are a number of generally recognized requirements that employers are looking for from their teachers. You may need one, two, three or all of the following to get any particular job. It is unlikely you will find a job without any of these:

  1. An ESL teaching qualification such as a TEFL or TESOL certificate
  2. Native English Speaker (sometimes from a specific country)
  3. Bachelor's degree
  4. Teaching experience

Many ESL teaching jobs worldwide require the minimum of a TEFL certification from this list. As the nature of the job, or country specific employment requirements increase, so the need for other qualities or qualifications increases.

Can I teach ESL without a TEFL certificate?

As previously mentioned it is possible, depending on which other factors are also required. You will see job advertisements for native English speakers, with a degree, as the only requirement for example.

However the question should really be:

Should I teach ESL without a TEFL certificate?

Teaching English is a very important and serious undertaking. If you would like to help others learn, you really should invest some of your time in learning the procedures and processes of teaching. You should also ensure that you have sufficient content knowledge of the English language (for example English grammar) in order to teach it to others.

As most employers worldwide accept a TEFL certification of 120-hours as the minimum requirement, this means that within a few weeks of study, you will be able to cover all the necessary background knowledge and skills to confidently stand in the classroom and deliver useful lessons to your students.

That being said, it is possible to get a job without a TEFL certificate, but you must be prepared for the following realities:

  1. Employers pay unqualified teachers much less than TEFL qualified teachers.
  2. A TEFL certificate is typically required to get a work permit to teach legally in many countries.
  3. Unqualified teachers are rarely offered the most desirable teaching positions.
  4. You may find yourself completely unprepared to stand in front of a class.

You will find some positions on teaching employment websites, although you will need to look through many job advertisements to find them. Initially online teaching sites were a good place to look for such opportunities, though recent changes to regulations in a number of countries offering many jobs, such as China, have made this route much more difficult.

In conclusion, there are opportunities for unqualified teachers to gain ESL teaching positions, particularly if you have the other attributes employers may be looking for. The question to ask yourself is, would I want to be taught by an untrained teacher?