Put Student Loans on Pause by Teaching English Overseas Without a Degree

Today, student debt totals an incredibly massive $1.3 trillion.

It’s being called a “crisis” by Forbes.

Let’s put one trillion into perspective. In terms of time, one billion seconds ago equals about 31 years. However, one trillion seconds ago sends us back to 30,000 B.C.

Perhaps it isn’t surprising that many people are choosing not to go straight to college, and for good reason.

While most English teaching positions here in the US require a bachelor’s degree, there’s nothing holding you back from traveling the world if you’re aching to educate others and haven’t yet attained one. No matter what your qualifications are, there are opportunities available on almost every continent.

There were approximately one billion English language learners around the world in 2014 and this number is projected to keep growing. Teachers for this market are in high demand, so don’t let the lack of a college degree stop you from finding a placement.


Benefits to Teaching Abroad Without a Degree

For many would-be students, the fact remains that delaying college can be more beneficial in the long run. It’s essential to consider both possibilities to ascertain which solution is best for each individual.

Whether you’re delaying your college experience, or skipping the costs altogether, teaching abroad can be a life-changing experience that gives you opportunities that can’t be gained anywhere else.

  • Travel the world. Everyone always tells you to travel while you’re young, but many young people don’t know how to get their first steps out there when their funds are dwindling. By teaching abroad, you’ll get to visit far-off places on almost any continent while getting paid.
  • Explore your career. Many students don’t know exactly what they want to do when they first enter college (or even after a couple of years). Instead of wasting costly tuition dollars on indecision, teaching abroad gives you real-world experience. You’ll find out more about yourself and (if you eventually decide to go) start college with confidence. You’ll definitely know if teaching ESL is going to be your lifelong career.
  • Earn a salary before accruing college debt. For most, higher education is necessary for their career. However, most students begin college with a minimal amount of money in their bank account and end it with a balance that lies embarrassingly far in the negative. When you go immediately into the work force as an ESL teacher, you can start saving up instead of spending.
  • Get the confidence that comes from experience. Any traveler will tell you that going around the world will change who you are forever. While these experiences usually combine exciting and thrilling moments alongside stressful and unplanned situations, the traveler is guaranteed to come out a stronger and more well-developed person because of it.
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Lay Out Your Short-term and Long-term Goals

Just knowing both your immediate and long-term goals can help you decide where to go and if you should teach without a degree.

First, consider what salary you’ll need (or expect) immediately and how important it is to be able to earn and save money in the next year or two.

Second, how big is your drive to explore the world? Lay out if you want to go somewhere a little strange yet somewhat familiar, or if you want to throw caution to the wind and take on an adventure in a vastly different region. These questions will help lead you to the perfect place.

You’ll also need to think about which avenue to take to teaching overseas. Do you plan on seeking a career as a teacher (or working in education at all)? Perhaps you’re hoping to teach for a few years but transition into a different career afterwards.

While this may change over time, those expectations will help you make the best decision in terms of the cost and time investment of your training/certification.

In addition, knowing any long-term language skills you’d like to gain will also be an important factor in choosing where to teach.

3 Places Where Teaching English Without a Degree Is Possible

1. Asia: Take On the Biggest Market

This massive continent has plenty of options that tempt ESL teachers with their beauty, culture and wonders, and that includes teachers who don’t have a degree. While it isn’t possible to get a work visa in China without a bachelor’s, it is possible to go to China on a student visa if you’re planning on getting a TEFL certificate.

The first step in going is learning as much as you can about what opportunities exist in the Middle Kingdom. Here are a few programs:

  • Gotoco — Visit, volunteer and work in China between May and September with Gotoco. They have options that range from volunteering to teaching while earning your TEFL certificate in at least nine different cities.
  • Premier TEFL — While this program showcases opportunities in a variety of countries, you’ll find lots of positions advertised on their job board for China. This site also offers internships and scholarships and provides a learning experience that combines both online and in-person learning.
  • International TEFL Academy — This is one of the most well-known centers for getting a TEFL Certificate either online or in person. Apply to one of the programs in China and get a truly international experience.

Of course, China isn’t your only option in Asia. There are other countries that’ll happily take on teachers and give them their work visa no matter what their degree status is, so be on the lookout for changes in legislation.

As of 2017, Cambodia is the most exciting place for teachers to go who don’t have a degree but are looking to work (legally) with a work visa. Work through a program like Teach for Cambodia that will guide you through the whole process, or seek out a job on your own through job boards such as Asia Teaching Jobs.

Taiwan offers a full scholarship (including a monthly stipend) for exceptional students looking to travel while attending school. This option is a great combination of both living abroad and getting your degree without succumbing to student loans.

If you’re interested in teaching abroad but you’re not looking for a long-term placement, you might qualify for a paid TEFL internship offered by SEE TEFL. It involves two weeks of training in Thailand and just a four to five month job assignment.

Central & South America: Travel Through the Jungle or Across Mountain Peaks

Every country through Central and South America has something unique to offer teachers, and many tourists travel throughout the entire collection of countries to soak up a little bit of every place. The best way to get a leg up on getting a job here without your degree is by acquiring a TEFL certificate.

As with any teaching assignment, be sure to ask the right questions and do your research about the specific region you’re considering.

In addition, most of these nations offer tourist visas between three and six months, so you can explore as far out as you wish with ease. The downside to Central and South America is a lower rate of pay than countries in Asia, but there’s always enough to pay the bills, and the cost of living is much lower.

Finally, if you want to learn or perfect your Spanish, this is a good way to do it!

  • International TEFL Academy — Like Asia, this program will take you on a journey through Latin America so that you can teach abroad while experiencing countries like Costa Rica, Chile and Argentina as a local.
  • Go Overseas — This site includes a collection and review of various programs that will take you around South America.
  • Teachers Latin America — This comprehensive job board covers almost every country in Latin America, and is one of the better resources if you’re hoping to find a job without working through a program.
  • ETeach International — Another job board that focuses on teaching opportunities in South America for applicants looking to find their own job. You can refine your search by desired hours, country or pay.

Europe: Travel to the Old World to Teach

This region is probably going to be the most beneficial for hopeful teachers who are also EU citizens, as they’ll have a bigger advantage in this competitive market. Non-EU citizens need to acquire a CELTA or CELT-P certification (and only in-person certifications count, so don’t get this online) to be qualified to teach here.

  • Cambridge English Teaching Centers — The official place for CELTA training, Cambridge has centers almost everywhere in the world, including quite a few in Europe, such as in Spain and Italy.

As you ponder the possibilities, consider the high cost of living in these regions, as they’ll affect your abilities to do other activities like travel. However, if Rick Steves from PBS has done his job and made Europe completely irresistible, take the leap and teach English in Italy, or come back fluent in French after a teaching assistant assignment in France. You’ll also find various programs to teach in Spain.

On the other hand, the growing stability in Eastern Europe is making it more and more attractive to teachers. These nations are centrally located (which allows for extensive travel), but they also have a cheaper cost of living than most Western European nations. If you’re looking to learn a language, this might be the perfect place to learn and practice.

There’s no need to choose between teaching without a degree or going to college.

Smart people can have both (if they want).

However, teaching English abroad before college will give your life and career a level of flexibility.

And at the same time, it will undoubtedly give you real-world experience that can’t be gained anywhere else.


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