Being able to speak English is truly an asset in today’s world. This somewhat complicated language can allow you to travel the world as you teach others how to speak it. From South America to Asia, countries hire numerous English speakers from around the world to come to their nations and teach English to the youth. One such country that hires a lot of English speakers to teach is Thailand.
Can you teach English in Thailand without a degree? Not exactly. There are many requirements to teach in Thailand, and one of these requirements happens to be a bachelor’s degree from a certified university. However, the demand for English teachers is so high in Thailand that you might still be able to get a teaching job without a degree.
One thing that might concern future English teachers about going to teach abroad is the required education level. In short, if you have a bachelor’s degree, you will have no trouble finding an English teaching position in Thailand. However, even if you find a teaching job without a degree, you risk facing some complications.
You can read our article here about being an expat in Thailand.
Can You Teach English in Thailand Without a Degree?
For a long time, Thailand has sought English teachers to come to teach the language to students in the country. However, the government felt that they were not bringing qualified teachers, and the students were not learning. Over the last few years, the Thai government came out with some basic requirements that a person wishing to teach English in Thailand needs to have to be accepted.
Sadly, for some, one of these requirements is a degree from an accredited 4-year college. This rule applies to anyone wanting to teach English in a formal school. A formal school relies on government funding and, therefore, will strictly enforce government regulations for teachers.
However, the demand for English teachers is so high that some places will accept teachers that don’t have a college degree. In some cases, the government will legalize such a hire, but usually, any teaching that occurs without a degree is considered illegal.
Because this is against the law, you can expect to pay a fine if you are caught. If the officers are feeling especially moody, they might throw you in prison to set an example; this is rare, and the prison stay isn’t long, but it is one of the risks you run if you don’t legally teach English in Thailand. The worst-case scenario is that you get deported.
Because it isn’t legal, you can expect to find teaching work at institutions that are not supported by the local government; this includes institutions such as private language learning academies, private tutoring, or teaching opportunities over the internet. Private tutoring and some internet teaching opportunities might not be considered illegal, and formal schools might be granted an exception from the government depending on certain factors.
How Do You Teach English in Thailand Without a Degree?
When looking for English teachers, Thailand schools look for those who can best help their students become fluent in the English language. That’s why certain qualifications are needed to teach English in the country.
To find work, you need to start by applying to schools and institutions in Thailand looking to hire an English teacher. These applications will also let you know what other requirements are expected of you to be able to work for them and in the country. The rest of the process of becoming eligible to teach is facilitated by your employer. If you do not have a degree, the process after you are accepted by an employer becomes more complicated.
Have Good English
The schools and parents in Thailand aim at providing quality learning experiences to their students and children. They are hoping the kids will be fluent in English by the time they are through school; this includes the expectation that their accents will sound like native English speakers. Therefore, schools prefer to hire someone native to an English-speaking country, such as the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Being from an English-speaking country will give you a leg up on your application.
If you are not a native of such a country, the schools and institutions in Thailand will ask that you are a B1 level English speaker, which is determined by taking English proficiency tests. A B1 English Speaker will typically score a 600 or higher on the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) or a 5.5 or higher on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).
Get an English Teaching Certificate
Companies want to make sure their clients are getting the quality of goods they asked for; this is the same for schools and their students. While it is not a legal requirement to teach in the country, most institutions providing English lessons in Thailand will ask that English Teacher Hopefuls have a TEFL Certificate.
TEFL stands for “Teaching English as a Foreign Language” (ESL Base). This certification program helps teach you what the best way to teach English to foreigners is. It will also go over common struggles for those learning English as a second language and how you can help them. Having this certificate shows employers in Thailand that you have been trained to teach their children.
Programs such as TESOL, TESL, CELTA, and DELTA all aim at preparing you to teach English as a second language to foreigners. TEFL just happens to be the most popular and recognized outside the US. Some of these options may be cheaper, so it is a good idea to check if the place you wish to work at would be willing to accept a different language teaching program than TEFL. If you don’t want the hassle, it is best just to enroll in the TEFL program.
Get a Work Permit
This step gets extremely tricky for those who are going to teach without a degree. To work in Thailand, you need a teaching license or work permit. In most cases, the school you are going to teach at will help you through the process. Getting the license or permit usually requires three steps.
- Proof of Degree: Thailand asks that those who come to teach in their country have a degree from a 4-year college.
- Non-Immigrant B Visa: The Non-Immigrant B visa is a business visa for those who wish to work in Thailand. The only other visa you can use to work in Thailand is the Non-Immigrant O visa, which is only open to those married to a Thai national. To get this visa, you must have a passport that has been valid for six months, a sponsorship from the school you will be working at, a copy of your bachelor’s degree certificate, a criminal background check, a passport-sized photo, and the application fee.
- Valid Doctor’s Certificate: To teach, the country needs to know you are not carrying any harmful diseases. A check-up and physical must be scheduled with a Thai doctor.
- Proof of English Competency: For those who are not native of an English-speaking country, you will also have to provide proof of your TOEIC or IELTS scores when applying for the permit.
After getting the permit, you will have to provide the permit, a copy of your degree, the medical certificate, and the visa along with any other extra documentation they ask for to get a teacher’s permit in the country.
For Non-Degree Holders: The Extra Step
If you do not hold a degree from an accredited 4-year university and want to work legally in Thailand, this process is a lot harder, but not impossible.
To work legally, you will need the institution hiring you to reach out to the Thai government’s Ministry of Education. Usually, the institution will say that they do not have the money necessary to hire someone with a degree for the government to approve it.
Look More Desirable
If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree yet, find things you can do that will make you stand out on an application. If you have attended many seminars and have taken extra TEFL training courses, the Ministry of Education is more likely to look favorably on your application. Also, previous experience teaching English as a second language can convince employers you are worth hiring over someone with a degree that may not have the experience or TEFL training.
Non-Degree Holder Drawbacks
While you are still able to teach in Thailand without a degree, there are a few notable drawbacks you will notice or need to look out for while applying for jobs.
You should expect to be paid less than your degree-holding counterparts. Most formal schools in Thailand are sponsored to some degree by the government, which usually means they have money to afford a teacher with a bachelor’s degree.
Meanwhile, non-formal schools, such as private academies, are probably lacking in funds and will petition to get a teacher without a degree because they can only pay the teacher a limited amount. This means you can expect a pay cut for a similar position as other English teachers since you don’t have a degree.
A lot of businesses will be willing to hire you even though you don’t have a degree. However, instead of getting permission from the Ministry of Education, the institution might ask you to use a different method to come to teach.
A popular method is an institution asking you to use a tourist visa to get to Thailand and then working on the tourist visa. These hires that ask you to bypass the work permit system are illegal and not worth the risk or hassle they bring. If a job isn’t asking you for all the required documentation, avoid it, even if they are willing to hire you without a degree.
Thailand is a country in Asia that’s willing to pay to get foreign aid in teaching their children English. While having a bachelor’s degree is a requirement for prospective teachers, those who have a strong desire to teach English in Thailand but have no degree should still apply. With the right amount of luck and your wholehearted perseverance, you could find an institution that will put in a good word for you and waive that degree requirement with the government. Just make sure you’re not doing any shady business.