TEFL is short for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. In most cases, you’ll need your TEFL certificate if you want to teach ESL (English as a Second Language).

But there are situations when you won’t need to be TEFL-certified to find a job as a teacher of English abroad. You could very well find a job as a teacher abroad (without a TEFL) when:

  • You are highly experienced. In case you are already a well-experienced teacher, you may qualify even without a TEFL. If you have an interesting and impressive resume that’s full of great jobs and you have recommendations, degrees, certificates and a lot of experience as a teacher, some schools might not have a problem with hiring you.
  • Other certifications. We know several certifications available for teaching ESL that may get you the job you’re looking for. Apart from the TEFL certificate, there is also the TESOL certification (which is more or less equivalent to the TEFL), and the CELTA and DELTA certificates, but these last two are more intensive. If you’re holding one of these qualifications, there’s no need for TEFL certifications on top of that.
  • You’re holding a visa. Most ESL teachers abroad require a TEFL certificate to receive a working permit and a visa. However, if you already stay in a country on another visa, like a marriage or a retirement visa, you might well be able to teach without the need for the TEFL certification.

So in case one of the above categories apply to you, you may very well qualify to teach English as a Foreign Language abroad.

What happens when you’re a non-certified TEFL teacher

Even in cases when you manage to land a job without holding the TEFL certificate, you may want to give it more thought. If you start teaching English abroad while not being TEFL certified, you may be faced with some obstacles along the way, the most common being:

  • Difficulties in finding a job. There’s no doubt that it’s much harder to land a full-time job as a teacher when you don’t hold TEFL certification. Most schools and institutions require applicants to be properly certified. If you’re not certified, you’ll be met with great difficulty to even get interviewed. Usually, a 120-hour TEFL certification course is asked for, and without that, your application and resume won’t probably even be looked into and cast aside. Read also this post about how to get started as a TEFL teacher.
  • Can you get a work permit? Some countries require teachers of English to be TEFL certified if they apply for a permit to work. Now, there are teachers who, to be getting around this requirement, choose to teach illegally, using a regular or a tourist visa to stay and teach in the country of their choice. This route is definitely not recommended though quite a few individuals take this route. They always run the risk of getting caught by state officials, and, let’s be honest, not living in a stable and secure environment can be quite uncomfortable as well. Sure, living abroad and learning another language while holding a job at the same time is great, but not having the proper certificate might be daunting.
  • You’ll have a lower salary. Under- or unqualified teachers usually get less pay that properly certified teachers who have taken the appropriate courses. The best salaries are for Master’s degree teachers that generally find the best and highest-paying jobs at international schools that offer American or British curricula. DELTA and CELTA certification comes just below that level while a TEFL teacher usually will make the bare minimum. There are countries where it may be difficult or impossible to make livable wages if you are not properly qualified.

So as you see, we will not advise you to work abroad without being TEFL certified even if you are offered the chance to do so. There are, however, possibilities to work as a TEFL teacher without being properly certified.