What Do You Need to Teach English Abroad?

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Get well-versed in the requirements to teach English abroad

Does your current job have you itching to explore new horizons? Do you want to put your freshly minted TEFL or TESOL credentials to good use in another country? What are you waiting for? Let’s get you teaching English abroad, stat!

However, it’s not quite as easy as just having the desire to teach abroad and then snapping your fingers to make it happen (we wish!). Maybe you are gripped with preparation anxiety as you consider all the requirements to teach English abroad. While you are right to have a little bit of trepidation about what you will need, we have put in the legwork to get you started so you can focus on finding the best program for you!

What Do You Need to Teach English Abroad?

So, what do you need to teach English abroad? Spend a few minutes reading the comprehensive check-list below where we’ll go in depth on everything you need to make your teach abroad adventure come true. We’re not leaving any stone uncovered so jump in, and get ready to find your teach English abroad program!

Soft requirements to teach English abroad

In order to teach English abroad, you need to have the heart and drive to actually board the plane, leave your comfort zone, and potentially the only home you’ve ever known, and head off to a land unknown (to you, at least). That takes courage. To bolster your experience, you will need at least the two following qualifications to teach English abroad, so you can stop dreaming, and actually make it happen. 

1. Desire

First things first, you’re going to need the desire and heart to teach abroad before you sell all your earthly possessions, pack up two suitcases, and check out of your current living situation. Teaching English abroad shouldn’t be an escape from your current life. You should have the mindset of preparing for the adventure you are embarking on and moving toward. If that distinction seems subtle to you, then you are right. We can assure that it’s an important one to make. 

man in blue shirt with blue and red backpack across shoulders
Sure, you need a little more than just a rockin’ backpack, but it’s a start.

2. Support

John Donne said “No man is an island.” Well, no woman or otherwise identifying person is an island, either (John Donne wasn’t aware of identities outside your usual social constructs when he made that quote #17thcentury). If you think that packing your bags up and heading abroad to teach English marks you as independent and someone who can take on the world, you’re probably right.

What you also need to keep in mind is how important a strong support network is before, during, and after your teach abroad experience, which is why it’s one of our requirements to teach English abroad. From moral support as you make this huge decision to logistical support as you prepare to move abroad (who will take care of your spider plant?!) to emotional support as you endure weeks, months, and maybe even years away from your home country and outside comfort zone – it’s hard to live abroad and be away from your family and friends, and we do not want to sugarcoat it. The experience can also be hugely gratifying!

So, spend time now thinking about who you can lean on during this chapter of your life. While you’re at it, take some time to think about who you can be supporting in a similar way now before you go. Relationships are a two-way street and you usually need to give, to get!

colorful chalk with pieces broken on brown butcher paper
School supplies like fun-colored chalk feels like a given, right?

The necessary requirements to teach English abroad

Not all requirements to teach English abroad are ethereal and attached to your mood ring. Most are actually grounded in (literally) ticking boxes off of a check list. While it may feel inspirational to say to yourself that all you need is a good attitude and a plane ticket to make your teach abroad dreams come true, in reality you’re going to need the paperwork to back that dream up. 

1. Your Passport - with a Visa Stamped Inside

HELLO! This is one of the biggest requirements to teach English abroad— or do anything abroad, for that matter. If you don’t have a passport yet, you’re going to need one. While you’re at it, look up embassy contact details to find visa requirements for whatever teach abroad country interests you.

Depending on your compensation package, if you have one, you may need to apply for a different kind of visa than if you were volunteering or simply there for a short visit. Get your ducks in a row now while you have access to your original paperwork (i.e. birth certificate and social security card). Believe us when we tell you that you do not want to find yourself stranded in a foreign country trying to navigate (or negotiate) your visa or passport situation because of something you could have taken care of at home. Let’s just say we’re speaking from experience here (ahem). 

[Download our expert guide on how to get the visa you need]

decorations hung in stairwell in Singapore school
You need a desire and drive to teach, but you also need the paperwork to back that up if you want to work in a school.

2. A Bachelor’s Degree

Like it or not, a bachelor’s degree will be one of many necessary qualifications to teach English abroad. This depends, of course, on the type of program you are working with, but it’s generally a sign of a reputable organization to require their teachers to have higher education credentials to validate their expertise and profession, whether or not your humble opinion thinks otherwise!

3. TEFL or TESOL Certification

While many programs will require at least a bachelor's degree, not all will require (immediately) a TEFL certification. Some may offer you a path to TEFL certification as you teach (usually for a fee) while others will include it as part of their program. Make sure to read the fine, or large, print regarding this important distinction. You don’t want to end up in a situation where your program counterparts misheard your saying ‘certified to hit the beach’ with ‘certified to teach.’ That would be awkward.

[Search for TEFL Certification Programs Now]

black framed glasses on pile of study papers
A college degree or a TEFL/TESOL certificate is obvi one of the requirements to teach English abroad.

4. Professional References

And, so your new supervisor can be sure you didn’t actually say ‘certified to hit the beach,’ (does anybody actually say that?) you should also be prepared to provide professional references to your program providers, or the school where you will be teaching English abroad.

While this step may seem cumbersome, after all – can’t they take your word for it along with your certified transcript as proof of your eligibility – you should take it as a good sign if they request your references. It means whoever is organizing your experience abroad is serious about providing a quality education to their students, which often translates to how they treat their teachers. 

5. Lesson Plans

You didn’t think you could get away without bringing lesson plans with you, did you? While it’s not one of the requirements to teach English abroad to be a curriculum expert just yet, we can guarantee that after designing interactive, interesting lessons` for a few months (or longer!), you will be ready to break out your favorite lesson plan as your latest party trick. If you don’t have experience developing them before you head abroad, try and find opportunities to do so. 

6. Stationery 

Remember the mushy advice we shared at the beginning of the article? Once you settle into your new position as an English teacher abroad, you’re going to want to reach out to your support network and give them an old-fashioned, hand-written update. You might find that it’s hard to find your favorite pens and paper abroad so stock up on some essentials before you head abroad to keep in touch with your loved ones and to keep them up to date with your adventure!

lined notebook with sharpened pencil, pencil sharpener, and pencil shavings
Just don’t forget something to write with and write on! (That would be embarrassing)

Have you checked off all of the requirements to teach English abroad? 

Now that you have all your ducks in a row with all the qualifications to teach English abroad, it’s time to find your perfect program and start saving and comparing with MyGoAbroad.

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Want more options? Browse ALL teach English abroad programs.

P.S. Bookmark this article and re-read it as a refresher as you begin your journey to teach English abroad. You will be able to rest assured that you’re not only ready to teach English abroad in spirit, but that you’re actually equipped with the requirements to teach English abroad too.

Topic:  Before You Go