A teaching certificate can open doors to highly paid jobs, but does everyone need one?
Do I need a teaching certificate to teach abroad? This is one of the more common questions asked in social media groups and in forums frequented by ESL teachers. It’s also a great question as it doesn’t have a simple yes or no answer. The fact is the answer to this question is going to largely depend on where you want to teach and the specific position you apply for.
In order to clarify this, we’ll look at a few different examples so that you can better understand when you might need a teaching certification and, for those of you who don’t have one, some excellent alternatives.
What is a teaching certificate?
I know, this is going to be obvious to many of you, especially if you have a degree in education. However, for those of you that don’t, let’s clarify exactly what we are talking about.
A teaching certification, as we are using the term, is a certificate saying that you have completed a program through an authoritative source, such as a university or government program, which gives you the specific knowledge needed to teach students of varying ages and levels.
To be clear, this is not the same as a TEFL, CELTA, or TESOL, which are certification courses for people who want to teach students learning English as either a foreign language or a second language. We have addressed this in other articles, but to reiterate, even if you have a teaching certificate you need a TEFL certificate to teach almost anywhere in the world. In fact, we reviewed 1,000 job listings spread across five different websites and 96% of listings put down a TEFL certification as a requirement to obtain employment.
So, one more time, a teaching license or certificate is completely different than a TEFL certificate. You do need a TEFL certification to teach abroad. However, in many cases, you don’t need a teaching certificate (but it will help if you do).
When You Do Need a Teaching Certificate To Teach Abroad
Most Jobs in the Middle East
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and others, are all countries that you will usually need a teaching certificate to find a job in. These are also currently some of the highest paying markets for teachers.
This isn’t a one size fits all answer. Many teaching opportunities in the Middle East are traditional teaching jobs as opposed to strictly ESL teaching. Meaning, an English speaking teacher is being hired to teach a specific subject such as math or science at a private international school or university. While you will need a TEFL certification due to the English component, you will also need a teaching certification which qualifies you to teach that subject to a specific age level of students.
On the other hand, there are plenty of traditional ESL jobs throughout the Middle East where you don’t necessarily need to have a teaching certification. Having a teaching certificate when applying for these jobs will give you a significant advantage over other candidates, however, it isn’t always necessary.
High Level Jobs in Many Countries
In many countries, when it comes to high end teaching jobs at elite institutions such as top tier universities or private international schools, there will oftentimes be an expectation that teachers hold a teaching certification and have the proper experience. As with many jobs in the Middle East, these are typically going to be higher paying.
This isn’t always a hard and fast rule. For example, if none of the candidates that have applied to a particular job listing hold a teaching certification, the employer will probably go with the most qualified candidate who has applied. The job still needs to be filled before the school year begins and what the school wants and what they get may be two different things. The exception to this will be when a teaching certification is a requirement in order to secure a visa or work permit, in which case, having a teaching certification is non-negotiable.
When You Don’t Need A Teaching Certificate To Teach Abroad
Most entry and mid-level ESL teaching jobs will not require candidates to hold a teaching certification. This isn’t to say that having one isn’t a major benefit. The more qualified you are, the more advantages you will have when it comes to finding employment. However, if you do not have a teaching certification, but hold a TEFL certification, rest assured that there are plenty of opportunities to teach English abroad.
Many jobs throughout East Asia, for example, offer good pay and benefits with the only requirements for obtaining the job being a university degree and a TEFL certification as well as a clean background and health check. These types of jobs are especially prominent at language centers and public schools in countries such as China, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, etc. So, while it is certainly advantageous to have a teaching certification, it is by no means the only path towards a successful career teaching English abroad.
Closing It Out
For current university students looking into teaching abroad after graduation, it can certainly be worth spending that extra time getting a teaching certification if you plan on making a career of it. However, if it isn’t something you possess currently, don’t worry, as long as you have a bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certification, you will be just fine.