What Qualifications Do I Need?

Firstly, I want to make a distinction – 

A TEFL Teacher in a language school versus a qualified teacher in an international school.

TEFL Teacher in a language school

TEFL is ‘Teaching English as a Foreign Language’ Sometimes EAL ‘English as an Additional Language’.

A language school is a part-time school where people of any age can go for the sole purpose of learning English (or any other language). These can be classes for children, teens or adults. The students will be in classes according to their abilities – beginners aren’t placed with students at a conversational level. These classes might be full-time short courses, or they might be ongoing and happen on the weekends or evenings. 

These kinds of establishments don’t usually offer expatriate packages such as accommodation or flights and they are often only for applicants who are already in the country as they don’t provide sponsorship. The good news is there may well be language schools in your hometown area, particularly if you live in a city or urban area. You might not need to move at all! 

Qualifications to become a TEFL Teacher:

  • Cambridge CELTA
  • Trinity CertTESOL

Both of these qualifications are globally recognised. It’s quite possible to do these if you don’t speak English as a first language, but you must be near native. 

Both can be completed in 4 weeks, but I don’t recommend it! There are part-time courses across 3 months, and both are now available online. You even do your teaching practises online. If you’ve found a cheaper course and are wondering if it’s OK to save money and do that one instead – don’t. Do one of these two above. 

A Qualified Teacher in an International School

Think of this kind of teacher, like you would at a school in your hometown. You expect your child’s teacher to be qualified and this is no different on the international circuit. International schools are normal schools for early years, primary and secondary students, and sometimes they’re prestigious. The students may be studying a British or American curriculum for example, and they will be learning to speak fluent English (if they don’t already). This is the reason schools spend a lot of money on expatriate staff, as the parents value English a lot. International schools are fee-paying, and parents will pay a lot of money for their child to be taught by a native English speaker. Yes, you might be teaching quite wealthy children! If you want to give back by teaching children in a poor African village, I’m all for that but there’s no money for you to save, so please take a volunteering opportunity in your school holiday. 

Qualifications to become a teacher are the same as in your country. Native English speakers are preferred but near-native proficiency can get you a job. 

It stands to reason that a British International School will advertise for people with British curriculum experience (mainly Brits, but anyone who has taught that curriculum). Likewise, an American curriculum school will want staff with American curriculum experience. Look for schools that fit your experience. 

  • You’ll need a teaching license from your country e.g., UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Nationals of these countries may well be native speakers.
  • As an example, in the UK, it’s standard practice that a teacher has a BA Primary Education, with QTS or a degree with a PGCE
  • For Early Years staff, it’s a little more complicated. In many countries, they will ask for a teaching qualification as above, but in my experience, teaching and caring for under 3’s are two quite different jobs. In Saudi Arabia, they will accept a UK Nursery Nurse’s qualification CACHE Level 3, but this is not common. 

Read the requirements carefully and choose jobs that fit your qualifications and experience or undertake training to get qualified.