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Teach English Abroad Without a Degree

Updated on September 11, 2014

The Best City to Teach English In

Shenzhen, China
Shenzhen, China

My Experience Teaching Abroad

I was 24 years old when I started thinking about possibly moving overseas to teach English. I had my heart set on China. First thing I did was meet a few friends online that lived in Shenzhen, China. I started talking to them over the phone about once a week or so. This was a good way to build some support in the new place I planned on living in. After about 8 months or so, I went to China for a 1 month vacation and then after 3.5 weeks of being back home, I moved to China. It was an amazing experience. I lived there for about 1.5 years and then I moved back to the U.S. After being in the states for about 4-6 months or so, I moved back to China once again for another year. So, I was there for about 2.5 years, maybe a little more but these were some of the best years of my life! I taught English in Kindergartens and private one-on-one classes with students of all ages. It was great getting to know so many people and being around the happy care-free children all day. When I was there, I visited multiple cities and provinces throughout the country for a very cheap price. I also traveled to the Philippines a few times and to Hong Kong every month on average.

How To Teach English Abroad Without a Degree

There are many people out there finding it hard to find work and are thinking about looking for an adventure and a job overseas. If that's you, then you came to the right place for information. Normally people need a college degree to work abroad, but I have personally done it without a degree and can teach you how to do it as well.

You can start working on getting a job overseas right away. I have taught in China for nearly 3 years and loved it. I started from almost nothing. In this article, I will explain to you exactly how it was possible for me to do this and do it all alone. Many people thought I was crazy and not serious about moving but in reality, I was living my life to the fullest and had a great adventure.

How To Prepare For Your Move Abroad

The first thing you need to do is to decide what country you want to go to. What country is the most interesting to you? Most people already know where they would go but if you can't decide between a few in your head, then do a Google search for how much the average salary is in that place and how much is the cost of living. Of course, choose the one that has a higher pay and a lower cost of living. This article will mostly talk about how to move to China to teach English without a degree.

The first thing you should do is to look up the average salary and cost of living in the city where you plan to move to. This way you can know what salary to ask for when you are looking for work. Also, it will let you know how much extra money you can expect to have while living there.

The second thing you should do is to meet some friends online from the country you are looking into moving to. For me, it was Shenzhen, China and there is a website called that is great for meeting friends. Meeting friends will be a great help when moving because they can help you with the language or with finding an apartment. There are so many new things that you will have to learn and a friend or a few can really be helpful. In China, for example, most people do not speak any English at all so friends can really help you get around for the first few months.

Next, you might want to start learning the language. Friends also can help in teaching you or just somebody to practice with before your move. Before I went to China, I learned the basics of Mandarin through Pimsleur audio CD's. Those CD's teach you by getting you to repeat the words back that are said in the audio.

Another thing to do, that is highly recommended, is to first visit the country for 2-4 weeks to check it out. You don't need to do this but it can really help with culture shock. Next you should look for possible jobs that you can find through Google or Shenzhen Party that would be willing to hire you without a degree. I know that EF in China will give you a free TEFL course and sometimes the Government will grant a working visa through just a TEFL certificate alone. TEFL is the most famous teaching English as a second language certificate in the world. It's best to get a TEFL certificate before you move. I didn't get a TEFL before I left and didn't even know what it was but it would help a lot in getting a bigger salary. If you can't find anyone to sponsor a working visa for you, don't worry because as an American (And some other nationalities) you can get a 1 year multiple entry tourist visa to go to China and there are a lot of schools that are willing to hire you without a degree or working visa. It is illegal to work there without a visa and I don't recommend working there without a visa because you could get caught and deported. Though that is rare, it's still illegal. The typical contract with schools for English teachers from native speaking countries can include a monthly salary in total of 13,300RMB ($2,145USD) per month, a medical insurance plan, work visa, possible paid plane ticket from your country to theirs, Chinese lessons and more.

Now, after you have done all of the above, if you need extra money then you could sell some of your stuff like your car because you won't need a car in China. There's a lot of public transportation like subways and cheap taxi's and buses. Know that by selling your stuff, you are risking not being able to get it again. But there are a lot of opportunities to make that money back so that if you do decide to buy a car again, that you will have plenty of money to save for it.

Shenzhen City Cetre

Shenzhen City Cetre including Di Wan Da Sha on the left.
Shenzhen City Cetre including Di Wan Da Sha on the left.

Fly To China

747 Jet taking off
747 Jet taking off

Plan Your Trip Overseas

Now that you have prepared for your trip, you will need to start taking action to move to the country you are planning to go to. If you didn't get a job yet or if the school didn't offer to buy you a plane ticket, then you need to first start looking for a plane ticket to buy. Some of the best places to find tickets are online. Although travel agencies can be cheap at times, usually the cheapest route is online. I always recommend doing extensive research so you should start by checking with travel agencies. After you have a good idea of the price, then check out a few websites. For going to China, the cheapest places online to check are: China Airlines, Philippine airlines and I have flown there through all 3 ways and every time those ways are cheaper than any other way on the internet. Make sure you check all 3 websites and book at least 3-4 weeks ahead of time. Always make sure you have a return ticket, which should be 3-12 months out. You can always change the date of you ticket to a later date for free. If you would rather just buy a cheaper on-going ticket to a nearby country, then you could do that. The reason for an on-going ticket is to show customs that you are not planning on illegally living in their country.

After you have bought your ticket, you must send a visa application, visa fee and a copy of your itinerary to the Chinese embassy immediately so that you can be on your way. While awaiting approval and your flight, start packing right away and selling a few things to get extra money for your trip. You should have at least $3000 in your bank to spend. If you already have a job, then you can get away with less because many schools offer an advance pay. Also, make sure you book a hotel for at least the first week, while you look for an apartment.

After you received your visa and your flight day has arrived, go to the airport, get on that plane and start a new exciting life!

What Countries Do People Like To Teach English In

Which country would you prefer to teach in?

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Preparing to Move Checklist

  • Figure out where you want to teach
  • Find the right school
  • Learn the language
  • Make friends in that country online
  • Apply for a visa
  • Find a cheap plane ticket
  • Book a hotel for at least the first week

OCT in Shenzhen

A park right outside my apartment in China
A park right outside my apartment in China

Arrival Checklist

  • Check-in Hotel
  • Explore for a day or so
  • Look for an apartment
  • Look for a job & begin work

Settling in Your New Home Abroad

As soon as you arrive in your hotel, make sure you take a day or so to look around a little bit. After a day or so, you should start looking for an apartment right away. The best way to do this is to get help from your friends, which you should have made already online. If you don't have friends to help you, you can still look for apartments through websites like or by going to a realtor in the city. This will be easy because there are many in the city and most of them have English speaking realtors. The realtors will often charge a high fee to both the buyer and seller. I always found apartments through friends and eventually on my own, after learning more of the language and the city.

After you have found a decent apartment, you won't have to worry about furniture because most of them are already furnished. So, now you just need to buy silverware and basic household needs to get by. If you already have a job then, just explore the city until you have to start work. If you still need to find work, then there are a lot of opportunities for you. There are a lot of schools out there looking to hire Native English speaking teachers. You can find many jobs on Another way to look for work after you have been there for a while is to explore and go directly to international schools and ask if they are hiring. You will always be required to do a demo class so be sure to get to know other teachers in the city that can help you prepare a demo class lasting 15-20 minutes. Another way to make money there is to tutor English one-on-one to students of all ages. You can find students on

City Cetre Shenzhen, China

Final Thought

Hopefully this article has given you enough information to start planning your move overseas. There is a lot of work to put in but the key is to just stick to your plan and don't let any fear stop you. You can do it. I did it at just 25 years old and all by myself. I am not special, anyone can do it. All you have to do is stay committed to fulfilling your dream! I lived in China doing business and teaching English for 1.5 years and then went back there again for another year. It was truly an amazing experience; I encourage everybody to try it. You will learn so many things and have the ability to understand people much better than anybody who hasn't lived abroad. So, go for it and teach English in China or anywhere else your heart desires.

Cheap Budget Travel Near China and Hong Kong

The Philippines has over 7,000 island that are beautiful with white sandy beaches and clear blue water. There are many places like Maldives or Tahiti but much cheaper. Check out my article about things to do while on vacation in the Philippines here.

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What Cities Are Good To Teach English In?

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Map Location of Shenzhen, China

Shenzhen, China:
Shenzhen, Guangdong, China

get directions

Shenzhen, China is the the third biggest city in China and it's newest! One of the best places to live in the world!

Di Wan Da Sha

Di Wan Da Sha, tallest building in Shenzhen. One of the tallest in the world.
Di Wan Da Sha, tallest building in Shenzhen. One of the tallest in the world.

© 2014 Elizabeth


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