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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 ShenzhenParty.com 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 Kayak.com. 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

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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 Shenzhenparty.com 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 Shenzhenparty.com. 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 Shenzhenparty.com.

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

A markerShenzhen, China -
Shenzhen, Guangdong, China
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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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    • wiserworld profile image

      wiserworld 7 months ago

      Great tips. Is China getting more strict about the teaching requirements these days? I guess it has more to do about who you know and the connections you make than the degree qualifications once you get settled there.

    • Eamine profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth 2 years ago from U.S.

      @Adam Most TEFL programs will help you find jobs, but typically most schools will ask for a degree for a work visa, but I have read that it is not actually a requirement. A TEFL should enough to get a work visa, but not 100% sure because I lived there on a Z tourist visa and there are plenty of schools that don't care about what kind of visa you have and even schools that would still help you get a work visa if you wanted it.

      If you are planning to go to Shenzhen then shenzhenparty.com is a good place to start looking for work, but you do not need to worry if you can't get a job before you go, just make sure you have enough money to last at least 2 months. You shuld be able to find work right away but to find the right job it may take a month and then another month for payment. Be careful with schools and research them well. I have never had any really bad experience or any school not paying me, but I have heard stories so be careful that's all.

      If going to Shanghai then you can try Shanghaiparty.com I really don't have much experience with finding jobs online. I get an email from this one company that sends me some really high paying jobs, but I haven't tried them yet so I do not know if they are trustworthy or legit yet. I am planning to maybe try them out next year because I want to move back to China. You can register for their emails here http://www.nes-hk.com/ and you can do some research on them yourself. You can also just google stuff like "TEFL jobs in Asia" or "TEFL jobs in China" or "ESL jobs in Asia" etc. I do not know which sites are good.

      If you are looking for a job in Shenzhen you can also search Google for "Teach English in Shenzhen" or "Teach Kindergarten in Shenzhen" or "English Teacher full time Shenzhen" etc.

      Where do you plan on teaching and for how long? I'm excited for you already. I have some things holding me to the US for at least the next year unless God wills another way. Peace be upon you

    • profile image

      adam 2 years ago

      What site is best to look for jibs without degree being needed ? I am currently getting my TEFL but after right away I want to apply my butt off at various places to put the certificate to use

    • profile image

      Anonymous 2 years ago

      I'm hoping that I will teach English in Shenzhen next year. Great article!

    • Eamine profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth 2 years ago from U.S.

      Also, I want to tell you that some people get culture shock. I have always loved the Chinese culture so I didn't have culture. I have never had culture shock in any country I have been too actually. Some people are just meant to be in different cultures. The Chinese culture is opposite of Western culture. Some things that I don't like is that they do not have any of the manors we have. They have their own ways, which some are actually better. A lot of them do not shower everyday and u WILL get bumped walking down the street and hear no sorry because they have so many people. There are quite a few things I don't like there, but the things I like far outweigh the things I don't like. I'm happier there than in the US.

      If you get hired at EF, they might even offer to pay your plane ticket upfront like they did for me. They really need teachers for young students in Shenzhen when I applied last December 2013. You might be able to get a work visa without a degree and with the TEFL only. I have read that others have done this. You are the one who will send the documents to the embassy so maybe they will approve it with just the TEFL. That's what I was going to try, but I cancelled. EF offered me personally over 13k RMB/month plus free roundtrip ticket every year and raises after a year, health insuran(which the healthcare is so cheap there anyway so u don't need to worry about that too much) and some other benefits I can't remember.

    • Eamine profile image
      Author

      Elizabeth 2 years ago from U.S.

      Hi TheInnocentDragon, I'm glad my article was useful for you. I would be happy to help in any way I can. It was indeed a great experience living in China. I really felt more freedom there than in the U.S. Also it's really fun and exciting because everything is new all the time and China is different than anywhere in the world!

      If you have a degree than getting to China, Korea or Japan is easy. One good place to try is EF for China. If they choose to hire you after the Skype interview then they will take care of the whole process for you and even give you a free TEFL course, which you will need for the work visa. TEFL courses normally cost hundreds of dollars. I recently was offered a job with EF but had to cancel my plans because I have things to take care of in the States first. I have never worked for them but they are a huge company all across southeast Asia.

      If you don't have a degree than China is the best place to find jobs teaching, and it's a wonderful experience and a laid back job. Very little stress if any. My experience is only in Shenzhen but I think it would be even easier to get jobs without a degree in smaller cities. Shenzhen is great because it's border is Hong Kong. I love Hong Kong! I was working in China on a 1 year tourist visa that was for multiple entries and some of my visas made me leave the country every 30 days and the other every 60 days, but it's so cheap and easy to just leave and come back when your border is Hong Kong. Hong Kong is separate from China so that makes Shenzhen easy to live in on a tourist visa.

      There are two websites that could really help you. One is Shenzhenparty.com and the other is Shanghaiparty.com. They are social sites for their city. You can find jobs, apartments and meet people through there. Be careful and make sure you get to know somebody well before trusting them. The Chinese are usually good to foreigners and I'm sure you can find friends through those sites who will help you. Ask around to find out what teachers from your country are getting paid there. White Westerners from Native English countries get paid the most. On the site you will find some agents trying to get you to work for a low price. Do your research and don't let that happen. There are plenty of agents that could help you find your first job with good pay. For a full-time job, don't accept less than 8,000RMB in Shenzhen. You can get more after experience. I never worked for less than 12,000/month but I got my first full-time job after living and tutoring there for many months and did a lot of research before looking for work. I knew the place and people well. 8,000-12,000 is a typical starting point for teaching full-time. If you don't have a degree, just know that it is illegal to work without a work visa, but they rarely check and if they do you better have some story to tell them like you are teaching as a charity or for research study or to learn from the school. You can't teach and get paid legally without a work visa. I don't want to scare you but I want you to be prepared. Make tons of friends to protect yourself! Chinese friends are what you need most, but make foreigner friends as well. I had mostly Chinese but a couple foreigner friends.

      What country are you from? US?

    • profile image

      TheInnocentDragon 2 years ago

      Hello Elizabeth, I recently met a Friend from China and she insisted that I get a job to teach English in China. I was googling information and am glad to find your article. ^_^

      My current job is peaceful, but would actually like to travel to a different country and thought that teaching English in China/Korea/Japan would not be a bad idea. Your article did help a lot, I kind of feel I can adapt, adjust and learn new things for a few years. Do let me know if you can provide a contact person or a recruiting center/school/society or anyone who could help. Any additional info and suggestions would help :) Will continue searching and thanks a million.

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