This is a question that surfaces a lot. If you want to get a job in TEFL how important is it to posses a teaching qualification? Doesn’t being fluent in the language qualify you to teach it in itself? Certainly, there was a time (mid-90s) when an English speaker could go to a country such as Japan or Korea and secure a teaching job without any experience or training. This was perhaps indicative of the strength of the economy more than anything else – indeed the demand for English teachers is still high (as long as the compulsory education system in Japan continues to fail to equip students to actually speak English that demand will surely continue).
The TEFL situation today
Things have certainly changed since then. TEFL has become a major international industry and has been institutionalised and categorised so that potential TEFL teachers today are expected to have followed a certain route into the profession. Some employers require a university degree, a TEFL qualification, and at least 6 months teaching experience for a basic teaching position. A higher level post, such as a university based instructor, normally requires the candidate to posses a post-graduate qualification in TEFL (MA in TESOL, or DELTA for example) and considerable teaching experience. A little closer examination reveals another story, however.
TEFL qualification not required
This line above appears surprisingly often in TEFL job ads. You have to search to find jobs that don`t require a TEFL qualification but they are definitely out there. Indeed, the government authorised JET programme – a cooperation between Japan and the UK to provide English teaching assistants for Japanese schools – only requires its participants to have a bachelor`s degree. In order to participate on the JET programme, a specific teaching qualification is not necessary. Furthermore, many privately owned language schools do not require their instructors to have a teaching qualification, valuing fluency in English over any formal training. If you do not posses a TEFL certificate, there is the option of becoming a self-employed English home-teacher – this, of course, opens up certain visa problems, as well as the struggle to find home students in a new country.
In summary, TEFL certainly is not an industry that accepts only qualified applicants. Completing a TEFL training course will, however, make you both more marketable as a potential employee, and more adept as a teacher of English as a foreign language. You will have noticed that, perhaps more important than a TEFL qualification, is a univeristy degree. This, generally, is due to visa stipulations, which means that the degree can be held in any subject or discipline, not just English language/education. In a future blog, I will discuss visa issues more thoroughly.
Are you working in TEFL? Have you found a TEFL qualification to be a requirement by employers? Get in touch with me and share your story: tefl at jobs dot ac dot uk.