So you want to teach English online but you don’t have a degree? You may have seen that a bachelor’s degree in any subject is often a basic requirement for teaching English online, just like in many cases in the offline world.
But that depends on who you work for.
If you work for yourself for example, you don’t necessarily need a degree. In fact, you’ll learn soon enough that potential students aren’t interested in your degree or your teaching qualifications. They’re interested in the results that you bring them!
But if you’re not interested in the self-employment route because you need cash and students fast, then you’ll need to freelance, either for a company or a marketplace. The difference is that the company sets the rate, while on a marketplace you choose your rate.
In this post, we’ll look at the three scenarios I’ve mentioned:
- working for yourself with or without a degree
- companies or marketplaces you can work for with or without a degree
Bear in mind, no matter what qualifications you have (or not) or which route you go down (freelance, company, marketplace), your students want to know how you will help them achieve their goals.
And what will help you do that are the other qualities you bring to the job: your empathy, your ability to listen, your patience and your ability to coach and support them.
Plus what will reassure them much more than a degree is your own language learning experience. Or relevant experience in the domain where they need to use English, whether it’s healthcare, accounting, hospitality and more.
With that in mind, let’s get into it.
Working For Yourself Without A Degree
One thing that always makes me smile when I see teacher’s websites is when they write “professional teacher” or “qualified teacher”. But would you ever write the opposite? And do students really care about how many certificates you have on your wall?
What they want to know is:
- Can this person help me?
- Do they understand and empathise with my problem?
- Have they helped people similar to me in the past?
Above all, have you already learned a language?
You don’t have to have learned it to native proficiency level or anything. But if you already have experience in language learning, working in a multicultural team or living and working abroad, then this will be much more helpful than a degree, particularly one in an unrelated subject.
When I did my CELTA (Certificate In Language Teaching to Adults) many years ago, they preferred people to have a degree. But they did let one student into the course even though she only had a high school diploma (she had not long finished school!).
Want to know the real deal breaker for getting on the course? It wasn’t having a degree or not – it was having attempted to learn a second language yourself.
No language learning experience. No place on the course. That’s because the teacher trainers consider that a person who has never learned a language should not be teaching one to others, even if they are a native English speaker.
If you do have a degree, you can mention it somewhere. But it shouldn’t be the first thing people see when they arrive on your website.
Because when so many teachers out there have degrees and teaching diplomas, it doesn’t actually help students make a decision about taking lessons with you.
By the way, if you want to become a better language teacher, check out these 19 quick changes you can make.
Online English Teaching Companies That Require A Degree
If you’d prefer to work for an online English teaching company, then in some cases, you will need a degree. It’s simply part of the recruitment process.
Here are a few language companies that require a degree. In some cases, you’ll need a teaching qualification in addition to a degree.
I don’t endorse any of these companies, nor have I worked for them. I just share them as examples:
- English2Go – to work for this platform there are several requirements. You’ll need to be a native English speaker, preferably North American, with a degree and a TEFL qualification. The company also prefers you to have teaching experience. The pay starts at 11-12 USD per hour with a time commitment of 4 to 12 hours per week for 6 to 12 months.
- VIPKid – this company requires a degree in any subject and recommends that you have experience in teaching. You’ll start on a 6 month contract and can do as few or as many hours as you like. But you will need to be legally eligible to work in the US or Canada.
- English First – this company accepts degrees in any subject, but you must be a UK or US passport holder. You’l be expected to teach 20 and 40 minute private classes and 45 minute group classes. The compensation is $12-19 per hour but this depends on your qualifications and experience.
Teach English Online No Degree – Companies You Can Work For
If you don’t have a degree and you want to go down the route of freelancing for a company or a marketplace, then here are some companies that are willing to accept applications.
As above, I don’t endorse any of these companies, nor have I worked for them. I just share them as examples:
- Cambly – the “pay” is at the lower end of the scale at 10.20 USD per hour but you can apply as long as you’re a native English speaker. You don’t need a degree or teaching experience. But you’re not guaranteed a certain number of hours.
- Verbling – you don’t need a degree but you do need previous teaching experience and preferably a teaching certificate. You don’t have to be a native speaker to teach on this marketplace, but they do expect you to have a C2 level. Verbling will take a 15% cut off what you earn but you set your own lesson rates.
- You can also freelance on the marketplace iTalki without a degree if you sign up as a tutor rather than a professional teacher. But that usually means lower lesson rates. Plus you must be a native or near-native speaker of the language or languages you wish to teach.
- Preply – you won’t need a degree or teaching certificate to work on this platform. You can set your own rates and there are no minimum or maximum hours. But the more hours you do with Preply, the lower the commission they take. It will go down from 33% to 18%. Typical English teaching rates are 15-25 USD per hour.
What About TEFL Certifications?
A lot of people will tell you that, whether or not you have a degree, you’ll need a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate. Be wary of random TEFL certificates though, especially the ones you can obtain online. Most schools will ask for a 120-hour TEFL certificate as a minimum.
In the offline world, most reputable schools require you to have one of only two English teaching qualifications: the Cambridge CELTA or the Trinity TESOL. These are 4 week intensive courses with a minimum of 6 hours of assessed teaching practice.
You spend your time on the course learning about language theory, classroom management and more. You’ll also learn how to plan and deliver lessons. You’ll spend a lot of your time observing qualified teachers and trainees deliver lessons.
Of course, 4 weeks is still a short period of time. But one of these qualifications is just a starting point. And you’ll develop your skills and experience on the job with support and feedback from other teachers.
At the same time, the CELTA, at least when I did it, mostly trained teachers to teach groups offline. There wasn’t much mention of 1:1 teaching, which is the way a lot of online teaching operates.
But it can still be useful to have training, support and feedback before you start working with paying students. Plus, the courses have evolved since then to include online teaching.
Getting feedback before you start online English teaching can be a big help. You probably won’t have the same level of support as you would in an offline school as it’s rarer for online lessons to be observed.
If you’re working for a teaching marketplace, no-one is going to assess your lessons. Either you meet the criteria for joining the platform or you don’t. As to whether or not your lessons are good enough, that will be for the students who evaluate you to judge.
In any case, before you spend money on teaching certificates, do your due diligence and don’t be afraid to ask questions about what you’ll actually get.
- Who will actually accept this certificate?
- Will you be able to use it offline if ever you want to transition or expand your career? In which countries?
- Is the institution offering this certificate accredited?
Teach English Online No Degree – It’s Possible
So there you have it. It is possible to teach English online without a degree.
What students are interested in is your ability to help get them results. And getting the results is often more about your qualities as a human being, rather than the certificates you’ve got hanging on the wall.
And of course life and job experience can be a big help, whether that’s living in a different culture or working in the same industry as your students.
Empathy is the key as well here. If you don’t know what it feels like to make yourself understood in another language, then you’re going to have a hard time helping anyone learn a language. And that’s even if you have a degree or teaching qualification!
So, if you’re learning a language or you need to brush up on one, double down on that so you can empathise better with your students. And share what’s worked for you or not when learning languages. When you can do that, you’ll be much more likely to help them achieve their goals.
And if you want to learn how to teach online, check out the Online Teaching Accelerator, where you'll learn how to find high-paying students and discover how to start your new career as an online English teacher.