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Best Degrees to Teach English Abroad

Most English teaching jobs require teachers to have a 120-hour TEFL/CELTA certificate (including teaching practical) and a degree in any field. However, schools are slowly starting to favour degrees in education, English and linguistics over non-language or non-teaching-related degrees.  While it’s possible to find work in some countries – mostly South America and some parts of southeast Asia – with only a TEFL certificate and no degree, this article looks at which degrees are usually best to have and which are seldom accepted when looking for English teaching jobs overseas.

What is a degree? 

A degree refers to a qualification that is at least three or four years of study completed at a college or university with full accreditation in South Africa. You will need to provide proof of your qualification and even your academic transcripts for jobs in some countries. Diplomas are not usually accepted and you need to have graduated – i.e. completed your studies successfully.


Your major is seldom important as the requirement of a degree is usually for immigration purposes. This means that you need a degree in order to get your visa, not to teach English abroad. As a result, you’ll meet teachers with degrees in everything from Psychology to Ancient Greek, Medieval English, Drama and Electrical Engineering.

Of course, schools do have preferences, and you’ll find that better positions and more opportunities are often available if you have a related degree. Therefore, degrees in fields like English language, English literature, education and linguistics are often sought after in English teachers abroad. So, if you’re still choosing a degree option and thinking about making EFL a career, consider one of these majors. However, remember that your degree also needs to interest you!

Postgraduate in TEFL

If you decide that you love the EFL industry and want to further your studies, but didn’t do a language- or education-related degree to begin, you can always look into doing a MA in TEFL at a later stage once you have some experience teaching English abroad. Some universities offer these Masters, but keep in mind that not all employers may know what TEFL is, so you need to be sure that this is the career path for you. A TEFL course is the cheaper way to go if you’re just looking to test the waters.

Once you decide that you do want to pursue a TEFL course, make sure that you invest in one that is internationally accredited.