Why You SHOULDN’T Teach English Without Certification

by Published

So you think you might want to teach English abroad, huh? But you don’t have experience and you also keep hearing this pesky little thing called a “certification.” But you don’t need that, right? This is adventure! Hold your English-speaking horses. Sure, teaching English abroad is a great adventure, but let’s think this through. Because honestly, why would anyone try to teach English without certification, anyway?

We get it—there are costs involved, time, you already speak native English, etc. Excuse me, but do you remember the rules dangling modifiers?! We bet you don’t—we’ve read your emails. ;-)  

man walking into building with laptop

Want to look cool and confident like this dude walking into class? You need a TEFL certificate for that.

8 reasons why you SHOULDN’T teach English without Certification

We understand why you’d question it, but here’s why you should ultimate decide not to teach English abroad without TEFL certification.

1. Just because you know a thing doesn’t mean you know teaching the thing. 

If you’re a native speaker, you’ve been speaking English your entire life - how hard could it be to teach someone else? But teaching is a unique set of skills. You could know how to do a lot of things - drive a car, paint, sing, do higher mathematics - it doesn’t mean you can teach them! Being a great teacher means being able to plan lessons, tailor to learning styles, speak and demonstrate in clear and accessible ways, manage a classroom and student behavior, and more. Teaching is a skillset in its own right, and it’s also an entire body of knowledge, with different pedagogical methods and scientific underpinning brain development and other important things! Also, can you actually name all of the grammar terms for all of the weird quirks of English? Probably not. 

Teaching English abroad without experience is rough, but teaching English abroad without a certification is the roughest. It would be awful to move to another country to teach English to find that you didn’t have the necessary skillset to do your job! Imagine being fired from the job you flew 5,000 miles to take. That would be super sad for everyone involved. Get that training already!

[How to Choose a TEFL Course that’s Right for You]

2. It’s not fair to the students.

The students are putting their time (and perhaps their or their parents’ money) into learning English, and they deserve someone with the background and skillset to make that investment count. Learning English could be their ticket into a good university or a good job, or something they’ve always wanted to learn so they can watch Stranger Things in the original language sans subtitles! Don’t let their dreams die because they signed up for an English class and the teacher had decided they should teach English abroad without TEFL. Seriously, your class could be a gateway for new opportunities. Don’t let their return on investment be nil. 

Keep the needs of your students in mind while you’re making a decision whether or not to teach English abroad without certification. And then keep it in mind while you go get that certification, because those future students will be grateful for your hard work! 

Laptop open notebook open with notes and glasses

The extra elbow grease you put in studying will help you be prepared for anything in the classroom.

3. You might get burnt out quickly 

Teaching can be exhausting. It’s a ton of fun many days, but you also have to be “on” the entire time. There’s no down time with 20+ students waiting and ready to catch your pearls of wisdom! Without a solid foundation of skills, advice, and encouragement, it’s much easier to get burnt out. Don’t be the person that’s overwhelmed from daily challenges and at the end of their rope with lesson plans. Come prepared! Think of it as self-care. Pre-emptive self-care. You’ll be so grateful for all that training and that shiny certification when it’s day 35 and you knew exactly how to handle the sulky students and thorny grammatical questions. 

Teaching english abroad without certification is setting you up for exhaustion and burnout. Don’t do that to yourself! Invest in your future self - picture yourself in that classroom, confident, poised, easily managing what could become chaotic situations. Work hard now to get that certification and set yourself up for calmer days in the future. 

[How to Foot the Bill of Your TEFL Certification Cost]

4. You won’t get the best jobs 

The jobs at high quality schools where you’ll feel supported in your professional development? Yeah, those will mostly likely go to certificate holders. They will want to provide the best possible education for their students so they’ll want to hire the best possible teaches. If you want to have passionate, engaged colleagues and a supportive administration, you have to show that you’re also passionate teaching. Don’t half way do this teaching thing, go all in! Trying to teach English without a TEFL (or other certification) isn’t doing any favors to your job prospects. 

5. You also won’t get the best salary.

A job is a job, and we all need to pay the bills. If you want to have some left over after that bill paying to save, invest, and travel, you’ll want to work at a place that pays well. And it’s highly unlikely you’ll find a high paying job without a certificate. You need to prove you’re willing to work hard to earn that salary, and if you aren’t even willing to work hard to get certified, how can a prospective employer trust that you’re going to work hard in the classroom? That certification is more than just a piece of paper - it’s proof of your dedication and work ethic. Get certified. Get paid. Invest wisely for your retirement and/or spend it all on fancy coffees in Paris. It’s your money. (But probably don’t spend it all on coffee.)

6. Certificate courses provide more than just training - they can provide a community and networking. Sometimes even job placement! 

Without a certificate not only are your job choices limited, but so is your professional network. A certificate course, especially if it’s on site in classrooms, is a space to grow your network, which is vitally important as you move forward in your career. (This is one of the perks of on site courses, but even online ones can provide a network!) Beyond the professional network, these courses can give you a community. After a long hard day in the classroom, it’s great to be able to jump on Skype with a fellow ESL teacher to talk shop and encourage each other. 

Many of these certificate courses also help with job placement, and some even guarantee it! That’s huge. Job hunts can be daunting, especially when you’re looking abroad and navigating visa requirements and different work cultures. Having someone knowledgeable to advise you, provide references, and make connections is invaluable. 

woman pointing to bulletin board with chinese writing

Your students will understand the material better if you understand the material better. 

[WATCH THIS: Is a TEFL Certification Worth It?]

7. Getting a Certificate sets you up for future career success 

What if you go teach ESL abroad for a semester and you find out that you love teaching and want to make this your life’s work? Then a certificate will give you the foundation you need to launch an ESL teaching career! Without that certification you would be at a huge disadvantage competing for jobs against more qualified teachers. I mean come on, what resume is going to go on the To Interview pile? Not the one with no credentials, that’s for sure. 

Teaching English abroad without a certification could also make your first experience far less successful. So maybe you still loved teaching, but your employers might not love you or provide stellar references if you weren’t able to bring certification level skills to the classroom. Put your best foot forward, because this could be a first step in a long career. Don’t start a potential career in poor fashion - get certified! 

8. Would you want to go to a French teacher who had never taught and didn’t have a certification?

Or a Spanish teacher? Or Chinese? Or Arabic? Probably not. You want to know you’re getting the real deal with your money and time. If you wouldn’t accept a teacher without training, why do you expect other people to? Hmm..could this be a bit of arrogance I’m detecting? Or maybe some “white savior” like tendences? Like, “those students should just be grateful to have me!” Nah. That doesn’t belong in the classroom! Have a little humility and realize you still have a lot to learn. 

When we go abroad to work, we come as ambassadors of our home countries and guests of our host nation. We should be cognizant of that, and bring our best selves. Including that self that works hard and comes prepared! 

[No time to find programs? No problem! We’ll do it for you]

Did that convince you? Great! Here are some folks that can help you get certified

These TEFL schools will help pave the way for your future career as a CERTIFIED ESL teacher abroad. 

Asian College of Teachers 

Get certified in India! Asian College of Teachers can get you prepped for the classroom, including specific classes for Montessori schools. With great reviews and cool locations, this could be the place. 

Related: Read Asian College of Teachers reviews |

empty classroom in Brazil

Keep your classrooms full and engaged with all the great lesson plans you’ll make!

myTEFL Around the World 

myTEFL courses can be online or in awesome locations around the world. They provide lifetime job placement help, which is amazing for 30 years from now when you have a mid-life crisis and run off to be a teacher on the beaches of Thailand or something. They also donate part of their proceeds to different charitable organizations! 

Related: Read myTEFL reviews |

Ibero TEFL in Buenos Aires

Learn Spanish while also getting your TEFL certification in Argentina! Enjoy the beauty of Buenos Aires at this award winning TEFL course (an award from Trip Advisor is no joke - those reviews can be brutal). Two birds, one stone - Spanish, TEFL, Argentina. Oh sorry, that was three. 

Related: Read Ibero TEFL reviews |

Premier TEFL in Cape Town

Head to Cape Town for this English teaching certification! They can help you find a paid TEFL internship and they even have scholarship opportunities. Read some reviews and see if it’s right for you! 

Related: Read Premier TEFL reviews |

iTTT in Ireland 

Head to Limerick, Ireland to learn your classroom management skills and maybe also some rhymes (limerick, get it? Get it? Like, poetry?) They help you find accomodation near their down town location and you get to explore Ireland while getting certified! 

Related: Read iTTT reviews |

The Language House TEFL in Prague

Head to beautiful Prague to get TEFL certified at The Language House, an award winning 4-week TEFL course. They provide job search assistance and host cultural events to bring their graduates together! 

Related: Read The Language House reviews |

[Compare your top program picks side-by-side with MyGoAbroad]

boy with Grad glasses

A TEFL certificate ensures your success as a teacher, and your students’ success, too.

Teach English abroad without certification? NEVER! 

Now that you know why you need a certificate, and where you can get that certificate, what’s stopping you? Save up your coins and sign up for a class—one that’s online or in person. There are classes tailored for many different career goals and learning styles. Whether you want something flexible and online, or you want an intensive 4 weeks in Costa Rica, there’s a class out there that’s perfect for you. Get searching! 

Find TEFL programs (at home, or abroad) today!

Topic:  Travel Tips