Most people think that you must have a four-year degree to teach ESL abroad. While many countries do have such requirements, the truth is that several countries don’t! 

If you have the desire to teach ESL but don’t currently hold a degree, read on because  your dream is still very much alive. 

So you can teach abroad without a degree, but it’s probably only in backwards, forgotten countries nobody has heard of right? Wrong! Let’s take a brief look at five of the most unforgettable places that non-degree holders can teach in around the world.


The moment you arrive in Thailand, it’s apparent you’re somewhere really, really special. 

From the sprawling metropolis of Bangkok at the center of the country, to the mountains of the North, beaches of the South, and stunning countryside of the East, you can’t go wrong teaching in the Land of Smiles. 

Teachers can expect to earn between US$700-$1,300 per month depending on your school and location. Your money goes far in Thailand as delicious meals can be found for less than US$1. 

While Chiang Mai and Bangkok are the most popular places to teach, don’t be afraid of the countryside region known as Isan. Isan is filled with hundreds of schools who have limited access to English education, so there is a big need for teachers who are looking to make a difference and enjoy a more authentic Thai lifestyle.

While the government technically doesn’t allow those without degrees to be sponsored by schools, (even though it occasionally does happen), the easiest legal way to get around this is to go on a visa run. 

Visa runs are the act of leaving the country, getting a passport stamp in a different country, and then returning to Thailand once again. All non-degree holders will need to do this once every 90 days. Since Thailand borders four other countries, it’s relatively easy to do no matter where you are located. 

This entire process can be done in a single day, but it doesn’t have to be done so quickly. Most teachers see it as a great reason to pop up to Laos for the weekend, eat some curry in Penang, Malaysia, visit Angkor Wat in Cambodia, or check out mysterious Myanmar for the first time! 

This system may seem a bit crazy, but it’s why thousands of non-degree holders are currently soaking up the sun as teachers in Thailand.


While Argentina is an absolute dream, the reality is that you don’t need a degree to experience this one of a kind vibrant culture while teaching ESL. 

ESL teachers make between US$600-US$1,200 per month in Argentina, depending on their school and teaching schedule. While the pay isn’t as high as other countries, you’ll be surprised how much the country’s low cost of living allows your money to go. 

This comfortable lifestyle paired with a high demand for English teachers, especially in the major cities of Cordoba and Buenos Aires, should put Argentina high on your list of potential teaching destinations!


Russia doesn’t usually come to mind when you think of teaching ESL, but this gem of a country with a rich history is one of the fastest growing hubs for ESL teachers.

There are countless areas to explore in the world’s largest country. Dive into the culture, history, iconic architecture, but be warned, the vodka is not for the faint of heart!

Non-degree holders can teach in both private schools and tutoring centers while earning an average salary between US$900 and US$1,500 per month. It’s not uncommon for schools to offer flight reimbursement and accommodation for their teachers as well!


Sí se puedes teach in Spain without a degree! Teachers who focus on the major cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, or Seville have the best luck finding teaching positions that accept non-degree holders. 

Salaries vary from school to school, but you can expect to earn between US$850 -US$2,300 per month while soaking in the warm temperatures, long lunches, and Flamenco music. 

With all of Europe at your fingertips, Spain is an excellent location to teach ESL and collect new stamps in your passport.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is known as the nature-lovers paradise with its mountains, rainforests, and beaches all a stone’s throw away. ESL teachers in Costa Rica reap the benefits of their surroundings along with a high-demand for English in the country from children up to business professionals. 

Teachers can expect to make between US$600-US$1,000 per month, which will go far in this tropical climate.

Spend your weekends and holiday breaks exploring neighboring countries, learning to surf, and enjoying life at a slower pace than back home. 

You don’t need a degree, but you do need a TEFL certification! 

Before you rush off to one of these amazing destinations, know that while it’s true they don’t require a degree, they absolutely do require a TEFL certification … and believe me, you’re going to want one! 

You’ll have plenty of time to explore your new country, but a good chunk of your time will be spent inside the classroom. A quality TEFL certification comes in handy once you’re face to face with a classroom of four year olds or a dozen angsty teenagers and expected to teach them English. 

Before you hop on a flight, you need to learn the vital teaching skills of ESL such as classroom management strategies, effective lesson planning, how to develop your students’ English language skills, foster a love of learning, and dozens more.

Start right away by enrolling with TEFL Adventure and begin taking steps towards your dream of teaching ESL around the world!


Teacher in Taipei
Andrew grew up in Iowa and graduated from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. He’s spent the last six years teaching TEFL and ESL in Thailand and Taiwan.