Minimum Teaching Qualifications
Schools in Southeast Asia have a wide range of requirements for their teachers. Some require only a BA degree (if that) whereas some request a specialized certificate for teaching English and others require a master’s degree in education. The good news is that with as little as one month of training, you can earn a qualification which will enable you to teach at most primary schools, secondary schools, and adult education centers around the region.
Schools in the region certainly prefer applicants who have completed a Bachelor’s Degree, and some schools will require it outright. However, a skilled teacher with a good personality can find employment although the job search may take a bit longer.
TEFL vs CELTA
There are two main courses you can take which will teach you the fundamentals of teaching English and give you the qualification you need to find work as a teacher around the world.
There is a wide variety of TEFL courses run by a variety of different schools. TEFL courses generally have a few elements in common, such as an introduction to English grammar, some instruction on teaching methods, observation of experienced teachers, and teaching practice during which students are observed in the classroom and given feedback. The industry standard is for training programs to include at least six hours of observed teaching practice.
There is also a wide variety in terms of the quality of TEFL courses. There is no central body to oversee TEFL courses. Any institution can grant a TEFL certificate, and directors of schools now this. Thus, if you’ve gone to a well-regarded institution for your TEFL, a hiring manager is more likely to look seriously at your application. If you’ve gone to an unknown training center to earn your TEFL, a hiring manager will be more skeptical of your application.
There are two certifications that are particularly well-known and well-respected in the ESL industry. Those are the CELTA and the Trinity TESOL. The CELTA certificate, which is issued through Cambridge University, is more common than the Trinity TESOL. However, both are regarded fairly equally in terms of quality. Both programs give a rigorous introduction in teaching methods and grammar. The programs are reviewed and managed according to stricter standards than most TEFL programs, and thus turn out graduates of a more consistently high quality. Though these programs are more expensive than a TEFL program, the investment can be well worth it.
It’s possible to study for any of the qualifications listed above even if you don’t have a BA degree. A professional with a good certificate but no degree can often teach just as well if not better than someone with a BA degree and a poor-quality TEFL certificate.
Extensions to TEFL and CELTA
There are a few specialist add-ons that you can take in addition to your standard 120-hour TEFL or CELTA course. The most common add-ons concern teaching English to young learners (TEFL-YL or CELTA-YL) and teaching English for business purposes. While schools usually don’t require these additional qualifications, they can be a good way to make your application stand out from the others and also to prepare you better for the classroom.
Further Teaching Qualifications
The following qualifications are useful if you want to reach a higher pay scale or advance your career within the field of international ESL or international teaching.
The DELTA is a course which takes around 3 months to complete, and builds upon the material covered in the CELTA course. It explores teaching methods and English grammar in greater detail, and covers further topics such as syllabus design and examinations. This course can prepare you for leadership positions such as a Director of Studies at a language school or as a teacher trainer.
This degree, which stands for MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, takes around 1-2 years to complete. While the DELTA is said to focus more on teaching methods, the MA-TESOL is thought to be a bit more “academic,” with more focus on linguistics and learning theory. However, some programs have addressed this by including a greater observed-teaching component in the curriculum to ensure that their graduates are skilled teachers as well as administrators and curriculum developers.
An MA-TESOL isn’t considered equivalent to an MA in Education, though some programs allow you to also earn an MA in Education through some additional coursework. Many international schools won’t accept an MA-TESOL as a teaching qualification, unless the position is specifically for an ESL teacher.
MA in Education
An MA in Education doesn’t specifically prepare you for teaching English, but it does prepare you to work in international schools, which are where the real money in teaching abroad is to be made. This qualification can also usually allow you to teach in your home country, which gives you broader employment opportunities than having an MA-TESOL. An MA in Education will be a sure credit to your resume for any teaching work.
Looking for More…?
This is just a website, not a book! This site is already pretty heavy with text, and it’s got just a few thousand words of info. If you want to learn more about the different qualifications you can earn, as well as loads more information on teaching in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam (and the most comprehensive list of schools you can find), then check out my eBook Teaching English in Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. At over 45,000 words, it’ll give you a more thorough introduction to teaching in the region!