Should I do an MA TESOL?

by Lisa Lee

Hi Mark,

I intend to embark on a postgraduate study to switch for an English language career-based. I find TEFL/TESOL an interesting course where I get to do what I like plus the opportunity to travel.

I do not have any formal teaching experience before. The most I did was working as a relief teacher and a part time tutor during my student days.

Should I begin with a certificate/diploma in TEFL/TESOL instead of jumping into MA TESOL?

After browsing some info on MA TESOL, I find that most universities preferred graduates who have teaching experience. In addition, they prefer graduates whose first degree are related to linguistics/English studies whereas mine is a law degree. I am afraid I could not grapple with the subjects and have difficulty to complete a dissertation later on if I commenced directly on MA course.

In addition, I find that non-native speakers are not preferred for teaching abroad in European countries. If that's true, are there better opportunity for them in the Asia countries? I have been in Asia for most of my life and I hope I could teach in a different continent after I obtained the necessary qualification.

Just want to ensure I have consider the options, prospect and all carefully before I commit myself to pursue a TESOL qualification.

Your assistance is much appreciated.

Answer - Hi Lisa, it will be difficult for you finding work teaching English overseas if you are a non-native speaker. There is a strong bias for native English speakers, and the bias is just as strong in most of Asia as it is in Europe.

In Europe the preference is for EU nationals. It's even quite hard for a North American to find work there teaching English. It would be extremely hard for a non EU, non-native speaking teacher to find work there. In Asia the preference of most parents and students is for native speakers too. Sadly, I think it would be very hard to find a job teaching English outside of your own country.

If your first degree is from an English speaking country, then you may be able to find work, but it will still be difficult. If you went to school in an English speaking country, then your chances will also be a little higher.

I don't think I could advise you to go to the expense of taking a master's in the hope of travelling abroad to teach. If you would like to teach English in your home country the situation is different. If so you could consider taking a state recognized teaching qualification, but I can see that this is not what you were asking me in your question.

Most MA TESOL programs do require applicants to have previous experience. When I took my master's the students who only had a few years of teaching experience found it very hard. If you ever do go down this path, then you should certainly get experience before you apply for a master's. In my opinion about five years teaching experience would make the master's course more worthwhile.

Lacking a relevant first degree is not important if you have enough teaching experience. A law degree would be fine.

A TEFL certificate may be useful for what it can teach you, but only some TEFL certificates are internationally recognized. Read the article for more information.

Lisa, I'm sorry not to have more positive news on this, but I prefer to be honest. There are always individuals who do something different, and I've met non-native speaker who have taught around the world, but they usually do this illegally - which I don't recommend.

I think the situation is changing slowly. I've noticed that Filipino teachers are being hired in some countries - but usually at a lower level of salary. One final thought, and it's only an idea (I'm not sure how well it would work), you might try teaching English online, perhaps as a freelance.

Good luck with whatever you choose.

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Mar 22, 2013
by: Lisa Lee

I am extremely thankful for your answer. Your honesty is much appreciated. Truth often hurts but I rather embrace it than living with further hurt and false hopes.

Given the limited prospect of teaching abroad, I might consider for a teaching post in my home country. I understand that I could only teach in the varsity with a Master degree.

I see that teaching experience would greatly assist in the study of MA TESOL. However, I already find it difficult to obtain a teaching post with the law degree. Most language school would prefer to hire potential employees from a teaching background/ related teaching degree. Again, another setback to get some teaching experience.

I am in a dilemma since I have been offered a MA TESOL from UK and Australia. If I couldn't survive in the end of the course, it's a big disaster considering the time and money spent.

Do you know how some English teachers manage to secure a teaching job in the first place without the relevant teaching/degree?

Even if it's not going to be a positive answer to all the above, I am ready to listen. It's still better to find out than assume.

Once again, many , many thanks for your assistance.
Have a lovely day!

Mar 23, 2013
How to find a job without experience
by: Mark

Hi Lisa - This has always been hard to do (for any job, not just teaching).

Most native English speakers will start with a TEFL certificate. For non-native speakers this sometimes works too, but state recognized teaching qualifications may be a better way to go, unless you are sure you want to work at university level.

In that case the qualification you need will be a master's degree.

I suggest advertising locally for students to tutor, and consider working as a teaching assistant - at least for a short time. Once you have built up some experience tutoring and as a TA, you will be more attractive to local language schools as a teacher.

The more experience you have, the easier the master's degree would be too.

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