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My Experience Teaching English Abroad Without a Bachelor's Degree
Written by: Adrienne Glenn
Last Updated: December 18, 2020
I often tell people that having a college level degree in the United States only shows your ability to navigate a bureaucratic system, amass large amounts of debt, and walk away with little else. I am definitely often incorrect in that (purposefully critical) comment; but, clearly you can see what side of the political aisle I stand on at this moment in time. I believe that education is a human right, nay - a necessity, and we shouldn’t be forced into difficult systems that cause us suffering long into our lives.
Because of my before-their-time political viewpoints, I shied away from selling my first born child in order to obtain a piece of parchment that says, “You’re Successful!” and I put all my focus into building my career instead. I have come out on the other side, after a long career in marketing, with almost zero debt and an experiential education beyond most. However, for the first time in my life, in teaching I have encountered some push back.
There are two continents thus far where I have personally encountered relaxed opinions on degrees, similar to those in the United States; viewpoints where experience and ability often trumps a Baccalaureate Degree. Europe and South America often favor a devoted and focused native-speaker with workplace experience, over a young student who can simply present a certified document. I don’t mean to denounce the hard work that many of you have put into your college process. I know that it isn’t easy, and do not want to encourage anyone to not get a degree or feel bad for doing so. I have partially completed my degree, but regularly encountered such frustrating roadblocks that totally dissuaded me from continuing along the challenging path of higher education. This article is purely my opinionated truth of this experience.
Last year, I was quite discouraged during an online interview with a Chinese organization where I was simultaneously offered the position; only to then immediately discover that without a degree, I would be unable to work in China. The interviewer was equally disappointed, even though I had clearly stated on my CV that my degree is incomplete. She told me that, to her irritation, it is the government that requires the degree, and without a B.A. you cannot obtain a work permit there. So, after asking around, I found it is quite similar in most of the Asian teaching market. I have heard there are some exceptions, but I don’t have personal experience with this region of the world yet.
For those of you that have concerns about teaching without a degree, let those go. While it does limit you a bit, there are still a couple of wonderful continents where you can spread your knowledge and help guide people through their language education. There are many positions in so many places. If you apply and fail, just try try again and you WILL find your place, where your voice is recognized. And, maybe, just maybe, the political environment of the U.S. will change and you can go back to tackle that degree without obtaining crippling debt. I will now step down of my soapbox, grab my English books and head back to this career that I have never been happier in, no matter what the challenges.
A California girl, born and raised, Adrienne always itched to pack up and leave for France with nothing in her hand but a suitcase. At the age of 38, that dream materialized for her, only in the form of another European country, the Czech Republic, where she began teaching English. She has since taught English in Argentina, Costa Rica, and is currently teaching in Guatemala.
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