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Q&A: Best Major for Teaching English Abroad

I receive many questions through both my YouTube channel and Red Dragon Diaries blog. I get a bit of everything, but some of the important questions regarding teaching English abroad center around college majors and TESOL certifications.

Both of these things can impact your options when looking to secure a teaching job abroad. Much of it depends on the country or even school that you’re interested in applying to.

See the accompanying Q&A dealing with what teaching certifications are best?

What Major is best?

For many of the opportunities throughout East Asia (i.e. China, Korea, and Japan), having a bachelor’s degree in any discipline is sufficient. When I say most opportunities, I mean the EPIK program and hagwons in Korea, JET program in Japan, and many of the English academies throughout China.

When you begin to look at more other public school programs, universities, and other countries altogether, the emphasis on major changes. Some of the universities in Korea (maybe more than some), require a degree in an English-related field of study.  That means English, English Literature, TESOL, etc.  Also, having a degree in Linguistics will be favorable.  Whether the school wants a Master’s degree depends on the school itself.

Other specific degrees you may come across in job requirements are those in Teaching itself, or Education, as well as subject-specific degrees such as math, science, history, etc.  I see many opportunities throughout China and the Middle East looking for applicants who can teach a specific subject area in English. Therefore, they require you to have studied that subject in college.  In some cases be a certified teacher in your home country in that subject area.

In some cases, like the Middle East, many employers want degrees to be done in class.  No distance or online learning.  Not all, but I would say the majority. The whole online versus in-class topic comes into play with certifications as well.


Comments

  1. …That’s why I LOVE being a native English-speaker–you don’t necessarily have to have a lot of fancy qualifications to live/travel all over the world!!…

  2. Saki Soto says:

    So if for the most part, you could have a B.A. degree in just about anything, and still English in Korea, right? If that is true, could I major in the language (Korean) , and still teach there?

  3. I know you used the EPIK program to get your teaching career started, but is that the only way you can get a teaching job? I want to live there, and if I applied to that program would I have to go back to America if I could not get another year to teach there? Or could I still apply at the schools for the job?

    • There are limitless job opportunities for Korea. Finding one is not the hard part. The hard part is navigating through them to know which one is good or not. There’s really no way to know unless you get a personal recommendation. If they have a website or something like that it helps. You can look into places like Pagoda, Wall Street English, and YBM. They are large corporations that, from what I’ve heard, operate like a reputable company would. They are large outfits.

  4. I’m from Australia and I am currently finishing my last year in high school and I have wanted to teach English in Korea for a while now. Thank you for creating this post as I was unsure on what I would ideally need to study in university. Your blog has been a helpful guide for me since I’ve had this idea of wanting to teach in Korea. So I’ve decided to undertake a Bachelor of Languages and Linguistics as well as majoring in the Korean language. This course however only goes for 3 years full time, would I still be able to teach in Korea after I obtain this? (I plan to undertake the EPIK program) If I am able to teach in Korea with this qualification I plan to go to Korea to teach as soon as possible, which brings me to another question. Is there a certain age requirement to teach English in Korea? Cause after I finish this course I will be around 21 years old.

  5. Great Advice Tom,
    Definitely look at a Master’s Degree in TESOL and Applied Linguistics. One of the most relevant degree’s in the industry. Degree’s in Education go far as well.

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