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Teaching Qualifications: A comprehensive guide to the qualifications you need to teach overseas

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Every country has its own requirements for teachers. AT SA-Recruitment we help you prepare for your international career

Unlocking Global Opportunities: A guide to teaching qualifications for teaching overseas

Are you a passionate educator looking to broaden your horizons, teach in foreign lands, or simply enhance your job prospects? In the increasingly interconnected world, having the right teaching certifications can be a game-changer.

In this article, we'll explore the various teaching qualifications to teaching overseas, including TEFL, TESOL, and CELTA, and discuss the differences between them.

We'll also delve into the distinction between these certifications and traditional teaching degrees, and the importance of a bachelor's degree in the pursuit of international teaching opportunities.

Finally, we'll shine a spotlight on the specific certifications South African teachers may need to teach in the UAE, China, and Qatar and how you can apply to start your international teaching career.

TEFL, TESOL, and CELTA: Unraveling the Acronyms

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), and the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) are all teaching certifications that focus on teaching English to non-native speakers. While they share a common goal, they differ in terms of depth and recognition:

a. TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language): TEFL is a basic certification that equips you to teach English to non-English-speaking students. It typically involves a 120-hour course and is widely accepted worldwide. TEFL is a great starting point for those looking to teach English abroad or work with English learners in their home country.

b. TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages): TESOL is a broader certification that encompasses both TEFL and teaching English to speakers of other languages. It is often considered a more comprehensive and internationally recognized certification. TESOL programs vary in duration and content, offering a more in-depth understanding of language teaching.

c. CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults): CELTA, offered by Cambridge University, is one of the most prestigious TEFL certifications. It is a highly intensive, 120-hour course with a strong emphasis on hands-on teaching practice. CELTA is often preferred by top language schools and employers and can open doors to higher-paying teaching positions.

TEFL, TESOL, CELTA, and Traditional Teaching Degrees: A Comparison

While TEFL, TESOL, and CELTA certifications are valuable for teaching English, they differ from traditional teaching degrees in several key ways:

  • Specialisation: TEFL, TESOL, and CELTA are specialised certifications focusing on teaching English as a foreign language. In contrast, traditional teaching degrees cover a broader range of subjects and teaching methodologies and are more specific and specialised.

  • Duration: Traditional teaching degrees, such as a Bachelor of Education (B.Ed), typically require four years of study, while TEFL, TESOL, and CELTA certifications can be completed in a matter of weeks or months.

  • Recognition: Traditional teaching degrees are widely recognised and essential for teaching in mainstream international schools overseas. TEFL, TESOL, and CELTA certifications can not replace a four year teaching degree and they are also not an essential requirement for mainstream international schools. TEFL, TESOL and CELTA certificates are only required for language schools where English is taught as a foreign language; this is not classroom based teaching and this is predominantly appropriate for schools in Asia.

The role of a four year teaching Degree

A four year teaching degree (whether it be a Bachelors Degree in Education or a Degree + PGCE) is a critical factor in enhancing your job prospects as a teacher. International schools in the UAE and China require teachers to hold a four year teaching degree so that they can apply for the relevant work visa.

Additionally, the phase and major of one's teaching degree is also essential as it must match the role for which you are applying i.e. if you are applying for a role as a Foundation Phase teacher you will not be eligible if your degree is in the Intermediate phase but you teach in the Foundation Phase. Similarly, if you have a Maths major in your degree but have only been teaching English then you will not be eligible for a Maths or English teaching role - you must be teaching the subject of your major.

A further key factor is experience. International schools will only validate teaching experience obtained after the date of graduation, and this must be a minimum of two years and then (as mentioned above) must be in the phase and major of your teaching degree.

Specific Qualification Requirements for South African Teachers to teach in the Middle East and in China

To teach in the Middle East and China, South African teachers typically need the following:

  • A four year teaching qualification - no diploma's or certificates accepted.

  • A clean criminal record.

  • A valid passport.

Certain degree combinations are also preferred, whilst other are not accepted.


B Ed (ECD/Foundation Phase) is preferred

BA (English) + PGCE (ECD/Foundation Phase) is accepted

A three year degree that is not in teaching ( work) + PGCE (ECD/Foundation Phase major) will not be accepted


B Ed (Intermediate/Senior) is preferred

Undergraduate teaching-based degree (eg. B Comm/B Sc) + PGCE (Intermediate/Senior phase in the major teaching subject of the undergraduate degree)


Undergraduate teaching-based degree (eg. B Comm/B Sc) + PGCE (Senior/FET phase in the major teaching subject of the undergraduate degree)

Are you ready to apply for an international teaching position?

As you embark on your journey to become an international educator, remember that you don't have to go it alone. SA-Recruitment, with over 25 years of experience in placing South African teachers in countries overseas, is here to guide you every step of the way.

Our agency is dedicated to helping teachers like you find exciting opportunities in countries across the Middle East and China. We understand the unique requirements of each destination, and we have the expertise to ensure that you have the right documents and qualifications.

At SA-Recruitment, we believe in empowering educators and opening doors to a world of possibilities. So, if you're ready to take the next step in your teaching career, don't hesitate to reach out to us. Let us help you turn your dreams of teaching abroad into a reality.

Your global teaching adventure starts here!

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