How I Taught English in China WITHOUT a Degree

teaching English in China

In a climate where more people are competing for the same jobs, and more people have degrees than ever, how can you make yourself stand out when you don’t have a degree?

At 21 I had dropped out of university, not once but twice. The only thing I seemed to be good at was giving -up. To rub salt in the wound, I watched my twin brother graduate at 20, and congratulated my friends doing the same and landing ‘proper’ jobs. While I was happy that many of my friends were becoming successful, I began to feel alienated from my own directionless life.

It wasn’t so much the matter that I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life (I still don’t), but I was beginning to feel I was stuck in a rut. Nothing was really happening with my life, and then it dawned on me that I was doing absolutely nothing meaningful. I worked in a retail shop, programmed to fold clothes neatly and convince women to squander their money on overpriced clothes.  It was an environment which I had grown to hate, and I was selling my soul for a bit of lousy commission. I had to get out of England.

I scoured the internet for jobs in other countries, but my mediocre school grades and a half-attempted degree didn’t quite cut the mustard. I looked for alternative ways to enhance my CV like doing Journalism interns for magazines in China, Africa or India but all the programmes were obscenely expensive so I reluctantly gave up searching.

There was no way around it, I had to get paid for whatever I was doing so I began looking for opportunities to teach English abroad, but again, they all asked for a degree.

I had nearly lost hope until I had the idea (well I think it was my dad’s ingenious idea) to email a few schools in China directly.  By cutting out the middle man (i.e the websites which advertise teaching abroad) I was one step closer.

The Reply

It only took a few days to receive a reply from Aston Language Centre, and I was thrilled to read that they would welcome me on board, however, because I didn’t have a degree my pay would be lower than a graduates – I didn’t care about that – I was just grinning from ear to ear to know I had a get out of England card!

Why you should contact a school directly

  • If you go through a 3 party organisation most of them request a charge for organising your documents and finding you a school. Essentially, you are giving them money for a job which you could do yourself.
  • If you don’t have certain requirements such as a degree or Tefl certificate, the school might be more lenient after you have expressed a certain aptitude for what they’re looking for. I’m a strong believer that experience and personality take you a lot further than a degree.
  • The only place I wasn’t able to teach English was inside a university, but I could teach in colleges, primary schools and night classes etc. Even without a degree you have a lot more choices than you think you have.


I didn’t write this post to say it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a degree to teach English abroad, because that would be inaccurate. It’s far easier for someone who has a degree, and those people can expect better wages too. I have written this for those who felt like I did a few years ago. You don’t need bags of certificates to tell you that you’re qualified for something (granted it can help). Instead you need balls and thick skin.

This post also isn’t just about teaching English in China without a degree. It’s about taking chances, and thinking outside of the box. So many people say they love to travel, but can’t because they don’t have the money. But there are ways around this, and teaching English is just one of them.

If you’re simply looking for a new experience I highly recommend the site In exchange for various work you can get free accommodation and often food. The unique thing about this site is the variety of work you can do and the places you can go – anyone fancy working for a husky dog centre in the Arctic? Or working in an eco-lodge in South America?

There are so many ways to see the world beyond saving thousands of pounds. You’ll have to sacrifice some luxuries, but who cares when the reward is a life worth living. And many of these ways enhance your CV. Even now, as I’m one month away from finally graduating in a degree in English Literature, I’m convinced the best thing on my CV will still be teaching English in China.

After I left behind my friends, family and comfortable possessions in England to head for China, I really feel that fate truly favours the bold.

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