So, you’ve decided you want to be an English teacher and work abroad. Woohoo! The first thing you have to do is get yourself a qualification to prove you have the expertise to be in charge of a classroom. As teaching English grows into a popular and attractive way to experience other cultures, and even fund travelling, so grows the multitude of courses available. Picking the perfect TEFL course for you is not easy with so many different options on offer.
Unsurprisingly, some TEFL courses offer a better qualification than others, and sifting the good from the bad can be challenging , especially if you are new to the world of TEFL. There are a number of important factors defining which TEFL course you opt for, so we thought we’d wrap together this guide to help you narrow down your search.
Why do you want to teach?
Answer first: Is teaching a temporary career to facilitate travelling, or is it a chosen career in which you hope to progress?
Understanding why you want to become a teacher will help you to decide how much to invest in your course. For those who are new and unaware of what courses are available, here is a brief run down of the two most popular types of qualifications:
When we first looked into courses, we had no teaching experience and therefore were unsure whether we would 1) be good teachers, and 2) enjoy teaching. This helped shape our search from the offset as we didn’t want to invest too much money and time incase we discovered teaching wasn’t for us. Therefore, we opted to do a TEFL course instead of a CELTA. If you already have some experience and plan to turn teaching English into a long-term career then investing in a CELTA will prepare you better and open up more job opportunities. To work in international schools and universities then you will require at least a CELTA, but in most cases a proper degree in teaching so if this is what you are hoping for then you will have to consider going back to University.
If you’ve already started your research (which I’m guessing you have if you’ve stumbled upon this post) then you’ll have seen the big variation in the price of TEFL courses. The most expensive are CELTAs with most TEFLs being mid-range, but there are also budget courses available through places like Groupon. How serious you are about pursuing a teaching career should also dictate your budget – if this is you for the long-term then give yourself a generous budget in order to find a comprehensive course. If it is only for a few months of working abroad, then by all means, go for a cheaper course that covers the basics of teaching.
In my opinion you get what you pay for, be it clothes, accommodation and yes, teaching courses too.
CELTA courses are expensive for a reason. They are really in-depth and give you the best possible preparation for stepping into the classroom by including lots of contact time in the classroom. Within the range of TEFL courses on the market, generally more expensive courses cover more topics and give more in-depth training. Whereas the cheaper courses often skip some of the components deemed non-essential, like how teach online, over the phone or managing large class sizes.
A cheaper course will teach you the basics you need to land a job. A slightly more expensive TEFL course will be more in-depth, cover a wider range of modules and should offer student support, along with access to their job website to help you find a reputable job. This isn’t to say some of the cheaper options don’t have these too, so explore course content and support before you purchase (or rule out a cheaper course). We can’t personally comment on how good super-budget courses are, but we have friends who have successfully obtained teaching jobs with these certificates, so they can’t be all that bad?
QUICK TIP: When we finally decided which TEFL course we wanted to purchase we waited before purchasing it incase any offers came out, and sure enough, within weeks we were able to buy it with £70 off! TEFL companies regularly run discount offers so we recommend signing up for mailing lists and taking advantage of them.
— Curious which TEFL we picked in the end? Check out our full review here (coming soon) —
TEFL course accreditation
This is one of the most important factors and something which should be at the forefront of your TEFL course hunt. You need to ensure that any TEFL course you spend money on and invest your time into is accredited by an outside agency. If it isn’t accredited, move your search along. Accreditation ensures it is recognised and accepted all over the world. Also, outside accreditation is a good way of checking that the course you are purchasing is legit and not a scam. Our courses were accredited by a large number of different educational agencies which indicated that the course would be a decent quality.
TEFL course content
Course content is also an extremely important factor you should take into consideration. Having an idea of the type of teaching you are interested in will help you to pick a course which covers suitable topics. For example are you looking to teach children, adults, business English, private tutoring, at public schools or language schools. All have slightly different teaching styles so it’d be beneficial to have a rough idea before you begin narrowing down courses.
Most courses are geared towards teaching adults, so if you wish to teach children then aim for a course with modules covering classroom management, engaging young learners and managing large class sizes. Why large class sizes? Well, it’s not uncommon for public school classes to be 40+ students in Asia…yeah, not the easiest to teach and engage students!
If you are planning on doing private tutoring then incorporating modules related to remote, learning such as telephone/Skype teaching, could be useful if you ever want to branch out.
But don’t panic if you have already completed or purchased a TEFL which isn’t perfectly tailored to the teaching you would like to apply for. A lot of teaching is learned on the job, and you can always purchase additional specialised modules at a later date if you feel you need them.
Online or Face-Face Learning
Most TEFL courses are predominately online, including ours, whereas CELTA courses tend to be a combination of classroom based practice and a smaller portion of online/at home work.
For us it was essential we could do the course online and in our free time, as we needed to be able to work and study alongside the qualification. Luckily, we were able to add a quick weekend face-face course on top of our online course. This proved invaluable, giving us much needed motivation, practice and help with an experience teacher guiding us and something we highly recommend you try to find in a TEFL course. Ultimately, what you opt for will depend on your current life/work situation and how you like to learn.
Time to complete
Finally, how long does the TEFL course take to complete? Most online TEFL courses allow you to pick a course length that suits you. Before purchasing check whether you can extend the course if you find yourself unable to meet the final deadline. Likewise, be realistic about your other commitments before picking a short deadline as it will cost to extend the course. We had to extend ours but felt it was worth paying the fee in order to complete the course, rather than start over.
QUICK TIP: Check when the course begins before purchasing – is it on the date of purchase or when you first login? We thought ours started when we logged-in, so put it off until we had ample time to commit to it. Unfortunately ours started from the day of purchase, resulting in us having much less time to complete it than expected. Stress!
At the end of the day what TEFL course or CELTA you finally decide on will be based upon a culmination of these factors – the most important for us were whether the course was accredited and the course content!
Of course, it is possible to obtain a teaching position without having a TEFL qualification. However, in order to obtain a secure job, with a decent company and good pay you will require a qualification. Additionally many countries require a TEFL certificate in order to obtain a work permit and work legally. If you want to live and teach in Vietnam, like us, then you will require one to work legally.