Beginners Guide: Picking the Perfect TEFL Course

so the adventure begins travel blog living abroad vietnam asia saigon hoi an boat beginners guide picking a tefl course tips

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.

Disclaimer: This post contains some affiliate links. If you book through these links I will earn a small percentage of commission that goes into the maintainence costs of So The Adventure Begins. I really appreciate your support. All affiliate links are marked with *

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:

so the adventure begins travel blog living in asia vietnam saigon teaching english guide picking the perfect tefl course celta

so the adventure begins travel blog living in asia vietnam saigon teaching english guide picking the perfect tefl course celta

When I first looked into courses, I had no teaching experience and therefore was unsure whether I would 1) be a good teacher, and 2) enjoy teaching. This helped shape my TEFL course search from the offset as I didn’t want to invest too much money and time incase I discovered teaching wasn’t for me. Therefore, I opted to do a TEFL course over 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 to study teaching.


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). I can’t personally comment on how good super-budget courses are, but I have friends who have successfully obtained teaching jobs with these certificates so they can’t be all that bad?

QUICK TIP: When I finally decided which TEFL course I wanted to purchase I waited before purchasing it incase any offers came out, and sure enough, within weeks I was 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.

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 purchase is legit and not a scam. My course was 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 plan to teach children aim for a course with modules that cover  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 skills are 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 mine, whereas CELTA courses tend to be a combination of classroom based practice and a smaller portion of online/at home work.

For me it was essential I could do the course online and in my free time as I needed to be able to continue working and studying alongside the qualification. Luckily, I was able to add a quick weekend face-face course on top of our online course. This proved invaluable, giving much needed motivation, practice and help from an experience teacher. A classroom is something I 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. I had to extend mine but felt it was worth paying the fee in order to complete the course, rather than start over. I just wish I had been aware of the time deadlines before I started it.

QUICK TIP: Check when the course begins before purchasing – is it on the date of purchase or when you first login? I thought mine started when I logged-in, so put it off until I had ample time to commit to it. Unfortunately it started from the day of purchase, resulting in much less time to complete it than expected. Stress!


What TEFL course did I do?

I completed my TEFL certification via TEFL[.]org who are based in the UK. You can read about my full experience completing a 140 hour TEFL[.]org course here and you can purchase your own TEFL[.]org course here*

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 me 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 me, then you will require one to work legally.

Picking a TEFL course to suits all your needs can be a minefield but hopefully this guide highlighted all the important areas to ensure you find a course that will land you your dream teaching job.

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25 Comment

  1. Very detailed blog! I love it. I’ll pass this onto my sister who wants to do TEFL. Pinned it too 🙂 Natasha x

    1. francesFR says: Reply

      Thanks Natasha, I hope she finds it useful! x

  2. If I was 25 years younger, this is what I would have done to travel and help others… thanks for this information, will keep it handy when I meet young travelers.

  3. Uliana says: Reply

    I wish German was as popular as English 😀 then I would definitely go teach German somewhere abroad))
    This post is definitely useful for anyone who wants to do TEFL 🙂

    1. francesFR says: Reply

      I know, we are definitely privilaged to be born native speakers! There is actually a German school near our home here in Ho Chi Minh City..there are options out there if you want them!

  4. Anu says: Reply

    I want to be a teacher, but not an English teacher. Are there any other options to connect with potential students around the world.

    1. francesFR says: Reply

      Of course there are! I know lots of people here in Vietnam who have brought their skills and starter their own businesses – be that sports related, arts or even beauty!

  5. Really helpful for so many people, thanks for your review!

    1. francesFR says: Reply

      Thanks, I’m glad you think it is of use.

  6. Carrie says: Reply

    Super useful! I’ve been wondering about this as I’ve started to research the options. I didn’t realize how many courses were available. I never would’ve thought to look in-depth at the course content…I assumed they mostly covered the same stuff. Good to know that’s not the case.

    1. francesFR says: Reply

      Yeah, the more research you do the more you reaslise each course is tailored to a slightly different type of teaching – though most have somewhat similar content. More expensive courses will always cover more modules and be more in-depth.

  7. oh i love this post! if i’ve read this years ago, i probably would have pursued teaching english. but very relevant nonetheless!

  8. Lavdi says: Reply

    Very relevant article.

  9. Danielle Desir says: Reply

    I’ve heard of the TEFL but never heard of any other accreditions. I loved your mini info graphics that shared difference details. I think anyone considering teaching English aborad should read your post!

    1. francesFR says: Reply

      Thanks, I think it’s useful for those who are interested to know there are more than just TEFL qualifications on offer.

  10. This is a great post! Which course did you end up doing? I did the CELTA after teaching for around 3 years because I wanted to become a more efficient teacher. My takeaway is this: Try the teaching, if you like it, do the CELTA! There are too many qualifications out there that claims that they are accredited so I think it’s not worth to take the risk. I really enjoyed the CELTA and I highly recommend it I will definitely write about it in the future!

    1. francesFR says: Reply

      We opted to do a TEFL because we had no experience (the review of the specific one is scheduled to post next week actually). But now we have a years experience we might consider forking out for the CELTA if we are going to continue teaching ESL (got to finally decide on a life plan first haha). Thanks for your input to the discussion!

  11. So true about getting what you paid for. While my TEFL was muchhhh more than the one you have here I don’t regret the money I have spent on it. Making sure that it is accredited is super important. And also knowing when it starts. Our was set up where we had homework and papers due every Friday so you knew everything from the beginning. Your post is super informative! People really need information like this

    1. francesFR says: Reply

      Yeah, there is such a big range of courses to suit every budget. We also had homework assignments, which is great for giving you feedback and practice. Thanks Victoria!

  12. Ian says: Reply

    I agree that if you are going to teach children then take a course specialized in doing that. Most people in Asia actually do teach children at some point. Like she said most courses focus on teaching adults.

    Accreditation doesn’t matter really. In TEFL there is no one accreditation. There are just separate businesses that do the accreditation and sometimes they are fake. In my research so so far I have found at least 3 courses out there with fake accreditation.

    So far I have reviewed quite a few courses and most courses online have time limited access for like 2-6 months . ESLinsider’s advanced course has unlimited access. If you are not sure about how committed you are to teaching then I would not take a CELTA. Some people fail and they don’t get their money back. You can always take it later.

    Cheap budget courses on Groupon exist, but “you get what you pay for”. Yes, those certificates work like most any other certificate, but Groupon courses are boring text based courses. These are not quality courses that use video. Much of what you “learn” will go in one ear and out the other.

    You also don’t need a TEFL course to find you a job. You can find one on your own. In fact you can find many more jobs on your own. TEFL courses that offer “guaranteed” jobs are only going to offer a few jobs in comparison to what’s out there.

    I took a TESOL course before teaching abroad and they offered “guaranteed jobs”, but they had actually very few jobs where I wanted to teach. It’s best to go where you want to teach and look for a job. I did that 3 times in Taiwan, Korea and China.

    1. francesFR says: Reply

      Thanks for weighing in your thoughts, you are more than entitled to disagree with me on some issues. The accreditation I am really referring to is that which is done by education bodies – for example the course we ended up selecting by is accredited by the SQA (Scottish Qualification Association) who are the body that set and grade all high school level exams in Scotland. So, considering I went to school and have come away with legit qualifications, I know they are not fake. What I have urged people to do in this article is to go away and look at these factors for themselves before settling on a course.

  13. Romy says: Reply

    Hi Frances! I sent you an email yesterday asking for your opinion on celta/tefl, but really I can see a clear answer through reading through all your posts, so I don’t want you to repeat yourself! I am now currently in Vietnam and have been accepted for a celta course, but honestly I’m thinking seriously about an online tefl instead for now. I’m sure I’d feel considerably less stressed working at my own pace, although I’d still plan to complete it as quickly as possible. I just have a couple of extra questions; as I’m currently in Vietnam, I’m unable to complete the classroom module in the uk. Do you think this would affect my application to jobs, if I only have a 120 hour certificate? Do you know if it would be possible to gain some work experience in Vietnam, does your language enter offer such thing, or do you know of any others that might? Also I’d need to be earning at least $1200, for various reasons, is that feasible with a 120 hour Tefl? Thank you so much in advance!

    1. francesFR says: Reply

      Hey Romy, I know we’ve already discussed this in email but I’ll leave this here in case others are wondering also. You can definitely find jobs paying above $1200 a month with an online TEFL (that’s what I have). Language centres tend not to offer work experience as they have standards to hit (students are fee paying at the end of the day) but I have seen many hostels and posters about cafes where they have language exchange sessions where you can practice teaching. I’m sure once on the ground you could find somewhere to volunteer casually. Thanks 🙂

  14. Tiff says: Reply

    Great post, thank you! I’ve really struggled to pick a course because I want to work online rather than actually in schools, but I guess if I can find the time and money, it’s best to be prepared for everything! Have you done any online teaching?

    1. francesFR says: Reply

      Hey Tiff, glad its been useful! I haven’t done online work myself. If you do an in-depth TEFL then it should include some content on teaching over the phone/skype or online. Most online teaching companies I’ve come across have simple computer platforms that you teach through which appears simpler than teaching in person

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