PICKING A TEFL COURSE | 5 things to consider

So, you’ve decided you want to be an English teacher and work abroad. YAY! First thing you’re going to have to do is get yourself a qualification to prove you have the expertise to be in charge of a classroom!

We spent a lot of time exploring the different TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) qualification options before picking ours from TEFL.org (review coming soon!) With TEFL becoming a popular and attractive way to live abroad and fund future travel it’s not surprising that many companies have jumped on the bandwagon and are offering a wide range of TEFL courses, some better than others!

There were a number of important factors which defined how we searched through the many different options, so we thought we’d help give you some direction with our 5 things to consider when picking a TEFL course!


1. How serious are you about becoming a TEFL teacher?

Is this a temporary career in order to explore more of the world, or is this a chosen career in which you hope to progress? This will help you to first decide whether you should do a TEFL course (cheaper and less in-depth option) or whether you would be better to invest more money and time into a CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) qualification.

When we started looking into courses neither of us had any teaching experience and so we were unsure whether we would 1) be good teachers, and 2) whether we would enjoy it. This helped to shape our search from the offset as we didn’t want to invest too much money and time into our courses incase it transpired teaching wasn’t for us. This confirmed to us that we wanted to find a TEFL course rather than a CELTA, which is a much more intense, serious and in-depth qualification. If you do have teaching experience and know that it is the career for you then you would be better to save and invest in a CELTA or similar. CELTA courses are available from a number of language schools and universities across the UK and are typically ~£1000 and last 4-5weeks (full-time).

2. What is your budget?

There is a wide variation in the price of courses, from expensive CELTA courses, to mid-range TEFL courses and even budget TEFL courses available as Groupon offers. Again, how serious you are about pursuing a TEFL career should dictate your budget. If you plan on being a teacher long term then it would make sense to spend more on a course that covers everything you might possibly need to know. If teaching is a temporary career then a cheaper course should teach you the basics that you will need to land you a job. Slightly more expensive TEFL course are likely to cover a wider range of modules, have greater student support along with access to their job website to help you find a reputable job. However, that doesn’t mean that some of the cheaper options don’t include these so explore course content and benefits before you purchase or discount a cheaper course! We cannot personally comment on how good the budget courses available from offer retailers like Groupon are, however we have friends who have successfully obtained teaching jobs with these certificates so they can’t be all that bad!

When we finally decided which 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 theses offers!

3. Is the course accredited?

This was one of the most important factors to us. We wanted to ensure that whatever course we picked it would be accredited by an outside agency which would be recognised and respected all over the world. Additionally, outside accreditation is a good way of checking that the product you are purchasing is legit and not a scam. Our courses were accredited by a large number of different agencies which indicated that the course would be of good quality.

4. Course content

Course content is another extremely important factor which you need to take into consideration. We would first urge you to think about what kind of teaching you are interested in – children, adults, business, private tutoring, public schools or language schools. All have slightly different teaching style so it would be beneficial to have a rough idea before you begin narrowing down courses. For example if you are looking at teaching in public schools then it would be beneficial to have modules on classroom management and how to teach large class sizes (i.e. 40+ students, which is not uncommon here in Asia!) If you are looking to do private tutoring then it would be useful to have modules on remote learning such as telephone or Skype teaching! From what we saw most courses were geared towards teaching adults so if you are 100% sure you want to teach children then look for a course specifically geared towards kids. If not then an overall course would be good to start – you can always purchase specialised modules later!

Similarly you will want to consider the type of learning – online or face-to-face study. Our course was predominantly online study which was ideal as we could complete the course when it suited us and alongside our work and university studies. We opted to include 20 hours of contact learning and practice with an experienced teacher making lesson plans and presenting lessons. This was so useful for us and confirmed that we were making the right choice becoming English teachers! As a bonus this also provided us with a reference for job applications!

5. Time to complete

Our final consideration was how long the course would take to complete. Most online TEFL courses allow you to pick a course length that suits you, be that 1 month,  3 months, 6 or more! Before purchasing double check whether you can extend your course if somethings comes up and you won’t be able to meet the final deadline. Likewise be realistic about your other commitments before picking a short deadline as it costs to extend your course. We had to extend ours but it was worth paying the small fee in order to complete the course and not have to start over.

We would also advise checking when the course begins, i.e. on the date of purchase or when you sign in, before purchasing. We thought that our courses didn’t begin until we signed-in, meaning that when we did sign in we had much less time to complete the course than expected.


Of course, it is possible to obtain a teaching position without having a TEFL qualification. However, in order to obtain a secure job with good pay, safe working conditions and support it would be advisable to have a qualification. Additionally many countries (such as Vietnam) require you to have a TEFL certificate in order to obtain a work permit and be able to legally work, or you need to have 5 years experience teaching to make up for not having one.

Picking right TEFL course for you can be a minefield but we hope this has helped narrow down your search and avoid some of the potential pitfalls!

Did you find these tips useful? Anything important that we’ve forgotten?

D + F

2 Comment

  1. Samantha Wade says: Reply

    Good Morning (or evening),
    I’m currently looking into completing a TEFL course and had a couple of questions:
    After completing the course online, did you feel ‘prepared’ when you began teaching? The online courses are much cheaper than in-class, however, I would prefer to not sell myself short if in-class is the best option. Also, with a combined income you’re able to work, travel and still save. How reasonable is this if I’m making this transition alone? I’ve looked at average pay vs cost of living in Hanoi and it looks a little tight. Any insight you may have would be very much appreciated.

    Thank you,
    Samantha

    1. francesFR says: Reply

      Hey, thanks for reaching out. I would say that doing a combined course was really useful for us. The majority of it was done online but we also did a weekend course which gave us some experience of what it was like presenting a class and hands on guidance from a tutor on planning lesson (if you’re in the UK check out TEFL.org, that who we did ours with). If you are nervous about feeling prepared, try reaching out to local charities/organisations/school and see if you can volunteer your time to observe and assist teachers, it will help you remember what its like being in a classroom environment. It depends what type of work you want to go on to do as well, we are now working for a language centre with a computerised learning system so we got specific training when we started working with us to make sure we were 100% prepared.

      Regarding the costs of living, you will definitely be able to save money on a solo wage. You will have to make some compromises, like living in a shared house not eating imported foods etc. I think it would be manageable, as long as you are earning a standard salary (in HCMC its around $1500-$2000). I got your email so any more questions you can fire our way via email if you’d rather!

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