6 Tips for Picking a TEFL Course
To teach English abroad you need a qualification to prove you have the expertise to be in charge of a classroom. In the business, this is referred to as TEFL qualification and it’s required for all teaching positions. As teaching English grows into a popular and attractive way to experience other cultures, so grows the multitude of courses available. Unsurprisingly, the quality of some TEFL courses can be questionable and if you’re new to the world of TEFL it can be hard to sift the good from the bad. Here are 6 tips for picking a TEFL course that is perfect for you.
1️⃣ Why do you want to teach?
Before you dive into picking a TEFL course, it’s important to clarify why you want to teach English abroad. Is teaching English a temporary career to facilitate travelling? Or is it a chosen career in which you hope to progress and pursue long-term? This will help determine how much you should invest in your course in terms of time, money, and depth of content. The two most popular course types are TEFL and CELTA/TESOL qualifications.
💰 anywhere from $200 to $400+
⏰ 1 – 6 months in your free time
📚 basic teaching methodology
👨🏫 will facilitate you to find decent ESL jobs in most countries
⏰ 4/5 weeks full time
✍️ in person
📚 in-depth teaching methodology and classroom practice
👨🏫 guaranteed to find good ESL jobs in all countries
If you are new to teaching I recommend a TEFL course while you determine if it’s a career for you, before investing a lot of time and money into getting a higher qualification. If you already have some experience in the classroom and plan to make teaching English a long-term career then investing in a CELTA will open the door to higher paid and more reputable teaching positions. I know many teachers who have decided after a little bit of experience to invest in a CELTA or return to university and complete their PGCE to work at an international school.
There can be a big variation in the price of TEFL courses. As with many things in life, you get what you pay for and TEFL qualifications are no exception. Generally, the cheaper TEFL courses are okay for the basics but investing in a more in-depth course will set you up to be more prepared and confident in the classroom.
3️⃣ TEFL course accreditation
Accreditation by external education boards is something that should be at the forefront of your consideration when picking a TEFL course. Accreditation ensures that the TEFL certification is recognised and accepted all over the world. It’s also a good way of checking that the course you purchase is legit.
The TEFL course I completed through TEFL.org was accredited by a number of the education boards in my country which indicated that the course would be decent quality. Ninja Teacher*, the most renowned TEFL training academy based in Vietnam, is accredited by the American Global TESOL Association.
4️⃣ TEFL course content
It’s also important to consider the content when picking a TEFL course. Different teaching skills and methods are required for teaching adults vs children, and online vs in class for example. Knowing what kind of teaching role you are interested in pursuing will help you determine how valuable a specific TEFL course will be based on its content.
Read more ✍ Different types of teaching jobs in Vietnam.
Most courses are geared towards teaching adults. If you plan to teach children I recommend finding a course that includes content on classroom management, engaging young learners, and managing large class sizes. If you are planning on doing private/online tutoring then incorporating modules related to remote learning such as telephone/Skype teaching could be useful.
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 specialized modules at a later date if you feel you need them (TEFL.org has a lot of specialist add-on courses*).
5️⃣ Online or Face-Face Learning
Most TEFL courses are predominantly online which is great as it allows you to work on your certification alongside working/studying, but some online TEFL courses offer in-person components, which I recommend taking if you are nervous about stepping into the classroom. There are also some in-person TEFL courses you can do, though these tend to be in destination countries rather than home countries. For example, in Vietnam, you could consider the Ninja Teacher programs*.
CELTA/TESOL courses tend to be a combination of classroom practice and in-person studying, with less online studying. Most people need to take time away from work to complete these courses resulting in additional costs you should factor in.
6️⃣ Time to complete
Online TEFL courses allow you to pick a course length that suits you, normally from 1-6 months. Before purchasing check whether you can extend the course if you find yourself unable to meet the final deadline; I extended my course for a small fee.
CELTA/TESOL qualifications can be intense and require much more time commitment. Normally CELTAs will have a set start and end date because of the in-person element. Often CELTA/TESOL courses last for 4 weeks.
What TEFL course did I do?
A teaching qualification is something you require to work as an ESL teacher, but whether you pick a TEFL course or opt for the CELTA course depends on your circumstances and preferences. I opted for a TEFL certification from TEFL.org*, based in the UK. This qualification has served me perfectly for the past 5 years of teaching English in Vietnam.
Read more ✍ My experience completing the TEFL.org qualification
Very detailed blog! I love it. I’ll pass this onto my sister who wants to do TEFL. Pinned it too 🙂 Natasha x
Thanks Natasha, I hope she finds it useful! x
Sylvie Anne Hanes
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.
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 🙂
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!
I want to be a teacher, but not an English teacher. Are there any other options to connect with potential students around the world.
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!
Really helpful for so many people, thanks for your review!
Thanks, I’m glad you think it is of use.
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.
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.
oh i love this post! if i’ve read this years ago, i probably would have pursued teaching english. but very relevant nonetheless!
Very relevant article.
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!
Thanks, I think it’s useful for those who are interested to know there are more than just TEFL qualifications on offer.
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!
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!
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
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!
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.
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 TEFL.org 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.
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!
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 🙂
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?
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