tips for picking a tefl course teaching abroad

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.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, all marked with * purchasing through these links generates a small commission for me at no extra cost to 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
✍️ online
📚 basic teaching methodology
👨‍🏫 will facilitate you to find decent ESL jobs in most countries


💰 $1000+
⏰ 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.

2️⃣ Budget

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.

Many TEFL course providers have regular discount offers. I recommend signing up for mailing lists and waiting to purchase during a discount. I was able to buy mine with ~$100 off!

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 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.

teaching english in vietnam picking tefl tesol celta esl course

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 ( 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.

Check when the course begins – is it the date of purchase or when you first log in? Don’t make my mistake and misjudge how much time you have to complete the course.

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*, 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 qualification

Meet Frances; Scottish lass turned Vietnam expat, and creator of this space. She can be found sippin’ ice tea’s and writing about her adventures from her sunny base of Saigon, Vietnam’s southern metropolis. All with a healthy side of researching her next road trip. With 5 years of living, travelling and scooting around Asia under her belt – let Frances be your guide to travelling the region.


  • September 13, 2017

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

  • September 13, 2017

    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.

  • September 13, 2017

    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 🙂

  • September 13, 2017

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

  • September 14, 2017

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

  • September 14, 2017

    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.

  • September 14, 2017

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

  • September 14, 2017

    Very relevant article.

  • Danielle Desir

    September 15, 2017

    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!

  • September 17, 2017

    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!

  • October 9, 2017

    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

  • October 9, 2017

    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.

  • Romy

    December 21, 2018

    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!

  • January 29, 2019

    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?


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