The basic and most commonly requested qualification to teach English abroad are a degree and a TEFL or TESOL Certificate.
This article explains what they are and how to choose a good Course and Certificate.
The TEFL Certificate is a short course which teaches the basics of teaching English; a typical course will usually cover needs analysis, how to present material to the class, lesson planning, classroom management and so on. Some courses will also have sections on finding work.
The following are different names which essentially apply to the same course:
- TEFL Certificate
- TEFL/TESL Certificate
- TESL Certificate
- TESOL Certificate
- CELTA or Trinity
This means that when you see a job advert or course talking about a TEFL certificate or course it also means TESOL certificate or course as well, etc. Note that for the purposes of this guide we use the word TEFL.
Choosing a TEFL Course
Almost any decent TEFL course is fine for most entry level jobs and many jobs do not specify what kind of course they require. The usual minimum is 120 hours. This hourly figure is the (estimated) length of the course including time required to complete it; it does not mean the number of classroom hours included in the course.
At the top end of the market is perhaps the CELTA course run by Cambridge Assessment. It is very intense and last 4 weeks. Often it is recommended that candidates for this course have a couple of years’ teaching experience before taking the course in order to keep up with the pace and also have a good knowledge of English grammar.
The CELTA course is run in approved centers around the world and costs around $1300 USD (€1029, £827) or so depending on the school running it.
Other schools offer 4 week in-house courses for various prices and there is sometimes the opportunity to take the course residentially although obviously this greatly increases the cost.
Since the late 1990s the course has also been offered online (either with or without observed teaching practice) which offers huge savings for the teacher trainees. ICAL pioneered this method of delivery with our TEFL Certificate Course costing $265 (€200 or £155) which began in 1998.
Other schools offer short weekend courses and “taster” courses. These are not full courses and while they will give you an idea of what teaching English is about they are not normally enough to secure a job. Some are as little as 20hrs long and these will generally not be accepted by schools when you apply for work.
When choosing a course, amongst other considerations, make sure that you:
- do a search online in the various forums to make sure the provider is well regarded
- check out the tutors on the course to see what qualifications they have; the minimum should be MA, native speaker and highly experienced
- have a dedicated personal tutor if the course is online
- find out how long the school has been in business; new schools spring up and disappear so it’s best to go for an established school
- check the syllabus and make sure it covers the main areas of teaching English (lesson planning, classroom management and suchlike)
We would also suggest emailing the school and asking a quick couple of questions to see what kind of response you get. This can often tell you a lot!
Requirements to Take a TEFL Course
The requirements to take a course are often quite flexible. There is often a minimum age limit (17 or 18) and although they are open to both native and non-native speakers, candidates must have a decent command of English.
There is not usually the requirement for a degree to take the course however most teaching jobs will require a degree along with the certificate (although not all).
Regulation & Accreditation
Realistically speaking, there is no regulation regarding TEFL courses.
In theory any school can set up a course and many have done so regardless of their qualifications and ability to do so. While there are excellent courses out there, there are also very poorly run courses so it is of extreme importance that you check out the course provider (school) before you pay for a course to make sure they have a good reputation in the industry.
Some course providers claim accreditation. Note that there is NO independent, international accreditation body and any course provider who say this are lying. There are also cases of course providers setting up a fake accreditation agency in order to give the impression they are accredited. Likewise many national accrediting are very poorly run and the system is open to massive abuse.
It is a matter of caveat emptor so before taking any course make sure to research it thoroughly.
ICAL TEFL Course 120hr – the online ICAL TEFL course worth 120hrs.
ICAL TEFL Course 150hr with Practicum – the online ICAL TEFL course with Teaching Practice.
TEFL Certificates to Teach English – all about TEFL certificates.
Fake TEFL Certificates – beware!