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Become an ESL Teacher

Are you considering teaching English as a foreign language – abroad or online?

Usually, getting your TEFL certification is the first big step towards a career as an ESL teacher.

Maybe you are overwhelmed trying to comb through all the resources and options out there.

Read on to learn what the TEFL certification is and what TEFL course options are out there so you can get the accreditation you need to start teaching English.

What is TEFL & TEFL Certification?

TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language.

TEFL is one of the world’s fastest-growing educational fields right now, and as such untold numbers of opportunities are cropping up for certified professionals to teach English online and around the world.

Your TEFL Certification gives you a license to teach English as a foreign/second language upon completion of a teaching course.

Virtually anyone who is a fluent English speaker can get TEFL certified, and there are many platforms that offer TEFL certification both online and in person.

Your TEFL course will teach you a number of tools that will help you teach English as a foreign language, such as how students acquire foreign languages and what teaching methods are effective. In your course, you will also learn how to lesson plan and structure class.

Additionally, you’ll spend time preparing and presenting a live demo lesson, and you’ll get to observe demo lessons to get ideas about how to structure your class.

Do You Need a TEFL to Teach English Abroad or Online?

While you don’t always need a TEFL to teach English abroad or online, the benefits that come with your certification are sizeable.

First off, many countries and employers do require all teachers to be TEFL certified. Even if a TEFL certification isn’t required for your situation, many employers will favor teachers who are TEFL certified. Furthermore, the course will give you classroom management and teaching skills that are crucial for success in and out of the classroom.

The TEFL helps you get jobs at good schools with high pay rates and good working conditions, and it’s pretty hard to find above-board employment without it.

Learn more about why getting a TEFL certification is totally worth it.

Which Course Options Are Available?

While you’ll find a wide range of TEFL courses offered online, most schools and countries require teachers to have at least a 120-hour certification.

A 120-hour course is your best bet because it will fulfill hiring and visa requirements and adequately prepare you to teach abroad.

Besides different options for TEFL course length, you should consider whether you’d like to take your course completely online, in person, or as a combination of the two.

Available Training Types

  • In-Person Courses
  • Online Courses
  • Combined Courses (e.g. an online course with a classroom teaching practicum)

Each format has pros and cons, so it’s up to you to figure out which one is right for you:

Online TEFL Courses

Online TEFL courses are cheaper than other options, and they’re also the most flexible because you can complete the modules on your own schedule.

If you work full-time and want to do a TEFL course on nights and weekends or can’t shell out for an in-person course, online is by far your best option.

This guide to online TEFL courses will help you figure out which one is right for you!

Of course, you do lose out on face-to-face instruction and all the perks of being in a brick and mortar classroom if you take a fully online course, but for many people what they gain in time and convenience makes up for those downsides.

In-Person TEFL Courses

In-person TEFL courses are the most expensive, and they’re also the most time-consuming because you need to go sit in a classroom during designated class times instead of being able to learn at your own pace.

However, in-person TEFL courses (or in-class courses) have the benefit of giving you lots of face-to-face instruction, and they also give you the opportunity to form relationships with the people you’re taking the class with.

In-person TEFL courses also force you to stay focused and engaged during the whole class, unlike online courses where you have to stay motivated and set aside time for studying on your own.

In an in-person TEFL class, you’ll get the opportunity to teach a mock class that you’ve designed to a teacher and your fellow classmates, which is a seriously valuable experience if you’ve never taught in a classroom setting before.

If you’re a hands-on learner who can pay attention best in a classroom setting, an in-person TEFL course will probably be the most fulfilling option for you.

Combined TEFL Courses

Just like it sounds, a combination course is held partially online and partially in person.

With a combination course, you get the best of both worlds: you do some self-study in online modules, learning the basics of teaching, and then you come to a classroom setting to further your knowledge and practice teaching an actual class.

A Note About Location

If you take a combined or in-person TEFL course, you’ll find that there are options for completing it either near your home or in the country you want to teach in.

If you already know which country you want to teach in, taking a TEFL course on location is a great idea because it’ll get you acquainted with your new home. And the course will probably include some information specific to where you’ll be teaching, which is valuable.

If you don’t yet know where you want to teach, you can take a course in your hometown or online while you decide where to venture off to.

How you make the decision of which course to take depends on what kind of instruction you think will be most beneficial to you, what kind of time commitment you can make, and how much money you’re willing to spend on a TEFL course.

Read the detailed TEFL certification costs breakdown.

What are the Requirements to Obtain a TEFL Certificate?

All you really need is fluent (“native-level”) English and the time and resources to learn.

Some TEFL providers require participants in their courses to be over 18 or to have a diploma or degree from a four-year college or ask for a photocopied passport to prove citizenship from an English-speaking country.

Additionally, you may have to undergo an interview or assessment before being accepted into your TEFL course.

Some TEFL providers don’t have any requirements at all, as long as you pay the course fee for them.

Keep in mind, however, that completion of a TEFL course does not guarantee to get a job or work visa in a foreign country. Unfortunately, a new teacher’s citizenship will ultimately be the limiting factor for many people.

Which Is Better: An Online Course or an In-Person Course?

This is one of the most commonly asked TEFL questions.

An in-class TEFL course is preferable to an online one in a number of ways. An instructor who’s in the room with you will be able to better illustrate teaching methods and better evaluate your teaching demo.

Additionally, some people just learn better when they’re face-to-face with their teachers and have the element of human interaction.

On top of that, when you take your TEFL on-site at your teaching destination, you’ll be able to connect with other teachers and locals there and immerse yourself in the culture.

But can you take the necessary time to do in-person training? These courses are typically a month, 9:00-5:00 with homework.

One month off work isn’t doable for everyone.

Plus, you will need to factor in the cost of the course which is substantially higher than an online course. If you don’t have a local provider, travel, food, and accommodations during that one-month period need to be tacked on too.

Pretty soon, it’s becoming a time consuming, pricy option, which can be prohibitive.

Opt for an In-Class Course When You…

  • can take one month off.
  • can afford to pay $1000 or more.
  • prefer learning from a teacher face-to-face.
  • want to take the course at your teaching destination.
  • want to network with other students.

Online TEFL courses are self-paced, so you can take as much or as little time as you need to learn the material. And they’re much more affordable. An online TEFL course is a great option if you already have some teaching experience, want to want to save money or want to take the course without quitting your full-time job.

On the other hand, can you handle working on your own and managing your own time during an online course experience? Or are you someone that needs more support?

Opt for an Online Course When You…

  • want to learn self-paced and part-time.
  • are looking for an affordable option.
  • don’t mind learning from videos and communicating online.
  • are a self-disciplined and organized person.

Both options have their pros and cons.

Some TEFL course providers offer hybrid courses, where you spend the complete part of the class online and the other part in person.

This type of class is great because you can learn all the theory online and then practice what you’ve learned in a classroom setting. You’ll need to set aside less time for the in-person class, but you’ll still get the benefits of a hands-on learning experience. Usually, the tuition is similar to an in-class course.

For in-depth information on online TEFL courses and more recommends, read our definitive buying guide.

Starting Your New ESL Teaching Job

Your first few months as an English teacher will probably be a total whirlwind: getting settled, exploring your new city, making friends, and starting a new job at the same time is no joke!

If you feel overwhelmed managing a classroom and moving at the same time, don’t worry: you’re far from alone.

Thankfully, Facebook is full of forums where you can find expat groups and people who’ve been in your shoes, people who can show you how to eat hot pot and where to go to turn in your visa documents.

Once the dust has settled and you’ve gotten into a rhythm with your classmates and neighborhood grocer, you may be ready to push the envelope and look for more.

Many teachers choose to take a side job so they can make more money and explore life outside the classroom a little more.

One great way to make money from home or while traveling is by teaching English online.

On online English teaching platforms, such as VIPKID, you can make a decent salary of up to $22 per hour working from home!

Other teachers pad their wallets with writings jobs, for example, with CustomWritings, an online custom essay writing service for ESL students, or they sell worksheets or online courses.

If you choose to go that route, use our guide to side jobs as inspiration for what possibilities are out there.

Tip: As an ESL teacher, you will need to transfer money abroad regularly, and that is costly and often time-consuming. There are simpler solutions for ESL teachers that you could be using. View the currency transfer guide to learn more.

Other teachers fall in love with teaching abroad and decide they want to turn what they’ve learned as an ESL teacher into a career.

There are tons of possibilities out there if you want to do that, and our article about what to do after teaching abroad will help you figure out what options are the most exciting (and feasible) for you.

No matter what you do, you’ll find that teaching ESL abroad opens whole new worlds to you.

Teaching English abroad makes you an international citizen, a person standing at the open gates of the world.