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Is Getting a TEFL Certification Worth It? The Pros and Cons

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Do you want to teach abroad?

Many people want to be able to live and work in a foreign country, but they don’t know where to start.

To become a successful ESL teacher overseas, the first step is usually a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification.

Not only does the TEFL give you the tools you need to more effectively teach language learners, it also shows employers that you’re a serious candidate.

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We’re about to break down the pros and cons of getting TEFL certified to help you decide whether it’s time to make the plunge.

Read on to find out whether a TEFL class is right for you!

Pros of Getting TEFL Certified

The TEFL Enables You to Work Legally

visa application to teach abroad

Many countries, including China, Vietnam, South Korea, and many more, require teachers to be TEFL certified in order to obtain a work visa.

Even in countries where a TEFL isn’t required or visa requirements are less enforced, many schools will require or encourage teachers to be TEFL certified.

So if you’re in doubt about whether getting the TEFL is necessary for the country or school you’re applying for, it’s a good call to go ahead and do it.

It’s a relatively minor outlay that’ll pay you back many times over in the jobs you’ll find and the skills you’ll gain.

You’ll Be a Much More Attractive Candidate if You’re Certified

successful teacher candidate

Getting TEFL certified also shows that you’re a prepared and knowledgeable teacher.

Schools will see your certification and know that you’ve studied methods of teaching English language learners and been deemed prepared by a professional.

Your certification shows that you’re a serious candidate and that you’ve put thought and commitment into being an ESL teacher.

Not every school requires TEFL certification, but you’ll be eligible for higher paying jobs at more elite institutions if you’ve got the certificate. Your certification gives you an edge above the rest in the job hunt by making you a more qualified and professional seeming teacher.

Even if you’re teaching English online, your TEFL certification will give you a competitive advantage — and it might just raise your starting salary!

The TEFL Course Prepares You To Be a Better Teacher

Effective ESL teacher

You’re probably wondering: what will I learn in my TEFL course?

In your TEFL course, you’ll learn how to plan a lesson and a curriculum, how to teach a foreign language without just translating words into students’ native language, and how to create a good classroom environment.

You’ll even get the chance to prepare and teach a mock lesson!

The things you’ll learn in your TEFL course are imperative, especially if you’ve never taught before.

Speaking a language is much different than teaching it, and if you’ve had no training or instruction you’re apt to find yourself struggling to teach and control students when you’re suddenly put in the front of a classroom.

You owe it to your students — and yourself — to take the time to learn how to teach ESL so that you can be an effective teacher (and to minimize the first day of school fears!)

The TEFL course leaves you with the tools you need to be a professional ESL teacher.

You Can Make Good Connections During an In-Person Course

make friends during a TEFL course

Perhaps the most exciting part of taking an in-person (or partially in-person) TEFL course is the friendships you’ll make!

If you take your TEFL course in the place where you’re planning on teaching, you’ll meet fellow foreign teachers that just might end up being your first friends — or even colleagues! — in a new place.

With ITTT, you can take your TEFL course in over 50 locations around the world! Find out more details here and get 10% off with this link.

No matter where you take your TEFL course, though, your classmates will be dynamic individuals also interested in teaching abroad and traveling. Friendships made in a group like that are sure to be both useful and lasting.

Cons of Getting TEFL Certified

It Can Be Expensive

a TEFL course costs money

In-person TEFL courses can cost upwards of $2,000, which is a bit pricey if you’re not even sure whether or not you want to teach abroad yet.

Additionally, if you choose to take a TEFL course on-site somewhere you’ll need to pay for travel expenses and accommodations while you’re there.

You can find much more inexpensive courses, however.

For example, Let’s TEFL offers a comprehensive and accredited course at a very affordable price!

You May Not End Up Needing It

need-tefl-certification

While the TEFL remains the gold standard of teaching certification for ESL teachers, you may find yourself in a situation where you don’t need the TEFL. For example, if you already have a teaching certificate or you’re going to a country with laxer laws about teaching abroad, it might not be necessary.

There are also certain countries, like the UAE, Qatar, and Kuwait, that require a specific kind of TEFL, such as the CELTA or DELTA. This guide to TEFL certification dives into the differences between these courses.

It’s Time-Consuming

TEFL certification needs time commitment

An in-person TEFL intensive may last as long as a month — and it’s a really fun month, I promise! However, you’ll need to make sure you have the ability to put things aside while you go take this course.

If you take the TEFL online you’ll still have time to work and carry on your normal life, but you’ll need to set aside time to study and learn all the material.

No matter what kind of TEFL course you take, just make sure you’re able to give your coursework the time it deserves — you’ll thank yourself for making it a priority.

Conclusion: How to Decide if Taking the TEFL is Right for You

If you’re still on the fence about taking a TEFL course, take a minute to think about your situation. Consider your goals and your finances, and research a few courses to get a better feel for what kind might interest you.

If you’re particularly interested in a certain country or region, look into what the requirements for teaching ESL there are, and check whether a TEFL is necessary there.

120-hour TEFL Course: Now 60% Off

The accredited Let's TEFL online course including guaranteed job placement is now available for an unrivaled price!

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Keep in mind that even if it isn’t, the TEFL gives you the knowledge that will help you be a better teacher, and it also looks good to employers.

You should also do some research into TEFL courses and compare a few to get a better feel for what different course are like, how much they cost, and what they consist of.

If you’re taking the TEFL online, this guide on buying online TEFL courses will help you compare different popular courses.  

Weigh your options, and assess your goals.

But the bottom line is this: If you’re just starting to consider an ESL career, you may want to wait until you’re more sure to commit to a course. But if you seriously want to teach abroad, a TEFL course is probably a must.

And even in situations where it’s not required (like at certain schools and online), it looks good and may even lead to a higher salary!

Besides increasing your salary, a TEFL certification will also help you find a job more quickly, meaning you’ll spend less time job searching and more time teaching. As an ESL teacher, you’ll earn back the money you spent on a TEFL course — and more — in no time!

The TEFL course will give you the knowledge and make you a more viable candidate, and you’ll have fun taking it. I call that a win-win!

About Molly Oberstein-Allen

Molly Oberstein-Allen spent a year and a half teaching ESL and STEAM in Shenzhen, China. She currently resides in Kansas, where she writes and teaches online. She's passionate about traveling, literature, and the outdoors.

2 Comments

  1. F.Y. on September 2, 2014 at 10:08 am

    I wonder if Japan will ever require this for English teachers (ALTs). With the pay getting lower and lower, I doubt it, but it would be nice to raise the standards a little! Nice post.

    • James on September 3, 2014 at 11:15 pm

      Hello ALTinsider,

      Thanks for checking out my post. I don’t think will ever require it. Although it seems strange that they wouldn’t considering that they can be so strict about things. But I guess that is Japan. They always keep you guessing. How longhave you been teaching as an ALT



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