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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.

make friends during a TEFL course

What is TEFL Certification?

Your TEFL Certification gives you a license to teach English as a foreign/second language upon completion of a teaching course. In fact, TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language.

Acronyms Related to Teaching English

  • TEFL = Teaching English as a Foreign Language
  • BML = Bilingual & Multilingual Learners
  • CELTA = Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults
  • ESL = English as a Second Language
  • EFL = English as a Foreign Language
  • ELL = English Language Learners
  • LET = Limited English Proficiency
  • TESOL = Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

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.

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.

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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.

If you aren’t an experienced classroom teacher yet, it’s not a good idea to try to teach English without any certification.

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.

There are options that are over 120 hours, in which you might learn more in-depth about teaching certain groups of students or have more opportunities for practicums or professional development.

In general, though, 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.

Combination courses are less expensive (not always) and time-consuming than in-person courses, and more fulfilling than online courses.

Also, consider whether you’d like to take a course that includes a practicum where you prepare and teach a lesson to a class made up of fellow TEFL students.

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.

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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.

Can You Get TEFL Certified Completely Online?

Yes, you can!

Many people learn perfectly well online, and an online TEFL course certification is just as valid as an in-person one and it costs less.

Reputable online training providers often offer the same benefits as brick-and-mortar TEFL institutes, including support and job placement.

Benefits of Quality Online TEFL Courses

  • Self-paced learning at home
  • Affordable price
  • Accepted by most employers worldwide
  • Lifetime job guidance
  • Personal tutor support
  • Hard copy certificates

The accredited Let’s TEFL online course includes everything you need. Learn more here.

Each year, ten thousands of aspiring teachers pass their TEFL online and land high-paying teaching jobs all across the globe or start out as private ESL tutors.

Read our buying guide to choose the best TEFL online course for you.

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.

How to Shop a TEFL Course

Figuring out which TEFL course is right for you can be totally overwhelming. You might be tempted to go for the least expensive offer you can find, but a course that’s dirt cheap probably won’t provide the best, most comprehensive training.

Before you make any final decisions…

Ask Yourself: How Do I Plan to Use My Certification?

If you’re a TEFL newbie, the answer to this question may be unclear right now and that’s ok. But, if you have some idea of how you want to use your TEFL certification, it will help you better select a course.

Some people teach English for their whole career. Others do it as a volunteer opportunity over one summer. And others choose to take a 2-year hiatus and teach abroad while they explore the world.

Online teaching is becoming increasingly popular, too.

Which one is you?

Possible Career Goals for ESL Teachers

  • “I am going to be a volunteer teacher for a few months over the summer break.”
  • “I want to take a gap year and live and work abroad as an English teacher.”
  • “My goal is to live as an expat for an extended period of time and teaching is my gateway to financing that dream.”
  • “I want to teach online because I’m a stay at home mom/dad and I’d like to make some extra income.”

The higher you set your career goals as an English teacher, probably, the more time and money you will want to invest in your training. (Which does not mean, that with an affordable online course, you cannot become a lifelong teacher.)

Also, if you will need help in finding your first job, you will specifically want to look at TEFL providers that offer job guidance or placement service and can connect you with the right institutions.

Then, research and shortlist suitable TEFL courses.

Select 2-3 course options.

For a headstart, jump to the below list of fully recommendable TEFL courses.

Double-check that any course you’re considering is accredited and offers at least 120 hours of training as well as job guidance and responsive live support — you’ll appreciate the service if you ever have any problems or issues.

Make sure the course you’re looking at has good alumni reviews on sites like GoAbroad and GoOverseas.

Review Summary for Let’s TEFL on (Summer 2019)

You should also check out the course’s website, talk to an advisor via phone or online chat, and perhaps even speak with alumni who’ve reviewed the course somewhere on the Internet.

Good TEFL providers should be able to give you any information you want about the course, and they should also be able to assist you with getting TEFL jobs and moving abroad.

Fully Recommendable TEFL Courses

A Google search will bring up dozens if not hundreds of TEFL courses. But what’s the use of spending days browsing a long list of similar options when you can have a handful of preselected quality ones?

We’ve put together a shortlist of fully recommendable TEFL institutes, with online and in-class courses, from super-affordable to top-notch.

Both In-Class and Online TEFL Courses

International TEFL Academy

International TEFL Academy or ITA is one of the industry-leading TEFL training providers, with thousands of graduates each year.

They offer an online course as well as in-class and combined courses at partner schools in over 25 destinations in the US and all across the globe.

The online course costs $1,400 and the inc-class courses range from $1,500 to $3,000 depending on the location.

ITA gets enthusiastic reviews from graduates.

Check the locations, course dates, and tuitions.

Download a free brochure.

International TEFL and TESOL Training

International TEFL and TESOL Training (ITTT) also is a widely known provider of TEFL courses, offering teacher training since 1993.

They partner with TEFL schools in over 50 destinations worldwide and provide online and combined courses as well. You can even take CELTA and Trinity College CertTESOL courses with ITTT.

The online course starts already at $200 while the on-site courses will cost you from around $1,500 to $3,000 depending on the location.

Check the course details and locations here.

Apply here (non-commital).

Pure Online TEFL Courses

Let’s TEFL

Let’S TEFL offers a no-brainer option: an accredited and comprehensive 120-hours TEFL online course. It even has a full module on teaching English online.

Learn more about their outstanding personal support and lifetime job placement here. 

The course comes with a tiny price tag of $199. Unlike many other affordable online courses, Let’s TEFL ships hard copy certificates internationally for free.

This course has a fantastic 94% rating on Go Overseas.

Check the course details


TEFLPros ist a relatively new TEFL provider. They offer a solid accredited 120-hours online TEFL training, plus a lot more materials like classroom observation videos and extra assignments.

The price of $349 is a bit on the higher side, but the co-owners Jos and Whitney promise to provide “the closest thing to an in-person experience that you can get with an online course”.

This must be somehow true, as the course has an unbelievable 99% rating on Go Overseas.

Learn more about the course.

Sign up for a free 2-day course trial here (worth $97).

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

The Different Types of Certification

Researching TEFL training options can be confusing enough without having to tear your hair out over the different certification types. TEFL, TESOL, CELTA, and DELTA can look like major alphabet soup if you haven’t encountered the acronyms and their meanings before.

Read on and you’ll be well-versed in the teach abroad options and ready to choose the best certificate for you.

TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language)

This is the generic term for ESL teaching certifications.

It doesn’t refer to a specific course or school; rather, it’s an umbrella term used to refer to any course that teaches you how to be an English instructor to non-native speakers in a country where English is not a widely spoken language.

TEFL certificates are accepted by the vast majority of schools.

TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)

TESOL, like TEFL, is an umbrella term used for a number of different certificates. Unlike TEFL courses, TESOL courses generally focus on educating teachers on how to teach English to non-native speakers in English-speaking countries.

So what’s the Difference Between TEFL and TESOL?

While technically focusing on different areas of English language education, as explained, the truth is that TEFL and TESOL are both used pretty broadly to refer to courses teaching English language instruction to language learners and there’s not too much distinction in terms of when one term is used versus the other.

Many employers may accept them interchangeably. If you got a TEFL certification to teach abroad and then moved back home – you may still be able to use your certificate to teach non-native speakers domestically (and vice versa). It all depends on the employer, and how strict they are about the specific strategies you learned to teach EFL and/or ESL learners.

What is CELTA?

CELTA, short for “Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages“, is a type of TEFL and TESOL that is exclusively administered by Cambridge University. It has the strictest standards out of all of the programs, and the quality is always guaranteed.

CELTA courses cover basically the same material as generic TEFL/TESOL courses, but they give you the specific distinction of having graduated from this specific proprietary course.

CELTA is the most expensive TEFL certificate, mainly because it’s considered the “gold standard” out of all of the programs. It typically costs between $1,500 and $4,000, although the supposed payoff is that teachers with a CELTA certification may able to get higher-paying jobs and more teaching opportunities.

Certain countries with high teaching standards and lucrative job offers, like the UAE, Qatar, and Kuwait, are more likely to hire teachers with a CELTA than those with a run-of-the-mill TEFL certification.

What is DELTA?

DELTA is similar to CELTA, except that it’s a full-fledged diploma instead of a certificate. It stands for “Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults.”

It is also administered through Cambridge University and has the same international recognition and prestige as the CELTA. You must obtain the CELTA before the DELTA since prior teaching experience is a requirement for the latter.

The diploma is most appropriate for English teachers with a few years of experience who want to strengthen their qualifications and skill-set. Typically, people do not obtain the DELTA unless they plan to focus their career on teaching English to non-native speakers. It is also common for people to pursue the DELTA if they want to become managers, directors, or teacher trainers.

The cost for the DELTA is much higher than the other certifications, although lower than a Masters in TESOL – typically, the minimum you’ll pay is about $3,500.

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Which Certification Type is Best for Me?

Now you’ve learned what is TEFL and what different certificates are available. In order to figure out which certificate is the right fit for you, you must first decide how you plan to use it.

Do you want to move abroad and teach English for a few months or years? Consider getting your TEFL. If you’d rather stay at home and teach English domestically, then a TESL or TESOL is a more appropriate option.

If having the best certificate and most competitive skill-set is important to you, then you should pay the higher price tag and get your CELTA.

You won’t need to consider the DELTA until you’ve already gotten a certificate and have taught English for at least two years. Only then, after you’ve decided to build a career out of teaching English, does it make sense to pursue your DELTA.

If you still aren’t sure, it’s okay to start small.

You can get your TEFL or TESOL first to see if teaching is the right fit for you, and then move on to the CELTA if you want to deepen your knowledge and enhance your resume. You may find that you absolutely love teaching, and want to educate yourself to the point of obtaining the DELTA.

There’s no set path that you must follow when it comes to teaching English, so choose what makes sense for you at the moment. You can always continue learning and pursuing higher certifications if it makes sense for you in the future.

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