Teaching abroad is a big decision, and choosing a TEFL course online is the first step of the process. The right course will help you feel qualified and supported as you prepare to move abroad, while the wrong course will force you to spend money on a useless certification that hinders you from landing a job. Online courses are an excellent option for people who are motivated and excited about getting TEFL certified, but can’t make the time commitment or afford the high cost of in-person programs.

This article will walk you through the process of researching and selecting the online course that best suits you. Before delving into the specifics, let’s clear up any confusion about the acronyms that you’ll come across in your research.

The difference between TEFL, TESL, and TESOL

If you’ve already looked into getting an English teaching certification, you’ll undoubtedly have come across the three acronyms: TEFL, TESL, and TESOL. While very similar, they each have slight variations in meaning. TEFL stands for “teaching English as a foreign language,” and primarily describes teaching English in countries where the native language is different. If your plan is to get your certification and move abroad to teach, then you’re interested in TEFL.

TESL, or “teaching English as a secondary language,” describes teaching English to non-native speakers within an English-speaking country. TESL applies to you if you live in an English-speaking country, and are planning to remain there to teach.

Lastly, TESOL stands for “teaching English to speakers of other languages,” which is a broad description that covers both TEFL and TESL. Knowing the difference between the three acronyms will allow you to see an online course title and immediately know what style of teaching it encompasses.

What to look for in a TEFL course online

While TEFL courses are a dime a dozen, quality ones are much harder to come by. Plenty of people have paid for spam courses that either did not exist or did not deliver on stated promises, which is why it’s crucial to do your research and ensure that your TEFL certification online is legitimate. The course must check off a number of boxes in order to simplify your learning process and enable you to teach internationally.

First and foremost, your course must have 100 or more hours of study. Most international schools will only accept certifications that have at least 100 hours of content. After all, teaching students a foreign language is a complex process. Although English may come easily to you and other native speakers, it contains a vast network of rules and regulations beneath the surface. Studying for at least 100 hours shows prospective employers that you devoted time and energy into the process, and that you’ll arrive equipped with the proper tools to teach their students.

Second, your TEFL certification online must be accredited, either through an internationally recognized organization or university. Although there is no single governing body that monitors and evaluates TEFL courses, plenty of legitimate organizations and universities fill the gap. Some of the most common accrediting organizations include: Cambridge, Training Qualifications UK (“TQUK”), and the Online TESOL and TEFL Standards Agency (“OTTSA”).

Other qualities to keep in mind while researching courses

To ensure that you have a pleasant experience with your TEFL course and program, look for one that offers support from either tutors or advisors throughout the process. Lifetime support is ideal, since you never know how long you’ll teach English. Whether you stay in the field for six months or 12 years – it’s best to get certified by a program that will always be there for you. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that you can access up-to-date advice and guidelines about teaching in various countries, regardless of when you completed the course.

Similarly, programs that offer job search assistance are especially useful. The assistance may be in the form of country guides, online job boards, or partnerships with job recruiting agencies – all of which will help you start working sooner upon completing your TEFL Online Course.

One last thing to consider is that programs with a practicum-teaching component will prepare you to manage classrooms better and more confidently than a purely online course. While you can certainly develop your skills online, the ones that incorporate practicum hours into the syllabus are more comprehensive. After all, nothing prepares you to teach like actually leading a class.

Personally, my TEFL course online had a practicum component – and it was undeniably the best part of the course. I learned valuable lessons during my time observing and leading classes, which I would not have gotten through online study alone.

How to decide on and start a TEFL course online

Once you’ve found programs that are internationally recognized, accredited, and come with certain benefits – you may still be unsure of which to choose. A great way to dig deeper into a program is through online reviews from past students. Ensure that these reviews are positive, and that the students were able to find desirable teaching jobs abroad. You’ll also discover which learning environments you prefer based on descriptions in the reviews. Whether you’re looking for a course that is “engaging and upbeat” or “focused and thorough,” the reviews are often the best way to analyze them from the perspective of past students.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – TEFL courses are a dime a dozen. Even if you narrow them down to just the recognized and accredited ones with benefits, there are still plenty out there. This is good news for you as a consumer who wants choices, and bad news for you as a human with a limited amount of time. To save you hours of research, we’ve compiled a list of the best TEFL courses online. These programs vary in terms of cost, time commitment, and benefits. No matter your situation, you should be able to find a course that suits you and your individual needs.

Recommendable TEFL Online Courses

The list below should serve as a starting point and help you avoid courses that are fake or illegitimate. Once you explore the options below, plan to dig deeper by reading reviews, talking with advisors and tutors, and delving into each of the benefits.

Cambridge CELTA

  • Time commitment: 10 weeks minimum
  • Practicum: 6-8 hours
  • Requirements: must be above the age of 18
  • Cost: about $2,500 – dependent on the training center where you choose to do your practicum hours
  • Accreditation/Approval: Cambridge University
  • Benefits: considered the “gold standard” of all TEFL courses online; widely known and highly respected program for teaching English; personalized support (trainees have a designated trainer who works with them throughout the course)
  • Rating on Go Overseas: 94%

International TEFL Academy (“ITA”)

  • Time commitment: 170 hours
  • Practicum: 20 hours
  • Requirements: must be a native English speaker from the U.S. or Canada, and above the age of 21
  • Cost: $1,395, although ITA frequently offers discounts
  • Accreditation: Level 5 accreditation by Training Qualifications UK
  • Benefits: Access to lifetime guidance from ITA advisors before and after enrolling in the course;  in-depth country guides on 80 countries; access to hundreds of articles, FAQs, and testimonials from current teachers and alumni; extensive ITA network across the globe made up of over 15,000 alumni
  • Rating on Go Overseas: 91%

International TEFL TESOL Training (“ITTT”)

  • Time commitment: various course options from 60 to 470 hours
  • Practicum: None
  • Requirements: None
  • Cost: courses and packages vary from $199 to $799
  • Accreditation: Online TESOL and TEFL Standards Agency
  • Benefits: Flexibility in choosing exactly which course and package fits your needs; job support comes with all courses and packages (although lifetime job support only comes with the “master” packages); option to combine various packages and add tutor support if desired; specialized course options for methods like Business English and Teaching English to Young Learners
  • Rating on Go Overseas: 89%


  • Time commitment: various course options from 40 hours to 120 hours
  • Practicum: None
  • Requirements: None
  • Cost: between $139 and $299
  • Accreditation: Online TESOL and TEFL Standards Agency
  • Benefits: Tutor and tech support, as well as job placement assistance for life; charitable donation made for each new course enrollee; online resources for teaching jobs online and in Asia
  • Rating on Go Overseas: 98%

Let´s TEFL

  • Time commitment: 120 hours
  • Practicum: None
  • Requirements: English fluency, 18+ years of age
  • Cost: $499 (60% off discount available)
  • Accreditation: World TEFL Accrediting Commission (WTEFLAC)
  • Benefits: Lifetime job placement service, live chat tutors each with 3+ years of teaching experience, free ESL job training short-course, free certificate notarization with job placement service
  • Rating on Go Overseas: 97%

TEFL Online from the University of Toronto

  • Time commitment: various course options from 100 to 150 hours
  • Practicum: None
  • Requirements: None
  • Cost: between $995 to $1,495
  • Accreditation/Approval: University of Toronto
  • Benefits: Courses are self-paced, and students have one year to complete them; TEFL certificate from a top-20 university worldwide; free job placement services from an international teacher recruitment agency called Teach Away
  • Rating on Go Overseas: 84%

Key takeaways about the online TEFL courses

As you can see, your options for choosing a TEFL course are diverse. If you’re looking for a certification that is highest in quality and marketability, Cambridge CELTA and International TEFL Academy are top notch. Cambridge is one of the longest standing TEFL course providers, and it is still a leader in the industry. ITA bases out of the United States, although it received its accreditation from a highly regarded British organization. Both courses have practicum components, which – rather than simply teaching you the rules and theories behind the English language – help prepare you to stand up and lead a classroom. The only downside is that both ITA and Cambridge CELTA are costly, and may not be financially viable for everyone.

If you’re looking for a TEFL certification online for under $1,000, then ITTT TEFL, Let´s TEFL and myTEFL are excellent options. All three will provide you with the flexibility of fully-online classes, and support you throughout your job search.

Regardless of the course you choose, remember that it must be internationally recognized, accredited, and offer benefits to support you as both a student and teacher. The decision to begin a TEFL online course is an exciting one, since it is the first step of many that will help you realize your dream of moving abroad and teaching English. Enjoy the process, learn as much as you can, and prepare yourself for one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.

Brooke is a girl in her mid-twenties who loves her home in the U.S. but still leaves as often as possible to explore the world beyond. She's lived in Costa Rica and Spain, and has been teaching with her TEFL certification since 2015. When she's not traveling, you can find her hiking, trying new recipes, reading, and teaching herself yoga.