Updated for 2023-2024
Interested in making a real difference in the lives of people around the world, but not sure if you have the skills? Consider teaching English abroad.
English is one of the fastest spreading languages in human history. But more than that, it’s become something of an international language; a large number of international businesses rely extensively on English when communicating with customers and partners across borders. As such, more and more students around the world are focusing on learning English as a second language — and that means that the demand for English teachers is skyrocketing.
But before you set off on your own English teaching adventure, it’s worth noting that speaking English and teaching English are two very different skills. Being a native speaker will certainly give you some advantages, but in order to ensure an effective and rewarding experience (both for you and your prospective students), you’ll need training and qualification.
You’ll need your TEFL certification, which you can consider to be your first step to getting paid to teach English abroad.
What Is TEFL Certification?
TEFL is an acronym that stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. Essentially, it involves instructing non-English speakers in how to read, write, and speak English. And typically, in order to secure a position teaching English you need TEFL certification. This demonstrates that you’ve had professional-level training that meets internationally recognized TEFL standards.
And while it’s not as rigorous as earning a degree in education, TEFL certification does require a commitment of both time and money.
How Long Does It Take to Get TEFL Certified?
There’s no single, standardized path to getting TEFL certified. Depending on the TEFL course and your own unique circumstances, it is possible to get TEFL certification in as little as a month. That said, it’s recommended that most students set aside about six months to complete their chosen TEFL course. This should give you enough time to complete the 100 – 200 hours of coursework and 6 – 20 hours of live practice teaching that most courses hold as standard. If you prefer to do an online TEFL certification, then check out International TEFL Academy’s 11 week online course or International Volunteer HQ’s (IVHQ) 100 hour online course.
How Much Does It Cost to Get a TEFL Certificate?
You generally have three options when it comes to getting TEFL certified: taking an online course, attending home-based on-site course, or getting certified abroad. Each option offers different advantages and challenges, and each one carries with it its own price tag.
Online courses are generally the least expensive, usually running about $300 – $500. Home on-site programs run a little bit more expensive, generally within the $1,000 – $2,000 range. TEFL Certification abroad can be more difficult to pin down, but if you choose this option, you’ll usually end up spending at least a few thousand dollars on earning your TEFL certification — and you’ll need to consider travel and lodging expenses as well. Of course, given the advantage of earning your certification in an immersive environment, those extra expenses may be well worth it to you.
Also, remember that TEFL certification can help you secure paid internships abroad, which can help offset your initial investment.
Do You Really Need to Get TEFL Certified?
We get it; TEFL certification can sound like a hassle. It takes time. It takes money. And yes, the coursework can be difficult. Aren’t there TEFL jobs out there that don’t require certification?
Yes, actually. There are.
But before you ditch your TEFL certification plans and start applying, you should know that TEFL certification holders are generally preferred by employers. That can mean better positions and increased pay. In fact, a TEFL certification may be the deciding factor when it comes to getting the opportunity of your dreams, or watching it handed to someone else.
But it’s a big world, and there’s a high demand for English teachers abroad. Just know that if your pass up on becoming TEFL certified, you could be passing up on great opportunities, better pay, and invaluable training. Alternatively, if you are just looking to volunteer to teach English abroad, then you don’t need to get TEFL certified.
How to Get TEFL Certified: 4 Steps
Are you asking yourself “How do I get a TEFL Certificate?” Here are four steps to get you certified and ready to start your adventure:
1: Shop Around
After you’ve considered the time and money costs, you’ll need to start shopping around for a course that’s right for you. Volunteer Forever has an extensive list of some of the best TEFL options, and it’s updated on a yearly basis (click here to see what’s available).
Remember that your decision in choosing a TEFL certification course can have a big impact on your teaching abroad experience, so be sure to research specific programs, read up on reviews, and reach out personally to speak with specific providers with any questions or concerns you might have. How helpful (or unhelpful) a provider is during your research phase can give you an idea of how helpful (or unhelpful) they’ll be once you become their student.
Applying for the TEFL certification program of your choice can be as easy as visiting the program’s website and clicking a link. But most programs also offer advisory services. Consider taking advantage of these services; advisors can help guide you through the application process. They can also help make sure that you meet the course requirements, such as age, citizenship, and educational level.
Also, be aware that the application process for many TEFL programs is more involved than simply filling out an online form. You will likely be expected to participate in an interview, and your previous experiences and big-picture goals are going to be an important topic of focus. So, take as much time as you need beforehand to organize your thoughts. These programs are looking for students who are dedicated to becoming outstanding TEFL teachers; don’t go into the interview unprepared.
3: Put in the Work
As you begin your TEFL course, remember that there’s more riding on your success than just a certificate of completion. The end goal of your coursework is to prepare you to teach abroad, and that means students will be depending on you to be able to present the material in an effective way. They need an instructor who embodies the concepts of TEFL training, and who is fully committed to their success.
Make your TEFL course a top priority. Whether you’re completing your TEFL certification online, taking courses locally, or traveling halfway around the world to get trained, your success will depend on your focus. Get the supplies you need, push other concerns out of your mind, and arrive ready to buckle down. The more you put into your TEFL course, the more you’ll be able to give your future students — don’t hold back.
4: Keep Your Momentum Going
As you’re approaching the end of your course and your TEFL certification is in sight, make sure you maintain your momentum. After all, the TEFL certificate is just a single step on the path towards teaching abroad, and that means you’ve got some other big decisions ahead of you.
Many TEFL programs provide career advisory services and/or placement opportunities. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of whatever assistance they may be offering — after all, you’re paying for these services, and experienced guidance from established TEFL programs can be invaluable. And, if you’re taking a TEFL course abroad in the country where you’ll be serving, you can be sure you’ll need that momentum once your schooling ends, and the real work begins.
Red Flags to Watch out for When Choosing a TEFL Program
As previously mentioned, there are a lot of TEFL certification providers out there. This can give you a large pool to choose from when looking for something that fits your schedule, budget, and circumstances. The downside is that among the many high-quality TEFL programs, there are bound to be some that aren’t nearly as respectable. Some may be more interested in cashing your tuition check than in teaching you the skills you need.
When you’re researching your options, the first thing you should be looking for is accreditation. Non-accredited programs generally don’t meet the minimum quality standards recognized by the international TEFL job market. That usually means a lower quality education for you. And on top of that, most schools won’t even consider hiring you for a TEFL position if you don’t have an accredited TEFL certificate.
Going along with accreditation, you’ll want to check to make sure that the program offers enough course and teaching practice hours. It’s generally accepted that a TEFL student will need at least need 100 hours of training and six hours of teaching practice to be prepared to teach English as a second language. If a program promises TEFL training without the hours, you should probably keep looking.
Best TEFL Certification and Teach English Programs
Knowing how to get TEFL Certified is only the beginning. With your certification in hand, your next step is to find the foreign teaching opportunity that’s right for you. There are lots of paid and volunteer teaching opportunities, so see what’s available, and get ready to change some lives.