How to Get TEFL Certified: What You Need to Know

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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

VolunteerForever

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.

2: Apply

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.

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Maximo Nivel

Since 2003, Maximo Nivel has offered volunteer abroad programs, internships, study abroad opportunities, and teach abroad placements in Latin America. This wonderful organization partners with local NGOs and schools to provide the best impact on their communities throughout Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. If you’d like to teach English abroad, Maximo Nivel offers TEFL certification. What is TEFL? In this course, it includes 150 hours of coursework, 6 hours of practical teaching experience, and 6 hours of observation from teachers. After completing your TEFL certification through Maximo Nivel, you’ll have lifetime job placement assistance to help you find paid teaching placements worldwide.

4-Week TEFL Course

If you’d like to get TEFL certified – which will open you up to paid English teaching opportunities worldwide – take a look at Maximo Nivel’s four-week, 150-hour course in Latin America. Modules include Approaches to Learning and Teaching, Critical ESL Techniques, Class Management, Lesson Planning, English Grammar, Teaching Vocabulary, Assessing Learners, and more. In this course, you’ll participate in 100 hours of in-class instruction, 35 hours of reading and written assignments, and 15 hours of observation and practical teaching. During the final week of your course, you’ll take over duties in an English class, teaching hour-long lessons for five days so you can become more familiar with the work you’ll do as an ESL instructor. Then, you receive your TEFL certificate. Click here to learn more!

Alternatively, if 4 weeks is too long, you can check Maximo Nivel’s self-guided online TEFL program or their 2-week hybrid program.

International TEFL Academy

Do you want to get paid to live abroad as a professional English teacher in a country like Spain, Thailand, or Costa Rica? Are you looking for the best TEFL training and job services? If so, you’ve come to the right place! 

Founded in 2010, International TEFL Academy (ITA) offers the gold standard in TEFL certification for teaching English abroad & teaching English online. We are proud to provide the finest internationally accredited TEFL courses both online and in-person in 20+ locations across the globe. ITA certifies 5,000 people per year, and our graduates are teaching in over 80 countries & online. Our #1 commitment is to provide the highest quality training and services to our students to help you achieve your goal of getting a great job and enjoying the experience of a lifetime teaching English abroad and online.  

All ITA TEFL courses – including online TEFL classes –  include live practice teaching & employ a state-of-the-art curriculum taught by highly credentialed and experienced instructors. In addition, all ITA students receive lifetime job search assistance that includes personalized guidance from our team of expert advisors. To learn more & begin your journey, download your free TEFL Guide now.

International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) 

Founded in 2007 by Dan Radcliffe, International Volunteer HQ offers over 330 affordable volunteer trips to over 40 destinations in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, the USA, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Pacific. IVHQ has placed more than 130,000 volunteers around the world on projects ranging from teaching and healthcare, to wildlife conservation and construction, and more. Programs last one week to 24 weeks and start at $20USD a day. 

One of the key benefits of volunteering with IVHQ is knowing you’ll receive ongoing support from their experienced team of volunteer travel experts. If you’re looking for an immersive and impactful travel experience, IVHQ makes organizing a volunteer trip on your own schedule easy and affordable.

To prepare you for their teaching volunteer programs, IVHQ offers a 100 hour online TEFL course that you can take before you depart for your trip, which you can get at a special discounted rate of $399!

Volunteer to Teach English in Bali: Ubud and Lovina

Looking for a tropical island getaway where you can also help the community? Volunteer with IVHQ in Bali! There are 9 year-round projects to choose from. Travel to the cultural center of Ubud, where you can volunteer to teach English in an afterschool project, to assist teaching in a kindergarten, to help with construction and renovation in schools and community spaces, to support turtle conservation, to improve environmental education on recycling and sustainability living, or to encourage healthcare education promoting health and wellbeing. Or head to the coastal town of Lovina, where you can lend a hand with kindergarten support and teaching, or with school and community renovation. During your free time, go snorkeling or diving, embark on a cycling or trekking tour, explore temples and waterfalls, and much more! IVHQ’s trips to Ubud and Lovina, Bali start from very affordable $20 per day.

Volunteer to Teach English in Spain

Travel to Barcelona, Spain to volunteer with an IVHQ project that focuses on teaching English to immigrants from North Africa. For this program, volunteers will go to a local host center and informally socialize with refugees and migrants through cooking, eating, and learning English. Share your knowledge and work with adults interested in learning English, a skill that opens new career opportunities. This rewarding experience places you with refugees from poverty who are currently unemployed or stay-at-home parents. Volunteers assist predominantly in teaching English, however you may also teach other subjects, such as mathematics and computer skills.

Volunteering Solutions (VOLSOL)

Founded in 2007, Volunteering Solutions (VolSol) offers more than 120 different volunteer programs, internships, and teach abroad placements throughout Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Pacific. If you’d like to plan lessons, lead classrooms, and support students in attaining their educational goals, VolSol has plenty of opportunities from girls’ empowerment, to English teaching, to basic classroom assistance.

Teach English in Zanzibar

Based in Tanzania, this program invites you to teach English at a nursery, primary, or secondary school in Zanzibar from one week to three months. Many schools in this region lack necessary resources and adequate infrastructure, so there are plenty of ways you can help out. A few tasks you’ll take on include preparing lesson plans, helping teachers lead their classes, assisting with day-to-day school operations, developing tests, practicing vocabulary with your students, and helping to come up with new teaching methods. Learn more and sign up here!

Teach English in China

If you’ve always wanted to visit China, VolSol has the perfect opportunity: through this program, you’ll teach English at a Beijing primary school that educates children from impoverished immigrant families. In addition to English lessons, you also will have the chance to teach Chinese, math, physical education, and other subjects by helping build language skills, supporting teachers with their day-to-day lessons, assisting with school administrative work, designing lesson plans, and much more. Click here to learn more!

African Impact

African Impact is an award-winning, responsible travel organization that offers TEFL, volunteer, and internship opportunities in 7 countries across Africa. It was founded in 2004 and has since hosted over 35,000 volunteers. African Impact has over 20 different projects, ranging from teaching in Zambia to marine conservation in Zanzibar. The organization is known for its long-term objectives and measurable change. It is also recognized as a trusted specialist on volunteering and interning in Southern Africa. African Impact offers internships, as well as group, family, and high school projects. The minimum age requirement for their projects is 16, making African Impact a great option for teen and high school volunteers. 

Online TEFL Course

African Impact offers an online program to become certified to teach English as a foreign language (TEFL) in more than 50 countries worldwide. The course is part-time and combines 150 hours of academic online coursework with 20 hours of live practice teaching. The classes are taught by university professors and the curriculum was written by experienced instructors. The program also includes access to recorded lectures and webinars, as well as at least 20 hours of practical teaching experience. Participants can receive lifetime job placement guidance after completing the program. The program is aimed at improving education in disadvantaged communities in Africa and aligns with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

TEFL Internship

African Impact also offers in-person TEFL internships to become certified to teach English as a foreign language (TEFL) in Africa. The internships include 38 hours of practical teaching and allow participants to apply their teaching principles in real-life situations. The internships are aimed at improving the quality of education in disadvantaged communities in Africa and increasing English literacy to support the tourism industry. The internships are available in Zanzibar and Zambia and the cost varies depending on the length of stay. Participants do not need a degree to participate.

Global Vision International (GVI) 

Founded in 1997 by Richard Walton, Global Vision International (GVI) is an award-winning organization that provides volunteer and internship opportunities in Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, Latin America, and North America. Since its start nearly 30 years ago, over 25,000 people have participated in GVI’s projects around the world.

GVI is unique from other volunteer programs in three ways: they operate their own volunteer projects to ensure real, sustainable impact on the ground; they provide 360 degree support before, during, after your placement; and lastly their alumni network provides increased access to higher education and career development opportunities.

TEFL and English Teaching Apprenticeship in Thailand

Kickstart your dream of becoming an international English teacher with GVI’s comprehensive TEFL program in Phang Nga, Thailand. This project requires a commitment of 6 months to ensure you are set up for success. During the first 3 months, you will study and earn your TEFL certificate with the GVI team. Then in the second half of the program, you will join an apprenticeship to teach English in a local institution. Because this program is so comprehensive with intense training, you are strongly positioned to get a job offer in one of the local communities. Six months is plenty of time to immerse yourself in Thai culture, enjoy touristy places, and build your support network. Phang Nga is a quieter and slower paced community, yet still offers beautiful beaches, and village life with plenty of food vendors and shops. Your accommodation will be in a GVI volunteer house with staff and other participants to ensure you have a good support system. For more details about this amazing opportunity, click here!

Already have your TEFL certification?

If you are already TEFL certified, then consider volunteering to teach English with a great organization such as Projects AbroadProjects Abroad is an international volunteer organization that was established in 1992. To date, it has hosted over 132,000 participants across 209 projects in 20 destinations around the world. The organization’s mission is to make a real impact in the communities it serves by carefully planning and monitoring its projects. Each year, it supports the education of more than 14,000 children and you can directly contribute through the following volunteer teaching projects:

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