What’s the Difference Between TESOL & TEFL?


If you’re considering teaching English abroad, whether in a volunteer role or in a paid position, certification is an excellent way to ensure you’re qualified for the role. When it comes to teaching English, there are so many different acronyms and certifications that it can get confusing. We’re here to clear it all up and help you determine whether TEFL or TESOL is best for you. We’ll explain the difference between TEFL and TESOL certifications, and we’ll uncover some of the best options available for getting your TEFL certification. Whether you’re helping young learners read, or empowering adults, teaching English abroad can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Get certified and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime. Let’s get started!

What is TEFL?

TEFL stands for “Teaching English as a Foreign Language.” A TEFL certificate is a special type of teaching certification you must earn in order to legally teach English in many foreign countries where English is not the primary language. To earn this, you must take a TEFL certification course. These courses can either be done online or in-person. Typically they require 60 to 150 hours of coursework and actual practice teaching English.

What is TESOL?

TESOL stands for “Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.” The TESOL certification is usually for English teachers who want to teach basic conversational English to non-English speakers who reside in an English-speaking country.

What is the difference between TEFL and TESOL?

The TEFL certification is tailored to those who will be teaching English in a foreign country where English is not the native language. Generally TEFL certified teachers cover academic courses that prepare students for greater educational opportunities, like enrollment in universities that require students to speak English.

TESOL certification is better suited to those who will be educating non-English speakers within an English speaking country. For instance, if you reside in the United States and plan to teach African refugees in your community, you would opt for a TESOL certificate instead of a TEFL certificate.

What are the benefits of TEFL and TESOL certifications?

TEFL and TESOL certifications give you the skills you need to teach English to those learning the language. Many of the organizations that provide certification offer special help in your job search or volunteer placement. TEFL certification organizations are invested in your success and are happy to help you find opportunities to teach English, even after you’ve completed the course and received the certification.

How long do TEFL and TESOL certificates last?

TEFL and TESOL certificates are good for life – they don’t expire. Much like a college degree or high school diploma, once you earn them, they’re yours for keeps.

How long are TEFL and TESOL courses or certification programs?

This depends on what kind of experience you want, and what kind of certification you’re looking for. Accredited courses have required hours you must meet, though you can spread these out over several months by taking online courses at your own pace, or you can finish these quickly by taking the course in-person, or even in your destination country. Courses can take anywhere from four weeks to six months.

How much does a TEFL certification course cost?

TEFL certifications can vary in cost depending on the type of course and the provider you choose. For the cheapest online courses with fewer required hours – which could be sufficient for volunteering – you may pay $200 or less.

If you want a certification that qualifies you for TEFL jobs, you can expect to pay $400 to $500. And if you prefer an onsite university-level TEFL course, the cost can be $1,000 to $2,500 or more. To be safe, budget between $500 and $700 if you plan to complete a basic TEFL course.

Which is better: TESOL or TEFL?

If you’re going to be volunteering or teaching English abroad, you’ll want to get a TEFL certification instead of a TESOL, as it enables you to teach English in countries where English is not the native language. If you’re staying in the United States or another primarily English-speaking country, TESOL may suffice. That said, some international teach abroad programs may accept both. Be sure to check the program requirements of the opportunity you’re looking to pursue.

What about CELTA?

When you’re exploring teach abroad or volunteer English teaching abroad opportunities, you might come across the term “CELTA certificate.” CELTA stands for “Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults.” It’s a certificate earned through a rigorous Cambridge University course and it’s one of the most highly respected English language teaching certificates. If you receive a CELTA certificate for teaching English as a foreign language, chances are good that you can get an Egnlish teaching job just about anywhere. Trinity TESOL certification is also highly regarded.

What are the best TEFL certification courses?


There are plenty of organizations out there that offer the certification you need to teach English abroad. Here are a few of our favorites:

Maximo Nivel TEFL Certification

Maximo Nivel is an organization that provides a number of teaching, volunteering, interning, studying, and traveling opportunities in Latin America, including paid English teaching as well as volunteer English teaching. Maximo Nivel’s TEFL course is accredited worldwide and available in a number of different formats, including onsite TEFLhybrid TEFLonline TEFL, and specialized TEFL courses, allowing you to mix and match the type of study that works best for you.

Maximo Nivel’s onsite course in Guatemala, Peru, and Costa Rica lasts four weeks, or 150 hours. Pricing for the certification and textbook ranges from $1,550 in Guatemala to $1,850 in Costa Rica. That said, the course is extremely immersive and includes lifetime job-finding assistance, special dancing and cooking classes, a letter of recommendation, and an onsite snack and coffee bar.

The Hybrid TEFL course offered by Maximo Nivel is very similar to the onsite course. The difference, however, is that you complete the first half of the course on your own through a self-guided online platform. The second half of the course takes place onsite in Costa Rica, Peru, or Guatemala. Prices range from $1,100 to $1,400 with some added fees for textbooks.

Maximo Nivel’s Online TEFL course is built to be just as intensive, yet more affordable and flexible. You’ll work online to complete reading assignments, lesson plans, in-book tasks, and written assignments, and a TEFL trainer will provide feedback over Skype. You’ll get 15 hours of coaching and tutoring, and you’ll be required to teach one six hour lesson with a real English learner online. Your trainer will coach and give feedback for specific improvements throughout the course. Tuition for the online course is $495.

Specialized TEFL courses by Maximo Nivel are geared toward professional English teachers who want to teach English for more specific scenarios, with certificates as addons to their TEFL certifications. Maximo Nivel offers specialized certification programs in Teaching Business English and Teaching International Exam Preparation – the courses for these two certificates each cost $395, with textbooks and materials costing $50.

International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) TEFL Certification

International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) offers several volunteer English teaching programs abroad, and have partnered with CCELT Online to provide a 100-hour online TEFL course for only $399. The IVHQ TEFL certification is available to anyone, and it’s accepted by many international schools looking for volunteer English teachers.

Course participants will learn how to teach basic English communication through an interactive online platform. There’s no practical teaching component in this course. Students will, however, still gain knowledge of how to plan, design, and adapt English teaching plans that will suit them in their future teaching endeavors.

Plan My Gap Year (PMGY) TEFL Certification

As the name suggests, Plan My Gap Year (PMGY) helps students craft an amazing gap year experience abroad. They also offer a number of English teaching projects of varying lengths. While many of the programs don’t require special credentials, PMGY has partnered with an organization to offer TEFL certification for those travelers who want to go the extra mile with their programs. The organization is called TEFL Express, and through PMGY’s TEFL certification page, you can learn how to access one of the 60-hour courses for only £99. TEFL Express does offer a number of other courses with shorter or longer hours requirements and helpful video modules. The trainings and certifications offered by TEFL Express are best-suited to volunteer English teachers and they can be completed online within 75 days at your leisure.

GoEco TEFL Certification

GoEco specializes in offering volunteer abroad opportunities, and in conjunction with International TEFL AcademyGoEco’s TEFL certification offering gives participants lifelong assistance in searching for TEFL jobs. The courses require at least 100 hours of coursework and six hours of teaching practice with real students. The instructors all hold at least a master’s degree in linguistics or teaching TEFL, and the curriculum is watched closely by an independent TEFL organization. Courses are available online or in-person, and range from $1,399 to $2,795.

TESOL vs TEFL: The Big Takeaways

If you’re planning to get a job or just volunteer teaching English abroad, there are several different programs that can help you get the certification you need. The best thing to do is to first determine which teaching abroad opportunity is right for you, and then find out what that specific program requires in terms of certifications (TEFL will be your best bet for most programs, but not always). From there, you’ll know which certification to pursue and you can start your search. Happy travels!

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