Study Abroad

How to Teach English Abroad: TEFL Certification

Teaching English abroad has become increasingly popular job route for native English speakers who want to travel. Teaching English can be a great way to earn income while abroad without having to rely on savings or other forms of financial way.

The idea of getting paid to teach someone a language you speak at home can seem like a dream come true. However, it is not always as easy as buying a plane ticket and getting handed a job upon arrival. Like all other jobs, employers require their job applicants be qualified for the position for which they are applying.

So what does it take to be qualified to teach English? Among other aspects of your resume, potential employers are likely to ask if you are TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certified. This article will familiarize you with some of the basic elements of TEFL certification, what it is and how to find a certification program that is right for you.

Great Wall : Peter Dowley

What is TEFL?

While conducting a search for certification courses, TEFL and TESOL are couple of terms that will come up and seem interchangeable. Here is what they mean:

  • TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) refers to certification that enables you to teach English in a country or region where English is not a native language among students (e.g., Spain, Brazil, China).
  • TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) refers to a newer type of certification that qualifies instructors to teach English both in countries where English is a foreign language and where English is a native language (e.g. U.S., U.K.) to non-native English speaking students.

The TEFL certificate is the most globally recognized qualification for those wishing to teach English overseas, according to the University of Toronto. TESOL certification courses tend to be less in depth and cover a wider range of topics, and may not be as compatible with course curriculum plans. If you’re looking for compatibility, flexibility, and global recognition, getting a TEFL certificate is the way to go.

Where to get certified?

Luckily, there is a plethora of options for TEFL certification programs, both online and on-site. Go Abroad’s course database is an excellent resource for finding a program that best suits your needs and interests. If obtaining your TEFL certificate outside of the U.S. is something that appeals to you, their search engine allows you to search for programs by country. Online certification is also a possibility and there are numerous online courses listed on their website.

  • On-site vs. Online
    • As is the case with other forms of higher education, the debate between on-site or online study really comes down to the individual and their life circumstances. The advantages of an online course might include convenience, flexibility, and cost. However, on-site certification typically includes more hands-on elements to training, which can certainly be advantageous when applying for a job. BridgeTEFL has a checklist to help you determine which type of program is right for you.
  • Knowing what to look for in a program: don’t get ripped off
    • It is an unfortunate reality that programs exist that do not provide their students with the training they need to be successful. The best way to ensure you are not getting ripped off is to be informed and know what to look for when selecting a program that’s right for you.

According to the International TEFL Academy, some key factors to consider when selecting a program include:

  • Length of training: Any program with less than 100 hours of training and 6-20 hours of live practice teaching to students will not provide you with an internationally recognized certification.
  • Program accreditation: Many programs might claim to be accredited but are not actually accredited by an internationally recognized and respected organization. Some of the most commonly recognized organizations include: the National Centre for Excellence (NCFE), The College of Teachers, and the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education & Training (ACCET). If an accrediting organization has only been around for a short period of time, it is probably not internationally recognized or reputable.
  • Instructor qualifications: Look into who is teaching the course, and make sure that it will be instructed by a qualified university-level teacher with plenty of experience in teaching English. If the program does not provide you with the instructor’s qualifications, this could be a sign that the program is not legitimate.
  • Student training: The hands-on component of a TEFL training course is important because students need to gain the skills and experience necessary to teach effectively in a real classroom. Additionally, prior experience is often a requirement for many TEFL jobs.
  • Price: If it seems too good to be true it probably is, and in the world of TEFL certification programs you certainly get what you pay for. The typical price for a professional course will probably be anywhere from $1600-$2000. If a program is significantly less than this, it might compromise your education, training, and resources in one way or another.

Where to go with a TEFL certificate?

With a TEFL certificate, the possibilities of where to live and work are nearly endless. To help make your decision a little easier, the International TEFL Academy has put together a useful world comparison chart, organized by country, which lists essential aspects of teaching abroad in each country. Each country on the chart is linked to an individual site with more specific information on the country’s job market.

Photo: The Great Wall of China. Credit: Peter Dowley / Flickr

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The Author

Dave Harriman

Dave Harriman

Dave Harriman, SHRM-CP, has a background in human resources, anthropology, and international education. His experience teaching English abroad during a gap year as an undergraduate student in Spain ignited his passion and advocacy for student travel. As a human resources professional, Dave is interested in helping students prepare for future career growth, and for helping facilitate social & cultural inclusion in the workplace.