Speaking about teaching English both abroad and to foreigners in your country, there are three different certifications you can obtain: TEFL, TESOL, and CELTA. In this post, we’ll be focusing on TEFL and TESOL certificates and which one you need to be an English teacher overseas.
What is TEFL/TESOL certification?
The acronym TEFL means teaching English to foreigners and this is exactly the kind of certificate you need to start working as a teacher abroad.
As this educational field is among the most quickly growing ones, more and more ESL teaching jobs require such certificates from employees, because it’s a proof of having been trained properly and possessing the necessary skills.
As you start looking for positions at schools and language courses, you will come across numerous acronyms, such as TESOL, ELT or ESL etc., which basically all mean the exact same thing – teaching English to foreign speakers – implying a particular training and understanding of methodology.
What is the difference between TESOL and TEFL certificates?
In spite of being very similar and both empowering the holder to apply for a well-paid job as an English teacher, the two terms’ meanings are slightly different.
The latter stands for teaching to those, who speak other languages, and gives you the right to teach immigrants, refugees or international students who came to the US or any other anglophone country.
Since TEFL jobs are all abroad, teachers are also trained differently in order to meet the needs of foreign students.
The latter usually need English for career and academic purposes, that’s why teachers get trained differently in order to focus on grammar, work-related vocabulary and pronunciation.
As a tutor you also get acquainted with IELTS and TOEFL requirements, to let you prepare your students to them.
So if we should compare TESOL vs TEFL certificates, here is what we get:
- TESOL is for those, who wish to work with foreigners and help them adapt quicker to the anglophone society. Focus on everyday situations, vocabulary, small talks etc.
- TEFL is to teach speakers of other languages abroad. This certificate will not let you work in Canada, UK etc. Focus on grammar, academic and/or work-related vocabulary.
You might say both ‘academic’ and everyday language skills are important. You are right!
This is why numerous courses now use both acronyms to indicate that they introduce trainees to a variety of techniques and approaches, covering all fields and applicable to all kinds of students.
What are the advantages of being certified?
- Quick training. Unlike university studies, learning ESL basics won’t take long – a few weeks will be enough.
- Earn well. Salary depends on certificates – the more qualified you are, the better your salary is.
- Everybody gets one. Everyone has access to the training, no matter if they are native speakers or not.
- Get a job easily, because employers want certified professionals for teaching English as a second language
- It won’t expire. You undergo the course once and the paper will be valid for the rest of your life.
- It’s international. It is recognized worldwide, so you are free to look for work wherever you like – no need to take extra courses or pass any national tests for teachers.
- Online or off-line. No need to travel far away to do certification if you don’t happen to have a center in your area.
There is no particular school or organization, issuing those certificates and offering training.
Good news: you can easily find a center, located nearby, and simply enroll!
However, since it’s a competitive industry, considering different schools, comparing prices and levels of qualification are a must.
How to find quality TEFL and TESOL courses?
As we all know, one can’t get really good quality for a low price. It’s a law.
However, we don’t want to persuade anyone into the most expensive course just because of the price – we’ve listed a few useful tips instead, that will surely help you choose the right option:
- Length of training;
- Instructor qualifications;
- Job search assistance.
Those are the key elements of a successful training center. Let’s consider them in detail now.
1. Length of training
Remember, that a 120 hour TEFL certificate only is internationally known and accepted in language schools everywhere.
These include at least 100 of coursework (theoretical part) and 6 to 20 hours in a classroom, teaching real ESL students and getting feedback from your supervisor.
You are likely to stumble on schools, offering 100 (or even less) hour training or a 120-hour course with no practice at all, but these won’t give you much, because not every foreign center will accept this type of certificate.
Normally, the training period will take 4 weeks to a couple of months, depending on the course intensity, since it may be a full-time or a part-time thing.
It won’t affect your certificate, so opt for the mode you prefer and which will fit best your schedule.
It’s an essential part of any TESOL/TEFL course because without practice you won’t be ready to handle a class of foreign students and your paper won’t be acknowledged by most employers and centers worldwide.
Your practicum should be live and last 6 hours at the very least (!).
Beware of enrolling in a course, where no student teaching is scheduled or where teachers would have to practice on their peers from the ESL class (known as role-playing).
Firstly, this just doesn’t equal actual student teaching, secondly, it won’t be recognized by any language school, and eventually, your document won’t be worth a dime.
3. Instructor qualifications
Your TEFL coach should be an extremely experienced teacher and an academic-level instructor, otherwise, you won’t learn a lot and won’t gain vital skills.
Actually, the reason why a given TEFL certification is cheaper, than those, provided by other training centers, is that the school either hasn’t been accredited or hires mentors with a lower level of qualification – some might even take someone with a basic certificate plus a couple of years of Asian teaching experience.
Remember, that a qualified instructor is someone with at least a master’s degree in teaching English as a foreign language and extensive experience (a lot more than 2 or even 5 years) in different places.
Don’t hesitate to ask about his/her working experience and further details, because that’s what you are going to pay for.
Even though there is no singular school or body, responsible for teachers’ training, every single school must be accredited.
This shows the level of its instructors, coaches and if the program, in general, is in line with educational standards.
Attention, ‘membership’ is not equal to “accreditation”: some schools might try to substitute the latter with being a member of NAFSA or similar academic associations.
Beware, that membership doesn’t mean, that the school is being monitored or that their TEFL certificate program meets international requirements set by the British Council and other key institutions.
You might compare it to the subscription to an academic magazine or something of the sort.
Some schools might also ‘invent’ an accrediting body without having undergone any real accreditation.
In this case, you might even find the official website of the organization, but if it’s recent (a few years old) and the name has not been mentioned anywhere apart from a couple of dozens of school sites, then chances are, your certificate might not impress your potential employer.
5. Job search assistance
High-quality training centers not only provide classes and practice but also help their clients find suitable and well-paid jobs for ESL teachers.
Some educational centers offer it as a free service: an assistant will correct your CV, cover letters, and will also consult you on the subject of working abroad etc.
At other centers this is considered additional service and paid extra; anyway, you can count on getting useful information and guidance after your training ends.
Is online TEFL or TESOL certification good enough?
Lacking a training center in your city or region, you might want to get certified online, without having to travel far and arranging for a 4 or 5 weeks stay.
This might be suitable for those, who are constantly on the move due to their current work or lifestyle.
If you are wondering how to get a TEFL certificate with a more flexible schedule, consider online training.
Don’t forget about the minimum methodology classes length (120 hours) and at least 6 hours of live practice, required from any certificate nowadays.
Note that not all online courses include practicum (actually, most of them don’t). In case you are planning to go abroad and look for a job at international schools, observed classes are an obligatory part.
Moreover, you’ll need this before you start teaching full-time with 100+ students per week.
Does an online TEFL certificate have any other advantages? Oh, yes. It’s the chance to learn at individual pace: you learn where and when you wish, make a pause whenever you like, rethink, rewatch, reread anything at any time.
This way you can make it as fast (or slow) as you like.
You will still get answers to your questions and feedback, only it may take longer, than in class.
TESOL/TEFL certificate cost
When it comes to prices, it might be hard to answer at once, because it usually depends on the situation of the school, on the number of hours of coursework and practice and on qualifications of the coach you are getting.
Please note, that the TEFL certification cost may vary considerably if you compare online and on-site training, because, to tell the truth, you get less attention and personal interaction with your mentor in online courses, which makes them a cheaper option: the cost starts at a few hundred dollars.
If you consider on-site certification only, be ready to invest around $1,000 in a standard course.
Some highly-qualified tutors may charge up to $2,000 per person, so there is really no fixed price and it all depends on the school and its operating costs.
If you do some research, you may run across some very cheap offers, starting with $200 or $300, but we’d like to dissuade you from choosing them just because of the ridiculous price as you risk finding no decent job afterwards.
Let’s face it, who is eager to share their precious experience, useful tips and knowledge for a few dollars per class.
How long is a TEFL/TESOL certificate valid for?
Here is another popular question among our clients: ‘How long does a TEFL certificate last?’ Good news for you – such certificates have no expiration date!
Once you’ve accomplished a course, the proof of it will stay with you forever – no need to renew it or take any tests/refresher courses.
However, if you leave the classroom for a few years, chances are many things and great skills will be forgotten, which might increase your level of stress after coming back and only make the quality of your performance worse.
In such case you are welcome to do the course anew – this might be a shorter version of a standard one or a whole different thing.
There are more options, the basic 120-hour training doesn’t resume it all – you could develop your knowledge by taking a course in business English or the one dedicated to educating children (a big plus, if you plan to work at public schools).
There is also an advanced TEFL diploma available if you feel like extending your professional skills or aim at becoming an EFL coach yourself.
Do you actually need a TEFL certificate to teach English abroad?
Yes. Although some schools would hire a teacher (especially a native speaker) with no training, previous experience or diploma, most of them look for someone, who knows something about effective teaching.
Even if you have plenty of experience and good recommendations, you’ll pretty much have to acquire a paper allowing you to apply for an English teaching job at a language or public school with good reputation and rates abroad. Why is it so?
- It’s much easier to trust students to a certified professional, who has gone through training and knows exactly what to do in class. Moreover, it guarantees that the teacher uses up-to-date approaches.
- Certification is proof of your intention to come and teach English and not do other things instead. That’s an important paper, which helps get a work permit.
However, some schools – especially in China – are open to debutant teachers and finance their training at a local TEFL training center. Our agency can help and support you throughout the whole process.
Jobs with TESOL and TEFL certificate in China
To make it short, we’ll just say, that the quantity of teachers needed in China keeps increasing.
More parents want their children to speak this international language and communicate freely with foreigners, many adults also need the language for business-related reasons, that’s why we see more language schools appear in China each year.
It’s because you are likely to get better wages here, than in most other Asian countries.
Moreover, ESL teachers being in high demand, schools are eager to welcome both teachers with and without certification, which is extraordinary, compared to other regions.
In other words, if you feel excited about coming to China, you can still come and make it your first job, even if you don’t have previous teaching experience or diplomas.
With us, you can even get a free TEFL certificate because we know local language courses and schools, which are ready to pay for it right away, to let you come to Shanghai, Beijing or any other big Chinese city and take care of their students.