5 Things to Look for in an Online TEFL Course

by Rachel Amspoker

Are you interested in becoming TEFL certified through an online TEFL course, but not sure where to start? There are so many options out there that it can be hard to sift through them all, especially if you don’t know what to look for. You may also have been warned to beware of “fly-by-night” TEFL providers and to make sure to choose a “legitimate” online TEFL course. But, how do you know which one is legitimate?

If TEFL certification online is something you’re interested in, you should know what exactly you should look for in an online program. Be on the lookout for the following qualities in online TEFL courses, and you’ll be sure to find a reputable certification course that will help you achieve your goals of teaching English abroad

Volunteer teacher with students in Vietnam
Teaching English in Vietnam

1. The provider offers accredited online TEFL courses.

The whole process of accreditation for TEFL providers can be confusing, but it’s also very important. There is no universal accrediting body for all TEFL courses, and not all providers are accredited. But, accreditation lets you, the consumer, know that a professional, outside organization has reviewed the TEFL provider and approved it as meeting a set of academic standards. This is important for your own piece of mind, and will ensure that the online TEFL course you choose is reputable. While researching options for accredited TEFL certification online, you can head to the official accrediting body’s website to read about their standards, and verify on your own whether the standards meet your own needs.

2. The online TEFL courses include at least 100 hours of instruction. 

TEFL courses are classified by the amount of hours of instruction, and many providers offer a range of options, from 40 to around 140 hours. Despite this variety, ESL teaching jobs abroad usually define a TEFL certified class as one that meets the (unspoken) international standard of 100+ hours of teaching. There are some exceptions to this rule, like in China, where only 40+ hours are required. However, you’ll find that most schools abroad are proponents of the 100+ hours rule, so keep that in mind when you’re looking for the best online TEFL courses. It’s important to remember that a TEFL course can be less than 100 hours and still be legitimate, but it may not qualify you for an ESL job in all countries.

Ultimately, the goal of online TEFL certification is to find a good ESL teaching job abroad, so skimping out on the amount of hours of instruction to save money will not serve you well in the long run. 

A man on his computer
Taking an online TEFL Course

3. The TEFL course tutors are highly qualified.

Choosing an online TEFL course that includes a personal tutor who will review your course work is a great decision, since getting feedback on lesson plans is a big part of your development as a tutor. These tutors, like the TEFL course itself, should be reputable and qualified instructors. When you’re considering an online TEFL course, look around to find the bios of the available tutors on the provider’s website, so you can get a sense of their qualifications, experience, and skills as a teacher.

What kind of experience should you be looking for? Ideally, tutors will have a bachelor’s degree, (and preferably a master’s) in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), English, or education. You should also check to see if they have taught abroad themselves, which will be a huge plus when they help instruct you.

4. The online TEFL course has positive reviews.

Other students’ opinions and experiences can be extremely helpful when you’re trying to make your own decision about an online TEFL course. Do you ever read online reviews for restaurants or for your next big purchase? You can do the same thing for TEFL certification online.

Take a look at GoAbroad's online TEFL course listings and see what kind of feedback students have left. You can see what students have to say about various online TEFL courses before you sign up. You can also do extra research to make sure you’re getting a good deal. Check the provider’s websites to see if they feature any student blogs in which graduates relay their experience traveling and learning; this could give you a first hand look into how the specific TEFL program opened doors for them in the real world. 

Students in Chile
English Students in Chile

5. The TEFL course is a fair price, and not “too good to be true.”

Does the pricing seem so cheap that you’re in disbelief? Then steer clear! You might be tempted to buy TEFL certification online with a coupon or deal that offers deep discounts, making it almost too good to be true. This isn’t a great idea, especially if you want to be prepared when you start teaching English in a real classroom. Instead, take a comprehensive, fully accredited online TEFL course that teaches you how to lesson plan, refreshes your English grammar, and offers tutor feedback on your work. You’ll be grateful you chose a more professional course on your first day of teaching eager students! And always remember, as with all educational courses, TEFL certification online can be expensive, but you get what you pay for. 

Use this checklist as a starting point to choose a legitimate provider and earn TEFL certification online, and then begin your adventure teaching English abroad!

This article was contributed by BridgeTEFL, one of the largest TEFL course providers in the U.S. with over two decades of experience training ESL teachers to teach English all over the world.