Teaching English as a foreign language is not always as easy as one, two, three. Just because you can speak English doesn’t mean you know how to teach it. That’s where a TEFL course comes in. A quality TEFL certification course will give you a basic understanding of the English language as well as the tools you need to be a competent teacher, like how to make stellar ESL lesson plans, how to assess your students’ language skills, and how to manage the rowdy ones (think more Ferris Bueller than Will Hunting). Even if you’re already a licensed teacher in your home country, TEFL certification shows you that there’s a world of difference between teaching native English speakers and students who are now learning English as a foreign language.
Without it, you may find yourself in a school you don’t like, barely earning pocket change, or short-changing your students who pay a lot of money to learn English. The international standard for any TEFL course is that it should be accredited by a verified external body, include at least 100-120 hours of instruction, and have at least six to10 hours of observed teaching practice in a real classroom with real students.
There are many myths about TEFL certification, but one area you should definitely research is how much these programs costs. Program costs differ according to whether the course is offered in your home country or overseas, an on-site or online course, and whether or not the provider includes job placement in addition to certification. The one you ultimately choose should depend on your budget and your long-term goals after certification.
Should I even get certified? Is it worth the cost?
This is something often up for debate. Do you need a TEFL certification to teach abroad? Not necessarily. However, most paid teaching positions will require some sort of related degree or certification. If you have an education degree, you do not need a TEFL certification to teach abroad, because it’s understood that you have the tools and experience to be successful in the classroom.
Without related experience or education and/or certification, you might face difficulties finding paid positions; most will be unpaid volunteer positions or you could find yourself employed at a school with low academic, professional, and ethical standards. You’ll also find yourself very unprepared for a very demanding job. As an English teacher abroad, you could be teaching four to six classes a day, seeing up to 100+ students per week who are counting on you to be the best teacher you can be. So, do you feel prepared to take that on without proper training beforehand?
Okay, then should I get certified at home or abroad?
Since many TEFL courses are widely available in your home country as well as overseas, where you decide to do it depends on how much you can afford and how fast you want to hit the ground running.
Getting TEFL certified at home.
If you decide to get your TEFL certification at home, great news: you’ll be saving a wad of cash. On average, on-site courses at home can cost between $900 and $2,000. However, although you may be saving money in the long run, getting your TEFL certification at home may not be ideal if you want to teach in a particular country. Let’s say you really, really want to teach English in Peru. If you get certified at home, you’ll be learning to teach local students rather than Peruvian students or you may be teaching your TEFL peers who are pretending to to be Peruvian students. If you do the course at home, you’ll miss out on learning how to deal with cultural differences, educational beliefs, and the mindset toward learning English in that particular country.
Another thing you need to think about is whether you have enough time to commit to the program. On-site courses at home usually take at least four weeks of intensive study so you may have to take time off work to do the course properly.
If a course offers job placement, this can be a good and bad thing. First, you’re guaranteed a job at the end of the course. However, who can say whether the job will be a good fit for you? You don’t get a say in the type of school you’d like to teach in, the kind of students you want to interact with, the salary you’re willing to receive, the schedule and number of teaching hours you have to work, the location, you get it! What if you don’t like the job they offer you? Can you get your money back or is it non-refundable?
In reality, you shouldn’t have to pay for job placement per se. Instead, the course provider in your home country should train you how to look for the right job overseas and provide you with enough links to international job boards, recruiters, and local contacts so that you can freely apply to as many teaching positions you like.
Getting TEFL certified abroad.
There are many reasons to take a TEFL course abroad. Many countries offer affordable TEFL courses that give you hands-on training with local students. Sometimes, taking the course abroad can be way cheaper than doing it at home. For example, in South East Asia, you can easily pay for a flight, accommodation, and the course for $2,000, the same amount of money you would have spent on the course at home.
The ultimate payoff to getting certified in the country you’d like to teach in is that you’re immediately immersed in the environment. Getting certified abroad eases your transition into a foreign culture so that once the four weeks are up, you can actually focus on teaching rather than still reeling from culture shock.
You’re also better off than folks who come over starry-eyed with no clue about how to relate to their new students or teachers. During your training, you get the chance to make local contacts, learn real life tips about how companies and language schools hire, and visit the schools themselves rather than just doing a random Skype interview and hoping for the best.
There are many things you need to know before getting TEFL qualified abroad, but what if you really can’t afford to jet off to a foreign country just to do the course? If you’re a bit tight on the budget side, then doing your TEFL at home or online can be a more affordable option.
Be wary of TEFL scams out there. To avoid getting duped in a foreign country, remember to do your research before you go. Carefully read program reviews by past students and talk to alumni so you don’t end up being hung out to dry.
What about online courses?
Online TEFL courses are great if you’re looking for an affordable, quick, and flexible way to get certified. On average, these course can cost as little as $250. You can get qualified without ever leaving your room. This is a fantastic option if there aren’t any on-site TEFL courses in your area or you can’t afford to go abroad.
There are many pros and cons of online versus on-site TEFL courses. If you aren’t too sure whether TEFL is for you, why not sign up for an online course? It doesn’t cost much and you control the pace of the program. Online courses are great if you want to try volunteer teaching abroad for a couple of weeks.
However, if you want a real job that pays serious bucks, or you’re considering teaching English abroad as a long-term career, investing in an on-site course at home or overseas should definitely do the trick. Although they may be more expensive, you definitely get what you pay for: a quality, accredited course that can open many doors.
Although online TEFL courses are great, there is a downside. If it’s too cheap, then it’s probably too good to be true. Is it externally accredited? Is the course taught by well-qualified university instructors or by someone who just taught abroad for a year? Do you have to pay for extras like a job placement option? Also, because these courses are usually self-study, how do you know whether you’re progressing or not? And if you’ve never stood in front of a classroom before, you may want to rethink this option. Many online courses do not offer the practical teaching component or the chance to reflect on your teaching, causing some employers abroad to not take it seriously.
If you’re really serious about giving this English teaching thing a go, then you should definitely consider investing in your future by completing a reputable, on-site TEFL course at home or overseas. If you’re bent on teaching on a particular country, then hit the ground running by doing an on-site course in your chosen country and benefit for authentic, hands-on teaching you’ll experience and the real-life contacts you’ll make. If you’re still unsure, but would like to get some short-term teaching abroad experience under your belt, then the online TEFL course may be your best bet.