How to get TEFL certified and teach English abroad
Remember that really cool girl you happened to sit next to in lit class that one semester? The one that worked back-to-back ski seasons in Japan and Argentina, wore the comfiest-looking moccasins, and always had an insightful, globally-charged and thoughtful response to just about every question the professor posed?
Yeah, well, she’s teaching abroad now. And her life looks AWESOME. Why? Because it is.
No, it’s not 100% perfect, nor is every moment as Instagrammable as you might think. Living abroad isn’t necessarily a cake walk, but it is a great adventure—and we think you need one.
So, let’s get started! The steps to teaching English as a foreign language aren’t all too hard to follow once you take that first step. You just need a game plan, a dash of confidence, and a willingness to stretch your comfort zone—much like that girl from class. Let’s break it down.
1. Decide if you’re “in” or not.
Before you start the long process of coordinating teaching jobs abroad, you want to make sure that you’re 100% in on the opportunity. It can take a lot of resources—money, time, energy—to set yourself up for a successful job hunt, let alone transition to life abroad. So take a good, hard look in your selfie camera and ask yourself: Are you gonna do this? For real?
If you’re not ready to commit to the process, that’s totally okay! It’s still worthwhile to educate yourself on what that commitment will look like, so that when that magical window of opportunity does present itself, you can get the ball rolling ASAP.
Pro tip: Many people often don’t travel because they have too little of one thing, time or money. But the secret is that there’s really never a “right time” to travel. You have to create it. And if you want it bad enough, you will.
2. Review your qualifications.
- Are you fluent in English? ✓
- Are you at least 18? ✓
- Are you TEFL certified? ☹️
It's totally okay that you aren't TEFL certified at this point—you’ve only just decided to go ALL IN and secure your path towards teaching English as a foreign language abroad, after all!
But, you need to swallow some truth bombs. Most organizations hiring EFL teachers want them to be TEFL certified. Above all else, this indicates to the schools, language academics, universities, etc. that you have put in the effort to understand the complexities of teaching a language. You might think that just because you speak English natively that you have any TEFL job in the bag. But that’s simply not the case.
Many people who want to teach abroad aren’t necessarily looking to teach English for their entire career (though you might find out that you love it and want to!). The majority are recently graduated, young, and have not only a penchant for adventure, but also the practicality of not wanting to go broke while traveling. If this sounds like you, you need to get TEFL certified. It opens doors to better EFL jobs, and to you doing a better job at TEFL.
A few other things to keep in mind
You don’t HAVE to have a degree to participate in TEFL courses or to be eligible for many EFL teaching jobs around the world, nor do you have to be a native English speaker. However, many international schools will only hire non-degree holders who have completed at least a 100+ hour TEFL certificate training course.
If you’re already teacher, you DO need a TEFL certificate under your belt, too. Simply having a degree in education or extensive experience teaching other subjects doesn’t mean you’re equipped to teach EFL. You still need to learn the specific methodology and approach.
3. Get educated on what getting TEFL certified means.
Getting TEFL certified is your ticket to life abroad as an EFL teacher. Even if you are an education major or teacher, a TEFL certificate is required as a specific methodology is taught in order to teach English as a foreign language. And, you’ve got it made—there’s a whole treasure trove of organizations that want to help you make sure your qualifications are up to snuff.
So let’s dive deeper into this world of TEFL certification. In summary, you have a lot of options when it comes to how to get TEFL certified. A lot. You can take TEFL courses online, in person, or a combo online-in person. You can get TEFL certified in your home country (there are lots of places in the U.S., primarily in major cities, that run dedicated programs) OR you can hightail it abroad to get TEFL certified. For example, TEFL Worldwide Prague runs a low cost, four week TEFL certification course in beautiful Czech Republic. Who wouldn’t want to top off their teach abroad adventure with those fairy tale castles and crisp Pilsners?
You can get TEFL certified by taking courses for 120 hours, 240 hours, or 120 hours + special course add on’s (like specializing in business English teaching). You can find TEFL programs with payment plans, with extra curricular activities planned, with young teachers, with old teachers, with small groups, with large classes. You can find opportunities to get TEFL certified with companies that have been in business for one year, two years, ten years. And you can find varying missions and levels of dedication to TEFL student success. Some TEFL companies offer job placement assistance and alumni networking groups, others hook you up with the TEFL courses then boot you out the door.
And that’s all just scratching the surface. Spend some dedicated time learning about how to get TEFL certified and who to get TEFL certified with before you start to dive deeper and pick which one is right for you. Knowledge is power, and will serve you well as you continue moving through these steps to teaching English abroad.
4. Start shopping for TEFL certification courses.
Now that you’re more aware of what’s out there, you can start confidently selecting between different organizations to find the one that’s right for you. We recommend using a combination of research strategies to streamline your process. MyGoAbroad allows you to save and compare programs with ease, and our Online Advisors can send you specific recommendations based on your set of preferences.
Consult reviews, click around on TEFL company websites, and, most importantly, reach out. You should aim to talk to at least three to five different TEFL companies before making a decision, and here’s how...
5. Talk to at least 3-5 different TEFL certification providers.
You’re on their radar. They’re grilling you to see if you’re a good fit, but you should also be grilling them. What’s included? What does the application process looks like? What makes their program different? What are some success stories from alumni? Would they put you in touch with alumni?
Ultimately: How available are they (and patient are they) with answering your myriad questions?
TEFL Worldwide Prague ensures they are available via phone, email, social media—they do it all. It’s their #1 priority to answer questions thoroughly and swiftly. And not only that, they’re a lot like you! Their team is comprised largely of North Americans, the kind who have uprooted their lives back home in search of adventure. So they really get it, and they can speak to more than the nuts and bolts of becoming TEFL certified or the basic steps to teaching English abroad. TEFL Worldwide Prague understands what you’re going through as you suss out your options for getting TEFL certified.
And that’s just it—you need to get a feel for the different vibes of the different orgs you’re considering. One conversation might seal the deal.
6. Do your last minute sleuthing, then pick a TEFL program and apply.
Now that you’ve confidently chosen an organization to help you get TEFL certified, it’s time to hit that application process—and hard. You want to highlight your educational experiences and talk about the ways you hope this new qualification will improve not only your life and prospects, but also the lives of others. Think bigger picture and reeeeally convince them that you’re going to be a standout, committed student, and later teacher.
Await your fate!
7. Once you’re accepted, it’s time to get focused.
Of COURSE they accepted your rockstar application. Who wouldn’t!? And now, a new slew of questions creep from periphery to focus. You need pencils. You need textbooks. You need a new top from Old Navy that makes you feel teacherly.
Whether you’re getting TEFL certified online or in a classroom, it’s time to put your game face on and get focused. Your success as an EFL teacher rides in your willingness to participate and engage with this training!
8. Think about your next move, then complete the TEFL certification course like a champ.
Are you going to take classes in a nearby city, or move clear across the world to do your course? Are you going to teach abroad immediately after or wait a few months? All of these realities to your personal situation will ultimately influence your next steps to teaching English.
If you want an immediate placement after, start tying up loose ends with friends, your job, your landlord. If you want that certificate in hand before you turn your eyes to the job market, then you can rest easy and continue your afternoons lazily clicking on EFL teachers’ instagram stories. Don’t worry, we’ll wait. Lucky for you, this job market isn’t going anywhere. And with that gorgeous new TEFL certification in tow…
… You’re finally prepared to shape young minds
If you want to teach English as a foreign language abroad, you need to do it with TEFL certification. That’s why we focused such a large portion of the steps to teaching English on this very crucial area. If you’re not qualified to do it in your own country, you probably shouldn’t be doing it for others in another country. So, follow these basic steps to teaching English, and skedaddle around the globe in search of adventure. That girl from your Lit class will be proud. And so will we!
This article was sponsored by TEFL Worldwide Prague, a company offering 4-week intensive TEFL courses in the heart of the Czech Republic. All graduates are also provided with extensive job placement assistance.