How Far in Advance Should I Get TEFL Certified?

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Teaching English abroad is something that many aspiring educators and wanderlusts have considered doing someday. What isn’t there to like about the idea of travelling anywhere in the world and getting paid to engage with your hosts while there? 

When it comes to figuring out the details of where, when, and how to go about getting certified and find work teaching abroad though, the process can begin to feel overwhelming. In order to land a TEFL placement in most countries around the world, you will need to take on 120 hours of either online or in-class training. Once you graduate, next comes the process of applying to teaching jobs. 

It isn’t as burdensome as it sounds. Most TEFL programs are accessible, will make your training fun, and provide you with job placement assistance immediately after your one-month training. So how and when to get TEFL certified then? While every circumstance is unique, we’ve compiled this regional guide of timelines to help you find your footing at the outset of what will be one of the greatest adventures of your life.

How Far in Advance Should I Get TEFL Certified?

For teaching jobs in Europe 

As a popular region among Westerners and English speakers, Europe is understandably a competitive place to find work teaching English abroad. But while costs of living are somewhat high as well, foreign teachers are well taken care of, and you’ll have the opportunity to explore one of the world’s most influential regions in all areas of globalization.

When Should I Start My TEFL Course in Europe?

If you want to enroll in an in-classroom TEFL training course in your destination country, then you can transition seamlessly by beginning one month before what is usually peak hiring season there. Most school semesters in Europe begin in September and January, so if you can swing a program which transitions straight into a teaching placement after graduation, then August or December would be ideal months to complete your training.

If you want to give yourself more of a buffer to look for work on-the-ground while you are abroad in Europe, then you should take probably enroll in an online or in-class course in your home country and begin applying a few months in advance of these starting dates, right when language schools are looking to hire teachers who left after the previous semester.

When Can I Expect to Be Hired?

It depends on what type of position you are applying for. Some state-run programs, such as in Spain, hire ESL teachers several months in advance (applications are generally due in March for positions beginning in the fall). Other jobs either tutoring or at a language school look to hire on a more immediate rotating basis. Generally, though, you should expect to begin work at the start of a fall or winter; it’s hard to hop in during the middle of a semester.

photo from a bus in colombia
Trade in the classic yellow edition for a cool, new international school bus

Recommended TEFL Programs in Europe 

Useful Resources

For ESL teaching jobs in Latin America 

If you are interested in increasing your own Spanish comprehension, then teaching English abroad in Latin America is your ticket to doing just that. South America, Central America, and the Caribbean are full of educational opportunities for aspiring teachers interested in the incredible landscapes and vibrant cultures of the western hemisphere. 

When Should I Start My TEFL Course in Latin America?

Semester starting dates vary across the Americas because of the different seasons, some beginning in January and some beginning as late as March, and likewise in the summer starting from June to August. Be sure to firm up these start dates for the specific country where you want to teach. 

Because there is a high demand for ESL teachers across the region, there are thankfully many programs which can provide you with both TEFL training and a teaching placement at a language school. If you’d rather look for independent or full time work, then it’s a good idea to complete your online or in-classroom training well in advance, then be on the ground with your resume during peak hiring seasons in late spring and fall. 

group of students around table
Your TEFL classes might meet in nontraditional locations — like a popular restaurant!

When Can I Expect to Be Hired?

It’ll be easiest to find a job for the beginning of a new school year, which will entail applying a couple of months beforehand (i.e. in June for an August starting place). The early bird gets the worm. That being said, many language schools across Latin America hire year-round because of the high demand, so it’s really never a bad time to be looking for work.

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Useful Resources

For teaching opportunities in Africa

Because it is the least infrastructurally and institutionally developed continent, many international teaching opportunities in Africa are volunteer-based. Nevertheless, the chance to instill a valuable skillset in your students, while exploring the land which is the origin of all humanity, is an experience not to be taken for granted. 

When Should I Start My TEFL Course in Africa?

TEFL training programs are not altogether common across Africa, so in most cases it’ll be easier to complete your online or in-class training from your home country. This means that you will not be time-pressured from the point you complete your training to the point you begin applying to English teaching placements in Africa, and can get certified at your leisure when you have the time. 

Education systems across the continent are varied - some use semesters, some quarters, and some trimesters. It’ll still be easiest to begin working January-February or August-September as in other places, but this is just a general guideline on a continent ripe with educational, demographic, and institutional diversity.

complicated writings on a blackboard
Lucky for you, learning how to teach English as a foreign language is not rocket science

When Can I Expect to Be Hired?

Because most teaching placements in Africa are volunteer-based, you will not have to worry about getting hired at the beginning of a school year. Volunteer positions are generally on a rotating basis, which means that you can begin year-round in most places.

Recommended Programs 

Useful Resources

For ESL teaching jobs in Asia 

Last on the list is Asia, the largest continent with the highest demand for ESL teachers. Between East Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia, there are a huge diversity of languages, cultures, and regional dynamics waiting to be discovered - far too many to do any justice to in a brief article such as this. You’ll just have to go explore for yourself. 

panda in a tree
Get your TEFL in China and some of your classmates might have four legs!

When Should I Start My TEFL Course in Asia?

There are tons of TEFL training programs in Asia that will enable you to enter directly into a teaching placement after the completion of your one month training abroad. This makes it easy to time your training right before the beginning of a school year, in the summer or winter months. 

If you’re applying to positions separately from your TEFL training, then you’ll want to get a head start. While it’s impossible to generalize across the entire continent, it’s a safe bet to assume that school years begin January-March and July-September. This means that you’ll want to be done with your training by early summer to apply for fall placements, and late fall to apply for winter placements.

When Can I Expect to Be Hired?

The demand for ESL teachers is huge in Asia, so you can expect to be hired year-round in many countries across the continent. That being said, peak hiring seasons will differ if you are looking for jobs at a private school, public school, language academy, or otherwise, so take these differences into account when timing the onset of your TEFL training.

Recommended Programs 

Useful Resources

Group of young students looking out of window
Think of the lives you’ll change by bringing your English skills to remote places

There you have it! Now you know when to get TEFL certified.

From the wilds of Africa to the valleys of Latin America and beyond, with a proper TEFL certificate in tow, you’ll never struggle to find an ESL teaching job. Just be sure to plan ahead (accordingly!) and do due diligence on the programs you are considering teaching abroad with (hint: read reviews and talk to alumni!).

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