Why Do TEFL Courses & Get Certified?

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Why you should join the TEFL party to start teaching English overseas

Thinking of teaching English abroad? You’ve probably stumbled upon the legendary “TEFL certification” once, twice, thrice, or a bazillion times. TEFL is to teaching English abroad as rice is to sushi. You can have one without the other, but it just won’t taste as good.

Long story short, TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) courses will get you certified to instruct the young and old alike in countries around the world in English. Thanks to globalization and the crazy demand for English education basically everywhere, TEFL jobs abroad are sizzling hot. That’s fantastic news for any intrepid adventurer looking to relocate abroad, but with the market maturing and changing, competition for coveted teaching positions is also on the rise.

group of friends on a dock in Sweden

Before you become the teacher, become the student!

So, what’s one to do? Maybe you’ve done some tutoring, have a college degree, and a good grasp of the language in the country that you’re hoping to teach. The final touch is to get on those TEFL courses and start reaping the benefits of having a TEFL certificate. Spending 120 hours or more learning specific English teaching methodology and classroom management not only expands your skill set, but shows employers that you have some bite behind the bark. It’s proof that you can hold your own in front of 20 knowledge-hungry students.

While there are countless gigs to teach English abroad without certification, a little extra effort will go a long way. We’ve got just the tip of the iceberg on why it’s probably a good idea to do TEFL courses and get certified before taking that first step into a classroom abroad!

Increased salary potential

Why do TEFL courses? Think of TEFL courses as a financial investment. You’ll dish out a bit more up-front compared to those who teach English abroad without certification, but over time that certification matures into a money tree. The cost to take TEFL courses varies by company, certification hours, and locations. For example, taking the courses at home can be loads cheaper than committing to the equivalent on the ground abroad, although each comes with its own package of benefits!

Those extra credentials bring a host of advantages, in addition to attracting more higher paying jobs around the globe. A certification can also help you land TEFL jobs abroad even faster, which translates into getting paid sooner and making up for potential unemployment during your job search. Thinking from an employer’s perspective, if given the choice between Ms. TEFL and Mr. No TEFL, assuming all other experience and background is equal, in whom would you rather invest time and money hiring? Having the extra education gives you more power to negotiate your salary and contract terms.

Do you need TEFL to teach abroad? Technically no, but numbers don’t lie!

[INFOGRAPHIC: 6 countries to make bank teaching abroad]

Two pencils

Don’t forget to pack your #2s if you decide to do your TEFL course abroad.

Access more teaching jobs in more countries

Some countries are pickier than others when it comes to picking the cream of the English teaching crop, and sometimes prefer a minimum number of hours in TEFL instruction or classroom experience before welcoming you on board. Especially in the most popular destinations, where salaries are generous and competition fierce, employers have the luxury to choose their dream candidate. 

A stealthy way to get your foot in any country’s English teaching door is to receive your TEFL certification on-site. More information on this point later, but a lot of the benefits of having a TEFL certificate from the country where you want to teach have to do with who you know, and who those people know! Some may be able to teach English abroad without a bachelor’s degree, but as competition kicks up, private schools and government agencies are amping up their expectations to deliver their students the best instruction.

You’ll teach more confidently 

If you’ve ever formally taught English as a foreign language to a classroom full of students who can’t yet communicate with you, raise your hand. Unless you’ve lived abroad or have worked as a TEFL teacher before, this kind of experience is incredibly difficult to come by. Teaching English overseas sounds like ponies and rainbows, until the first day of class comes and you realize you have no idea what you’re doing. Sometimes kids are more concerned about talking about you to their classmates than learning, or adult students may not be able to properly communicate simple sentences to you.

students walking to class

Your walk to class just got a whole lot cooler.

Finding TEFL courses embedded with real-life teaching opportunities, live instructor feedback, and a whole lot of management methods can equip you with the necessary tools. You’ll spend the first few weeks in your crispy, new teaching job getting a better feel for your students, rather than scrambling for months to see which lessons work through trial and error. Kids especially have a sixth sense to sniff out teachers who lack confidence or are visibly inexperienced. Don’t let yourself be that guy or gal. 


Changing careers will be less scary

Imagine walking into your first day of work without having had any training whatsoever. TEFL courses fill in the holes that your program’s orientation (if there is any) leaves, and teaches you how to navigate your new career. Many young adventurers looking for a career change and a way to spend significant time abroad find teaching English overseas as the perfect solution to satisfy all needs. Yet an insatiable desire for the exotic and new won’t be enough to help navigate a completely unknown work environment. 

Even trained teachers can benefit from TEFL courses. Unless you’ve previously taught in the location where you’re hoping to land, there are heaps to be learned! 

You’ll know what to expect culturally

If you take TEFL courses on-site, you can probably guess you’ll also get some exposure to the particular culture in which you aim to teach. Classroom culture widely varies from country to country, even region to region, and in most cases it’s an aspect of teaching that a broad TEFL certificate back home can’t prepare you for specifically.

For those who already know their dream destination without a doubt, go on and take TEFL courses there! Prepare yourself for teaching English overseas by gaining important insight on work culture, authority hierarchies, teaching styles, and disciplinary actions. Having traveled to a destination before doesn’t mean you’re familiar with how schools function, so the best bet is to guarantee a degree of readiness through TEFL courses abroad.

girl sitting at desk in classroom

In order to be the best teacher possible for your future students, you should understand why you need a TEFL certificate.

Language fluency alone doesn’t give teaching know-how

Surprise, surprise! Having grown up speaking a language fluently doesn’t mean you know the first thing about how to teach it. The main difference? You soaked in the language from those around you for years and years. No one had to sit down with you and explain why you should say “the dog barks at the cat” and NOT “ the dog at the cat barks”. It all came au naturale

As resident English master, you can never be too prepared to answer grammar, vocabulary, and syntax questions. You already know English inside and out, now it’s time to break it all down and approach the language from a non-native English speaker’s perspective. The core benefits of having a TEFL certificate are the hours spent learning to learn the language. 


Tap into networking and career services

Saving perhaps the best for last, TEFL courses will get yo’ hungry self HIRED! We’re all ultimately here to land the job, right? TEFL programs come packaged with career services and sweet connections to countries all over the globe, so part of the job hunting legwork is already taken care of. If you find a certification program with no job help, run away! That’s a big red flag that’s easily avoidable with the tons of other providers in the market. There are even a few TEFL courses that lock you in with a job guaranteed after program completion!

Looking for employment internationally is never an easy feat, but having an established circle of influence to work from will help find employers who are verified, pay well, and have a certain level of reputation. TEFL jobs abroad exist in abundance, but having access to the very best saves a whole lot of stress and potential mishaps. 

Next steps to finding TEFL courses

woman holding four apples

Why do TEFL courses and get certified? There’s a lot to see, teach, and… eat… in the world. This will help.

What makes your heart race, your blood pump, and your spirit soar? Once you’ve got a grip on the fact that a TEFL course is calling your name, check out some of GoAbroad’s additional resources and make the decision to travel meaningfully and adventurously!

There’s plenty more where that came from—our TEFL articles directory is second to none.

Let it rain! So many splendid benefits of having a TEFL certificate

What’s better for you: a plain-Jane, flavorless apple or the juicy, certified organic one? Same idea—certified is more appealing. TEFL courses are better for you, better for employers, and better for your students (because ultimately, they’re the ones that matter most)! A TEFL certification isn’t required, per say, but if you want to have the best chances of succeeding in your new career abroad, take the extra step and get certified!

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