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A Guide to Earning TEFL Certification Online

Online education is no longer the second tier option it once was, accredited universities now offer full-fledged degrees online, which lead to solid careers. The same can be said for certification in teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). Accredited online teacher training courses have become more respected and widely accepted than ever by English language schools around the world. That’s great news for cash-strapped college grads or others who dream of teaching English abroad but lack the free time or the funds to take an intensive, full-time TEFL course in the classroom. This guide offers the facts about online TEFL certification, to help you choose which online TEFL course

Is Online Right for You

Online TEFL certification has opened the door to teaching English abroad for people with busy schedules, tight budgets, or who live far from onsite course locations. With a 100+ hour certification, and in some cases a bachelor’s degree, English speakers will find opportunities to teach in Asia, Latin America, Europe, Africa, and sometimes beyond. Use this guide to choose your TEFL course with care, and you’ll soon be on your way to your own teaching adventure abroad.

Coursework & Structure

Once the decision has been made to earn a TEFL certification online, it’s easy to get lost in the maze of online TEFL courses. When choosing a course, future teachers face questions like which online TEFL school is reputable and how many hours of training is needed.

Most self-study online TEFL courses include components such as unit-by-unit reading, practice quizzes, videos, written assignments (such as lesson plans), and end-of-unit tests. Online TEFL programs are usually self-study, meaning you can log into your course and work on it whenever you have time, rather than having to attend classes at certain hours of the day. Give yourself about two to three months for most quality online TEFL certification programs of 100 hours or more.

Choosing An Online TEFL Course

All online training courses are not created equal, and the quality and content of a course can vary drastically from one provider to another. However, there are some industry standards to look for to be sure that the TEFL certificate you earn will be accepted by the most schools abroad.

1. Choose a Course of at least 100 hours

It’s true that in certain countries, such as China, courses of fewer hours may be accepted, but the vast majority of countries worldwide will look for 100+ hours of training. Onsite (classroom-based) courses are almost always over 100 hours, but when you take an online TEFL course you will have an array of choices, from as low as 20 hours to up to 200 hours or more! A 100-hour certificate is considered the international standard to be considered adequately TEFL-certified.

2. Make sure the TEFL course is accredited

Accreditation is an external review of a TEFL course to measure standards of quality, such as tutor qualifications, course content, and a provider’s policies and procedures for students. There is no single accrediting body for all TEFL courses abroad, and in fact TEFL courses are not actually required to be accredited at all. First and foremost, accreditation offers you, the consumer, assurance of the quality of your TEFL training. It also lets a prospective employer know that you took a reputable and comprehensive course. You can ask any TEFL provider to give you the name of their accrediting body and the external link to verify that accreditation.

3. Look for a Course with Tutor Involvement 

Some TEFL courses may simply be self-study online “textbooks” with a final exam at the end. Other courses assign students a qualified tutor who can give feedback on lesson plans and other assignments that they submit. Without the benefit of classroom training, this tutor feedback is a crucial part of any online course, as it gives trainees a chance to learn and improve with every lesson plan they submit.


Online TEFL certification courses can present a mind-boggling range of pricing, from $49 Groupon deals to $1500 courses offered through universities. The average 100+ hour self-study online course with tutor involvement should cost somewhere around $400. 

Groupon deals, for example, that seem too good to be true likely are. Courses that cost closer to $1,000 are often affiliated with universities, and can even be taken for college credit in some cases, which can account for the higher price tag. These university-level TEFL courses are not required by most schools, but offer more advanced training that can appeal to the career teacher or someone who may later pursue a master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). For the majority of people who teach English abroad, a general TEFL course is plenty of training to qualify for teaching jobs overseas.

Getting Hired

Online TEFL courses have a lot of advantages, such as flexibility and price, but they usually come with less support than in-person TEFL classes, including less personalized job placement assistance. That doesn’t mean you’ll have trouble finding a job with this type of TEFL certification, but it does mean you will have to be a more proactive and independent job seeker.

Quality online TEFL courses will still provide you with a variety of online job placement resources, such as links to reputable international job boards, that you can use to find your first teaching jobs abroad. This isn’t as difficult as it may sound, as there are hundreds of TEFL jobs posted on these boards by language centers and recruiters, and this is the method most teachers use to connect with schools abroad. 

As with any job, employers at language schools abroad look at a number of factors when hiring teachers, so the rules are not black and white when it comes to where you can teach with an online TEFL certificate. There are, however, general guidelines and country comparison charts to help you decide what type of certification you need. If you are a new teacher without experience, and you hold a bachelor’s degree (in any subject), TEFL certification inline of at least 100 hours will lead to teaching jobs in regions such as Asia, Central and South America, Eastern Europe, and Africa. If you do not have a degree, you can still teach English abroad in many countries (such as most countries in Latin America), with an online TEFL certificate.

If you have a bit of teaching experience already, or you hold a degree in a subject related to teaching English, such as education or English, you may also be able to teach in regions where classroom-based TEFL certification is usually required, such as Western Europe or the Middle East. English teaching jobs in these locations are some of the most competitive and high paying.

Earning TEFL certification online has a great deal of benefits and can be exactly what you need to teach English abroad. The most important factor is where you want to teach. Once you know that, you can work backward to ensure you have the necessary qualifications.

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A Guide To
Earning TEFL Certification Online


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