Teaching English abroad sounds like a dream come true to many people. Just imagine traveling the world and getting paid while doing it! That being said, ESL teaching is a real job and most reputable schools will want to make sure their teachers have the training and accreditation needed to teach English.
That’s where TEFL certification comes in. TEFL certification- along with the related, but not quite the same, TESL, TESOL, and CELTA certifications – is offered to students who complete a TEFL course. When you become TEFL certified, then language schools know you have some training creating lesson plans, guiding class discussions and correcting grammar. Even if a school doesn’t require you to have TEFL certification (and the reputable ones usually do), it will give you a huge advantage when you’re actually standing in front of your first classroom on day one.
However, you’ve probably noticed that there are a ton of TEFL certification courses out there, including many offered online. You may wonder whether or not these online courses are legit and if hiring schools abroad will actually recognize them.
Unfortunately, there’s both a short answer and a long answer to this question.
The short answer: Yes, online TEFL certification is recognized by language schools.
The long answer: While there are lots of recognized online TEFL certification courses, there are also many online courses that are either scams or provide a very low quality product. Being able to tell if an online TEFL course is recognized/accredited requires understanding what we mean when talk about “TEFL accreditation” in the first place.
What does TEFL “accreditation” even mean, anyway?
We’re going to let you in on a little secret. TEFL accreditation is a bit of a misnomer because there isn’t actually any single international organization that currently provides accreditation to TEFL courses.
That said, there are a lot of smaller organizations that do provide accreditation, such as the World TEFL Accrediting Commission (WTEFLAC), the British Council, the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) and the Accreditation Council for TESOL Distance Education Courses (ACTDEC). Online (or onsite) TEFL courses that have been accredited by one of these organizations should be recognized by language schools all over the world.
Read this: A guide to TEFL accrediting bodies
The problem, however, is that there are still plenty of perfectly reputable TEFL certification courses out there that may not have sought out accreditation from any of these (or other) accrediting bodies.
So, how do you go about determining the difference between a reputable and disreputable TEFL certification course?
Remember the 100-hour rule 👍
One good rule of thumb for figuring out which TEFL courses are worth your time is to remember the 100-hour rule. Basically, language schools and the TEFL industry have settled on 100 hours of coursework as being the minimum necessary for a recognized/accredited TEFL course.
It makes no difference whether you complete those 100 hours in a classroom or online, the only thing that matters is that you get those 100 hours under your belt. A TEFL course that offers anything less than 100 hours is really just a waste of your time and money.
That means that those weekend or 20-hour TEFL certification courses you’ve probably seen all over the internet should be avoided at all costs. Remember that pretty much anybody can start up a TEFL certification course and claim they’re “accredited”. So don’t be fooled by courses that offer less than 100 hours of coursework and still claim you’ll be an “accredited” TEFL teacher by the end of the course. Such promises are completely meaningless!
Not only will you get subpar training, but when you start applying for teaching jobs your prospective employer can quickly find out for themselves whether or not your supposed TEFL certification is really what it’s cracked up to be.
Trust us, you don’t want to have to explain to your future employer why you thought 20-hours of TEFL training makes you as good a fit for the job as the other candidate who has completed 100 hours of TEFL coursework.
How much does a good online TEFL course cost?
So we’ve established that 100 hours of coursework is the bare minimum for determining whether a TEFL certificate can be considered internationally recognized. But that still leaves you with a lot of 100+ hour courses and not all of them are going to be of the same caliber.
You’ve likely noticed that the prices for these courses vary by huge amounts. While it is tempting to assume that the more expensive courses are also the best, this isn’t necessarily the case. After all, since TEFL certification isn’t really accredited by a single governing body, schools can charge whatever they want for their courses, regardless of quality.
On the other hand, if you go for the cheapest TEFL course out there then you probably won’t get a very good education.
Most reputable online TEFL courses cost around $1,000 USD. While that is still a big chunk of money, it is also about half of what most good in-person TEFL courses cost. Plus, you won’t have to pay for travel and accommodation and you can complete the course on your own schedule.
What do we mean by an “internationally recognized” TEFL course?
Given that accreditation in TEFL doesn’t always carry much weight and that course prices are no guarantee of quality, you may be feeling a little baffled about how you’re supposed to figure out which TEFL courses are reputable and which aren’t.
We’ve already covered the 100 hours of coursework as a bare minimum, but there are other telltale signs for determining whether a TEFL school is reputable.
A number of universities and colleges offer TEFL certification courses and you can rest assured that these courses will always be high quality and recognized by language schools all over the world.
However, there are plenty of private companies that also offer reputable, internationally recognized TEFL certification courses. Check out their websites to get a better idea of their quality. While a school with a well-designed website is no guarantee that it is reputable, you can be sure that a school that has its website written in comic sans and displays multiple dancing baby GIFs from the 1990s should probably be avoided!
Also, don’t be swayed by the bell and whistles some schools offer, like guaranteed job placements or teaching practicums. While there is nothing wrong with these offers per se, they are also no guarantee of course quality.
Most language schools you apply to won’t consider a teaching practicum as career experience and a quality TEFL certificate should always be more than sufficient to get you an ESL job overseas, which makes those guaranteed job placement offers a little redundant.