A TEFL certificate is your magic ticket to the wonderful world of teaching English abroad. It is true you could get by without it in many countries where the ability to speak English and a bachelor’s degree in any subject are the minimum requirements (finally, a use for that art history degree!), but a TEFL certification, combined with a bachelor’s degree (yes, even an art history one) will make you eligible for more (and better) jobs in even more countries.
So, what exactly is a TEFL certification and how do you get it?
A quick Google search regarding teaching English will introduce you to the wide variety of acronyms associated with the subject. They all seem so interchangeable that one can be forgiven for thinking that TEFL has more names than P. Diddy, but there are actual differences.
TEFL = Teaching English as a Foreign Language
TEFL stands for teaching English as a foreign language and is the most widely accepted qualification with regards to teaching English abroad to students whose first language is not English. It is what most English schools abroad are looking for in prospective teachers and you will see it pop up time and time again in overseas job postings.
TESL = Teaching English as a Second Language
TESL stands for teaching English as a second language and is a certification geared toward those wanting to teach English to non-native speakers in English-speaking countries. If you currently live in an English speaking country and you’re looking to teach English in your hometown, this certification will most likely be what prospective employers will be looking for.
TESOL = Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages
A TESOL certification combines elements of TEFL and TESL and can be used to teach English both in your home country and abroad. It is far more intensive than a TEFL or TESL certification and is often offered as a graduate degree program, in contrast to 100-150 hour certifications like TEFL.
Since TESOL is a newer qualification and is not yet as highly regarded as TEFL by those hiring abroad. Since this website is called teachaway.com, not teachwhereyoucurrentlylive.com, we’ll focus specifically on TEFL certification.
How to find an internationally recognized TEFL course
Once you’ve decided that TEFL is the right certification for you, it’s time to find the right TEFL program. The great thing about this technological age of ours, is that one can now get a TEFL certification through not only an in-classroom course but also through online courses, both of which can be of high quality and well regarded by established and well-paying schools.
Now, of course, since you will be investing your time and money into this, you will want to do it right and enroll in a fully accredited TEFL program, won’t you?
Well, now might be the right time to let you in on the big secret of the TEFL industry:
There’s no such thing as TEFL accreditation!
That’s right! There is, as of yet, no global governing institution creating a standard TEFL curriculum or ensuring any degree of quality amongst TEFL schools.
This means, in theory, you could set up your own TEFL school of questionable quality in the morning and be in the TEFL business by late afternoon. It also means, of course, you could sign up for a TEFL course offered by somebody who has done just that.
Since there is no actual global governing body to accredit TEFL schools, it makes it very important that you choose a reputable TEFL course that has been not only developed by a reputable university or institution, but will be recognized by any prospective international employers, lest you end up with the TEFL equivalent of a degree from Trump University.
So, how do you recognize a quality and internationally recognized TEFL course?
1. It’s offered by a reputable provider.
Courses designed and delivered by a university with international name recognition are most likely to ot only provide quality TEFL training, but be looked upon favorably by those hiring for established, well-paying English schools abroad. If you’ve never heard of the school, chances are those looking to hire you haven’t either. That’s why Teach Away offers an online TEFL certification in partnership with the University of Toronto OISE, which is globally recognized as one of the top-20 universities in the world.
2. It’s priced how it should be priced.
We all love a good deal. But if there was ever an area where the old adage “you get what you pay for” rang true, it was in the TEFL industry.
Reputable online TEFL programs should cost at least $1,000, while in-classroom TEFL courses should be at least twice that. The internet is full of cheaper alternatives, including some Groupon deals for under a hundred bucks, but remember, the lack of a global accrediting body means anybody can set up a TEFL school.
An $80 online TEFL course might sound like a deal, but it’s not if it is not recognized by schools abroad or doesn’t equip you with the necessary skills to succeed. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
3. It’s a minimum of 100 hours.
TEFL courses vary in not only in price but also in length. Though a 20 or 40-hour TEFL course may be appealing due to being quicker (and probably cheaper), you obviously won’t learn as much.
Employers know this and won’t give these certifications the time of day.
A 100-hour TEFL course is the minimum requirement for reputable teaching jobs abroad. Even better, a 120 hour TEFL is the most widely recognized version and can sometimes be required to meet certain job or visa requirements.
4. It offers practical takeaways.
A good TEFL school should leave you with more to show your prospective employer than just the literal TEFL certificate itself. Any TEFL school worth its salt will require you to create lesson plans and provide constructive feedback on your work.
Finishing your TEFL certification with a portfolio of professional level lesson plans will not only give you something to show during the application process, but ensure you are ready to go on the first day in your new classroom.
If you’re unclear what takeaways your TEFL school will offer, simply call and ask them. If they can’t adequately answer such questions, look elsewhere.
With no accreditation process to do the due diligence for you, you’re on your own when it comes to finding a reputable and internationally recognized TEFL course.
With the above checklist, combined with the the same amount of effort you might put in to choosing a restaurant (checking online reviews, asking friends for recommendations), you can ensure that your TEFL certification is not only widely recognized but equips you with the skills to thrive in your English teaching career. It’s worth the research and the effort to do it right, since with a bachelor’s degree and the right TEFL certification, the world truly is yours.