What's the difference between TEFL, TESL, and TESOL?

What's the difference between TEFL, TESL, and TESOL?

Updated February 11, 2022

TEFL, TESL, and TESOL are all certifications for teaching English to English language learners. All of these certifications offer the same level of qualification to teach English.

The one that’s best for you depends on who – and where – you plan to teach. If you are looking to teach abroad it is important to choose the right certification so that you are prepared to be the best teacher you can be. 

So, which course is right for you: TEFL vs. TESL vs. TESOL? Read on to find out!

Update on ESL certification courses in 2022

TEFL, TESL, and TESOL certifications are still accepted by schools around the world seeking to hire international teachers in 2022.

TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign Language

A TEFL certification provides the skills needed to teach English abroad in countries where students do not speak English as their first language, such as China, Japan or Brazil. TEFL certification is the most widely recognized and highly regarded qualification of its kind around the world.

While a 100-hour TEFL certificate is the minimum requirement set by many hiring bodies abroad, it’s important to note that at least 120 hours of TEFL training is the commonly expected standard for the highest salary teaching jobs around the world.

TESL – Teaching English as a Second Language

TESL is a qualification for teaching students whose first language is not English, but are currently living in an English-speaking country.

For example, teaching temporary students, workers, or recent immigrants to countries such as the USA, UK, Australia and Canada. A TESL would be suitable for jobs in these countries such as a language support teacher for school students whose first language isn’t English.

TESL courses are most relevant for those looking to teach English within their home country. TESL is also a highly respected ESL qualification in Canada.

TESOL – Teaching English to Students Learning English as a Second Language

This qualification is newer and gives some flexibility as to whether you teach English overseas or in an English speaking country.

However, while TESOL courses may cover a broader range of topics, they tend to study them in less depth. TESOL courses are not as widely recognized and are sometimes incompatible with some curriculum plans.

The University of Toronto offers an online TEFL certification due to its global compatibility, wide recognition and continued success with students. 

To learn more and compare our courses, click here.


Hello, I am about to graduate from high school and would like to teach English in Korea. I want to know, what classes would I need to take in order to become eligible? I know that I will need a diploma/ bachelors degree in those classes but I dont know which ones I need to take. I also want to know what universities can give me the opportunity. I live in calgary Alberta and would like to know if there are any universities near me that can give me what I am looking for. I am aware that taking the TEFL and TESL classes are required so I plan to do that online. I would greatly appreciate if you could help me in figuring out which universities near me could give me the classes I need so that I can get the diplomas necessary to have my dream job! I’m sorry that this is a bit lengthy but I am very confused and do not know where to begin, thank you for your time! Have a nice day.
Dalilah G
Hi Mahtab!

Like this blog explains, TESL will qualify you to teach within and English-speaking place like Canada. TESOL can either qualify you for teaching at home, abroad, or both depending on the program you choose. TEFL will qualify you for online ESL teaching jobs as well as English teaching jobs overseas.
It’s up to you to decide what type of job you are looking for!
- Elspeth at Teach Away

Elspeth Chalmers
Hello Serena I was wondering of you had someone to answer your question about teaching in Canada and abroad do you still need to take both?
Hello I’m a double natianality canadian and Ecuadorian and I was wondering if taking tefl would work for Ecuador I’m currently living in Canada and I would like to teach here and when I move to Ecuador teach over there… So which courses I’m entlited to take tefl and tesl?

I have MBA degree from pakistan and i did my
International credit to world education and it is equal to undergraduate. I am interested in TESOl course. I just want to know for international TESOl job my undergraduate degree is enough or i need further degree with this TESOL course

Malik Abid

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