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.


I’m thinking of taking your TEFL program but I just had a question regarding teaching in Korea I have heard you need a degree is that true?
I want to enter into the major of teaching english to foreign speakers in a classroom environment but I’m still not sure what program to do either Tesol or tefl what would be great for what I’m trying to do.
Leslie Beltran
Hello Silje,

Great question! There are no prerequisites to enroll in the TEFL Online program and no restrictions re: academic background or nationality. We currently have students enrolled in the course from all over the world.
We look forward to seeing you in the course soon!

Christie Van Tol
Hello Meryem,

The University of Toronto TEFL Online certificate course is offered 100% online and there are no in-class, scheduled, or live components to the course. There are three difference course options the 100, 120 and 150-hour course. All courses meet the minimum requirements to teach abroad. Some employers may prefer teachers to have a minimum 120-hour of TEFL training, making the 120-hour course our most popular. If you are looking for a more comprehensive course you may be interested in the 30 additional hours of training offered in our 150-hour course.
We hope this was helpful. If you have any other questions at all please email teflonline@teachaway.com

Christie Van Tol

can anyone enroll in the online TEFL course from University of Toronto?- No matter academic background or nationality.

Best regards,


Silje Tellefsen

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