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 am Janani (Masters in Civil Engineering) from India. I have University experience. I would like to teach in schools at UAE. I need to know, whether TEFL online course is enough to teach other subjects like Maths, Science…Or this TEFL is only for English teaching. Thanks

Hello Lisa: A TEFL course will give you all the requisite skills and prepare you to teach abroad and in a foreign language classroom where your students’ native language isn’t English. If you are looking to upgrade and update your skills, I would recommend you to take the 120-hour program and make yourself a competitive candidate. That being said, do keep in mind that you do not need both certifications to teach abroad. I recommend you to grab a copy of our teach abroad guide here :https://teflonline.teachaway.com/teach-abroad-guide/ , you will find very useful information
Shirin Sheidaei
Hi Sabin,

That’s great you want to teach English in Thailand!

You’ve noted here that you wish to take a TESOL course to teach in Thailand. However, if you‚Äôre looking to teach abroad in a country where English is not the first language, such as Thailand, it‚Äôs best to get TEFL certified.

Our TEFL Online courses will allow you to get TEFL certified online from Thailand.

With your 6 years of experience and your current status of obtaining a Masters degree, becoming TEFL certified is a great way to refine your skills. it is always highly regarded by international employers and will make even the most experienced educator stand out in their job applications against the competition.

Once you become TEFL certified, you are to start the job search process. We recommend you start looking at jobs in Thailand and see what is required from the employer. This will most likely include a TEFL certification.

If you have any questions about becoming TEFL certified, please don’t hesitate to respond here or by email: teflonline@teachaway.com.


Samantha Applewhaite

I am currently teaching in Japan as an English Teacher in public school for two years now. I also have a TESOL certificate. However, I will be moving to Portugal next year and was hoping to teach English there as well.
I would like to take a specific course online in preparation for my move. Which course do you think is suitable for teaching in Portugal? By the way, English is not my native language but I am in a native level. Thank you very much!


I am from Nepal. I want to teach English in Thailand. I have 6 years of experience of teaching English. I m graduated from Himalaya collage and now i m waiting my result of Master’s degree. I want to do TESOL in Thailand. Let me know about the process and possibility of job opportunity. I want to teach right after TESOL. Please suggest me a better idea to go forward
Thank you
Sabin Shiwakoti

Sabin Shiwakoti

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