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 Maria! This is a really great question. You can find the answer in our blog about the difference between TEFL and CELTA If you have any questions after reading through the additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know! Best, Christie.
Christie Van Tol
Hello, what is the difference between a Celta and Tesol tefl etc. ? Thank you
Maria Achladianaki
Great post!! Thank you for sharing this information and this will help all those who are going to think for pursuing any of these courses
Hello Alexandra! The TEFL Online course is 100% online and there is no in-person option available. You would, however, be able to complete your certification with ease from Venezuela. You can review the course brochure, here: https://teflonline.teachaway.com/tefl-online-program-brochure/
Christie Van Tol
Hi. I am a trained teacher with 10 years supply teaching experience in Ontario. In addition to my BA and Teacher’s Certification, I have a MA in Applied Language Studies and a Certificate in Teaching English as a Second Languge, plus ESL part one Additional Qualification Course. I’m interested in teaching abroad. Would Teachaway have any positions for a person like me? I am also willing to take the TEFL online to refresh my knowledge as I have not been teaching much ESL during this time.



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