If you are looking for a job as an English teacher, getting certified with a TEFL / TESOL certification is a great first step to help aid you in your search for employment, regardless of whether you are an experienced teacher, a native speaker, or a degree holder. Whilst you do not need a TEFL to teach English – I have taught English full time in South Korea and Turkey without one – it is definitely beneficial. In Korea my salary would have been higher if I had a TEFL (for exactly the same job) and I was unable to teach in government schools without a teaching qualification. In Turkey, I was unable to acquire a work permit because I didn’t have a TEFL, so once again it would have been useful. Below, I have outlined some of the benefits of obtaining a TEFL / TESOL certification.
The global job market for English teachers is huge, but so is the pool of people who are looking to be teachers. There are four main aspects that will help you stand out from the crowd and get employment as an English teacher:
- English ability
- Being a native speaker (defined by the passport you hold)
- Holding a degree (minimum Bachelor level or equivalent)
- Being TEFL / TESOL / CELTA qualified
Obviously your English abilities are a huge asset when looking for a job, but I’m presuming that if you are looking for a job as an English teacher that your language skills are pretty good. This leads us to your nationality and having a degree – if you are currently looking for a job, you probably aren’t in a position to change either of these things. If you’ve got them, great, if not, you have more incentive to do a teaching qualification in order to boost your value to employers. Think about it like this – if there are two potential employees with similar qualifications and only one has a teaching qualification, who would you employ?
In certain countries it is also required that you hold a teaching certification in order to be granted a work visa, so not having this certification may entirely cut you off from obtaining a job.
As an employer may see you as being better qualified, they may offer you a higher salary if you have a teaching qualification. When I worked in Korea, I would have made an extra $100 dollars a month if I had a teaching qualification. Over the course of the year (and when taking the bonus into account), that would have made me an extra $1,300, comfortably covering the cost of the course and allowing me to save more money. Unfortunately when I was looking for jobs, I wan’t in a financial position to undertake a TEFL course.
If you are a native speaker, chances are you learnt to speak English how I learnt to speak English; by talking. In school I never learnt why English works the way it works or the rules of English grammar, but as an English teacher you will find students want to know why things are the way they are and it is your job to explain the rules of the English language. For example, do you know the difference between a gerund and a present participle? Do you even know what a gerund is?
Don’t let this put you off teaching – I met native speakers who could barely spell – but a little preparation with regards to the English language will allow you to feel much more confident in the classroom when dealing with questions and explaining rules. Don’t worry about learning everything about the English language as you will learn a lot when you begin teaching, but understanding what you teach is (obviously) important. During my higher level classes, I would sometimes have to look up rules to make sure I could explain them properly.
Everyone starts from somewhere and most teachers who teach English as a foreign language have never had any form of teacher training. While there is no better way to learn than in the classroom (trial by fire), undertaking a good TEFL / TESOL course that gives you a basic understanding classroom management and many other fundamentals that you had probably never even thought about. I still remember the first time I stood up in front of a classroom – It was in Uganda and I had no idea what I was meant to do or say.
There are hundreds of TEFL / TESOL / CELTA courses across the internet. Many of them are very good, well structured courses that give you a basic understanding of being a teacher and of the English language. However, there are also many courses made by individuals who have jumped on the TEFL bandwagon and offer a course purely for the purpose of lining their own pockets. As there is no central body of accreditation, they will often create their own TEFL accreditation company and then accredit themselves. Sneaky devils. I’m not trying to scare you, but read this ‘word of warning on cheap TEFLs page’ if you want to know more. If you don’t care about the content or quality of the course – maybe you want the qualification simply to increase your salary – then this will not concern you and you can do whichever course is the cheapest. That is absolutely fine to do if you want to do so, thus why these cheap TEFLs have their place in the market.
If you are not sure which type of course you should do, try taking the quick quiz I made (infographic style), ‘Get Qualified to Teach English’. It asks why you want to do an English teaching certification and points you in the direction of some good courses. Read the full page to think about this topic in greater detail and to get my full list of course recommendations.
TEFL / TESOL Course Recommendations
On a brighter note, many courses are very well done and will help make you a better teacher in the long run, kick starting the beginning of your teaching career. Ideally you want to do a course that is 120+ hours long as this is normally the requirement of employers and immigration officials.
Here are two high quality TEFL courses that I currently recommend:
Currently, the most popular TEFL course is run by i-to-i (click to take a look). While there may be other courses of an equal quality, i-to-i offer everything that you could need in terms of a TEFL / TESOL certification service. As an industry leader, their courses are accepted all over the world and if you do the 120 (or 140) hour course, you should be pretty set in terms of finding a job.
Here are a few links so that you can choose the i-to-i course that is best for you:
- i-to-i course comparison overview
- 120 hour online course
- 140 hour combined course (20 in-class contact hours)
i-to-i are the biggest company on the market and while I often prefer to go with smaller companies for the personal touch (as well as supporting the little guy), you will get everything that you need from i-to-i. They offer course support, online courses, in person courses, and can even help with job placement (although I would choose to look for my own job to get exactly what I wanted). My friends who have completed the course with i-to-i have been happy with the course and I encourage you to share your experiences as I wish only to recommend courses that are of true value.
Global English TEFL Courses (10% Discount for Using Code ‘GBSW’)
Another provider of high quality, comprehensive TEFLs is Global English. I have personally reviewed the course content and the methods of assessment and believe them to be of a good quality. During the course you will be assigned to a personal tutor who will be there to guide you through the course and answer any questions that you might have, which is an important part of any good quality TEFL course. Global English offer a range of courses, but I would recommend doing the 120 hour course as a minimum as it will be accepted all over the world.
When you checkout at Global English, apply the discount code ‘GBSW’ for a 10% discount. Even if there is a seasonal discount going on, applying this code will give an extra 10% discount (on top of any other discounts) on their courses. Here are some links so that you can choose the Global English course that is best for you:
- Global English Course Comparison Page
- 120 Hour Online Course
- 100 Hour Online + 20 Hour Classroom TEFL Course
TEFL certification is acceptable in most places across the world and will allow you to work as an English teacher, teaching English as a foreign language. The only notable exception (that I have encountered) is for certain jobs in the Middle East. Some of these jobs require a higher level of certification such as a CELTA. If you are serious about being a teacher for the rest of your life, I would recommend doing a CELTA. However, it will cost you multiple thousands of dollars and you will have to attend a course full-time for multiple weeks (normally four). Thus, many people choose to do a TEFL certification at the beginning of their teaching career and obtain a CELTA later on when they have the time and finance, and they are sure that they want to be an English teacher long term.
More Useful Information
I hope that you have found this information useful and that it helps you kick start your career as an English teacher. Please feel free to comment below with any thoughts or questions that you might have.
Here are a few other pages that you might find useful:
- How to Teach English Abroad – Advice Page
- Getting Qualified To Teach English: Choosing The Course That Is Right For You
- Apply for a Job as an English Teacher
- A Word of Warning About TEFLs
- Which TEFL Course Should I Do?