TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language) and TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) are interchangeable terms. Different schools use different terms, but there is no difference between “TEFL Training Courses” and “TESOL Training Courses”.
In the past, it was often much easier for untrained native speakers to find work teaching English in foreign countries. Today, however, a TEFL or TESOL Certificate is a minimum requirement for many English teaching jobs overseas. A TEFL or TESOL Certificate is obtained by taking a specialized TEFL / TESOL Training course that covers English teaching techniques and methodologies. While it may still be possible to obtain work in certain countries and in certain schools without training, you will be at a considerable disadvantage if you decide not to take a TEFL / TESOL Training Course.
There are no universal requirements for enrolling in a TEFL / TESOL course or obtaining a job teaching English overseas. However, the guidelines below will give you an idea if you would make a good TEFL / TESOL candidate.
Thankfully, English teaching is a very flexible profession and as long as you are enthusiastic and dedicated, you should be able to succeed in finding a job and adapting to your life in a new country.
In general, age is of minimal importance for a career in TEFL / TESOL. If you are between the ages of 18 and 80, you are eligible to enrol in a TEFL / TESOL Course. When looking for a job after the course, you will probably have an easier time if you are between the ages of 21-55. Additionally, retirees should note that some countries have mandatory retirement ages of 60-65, which could make finding a job more difficult.
TEFL / TESOL Courses generally require that students have at least a high school education (or equivalent). The average candidate possesses a 2-year or 4-year college degree. The same generally holds true for employment requirements. Even with a TEFL / TESOL certificate, younger teachers without a college degree may find it more difficult to obtain work.
Previous teaching experience is a not prerequisite for enrolling in a TEFL / TESOL Training Course. In fact, many TEFL / TESOL Courses design their curricula with “non-teachers” in mind. Other types of work experience are not required either. Previous teaching experience is not mandatory when looking for teaching jobs either. Like any profession, however, schools will look favourably upon applicants with prior work experience, or who can demonstrate abilities relevant for the job.
Many prospective teachers worry that because they do not speak the language of a particular country, they cannot teach there. Don’t let this concern deter you.- You do not need to speak a foreign language in order to enrol in a TEFL / TESOL Course or to teach English overseas. In fact, teaching exclusively in English is often the most effective approach for many classroom settings. For example, you may be teaching in an “international” classroom containing speakers of many different languages. Here the only common language is English, and knowing another language will be of little benefit. Nevertheless, speaking another language could definitely come in handy. If you speak the same language as your students, you will be able to revert to their native language to explain a particularly hard concept, or to maintain order in the classroom. Furthermore, the experiences you have had studying another language will give you a better understanding of what it is like to be a student of a foreign language. You can use this knowledge to become a better teacher. Finally, no matter where you are, it is always a good idea to study the local language and culture. The more you know, the more comfortable you are likely to feel, and the more easily you will be able to connect with your students and your community.
The increasing demand for native English teachers has also increased the demand for TEFL / TESOL Training Courses and programs. As a result, there are now hundreds of different schools offering TEFL / TESOL Courses in dozens of different countries. These institutions offer a wide range of course formats, prices, and support services. Some are offered as part of degree programs at accredited colleges, universities, and community colleges in the US, UK, Canada, and other English speaking countries. The majority, however, are run by specialized TEFL / TESOL Training schools.
However, not all TEFL / TESOL Courses are created equal! Because of the huge number of options available, you need do research before investing your time and money in a TEFL / TESOL Course. The wrong choice could mean that you receive sub-par training, a non-accredited certification not recognized by potential employers, or little assistance finding a job after your course has finished.
There are no universal standards for TEFL / TESOL Training. However, a standard course should meet the following minimum requirements.
Courses failing to meet these base requirements should be approached with caution. (See the note on Other Course Formats below)
Typical prices for a full TEFL / TESOL Certificate Course are currently between 200€-1200€ (excluding housing, transportation, and other additional costs). A number of factors contribute to this large price range, including: the company offering the course; the course format; the course content and number of hours, and the country and city in which the course is conducted.
In addition to assessing if a course meets the minimum requirements above, you must also decide which type of course format is right for you. The most common TEFL / TESOL Course formats are:
If you have already spent some time searching the internet for TEFL / TESOL Courses, you may have come across other types of formats. Two of the most common are “Introductory TEFL / TESOL Courses” (which are very short courses, typically conducted over 1 weekend), and “In-House Training Courses” (which language schools or teacher placement programs give directly to their employees). While these and other non-standard courses may be a good fit for your specific circumstance, you should be aware that their benefits are limited. In general, non-standard courses like these will not provide you with the same level of training. Even more importantly, the certification you receive will not be recognized by most employers or advanced TEFL / TESOL degree programs. This means that if you decide to teach somewhere else, or continue your studies in TEFL / TESOL, these courses will not be sufficient.
As mentioned above, a base requirement for any TEFL / TESOL Course is that it be accredited by an external educational body. “Accredited” means that a respected outside institution has analysed the course, its content, and its trainers. If the course meets the standards of the accrediting body, then the course is recognized as a legitimate TEFL / TESOL Certificate provider.
Accreditation is so important because it is one of the few ways you can tell something about a course before enrolling in it. In the chaotic TEFL / TESOL world, this is a vital piece of information. When taking an accredited course, you are assured of a standardized, validated curriculum given by competent teacher-trainers.
Accreditation is also an important factor when looking for jobs, or applying for advanced degree programs in TEFL / TESOL. Both employers and university TEFL / TESOL programs usually only recognize accredited courses. They refuse to recognize unaccredited certificates because they cannot be certain of the quality of training given by unaccredited programs.
There are various TEFL / TESOL accreditation organizations. The following are some of the best known, and most respected:
Be cautious if you are considering enrolling in a TEFL / TESOL course that is not accredited by a respected, external educational institution. Be sure to ask questions about why the course is not accredited, and how this lack of accreditation will affect your ability to get jobs, or to continue your TEFL / TESOL education in the future.
When choosing a TEFL / TESOL Course, you must also consider several additional factors that can affect the quality of the program. These other factors include:
Many schools assist their graduates in finding a job. This can be a very valuable service, especially in tighter job markets. The exact nature of this service varies by school, but it is usually free and provides you with information that details the region where you want to work, its job market, lists of potential employers, visa and work permit requirements, housing options, etc.
“ Lifetime” job assistance, is offered by some schools and could prove to be quite useful if you decide to switch countries or take a break between teaching jobs. If a school you are considering does not offer lifetime job guidance, then be sure to find out exactly how long you are eligible to receive employment assistance.
Finally, some TEFL / TESOL Courses even “guarantee” jobs for all of their graduates. Some schools are able to do so because they run their own language schools and can hire their TEFL / TESOL course graduates on the spot. In general, however, you should take this guarantee with a grain of salt. It is more of a marketing ploy than a contractually binding agreement. Furthermore, the most important variable when finding a job is YOU, the applicant. If you are hard working, dedicated, and TEFL / TESOL certified, you should be able to find a job teaching English virtually anywhere you want.
The checklist below lists some of the key questions you should ask when comparing TEFL / TESOL Courses. Obviously, your specific goals and circumstances are the most important factor when choosing a course, but the following questions will help you organize your options and weigh them carefully.