How to choose the right TEFL course for you
If you are thinking about teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL), you should first identify what TEFL course you’d like to take. Why? Because taking a TEFL course is an important stepping stone into the world of TEFL. They also happen to be very useful when it comes to teaching English to non-native speakers!
What are your options?
There are a number of options when it comes to choosing a TEFL course and it is important that you don’t get bogged down when trying to decide which is the best fit for you. First, you need to be aware that under the umbrella of TEFL there exist a number of courses each with their own TEFL acronyms for names. These include the following course types:
- TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language)
- TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)
- CertTESOL (Certificate in TESOL)
- CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)
- DELTA (Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).
We compare these courses in more detail here. As a quick overview before we move on, all of TEFL, TESOL, CertTESOL and CELTA courses can be classified as entry level courses. However, whilst TEFL and TESOL courses are done by people looking to get started in English teaching or just try it out, CertTESOL and CELTA courses are more intensive and usually done by those who plan on pursuing a full-time career in English teaching. They also tend to carry a stronger reputation with employers.
If you’re wondering about the DELTA course, you can do this at a later date once you already have some teaching experience. It builds upon the existing skills you’ll have acquired and allows you to further your English teaching career into more senior positions.
For now, and to keep things simple, we’ll consider what you should look out for in TEFL and TESOL courses. These are the most common entry level courses for people who are just getting started with TEFL teaching.
TEFL or TESOL?
Though TEFL and TESOL broadly mean the same thing and cover the same type of content, there is one important distinction. TEFL is for teaching English to non-native speakers in a non-English speaking country, whereas TESOL is for teaching English to speakers of other languages and can be done in a non-English speaking country or English speaking country.
Don’t worry though, if you take a TEFL course you’ll still be able to teach English in your own country and vice versa. The main thing is selecting the course that is right for you, and one that potential employers in your chosen location will be looking for. So what should you look out for when deciding what TEFL course to take?
What to look out for when choosing your TEFL course
So we all know know that taking a TEFL course and getting TEFL certified is a good idea, now comes the tricky part of deciding what course you should pick. If you’ve started researching already, you’ll know that there are hundreds of TEFL courses all around the world in many different countries. The number of options available can make the choice overwhelming.
The key here is to figure out what sort of course would be best suited to you and your objectives. You then need to find an easy way to review and compare TEFL courses that meet your criteria, which we can help with here.
When doing your research and choosing your TEFL course there are a few things to keep in mind:
TEFL course online or in the classroom?
TEFL courses come in a variety of guises, shapes and forms! It’s possible to get TEFL certified by taking an online TEFL course, an in-class TEFL course or a blended/hybrid TEFL course which is a mixture of the two.
Online TEFL course
Online TEFL courses are generally cheaper and offer you the flexibility to learn at your own pace. You can study anywhere you like, which could be at home or even on the beach! The fact they are online also means that they provide a wealth of information for you to refer back to time and time again. This will suit you perfectly if you enjoy studying on your own terms. However, if you think it may be a bit lonely and desire that classroom experience and live teaching practice then you might want to opt for an in-class TEFL course.
In-class TEFL course
In contrast to online TEFL courses, classroom TEFL courses are done in a specific location and for a set time period, usually lasting 4 weeks. As a result, study can be intense. You will be pushed to keep pace with others in the class and complete assignments on time. You will also be tested on your comprehension of what you’re learning by teaching real English students. Although this may sound like a challenge, it is actually a very useful exercise for aspiring teachers. This is because you get some real teaching experience with the support and guidance of the course providers.
Blended/Hybrid TEFL course
There are clear benefits to both online TEFL courses and classroom based TEFL courses, and what you decide really comes down to your personal preference here. If you are still unsure, some course providers will offer a blended or hybrid TEFL. This course type allows you to get the best of both online and classroom-based learning, by combining the freedom to study in your own time with the support and experience of studying in the classroom.
Choosing your location
Do you want to do your TEFL course at home, abroad or online? If you have decided that you want to do a classroom based course, there are a multitude of TEFL course providers to choose from in different countries around the world, most likely including in your home country.
There are a number of great reasons to do your TEFL course abroad. Doing your course abroad before you commit to working there can be a good way of figuring out if the country and culture is for you. It also helps you get used to your potential students and new surroundings. Some course providers even offer a job placement as part of the course, which can save you a lot of hassle in the long run.
Nevertheless, even if you want to live and work in a particular country it doesn’t mean you have to take you TEFL course there. Doing a TEFL course online or from your home country can be just as effective and will allow you time to evaluate your choice before making your next move.
Is the TEFL course accredited?
Once you decide where you want to do your TEFL course (or if you’re happy to do it anywhere!) an important thing to check for is if the TEFL course is accredited or recommended by leading educational institutions or accrediting bodies. If it’s not, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad course, but you can be more confident that it is a good TEFL course if the course provider or course itself is recognised by external, reputable educational bodies or institutions.
How long is the TEFL course?
The length of the course is another important consideration when it comes to deciding which TEFL course to do. TEFL courses can run from as little as 20 hours and upwards with the industry standard being 120 hours. Whilst you might be tempted to take a shorter course to save on time and money most employers will expect you to have completed the standard length of course. It’s therefore worth making the effort to do a more comprehensive course as it will set you up better for your future career as an English teacher.
After you obtain your initial qualification you can of course take additional courses which specialise in an area of TEFL teaching such as Business English, or you may choose to take on the CELTA or DELTA course to further enhance your qualifications.
What are the requirements of your potential employers?
Speaking of qualifications, you’ll find that different employers have different requirements when you start searching for your ideal TEFL job. Some will want you to have a specific TEFL qualification, whilst others will expect you to have some experience before taking you on. It’s therefore important that the TEFL course you choose matches these requirements. If you’re ever in doubt you should always reach out to the employer for clarification.
Not all employers will expect real English teaching experience. However, if they do one way around this is to do a classroom TEFL course or a blended TEFL course. These types of courses generally offer you some hands-on English teaching experience with real students, which can go a long way when it comes to making your job application. Having said this, doing an online TEFL course can be more than sufficient in many cases. There are now even TEFL courses where you can do your teaching practice online!
The main thing to remember is that it is always important to do your research. Whether or not you get the job really depends on the employer, it is up to you to meet their requirements before applying.
Are the TEFL course reviews any good?
What do former alumni of the TEFL course have to say about it? Was it a good course that met their expectations? Do reviews of the course match up against your other potential options? These are all important things to consider.
You should also research the course directly to see if you can find out more about the professional background and experience of the provider and course instructors. Most TEFL course providers will have a dedicated website with this information, although if it’s reviews your after your better off seeking out an independent site.
Balancing quality, cost and convenience
At the end of the day, when eventually deciding upon a TEFL course, the balance of cost quality and convenience is what it will come down to for a lot of people. You need to find something that is well rated and also best suited to your personal means and needs.
Classroom courses will provide you with more hands-on preparation and some teaching experience, but will generally be a lot more expensive than an online TEFL course. You’ll also have to take into account the need to set aside four weeks and pay any travel expenses that you incur. However, TEFL employers will often prefer candidates who have some assessed teaching experience, so a classroom course would therefore strengthen your TEFL CV.
On the other hand, online TEFL courses still provide you with a great foundation of knowledge and there is nothing stopping you from going out and getting your own English teaching experience with private students once you have completed the course. Another option is that you can offer to do a demo lesson for any potential employer by giving a free, observed class to your own student(s) or showcasing your abilities by teaching some students of the employer.
Whichever option you choose it is worth trying to go for something of good quality. Any investment you make in yourself will last for a life time, so in many cases spending that little bit extra to do that well recognised, accredited TEFL course will pay off.
Why is taking a TEFL course so important?
Generally speaking, having a TEFL course under your belt is essential if you want to get a job in TEFL teaching English at home or abroad. There will be some exceptions to this. In some cases just the fact that you are a native English speaker is enough to get you a job. However, this is usually due to low English teacher supply in that particular area or because you’re being offered work by a school or academy that is happy to set a lower bar. I
You may think you can go abroad and teach English just because you’re a native English speaker, but any experienced TEFL teacher will tell you that teaching English to non-native speakers is not as easy as it may sound!
This is where TEFL courses hold their value. They cover the essentials that you need before you start teaching. Including but not limited to; English language structure and grammar (often overlooked by natives without any training!), phonics, lesson planning, classroom management, curriculum development and student language acquisition to name a few.
Taking a TEFL course will prepare you for what the classroom experience has to throw at you. It will help you become more knowledgeable and also be more respected by your students, and you will be able to deliver better lessons! Therefore, everyone’s a winner; you, your students and your employer.
Some closing thoughts
Do your research, ask around, check reviews and make sure you’re happy with your choice of TEFL course and where you want to go. If you get it right you can look forward to many new adventures and the start of an exciting, rewarding time as a TEFL teacher.