In a time when almost everyone wants to speak English, being a native English speaker has never offered so many opportunities. Particularly when it comes to teaching! But these plentiful teaching opportunities have brought with them their own unique challenge. What, I hear you ask? It has opened up a huge market for companies to sell TEFL courses. All aimed at those who want to teach English either overseas or online, just like you! Deciding between the thousands of courses available can feel daunting. That’s why I’m here to help you choose the perfect TEFL course for you.
Why I decided to teach English as a second language (ESL)
As a graduate coming out of university, I (like most graduates) didn’t have Harry Potter-style savings stashed in my bank account. But my desire to travel and experience new cultures was at an all-time high. I knew I didn’t want to work a dead-end job to save money here in the UK. Nor did I want to risk getting settled in a career and waking up in 50 years still dreaming about travel. So I decided my best option was to teach English overseas. Once my mind was made up, I completed my CELTA straight out of University and secured a job teaching in Japan a few months later.
My year in Japan was amazing. I travelled the country as much and as often as I could. The rumour that the Japanese work a lot, I discovered, was resoundingly true. So, whenever my busy schedule would allow, I would take those opportunities to discover other parts of Asia as well. I spent a summer and a new year in South Korea. A Christmas in Thailand. And even my boyfriend’s birthday in Hong Kong. It was a life-shaping experience and allowed me to travel more than I would have done had I got a graduate job in the UK.
How I decided a CELTA was the perfect TEFL course for me
In my hastiness to plan my travels, I almost forgot the most important part – that I actually had to TEACH. Luckily, this realisation encouraged me to do my research before jumping on a plane. After lots of Googling and reading through pages and pages of information, I decided the best TEFL course for me was a CELTA.
How did I decide this? I’m glad you asked. The sheer number of TEFL courses available nowadays is mind-boggling! In this post, I will cover all the points you should consider before you choose the perfect TEFL course for you. All so you can enter your teaching career feeling comfortable and prepared!
What do you want to do with your TEFL certification?
This is possibly the most important question you can ask yourself before choosing a TEFL course. If you have ambitions of teaching English in an international school in the UAE, you will need a CELTA or CertTESOL qualification as a minimum to be accepted. However, if you want to teach online through an app, the requirements can be much lower. In this case, a basic course from Groupon could be an affordable and viable option. Think long and hard about what your TEFL ambitions are. Once you know this, you can research what qualifications you need to reach those goals.
Where do you want to go?
As I mentioned above, where you want to teach can be a huge factor in deciding which TEFL course you choose. However, you may also need to look into other requirements for the country you dream of teaching in. For example, if you want to teach English in Japan, you need to have a bachelor’s degree to be able to meet their visa requirements. So, before you invest in a TEFL course, it is best to make sure you can meet all of the country’s/company’s requirements first. This way, you will avoid forking out for a course that you may never get to use.
Are you unsure about where you would like to go or what you would like to do with your TEFL? Check out my post that covers everything you need to know about TEFL!
What is your budget?
One thing you have probably noticed from your early research is that TEFL courses can vary in price. With some courses starting at £15 and others exceeding £1000, it can be tempting to go for the cheapest one. Have a look at your finances and see what you can afford before buying a course. Then shop around. There is no use in going over budget on a course if you later discover you could have taken a similar course for less money.
Are you working with a restrictive budget? If so, you could consider looking into scholarship options, which are available for certain courses, such as a CELTA. When I completed my CELTA in 2014 I applied for a scholarship from the British Council. They covered 50% of the cost of my certification which made it a much more affordable option for me.
Is the course accredited?
This one is really important to consider before parting with your money for a TEFL course. An accredited course is one that has been put under the microscope by an independent body.
What is an accredited body? It is an organisation whose job it is to formally evaluate the academic and professional principles of the course. Courses like the CELTA and CertTESOL are offered by universities and are already accredited. They are also the most prestigious qualifications in the TEFL industry.
However, if you are considering another provider you will need to do a little more homework! Ask the training provider who their third-party accrediting bodies are. Then assess the provider’s website to learn how long they have been established, what other courses they have accredited, and if they are independent of the training provider and course you are considering.
IMPORTANT: Make sure to be aware of any unknown, recently-opened, or inexperienced training centres who direct you to their own accrediting body. It is possible they have set up a system to self-regulate. This practice is not approved or recognised by the TEFL industry and could leave you struggling to find a job with a reputable company. So make sure you do your research before parting with your time and money.
How is the course taught?
If your course is taught in London during the working week but you are only available to learn on evenings and weekends in Manchester, then the course probably isn’t right for you. There are many different ways to gain your TEFL certification, whether it is in-person, online or through blended learning. Be honest with yourself about what you can realistically commit to. Then use this information to make your decision about the course that works best for you.
How long is the course?
The minimum course length is 120 hours of academic and a minimum of six hours of assessed teaching practice. Those 120 hours will likely be spread over a month-long course or 20 classroom days.
If you are looking to build a long career in TEFL, be aware of “weekend courses” and other courses that promise full certification in a short amount of time. Two days’ study can only include a maximum of 20 hours, or one-sixth of the minimum number of academic hours. (Those too-good-to-be-true bargains might not actually be bargains after all if they can’t get you the job you want).
In the UK, courses offering fewer than 120 hours and/or no practical teaching component do not meet international certification standards. This means that when you are job-hunting, these courses will not be accepted by well-established language schools or employers with good working environments and practices. Any other establishments definitely aren’t the people you want to work for! Trust me, I learned the hard way. Again, think back to my earlier points about what you plan to use your certification for. Chances are most of the courses out there won’t meet the requirements.
Who will teach you?
When choosing a course, look into who your instructor will be. Ideally, your instructor should have extensive experience teaching English as a foreign language as well as a master’s degree, DELTA, or similar qualification. They shouldn’t just a TEFL certificate and a couple of years teaching experience.
This is the main reason why more reputable qualifications such as the CELTA and CertTESOL cost more. Because great teachers deserve to be paid well. By learning from a tutor who really knows their stuff, you will be able to walk into your teaching job feeling prepared. And even better? You will be equipped with the knowledge you need to really help your students reach their potential.
Who will you teach?
An accredited TEFL course should include 6 hours of face-to-face teaching. Ensure that the course you choose allows you the opportunity to teach real students and not just your fellow trainee TEFL teachers.
Your six hours of teaching in a real classroom environment will be the most important and valuable part of your course. Make sure this is included when you choose your perfect TEFL course.
Choosing the perfect TEFL course for you!
There are hundreds of TEFL courses to choose from out there. But by following the steps above, you should be able to make a practical and informed choice on which TEFL course is best for you. Whether you decide to really commit to a long career in teaching English as a foreign language and complete a CELTA or CertTESOL, or you decide a more affordable online course is a better fit for you, only you can choose the perfect TEFL course for you and your needs.
But whichever course you choose, make sure you go in prepared to learn and have fun. Completing a TEFL/TESOL/CELTA course can be a stressful time, but it will equip you with vital information that will help you become a great teacher.
Best of luck!