If you hope to teach English online, getting your TEFL certification is a great idea. In fact, if you plan to teach English abroad in any capacity, getting your TEFL course online should be high on your to-do list.
I’ve been an online English teacher with VIPKID for 3 years, and in order to get that job, I took a TEFL course. The beauty of taking a TEFL course online is that you can do it while you’re working a full-time job, or while you’re travelling — you just need a wifi connection.
In this post, I’ll cover the basics of TEFL certification and the best TEFL courses for online English teachers.
What is a TEFL Certificate?
A TEFL Certificate is a qualification that’s recognized internationally. It allows you to teach English abroad and is a crucial part of your teaching job application.
There are a few types of TEFL certifications, and the acronyms can be a bit confusing!
1. TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language). This certification is used worldwide for teachers who want to teach English abroad to foreign students (or teach English online to foreign students). Example: A Canadian teaching English in China, or an American teaching English as a second language in Mexico.
2. TESL (Teach English as a Second Language). This certification is used by those who are teaching English in their own country to someone who needs to learn English as their second language. Example: A Brit teaching English to immigrants in England.
3. TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). This certification is used for those who want to teach English either abroad as a foreign language, or in a country that speaks English as its native language. It’s similar to TESL (above), but isn’t as widely used or recognized.
4. CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). The acronym doesn’t really work for this one! CELTA is the more expensive, “posh” version of TESOL, and is specific to Cambridge University.
Now that that’s out of the way, we’re going to focus on TEFL Certifications in this article.
Having a TEFL certificate will allow you to apply for jobs teaching English in foreign countries or jobs teaching English online.
The typical curriculum covers teaching fundamentals, how to create lesson plans, and how to instruct students in English grammar, reading, speaking, and writing.
Who Needs a TEFL Certificate?
Anyone who plans to teach English abroad or teach English online should look into getting their TEFL certification. TEFL certificates are widely known and valued in the English teaching industry.
I got my TEFL certificate even though I already had a Master’s in Teaching and three years of formal classroom experience. I didn’t want to disqualify myself from a potential job just because I lacked the credential they required.
Most in-person English teaching jobs around the world want teachers that have a TEFL certification. Even in places where a TEFL isn’t required, you’ll likely get a higher pay rate and have more employment options if you have one.
Will I Need a TEFL Certification to Teach Online?
That depends, but probably.
A few years ago, online ESL companies were mainly concerned with hiring native English speakers. Now, with more regulations on online teaching and more competition between companies, requirements are stricter.
It’s becoming common for online English companies to require that all teachers have a TEFL certificate.
China recently passed a law that says all online English teachers must either have a TEFL certification or a traditional teaching license.
Considering how many of the large online ESL companies cater to the Chinese market, you can imagine how many teachers were impacted.
But even if your online teaching company doesn’t require a TEFL certificate, it’s a good idea to get one anyway. With a TEFL certificate, you’ll have two main advantages:
ESL Teaching Skills
During your TEFL course online, you’ll learn best teaching practices that will improve your skills as an educator.
A lot of people think “If I speak English, I can teach it, right?” But this isn’t the case. Teaching a language is very different from speaking a language. Some people who speak excellent English don’t make great teachers.
Teaching, like any skill, must be learned and practiced. In a TEFL certification online course, you’ll have the opportunity to do exactly that.
Getting a TEFL certification is especially important if you don’t have a formal teaching background. You’ll want to gain as much practical teaching knowledge as possible so you can impress your future students and employers.
If for some reason your online ESL company changes their requirements, having your TEFL certification could be the difference between keeping your job and having to find another one.
If you need to switch companies at some point during your online teaching career, having your TEFL certification already taken care of means you’ll have more options.
Also, if you ever decided to transition into in-person teaching, you would already have the certification you need. Even if you have online teaching experience, most schools still need to see proof of your TEFL course completion for you to be eligible to teach.
For me, having a TEFL certificate feels like a security net. I know that if I’m ever unable to teach online for some reason, I can use my TEFL certificate to get a job teaching abroad instead. Having TEFL credentials only improves your choices.
Which TEFL Course Should I Take?
That’s a great question! A quick google search will show you that there are dozens of TEFL courses out there, so it can be difficult to know which one is best for you.
There are a few things to consider when making your decision.
In order for your TEFL certification to have any meaning, it needs to be accredited.
You may have seen ads on discount websites for $5 TEFL courses or even websites offering Free TEFL courses. Unfortunately, these usually are not accredited and won’t do you much good when it’s time to get hired.
While you might be able to get away with an unaccredited TEFL course with some uninformed employers, I wouldn’t recommend doing that. It’s not worth risking your job if someone discovered that your certification wasn’t legitimate.
Taking a TEFL course that has been accredited means that a third party approved the curriculum and teaching methodologies of the course.
You’ll know for sure that what you’re learning is correct and up to date. This helps you become a more effective English teacher in the long run.
2. Number Of Hours
When you start looking into TEFL courses, you’ll see the number of hours for the course. This represents the number of hours you will study to get the certification. In general, you want a course that offers at least 120 hours.
Now, if you do a self-paced online TEFL course, there’s a very good chance you’ll finish in less than 120 hours. But that 120-hour course will cover much more content than a 40-hour or 60-hour course.
Most TEFL employers want to see the 120-hour certificate.
3. Online, In-Person, and Combination Courses
TEFL courses fall into three categories: online, in-person, and hybrid courses that combine the two.
Online TEFL Courses: Online TEFL courses are great if you need schedule and location flexibility.
Before I started teaching online and travelling, I did an online TEFL course because it worked out well with my job. I was able to go to work during the day and complete my TEFL course online in the evenings and on weekends.
Online TEFL courses are often self-paced and may take longer to complete than in-person TEFL courses. They are also usually less expensive.
The downside of choosing an online TEFL course is that you won’t get real-time demonstrations and feedback on your teaching.
While your course might include video content, there’s no replacement for actually standing in front of people and applying the material.
This is where In-Person TEFL courses shine.
In-Person TEFL Courses: With an in-person course, you’ll do all your training and practical student teaching during a shorter time frame, usually a few weeks.
You can also choose to do your TEFL training abroad, meaning you’ll get to explore a new place while learning new skills.
In-person TEFL courses are better for those who want to get TEFL certified as soon as possible. You’ll also leave with more experience teaching in real life.
In-person TEFL courses are usually more expensive.
The benefit is that you’ll be ready to start teaching sooner, have more practical experience, experience living in a new country, receive job placement assistance in that country afterward, and meet other aspiring TEFL teachers in your class. Plus, your accommodation and some excursions and activities are also included.
If an in-person TEFL certificate sounds like what you’re interested in, click here to check out exciting opportunities in Thailand, Spain, Argentina and more!
Hybrid Or Combination Courses: The third option is to combine online and in-person elements into a hybrid or combination class. With these class formats, you’ll do most of the written work online independently.
Then, your TEFL company will arrange opportunities for you to do in-person teaching days, possibly with other students. This means you’ll get a chance to apply what you’ve learned and receive feedback before applying for teaching jobs.
4. Practicum Teaching
Some TEFL courses will also include a practical teaching component. During your practicum, you will either practice teaching a lesson to real students or observe English lessons taught by established teachers.
Practicum experience can also be tutoring one-on-one, student teaching, or volunteering with a local organization that offers English classes.
Here’s how this plays out in different TEFL courses:
In-Person TEFL Courses: The course arranges the practical teaching opportunity for you. You will observe and practice teach during your in-person TEFL course.
Hybrid TEFL Courses: You do the theoretical parts of the course online on your own time. There are special in-person training days that you can attend to get your practical experience hours.
Fully Online Independent TEFL Courses: You do the course on your own and you are responsible for arranging your own practical teaching opportunities.
When you complete your practical component, you’ll need to have the supervisor or lead teacher sign off on your hours. You submit this to the TEFL company when you finish your training.
While there are lots of ways to fulfill your practicum teaching requirement, it can be time-consuming to arrange.
Not all TEFL courses have a practical teaching component. But it’s a good idea to consider one that does if you want to get some hands-on teaching experience before diving headfirst into the classroom.
7 Best Online TEFL Courses For English Teachers
The following TEFL courses are great choices if you want to start teaching online, or in person.
I’ll give a breakdown of what each course entails and what features make it appealing for aspiring teachers.
MyTEFL consistently has some of the most affordable TEFL courses on the market. They have online and in-person TEFL courses so you can choose the best option that fits your needs.
Across the board, MyTEFL has excellent student reviews and ratings. If you’re on a tight budget, go to their website and click the “offers” tab. This will show any coupon codes and specials they’re running. You might just find a deal. Use code goat35 and receive 35% off your TEFL.
Additional information about MyTEFL:
- Fully accredited
- Students receive 24/7 Tutor Support
- You can request a letter of recommendation upon course completion
- Online classes are offered for 40, 60, 80, or 120 hours
- Most students finish online classes in 3-6 weeks
- In-Person classes are available in Thailand, Argentina, and Spain lasting 3-4 weeks
- Students receive free job placement assistance after graduation
- MyTEFL courses are affordable
Learn how to sign up for MyTEFL, the costs, the pros and cons, and more in our in-depth guide to taking the MyTEFL course.
TEFLPros is a newcomer to the TEFL world but it’s been met with great reviews. It was formed by two TEFL teachers who realized that some courses didn’t fully prepare new educators for the reality of the classroom. They designed their own TEFL course to fill those gaps.
The TEFLPros course is a fully online 120-hour TEFL option. Here are some highlights:
- Fully accredited
- Students get job assistance after graduating the course and leave with a professional portfolio
- There is an emphasis on instructional videos and real classroom footage to show how skills learned in the classroom look in practice
- The course can be completed from anywhere and on your own timeline
- Most people finish the course in 3-6 weeks
- This course includes modules about lesson planning for reading, writing, grammar, and speaking lessons, classroom management, and encouraging student participation
- The TEFLPros course is affordable
One nice perk of TEFLPros is that anyone can sign up for their free 2-day TEFL training course. This is perfect if you want to see what the material is like before purchasing the full course.
Learn how to sign up for TEFL Pros, the costs, the pros and cons, and more in our in-depth guide to taking the TEFL Pros Course.
3. Bridge TEFL
Bridge TEFL is a popular option for those who plan to teach abroad or online while travelling. With Bridge TEFL, you can choose from shorter 40 and 60-hour online certifications. You can also opt for more in-depth 100, 120, and 150-hour online options.
With the most advanced course offering, students even have the possibility of earning university credits. All of the courses over 100 hours include job placement assistance and feedback from a tutor.
In addition to their impressive online course offerings, Bridge TEFL also has 140-hour in-person TEFL courses in North and South America.
Bridge TEFL has the following:
- Fully accredited
- You can complete your coursework on your computer, tablet, or phone
- It’s one of the oldest players in the business with lots of success stories
- Courses all include chat support with a tutor
- Videos allow you to see best teaching practices in real classrooms
- They have several course options depending on the level you wish to pursue
Learn how to sign up for Bridge TEFL, the costs, the pros and cons, and more in our in-depth guide to taking the Bridge TEFL courses.
4. i-To-i TEFL
i-To-i TEFL is a well-reviewed TEFL course provider with online and in-classroom course options. I really like how this program offers a wide variety of courses, including 120-hour introductory TEFL courses all the way up to 300-hour online TEFL diplomas.
i-To-i TEFL has the following appealing attributes:
- Fully accredited
- They have been around since 1994 and have well over 100,000 TEFL graduates
- After completing the program you get access to a jobs board to find teaching opportunities
- They offer appealing “bundles” that you can purchase which include things like grammar ebooks, lesson plans, and a mini-course specifically about becoming an online English teacher
5. ITTT International TEFL and TESOL Training
At ITTT International TEFL and TESOL Training, you can do in-person courses, online courses, or hybrid courses that are a combination of the two.
One feature I like about ITTT that I didn’t see anywhere else is that you can choose how much support you want and the price adjusts accordingly.
For example, you can choose to do a 120-hour TEFL course with tutor and video support, or you can choose to do just the course without the extra support and save about $100. Click here to receive 15% off your TEFL course with ITTT.
Learn more about ITTT:
- Fully accredited
- They offer online, in-person, and combination courses
- You can take in-person courses in over 40 locations
- With online classes, you can choose from 60-hour, 120-hour, and 220-hour options
- They provide job support and assistance after course completion
6. International TEFL Academy
The International TEFL Academy is a highly regarded company offering online and in-person TEFL training.
This is the company I went with when I did my TEFL training and I highly recommend them.
International TEFL Academy has a unique feature over the other companies: they offer a special 30-hour Online English Teacher TEFL course add-on that you can take after finishing your traditional TEFL course.
While these courses are more expensive than some of the others listed, there are a few highlights that make them worth the extra cost.
- Fully accredited
- They are consistently ranked as one of the highest caliber TEFL courses around
- You get a lifetime of job-finding assistance
- They have an active alumni community, meaning you have a built-in network of friends around the world
- You can choose between an 11-week online course or in-person courses around the world.
- They offer a specific Online English Teacher add-on course that you can complete after you finish your basic TEFL certification online
Their online course is 170 hours in total. That includes 150 hours of classroom learning and 20 hours of self-arranged practicum teaching.
The online TEFL course with International TEFL Academy is not self-paced. You will have new modules released every week and assignments that are due on a timeline you receive upfront.
International TEFL Academy has in-person classes in the USA, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. In-person TEFL courses last between 3-4 weeks.
I signed up for the online course and I was able to complete it while I was working a full-time job. This made it easy to save money for travel while getting certified all at the same time.
When I completed the course, I felt secure in my job prospects because I had contacts at International TEFL Academy who would help me out if I needed it.
I also became a part of their vast alumni network which has since introduced me to some of my best travel friends. All in all, I’m very happy I went with ITA for my online TEFL course.
7. The TEFL Academy
The TEFL Academy is a unique option for getting TEFL Certified because they offer a 168-hour, Level 5 Certification.
This is one of the higher level TEFL credentials available, and The TEFL Academy provides this training at a surprisingly affordable price.
The TEFL Academy has two options: a fully online course and a combined online and classroom course.
When you sign up for one of these main TEFL programs, you’ll also receive access to one of their specialty “Top-Up Courses” for free.
You can choose between a bonus course for Business English, Teaching Young Learners, or Teaching Online. In total, you’ll receive 198 hours of TEFL instruction when they get certified with The TEFL Academy!
Here are some other highlights of The TEFL Academy:
- Fully Accredited, Level 5 TEFL courses.
- Students can choose between fully online certification or combination online/classroom certification. Training weekends for the combination course take place in North America, Europe, Oceania, and South Africa.
- Students have six months of access to course materials and most finish in 1-2 months.
- Receive a Free Top-Up course in the area of your choice when you sign up for a Level 5 TEFL course.
- Graduates of The TEFL Academy receive job hunt assistance and have access to an active job board.
- Internships and volunteer TEFL teaching opportunities available to graduates.
Learn how to sign up for The TEFL Academy, the costs, the pros and cons, and more in our in-depth guide to taking The TEFL Academy course.
What to Expect During Your TEFL Course
Now that you’ve chosen a TEFL course, you might be wondering what to expect.
In general, TEFL online and in-person TEFL courses cover the same topics.
You can expect to learn:
- How to create and execute a TEFL lesson plan
- General best teaching practices
- How to teach reading, writing, grammar, and speaking
- Managing a classroom and student behavior
- Cultural awareness and how to navigate teaching students of different backgrounds
- Creating classroom materials, activities, and assessments
You’ll likely leave your TEFL course with at least one full lesson prepared that you can use when you apply for jobs. In fact, it’s a good idea to save any lessons or activities you create throughout your TEFL course to build a hire-worthy teaching portfolio.
You’ll also leave your course with an understanding of lesson pacing and language acquisition processes that will be helpful when you start teaching English online or abroad.
As you can see, there are numerous online TEFL courses that you can take — there’s something for all budgets. Invest in yourself as a teacher and your job opportunities will be much greater than if you don’t.
The practical and theoretical skills you learn in a TEFL course will help you approach your first classroom feeling as confident, prepared, and awesome as I’m sure you are! Happy teaching.
Once you’re TEFL certified, you’ll want to apply for a job. If you’re from the UK, check out EF Education First. If you’re from the USA or Canada, have a look at VIPKID! And, for those of you who don’t have a Bachelor’s Degree (but you did take an online TEFL course), check out our article which lists 10 teaching companies that will hire you without having a degree.
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