3 doors

Help! What's the best TEFL certification program online or maybe in-class? There are so many options for TEFL courses that it is starting to make your head spin.

That is why I am here. I am here to simplify your life and reduce your options to just 3. That's right just three simple options.

And if you don't feel more clear after you read this post then you can go back out there into the wild and try to figure it out yourself. But I am pretty sure that you are going to be more clear.

Here we go. Here is option 1:

1. Don't take a TEFL course

What? That's right you don't have to take a TEFL course in the first place. Some TEFL providers may lie and tell you that you do, but that is not usually true.

They are not usually required

You don't usually need a TEFL course to teach in Asia: China, Korea, Taiwan or in Japan. You do usually need a degree and to be a native speaker though. Those are for your visa. I have met many teachers in Korea, Taiwan, China and in Japan who did not take a TEFL course.

I even met some that didn't have degrees and some that weren't native English speakers.

But... normally you need these to get a visa. A school can require or prefer TEFL certificates, but they are only very rarely required to "get a visa" in Asia.

In China it's not so clear cut. Normally you need a degree and to be a native speaker to get a Z visa, but sometimes in some situations, provinces or under the influence of someone with connections that is not true. Of the 4 countries mentioned here China is where I see TEFL certification more frequently desired.

Some schools will prefer them

Sure some schools can prefer or "require" them especially if you don't have experience, but trust me you don't need one to get a job.

Besides being required or not is there another reason why you might want to take one? What do you know about teaching English?

You can teach yourself

You can teach yourself how to teach English. You can scour the web for info, read some books, jump into the classroom and learn.

So let's break it down and look at the good and bad sides to skipping a course.


  1. It's free. You don't have to spend any money.
  2. You teach yourself.


  1. Where do you start?
  2. How are you going to learn?
  3. A lack of training can lead to bored students>out of control students>stress>unhappy students>unhappy parents>unhappy boss>unemployment>_____.

In China

"The way I started is not to be recommended. I arrived in China, jet lagged after a long flight. I was shown into a classroom and told, "OK teach this class," by a person who had little ability to say anything else, and who promptly disappeared out the door." - Derek Harkness on Quora

In Korea

"I had my first day yesterday and was basically thrown into the deep end as many people say they are - just given the textbooks and told to teach. To put it simply, I have no idea what I’m doing and I don’t know how to pull myself up out of this. Sounds really weak but I just wanna cry lol. Any advice for teaching from textbooks and creating lessons? (I teach kindy/elementary, the kindy kids don’t even listen to anything lol)." - hidechic

That's pretty normal in my experience too. I worked for a number of different schools in China, Korea and Taiwan. Many of them just sent me to the classroom and expected me to teach which is similar to this girl's experience. Only a few schools provide training. If they do it is usually very limited.


If you're savvy or gifted you can teach yourself. Many of the worlds greatest people did not undertake any formal training to rise to the top in their field. But if you're not savvy then this can likely lead to a not so good time abroad. Let's look at your next option.

2. Take a CELTA course

CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) and Trinity TESOL courses are considered the creme of the crop when it comes to short term TEFL courses. They are considered the most widely accepted courses.


  1. In-class feedback.
  2. It has the best reputation for TEFL courses. This is basically the most "prestigious" TEFL certificate. Although keep in mind many schools in Asia don't recognize the difference between TEFL/TESOL/CELTA courses.
  3. Good for teaching adults.
  4. Good if you want to teach English abroad for the long term.
  5. Good for teaching in Europe and the Middle East.


  1. It's expensive. You're probably looking at $2000 or more.
  2. It's not easy. It's intensive. Cramming is not good for absorbing information.
  3. You could fail and not get a certificate.

"...Celta - it was just off the scale in terms of pressure. A total level of commitment and effort is expected by course tutors and the workload, once you have taken lesson planning and assignments into account, is easily a 14 hour day." - Anonymous

"I did a Celta program in Bangkok at IH. The course started out with around 12 students. 7 dropped out before completing the course. Not one of them got their money back." - Austin


If you are serious about teaching English abroad, are focused more on teaching adults and you are in it for the long term then you might want to take a CELTA course. 

"Agree!:) I failed Celta mostly because I thought it was the best for me, when actually children were my target group.." - Ksenija Gulina

3. Take one of ESLinsider's online TEFL courses

Take one of ESLinsider's online TEFL courses (Basic & Advanced courses).


  1. You can work on it when you want. There are no timelines.
  2. It's affordable. You're getting an equivalent qualification to others who spent 30-250+% more.
  3. It provides practical actionable tools and training to teach ESL. You'll learn what to do in the classroom, not merely English grammar rules or teaching theory.
  4. It focuses more on teaching children 6-13.


  1. It's online. If you don't want to take an online course then it's not for you.
  2. There's little theory and English "language" study.
  3. Not for teaching business English, TOEFL or university students.


If you don't want to spend a lot of money, you are going to be teaching ESL in Asia especially to children then take this course. I think this is your best option because:

  1. It's affordable and useful.
  2. If you decide teaching ESL is something you want to do long term you can always invest in another course like CELTA later.
  3. Most jobs in Asia are for teaching children aged 6-13. This course will provide you with effective contextual training focused on that age group. You'll learn what to do in the classroom.

"I believe that your course was the reason that I managed to get my first teaching job. Shortly after adding it to my resume I managed to secure a job teaching English in Italy." - Oliver F. 

This course is very practical. You will learn tools that other courses that are steeped in theory and English language study won't teach you. Such as...

  • how to keep your classes interesting, fun and educational.
  • real strategies and plans for classroom management - the course I took prior to teaching in Taiwan hardly provided any real tools for dealing with problems in the classroom and guess what? I had a lot of problems in my first year.

"Quite interesting! I was intimidated by the idea of teaching young learners, but this course changed my mind and now I'm looking forward to the chance!" - Justin K.

You'll save 30-250% on TEFL certification and you'll thrive abroad.

First the savings should be obvious. Those numbers I came up with by Googling 20, 60 and 120 hour online TEFL courses and then comparing them. You can see for yourself.

But how can I promise you that you will thrive abroad?

The Advanced (formerly 120 hour course) provides the most value and best resources to help you thrive abroad. It also includes a guarantee. This is the best online TEFL course if you want to teach children and you want to do it in a place like China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, etc.

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You can call me biased. Again you don't usually need a certificate, you can take the CELTA or you can take one of ESLinsider's courses. You have two extremes: no formal training and what's considered by some to be the best. Then you have a middle path.

"Thanks Ian! You are a big reason I am here in China! Without your motivation I wouldn't have traveled so far and had all of these great experiences. It's been two years, now I am an English director for three kindergartens." - Raul Romo

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Hmm, not sure. Have any reviews?