How many hours does a TEFL course need to be? What do these hours mean? Or maybe you're wondering how long does it take to complete a 120, 140 hour online TEFL course?

You may be pulling your hair out thinking...

"Should I go with the 60 hour course? That's cheaper and shorter, but then again maybe I should go with the 120 hour course as I heard that was more reputable...

But wait I see there is even a 150 hour course. Holy cow! If I had that then I would top the other applicants with a 120 hour course...

Or would I?"

In my experience teaching in Asia the amount of hours in a TEFL course doesn't matter most of the time. It actually matters far less in the real world (to employers) than some TEFL providers say it does. 

And since I mentioned the "real world" let's consider online courses for a moment.

How can you measure hours online? And are these hour claims even accurate?

Well, they are often not as you will soon see. 

But I am not dissing on online courses because you can learn a lot online. I learned quite a bit about teaching English online as well as in class, from other teachers and from books. The problem is with the lies and misinformation.

Not wanting to be part of this I recently changed the name of ESLinsider's 120 hour course to the advanced online TEFL course. I didn't want to perpetuate that lie anymore.

How long does a 120 or 140 hour online TEFL course take?

The fact is that many TEFL courses out there won't take nearly as long as they say. That is especially true of online courses.

"I finished a 150 hour course in about 20ish hours. And I actually read/did most of the stuff. If you just rushed through one it might take you 10 hours, maybe less." - Zoidburg747

"That's exactly why I doubt it has any relevance... it took me, maybe, 10 hours! I got in on a wowchr deal as well. Almost not even worth mentioning here I would imagine..." - atmospheric_slug

So then an in-class course would be more accurate, eh?

Well, it wasn't for me.

I took a TESOL course before I started teaching English in Taiwan. It was also called a 120 course. I spent a $1000 on it which was like 2 days in a classroom and the rest of the course for take home. At the end of the 2 days they gave me what they called a 60 hour certificate, but it didn't even say anything about the hours on it.

That was my first experience with TEFL. But it turns out that it is pretty common at least in the online course world. And it was an accredited course too which is funny because a lot of people are searching Google for "reputable" and accredited courses like it really means something.

But it doesn't for like 90% of TEFL courses out there. To me it looks like most courses just copy CELTA or try to sound like it. Perhaps this is part of the reason why some say online courses aren't worth it.

CELTA is standardized and as far as I know provides 120 actual contact hours, however they do also have a hybrid course that is partially online. 

Anyways it turns out I am not the only one who had that experience. I did some Googling and this is what I found.

In regards to the claimed hours in online TEFL/TESOL courses 

Here are some more quotes that I found on the web about courses on Groupon.

"I did an online Groupon tefl course for a teaching job in China. Was mad easy. Gave me a 120 hour certificate for maybe 5 hours of work." - Fuckjer

"Even though it said it was a 120 hour certification I managed to finish it in less than 25 hours. Now of course that is a testament to the poor quality of the course that I could fly through it that quickly but thing is, it didn't matter.

I can promise you no hagwon will bother to check up on the accreditation and quality of the course you took. They will just see that you have the certificate and maybe then place your resume at the top of the pile." - Guyforbes

"I believe the course I'm taking is considered a 120 hour course, but I feel like I'm FLYING through it. I've been at it for 3 days in my free time, maybe for a maximum of 7 or 8 hours, and I'm supposedly already 60% finished. Note that this course has no in-person classroom component." - curryo

"I took that same course back when I was going to need it (just for appearances, obviously), and I similarly finished it in a couple hours." - Jeyoc

"I can’t recall the exact number of hours put in, but it was far less than 160. I put in a few 2-3 hour sessions over the span of 7-10 days." - wjfitzy

"It said 150 hours, but it didn't take that long." - 2canucksabroad

"All you needed was a degree and an online TEFL course that I had completed in 6 hours..." - Alex McQuaid

I was curious about those Groupon courses so I tried the TEFL Full Circle course and reviewed it. I completed it in less than 8 hours. I didn't read everything and I suspect if I did it would have taken maybe twice as long.

By the looks of things Groupon has the fastest online TEFL courses or does it?

Is it just the courses on Groupon?

With a little more research I found these comments about course hours and non-Groupon providers. Both of these providers are fairly popular.

"Not quite that many. When they said 120 hours they actually mean 120 lessons some of which actually take an hour and some that take 10-15 minutes. I think it would depend on the person." - throwaway10 (Referring to the university of Toronto's course)

"I did i-to-i 120 hour TEFL about 2 years ago. It was a while ago so I can't say exactly how long it took but it was definitely not 120hrs. I think most reasonably smart people could easily finish it in half that if you get stuck into it." - victoriamagin

"Sorry, I was talking about the time it took us to finish it, not the hours, obviously. There is no way it actually took a full 120 hours." - _Lao_Why_

So what do these TEFL course hours mean?

I think they are supposed to refer to actual contact hours of training. However, as you can now see that's pretty hard to measure online. 

How many hours does a TEFL course need to be?

In my experience teaching in Asia it doesn't matter. Out of all the schools that I applied to in China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan I had only one employer ask me: "How many hours was the course?" I spent 6+ years in Asia and I applied to A LOT of schools.

You may be thinking...

But wait I searched Google and found that 120 hours is more reputable? Well, maybe in the TEFL course industry. Amongst TEFL providers it is said that 100-120 hours or more is considered more "reputable". Yet, I think it is because of a few reasons.

  1. They are marketing their own courses. More hours means more money for them and hopefully better training for you.
  2. I think that is because of CELTA which actually provides courses with 120 contact hours. Many courses say they are what they aren't as you can see from above perhaps to sound more like an official course like CELTA.

Previously I was trying to fit in with that mold, but it was one thing that didn't fit with my conscience so I changed the name of the course. Like I said I don't want to perpetuate that lie anymore.

So who is telling you that you need a 120+ hour course?

Marketing can be part of this too. Another reason why people, TEFL providers or recruiters may say that you need a 120 hour or more course is because they are making money from it. A longer more "intensive" course is going to cost more money. It might be better, but they'll still make more money from it.

So who is telling you that you need a 120+ hour course?

  • Are they a TEFL course provider? Then consider the fact that they have something to sell.
  • Are they a recruiter? Then consider the fact that they may be making a commision by selling a course for the provider.
  • Are they a blogger? Then consider the fact that may also be making an affiliate commision by selling that course.

The bottom line

For most schools in Asia the amount of hours in a course is not going to matter as most certificates are taken at face value. There is a small percentage of schools in Asia that might care about them, but these schools (universities, international schools, some private & public) are often more reputable.

These schools have higher standards which means they're probably not going to hire a first time teacher with just a 120 hour course whether it was online or not. They are going to prefer someone with experience.

Check this article out for more information regarding what courses are accepted in Asia or start this advanced online course now.

Did you take a course? If so how many hours did it actually take?