Wondering which TEFL course you should take? There are a lot of TEFL courses out there and choosing one can be rather stressful as there are sooo many options. TEFL, TESOL, and CELTA courses provide language teaching qualifications to those who want to teach English abroad.
Before we get into the TEFL course selection...
The requirements to get a work visa teaching English abroad are usually a degree and a passport from an English speaking country. Individual schools also have their own requirements or preferences as well. For example, to legally teach English in China, Japan, Korea or Taiwan you don't usually need a TEFL certificate to get a working visa.
But if you have no experience and no training then a TEFL can be beneficial yet they are not all the same.
Differences between TEFL, TESOL, and CELTA courses
TEFL and TESOL courses are pretty much the same. TEFL=teaching English as a foreign language and TESOL=teaching English as a second language. They just have different acronyms. Whether you take a "TEFL" or "TESOL" course really doesn't matter much.
CELTA=certificate in English language teaching for adults. A CELTA course is considered to be a more advanced TEFL course that focuses on teaching adults. As far as TEFL courses go CELTA and then DELTA are said to be the most "reputable". Trinity TESOL is also said to be reputable. These are more commonly requested in Europe and sometimes in the Middle East.
Different kinds of courses: online, classroom or combinations of the two
There are in-class courses, online courses and combinations of the two. Classroom courses are considered more reputable by some employers and TEFL course providers. In my experience teaching in Asia online courses are fine with most employers in Asia.
How to choose a TEFL course (Online or classroom based course)
Here are some questions to help you narrow down your options to online or in the classroom. Here are a few questions that will help you choose the right course. One of the first things you'll have to decide is if you want to take an in-class or an online course.
- How long are you planning on teaching abroad for?
- What's your budget?
- What's your timeline?
- Are there in-class courses available in your area?
- Who are you planning on teaching (kids, adults, businessman, etc.)?
- Do you need personal feedback (tutor)?
- Are you a self-directed learner?
1. How long are you planning on teaching abroad for?
If you are only planning on teaching abroad for a short period of time (1-2 years) then I personally wouldn't invest much money in it. Not sure? If you decide later on that you want to continue teaching English then you can further your education then if you want.
If you are in it for the long term many people recommend taking a CELTA classroom based course.
2. What's your budget?
If you don't have much money to spare then an online course is your best bet. Online courses on Groupon can cost as little as $39 and then advanced courses like CELTA can cost over $2,000.
Some people say "you get what you pay for" when it comes to TEFL which can be true, but I paid $1000 and definitely didn't feel that it was worth that much. It wasn't practical enough and it really didn't prepare me to teach in Taiwan.
If I was to do it again I would take this online course. The reason why is that it's practical, contextual - shows the students and environment that I would've taught in (Asia), focuses more on teaching kids who I mostly taught and it's cheaper.
3. What's your timeline?
If you are not in a rush then you'll have more flexibility in choosing a course. Online courses can usually be taken whenever you want.
4. Are there classroom courses available in your area?
You'll have to search in your city. If not then you are either going to have to travel to get to one (and put up the expense) or take an online one.
5. Who are you planning on teaching (kids, adults, businessman, etc.)?
Most courses like CELTA focus more on teaching adults. However, some courses offer training catered towards teaching certain students. It's wise to choose a course with specialization focused on the students you will be teaching. ESLinsider's courses focus more on teaching children. There are courses that even specialize in business English if that's who you want to teach.
In my experience teaching in Asia I would say that the majority of jobs out there are for teaching children aged 6-14 or so. But there are jobs teaching all levels from kindergarten to adults.
6. Do you need personal feedback?
An in-class course would probably give you the most feedback. However, some online courses include tutors. They may provide feedback on your work and lesson plans. If you want personal feedback then you should look for a classroom based course or an online course that includes tutors.
7. Are you a self-directed learner?
If you are a self-directed learner then you may do fine with an online course. If you prefer the camaraderie of classmates and think you will learn better in a classroom take a classroom based course.
What are the arguments against online courses?
Some people say that you can't learn without feedback from a teacher. Many classroom based courses offer around 6 hours of observation and feedback. It can be good to get feedback from a teacher, but an important note about the people who say that is the following:
- These people are probably NOT self-directed learners. They may not be able to learn beyond the scope of the classroom and they probably can't learn without someone telling them what to do. They are following their own footsteps. They probably can't learn outside of the classroom and then they will tell you that you can't learn how to teach in an online course. These people are traditional learners.
- They are followers of a prescribed path.
I took a classroom based course and really I didn't learn much in it. Maybe it wasn't a good one, but I still learned way more in the years to follow. Which I basically did on my own by watching other teachers, reading and trying stuff out.
True, with an online course you don't get personal feedback, but you soon figure out what works and doesn't by your students response. So as long as you are applying yourself you will learn. Yet, if you are lazy then maybe the support system of a classroom based course will be more beneficial to you.
- Are online TEFL courses worth it? They are usually suitable, but...
- Should I get TEFL certified online or in a classroom?
How many hours? 20, 40, 60, 100, 120, etc.
There are courses of different lengths. A course’s value is usually dictated by its hours. There are 20, 40, 60, 80, 100, and 120 hour or more courses. More hours usually means more value and more in-depth training. Some employers will prefer courses greater than 100 hours and some will not recognize the difference between a 40 hour course, 100 hour course, online or in-class courses.
Some courses last a couple of days and some can last a month or more. Shorter courses are usually cheaper. So the answer to this question is to consider how much money and time you want to spend.
Keep in mind that all courses don't necessarily take that long.
There are still too many options how can I choose a course?
I know it's like going to the supermarket. You just need toothpaste, but you can't decide because there are too many options and they're starting to look all the same. It's called analysis paralysis. The fewer options you have the easier it is to decide.
But by now you should be able to choose whether you want an in-class course or an online course.
Here are some other questions and thoughts to help you choose a provider.
- What kind of helpful resources do they offer for free on their site? Do they blog, offer newsletters, books, guides, videos or things like that?
- How long is access to the course for? If you are taking an online course then most of them have limited access from 2-6 months. Longer term access is better because you are going to need to review what you have learned. There is no one course that is going to prepare you for life.
- What does the syllabus or course content look like?
- What does their "About" page look like on their website? Is it nearly blank or mysterious?
- What do the reviews say? There are some review sites out there, yet I know the popular one is an affiliate site.
Other providers may tell you to take an accredited TEFL course and to look it up online. The thing is most courses are accredited. Yet, some may use a fake accrediting council and others may not have accreditation. There isn't any one accrediting organization for TEFL.
A TEFL course doesn't actually have to be accredited. For you the consumer, it is like a review by an organization who has inspected and approved the course content. So accreditation by itself isn't a way to determine the quality of a course. I would use the above list for that as I never had an employer ask me if my certificate or degree for that matter was accredited.
Do you want to teach in Korea?
Korea is a popular place for teaching ESL. You don't usually need a TEFL certificate to legally teach there like in other places in Asia. Any certificate will help yet, if you are interested in the EPIK program and would like to receive a pay raise based on your certificate then you may want to take a course that is 100 hours with at least 20 hours in-class.
"Currently, we accept a minimum 100 hour TEFL or TESOL certificate as a qualification criteria for level 2 or higher pay grade, regardless of how the course was taken. However, starting from the Fall 2013 term, when we recommend candidates to the POE/MOEs we will give a priority to the applicants possessing a minimum 100 hour TEFL or TESOL with at least a 20 hour offline, in-class component, as opposed to those who only completed a strictly online course. We strongly advise you to take the TEFL or TESOL programs including at least a 20 hour offline, in-class component. However, Busan will only acknowledge TESOL/TEFL certificates that contain at least a 60 hour offline, in-class component. This decision was made to meet requests from the POE/MOEs and schools who wish to have the most qualified Guest English Teachers possible." - EPIK
If you don't want to teach for EPIK then you could take an online course for Korea.
So you should have a good idea now of how to get TEFL certified whether it's in class or online. Look over those questions again to figure out what is going to work for you. After you know that next is how to choose a provider. Again you can take a close look at what they have to offer on their site, see their about page, read reviews, and see what you can learn before spending any money.