eslinsider5 logo


Looking for a cheap online TEFL course? How about one that's fast and good? Well if you are looking for a cheap TEFL course and certification then you need to keep in mind that you often get what you pay for.

Or do you?

So what does that mean when it comes to TEFL courses?

Does that mean you won't get a good job? Or maybe you will get a lower quality job? 

Some course providers may tell you that, but in my opinion that is just marketing BS. The truth is a TEFL course sits on the bottom of the totem poll (as far as teaching qualifications go). Above that are teaching licenses, master's degrees, and at the top of the poll is experience and not your experience teaching swimming or golf, but experience teaching English abroad and more specifically teaching the students like the job you are applying for. 

And your bachelor's degree carries more weight than any TEFL/TESOL course since it's required to get a visa teaching abroad.

So is an expensive course always better?

Smart TEFL marketers know price factors into people's buying decisions so just because it's more expensive doesn't guarantee it will be better. But people often associate quality with price or price with quality, but I know from what I've read that just because you pay more for your course doesn't mean it will be better than that cheap Groupon course.

Because some of these $200 courses can be completed in the same amount of time as a $20-40 course.

A cheap TEFL course is often only good for 1 thing

And that is checking the box so to speak. What that means is that if all you want to do is put a certificate on your resume then any certificate will do - most of the time.

Every employer is different, but for the majority of jobs out there it doesn't matter. For every school that is picky about the course you take or wants you to take an in-class course there are 9 others who don't care.

Like I said above TEFL certification is low on the totem poll of TEFL qualifications. It's normally not a legal requirement to teach abroad.

But you might be thinking, "Well I just read on some TEFL course site that their TEFL course will get me a great job and is accepted around the world".


You will read all kinds of stuff out there about TEFL courses, but you are swimming in all kinds of lies and fakery.

Is your primary motive for taking a TEFL course to get a job?

Then it's not likely to matter what course you take cheap or expensive.

That's possible if the course offers some sort of job assistance, BUT lots of courses advertise this and the first one I took did too. But in reality they had very few jobs where I wanted to teach. You can find more jobs on your own if you look.

Don't get too dependent on some middle man TEFL course or recruiter for that matter. They're not your future employer and rarely know more about the school then the basics.

Don't expect someone to hold your hand unless you want to get taken for a ride. They have self interests. Be independent and think for yourself.

And know that getting a job is just the beginning and you need to change your focus if you want to have a good experience abroad. I mean you could be some naturally gifted teacher and that cheap course that you can complete in a day or two may magically turn you into an amazing teacher, but I doubt it.

Teaching is hard and like anything if you want to improve you have to study and practice.

Do you want to have a good experience teaching English abroad?

Then don't assume these things about your TEFL course

Don't assume your course will properly train you. After you get the job you will start teaching and I would assume that the course you are likely to take won't prepare you for the job. Most contracts are for a year and it can be a long and difficult year.

Focusing merely on getting a job is short term thinking. Successful people in life think ahead. 

Don't assume that the school will help train you. Based on my experience you are more likely to be thrown into a classroom and told to teach. If you get training it likely won't be more than a day of watching another foreign teacher that you will replace who probably isn't that experienced.

Don't assume that you will learn how to teach on the job. You will read some teachers saying this on the web, but it's only partly true. You will learn some on the job, but you need input and to know what you are going to do. You get feedback from your students on how well (or not) you are doing your job. And that is usually indirect and it comes in the form of bad behavior and the fact that they aren't learning.

Learning what to do doesn't come out of thin air.

You need to be shown what to do.

Don't assume that since it's just for a year the training doesn't matter. The truth is that most English teachers abroad only last a year so chances are the same will happen to you. And since you think that it will only be for a year don't think that it doesn't matter since it's only short term.

You've got to apply yourself because if you don't you won't learn how to teach and that year will feel very long.

Look. To be honest you can train yourself, by watching other teachers, reading and more, but a good course will make that process easier.

Don't assume that teaching English is easy. Teaching English for me was quite difficult. I had no experience with teaching in a classroom. And even if I had I can guarantee you that the classrooms abroad are going to be different than the ones you have experience in.

Don't assume that a course will teach you how to teach any age group. I see prospective teachers often saying they want a course that will help them teach anyone like adults or childre. No, that won't happen not well anyways. Most courses out there focus more on teaching adults because that is the CELTA method and most courses out there model CELTA on the surface anyways.

A one size fits all approach rarely works very well. It's like a jack of all trades master of none approach.

I learned that teaching kids was super tough and teaching kids is the majority of the market for jobs in East Asia.

If you are going to teach in Asia I will tell you now that chances are you will teach mostly kids unless you are really adament about teaching adults.

Cheap, fast and good - pick two

Try to wrap your head around that.

A cheap online TEFL course is unlikely to be very good because little manpower is involved in training you. A cheap course is usually an automated passive course that you can breeze through because no one on the other end wants to put the effort in for free.

A fast course is unlikely to be thorough. It's going to be easy and you are unlikely to remember much of anything from a quick online TEFL course.

It's often the case that the cheaper and faster the course the less you will get out of it. 

A cheaper and faster course is going to take less effort as there are unlikely to be many or any assignments. These sorts of courses are often reading based and have multiple choice follow up questions.

A good course is what kind of course? Good for what?

A fast and cheap course can check the box and that might sound good now, but it's not going to be a very good course.

So what is a good course? Well, it depends how you measure it and who measures it, but since you are searching for answers to this then that means you don't know. And since I've already done what you want to do (teach abroad) I'll tell you.

If you think a fast and cheap course is good then you are stupid.

I know how most new teachers think because I was there once too. Naive and stupid. I had no idea what teaching abroad was like.

A good course is one that will teach you how to do your job. Because just getting a job can be accomplished with a quick course or a cheap course or sometimes with no course at all.

But a good course is going to make teaching easier and more fun.

So cheap, fast and good - pick two because you can't get all three. 

New teachers focus on superficial metrics like these:

  • Accreditation. Is a good course one that is accredited? Uhhh, possibly but, accreditation is not about learning. It's about money. TEFL accreditation can be faked (example) and it if it's not fake it is always paid for. 
  • Internationally recognized. Is a good course one that is internationally recognized? That TEFL term internationally recognized means nothing and a TEFL course is internationally recognized because the F in TEFL is foreign. Did you think there was some popular TEFL course brand like McDonald's around the world? No, employers don't care as much about TEFL certification like you've been told.
  • Speed. Is a good course one that will give you a certificate in a day or two? If you just want a certificate, but then you're not thinking ahead. Anything quick is unlikely to teach you much. If you think that you are really dumb just like those kids in the marshmallow experiment who couldn't wait 15 minutes to get the second one.
  • Reviews. Is a good course the one with the best reviews? Know that there are plenty of fake reviews out there and entire review sites that are fake.

You might think so now, but I can tell that you will likely be one of the ones who later say "online TEFL courses suck" or the cliche, "...not worth the paper they are printed on".

It's true many online courses are low quality, but if they did more research they might have found a better one.


A good course is one that gets you more than a job (and you don't even need one for that). A good course is going to help you do your job. And like I said above don't assume that every course is the same or capable of doing that.

Think ahead.

Imagine you already got a job. Now you need to learn how to do it.

If you ask me a good online course will do this:

  1. It's going to show you what to do in the classroom because people don't remember words or text they remember visuals.
  2. It will not spend much time studying teaching theory, English grammar, etc. because that's boring and useless to your students.
  3. It will be practical because that's what you and your students need.
  4. It will be catered towards teaching the students you will teach because that's going to make you a better teacher.

Those are things that I learned after I started teaching. Before I started teaching and was searching for a course I was probably focused on the superficial things mentioned above.

I've taken 2 TEFL/TESOL courses. I took one before teaching in Taiwan (my first country) and about 12 years later I took one cheap Groupon course just to see what I would get for $40. I can tell you that both focused way too much on theory, grammar and abstract stuff because that's the educational model.

Some say the education model is broke.

How many classes throughout your education were totally useless?

Lots of remembering names, dates, and abstract concepts you already forgot.

Things that didn't really help.


Check out ESLinsider's course or this cheap TEFL course, but remember short term gain now might mean more long term pain later.