If you are a licensed teacher in your home country should you take a TEFL course to teach English abroad? That's a good question and I saw this article on Goabroad about this topic and I thought I'd like to share my experience teaching and living abroad in China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan.

I thought that article was a little bit more than biased.

We are all biased, however as I just recently posted there is a difference between a bias and a lie.

Is a TEFL certificate required?

It depends on the school and location and considering that you have a teaching license or the equivelant from another country which I am not familiar with like PGCE or QTS then I'd say most of the time that a license supercedes a TEFL certificate.

It also tends to carry more weight and that license is required for some positions.

For example:

  1. To teach English in a public school in Taiwan you normally need a teaching license NOT a TEFL certificate or a CELTA.
  2. To teach English in an international school abroad you usually need a teaching license.
  3. Many schools in the Middle East will require a teaching license.

Teaching licenses are a pretty good qualification to have. 

Learn more about the requirements to teach in Asia.

What's the best qualification to have?

Again it depends on the school, but that is usually experience in terms of "years". Related experience teaching science or even soccer might help a little bit, but the kind of experience they want is "English teaching experience".

After that I might say a teaching license, then maybe a master's degree which can be required in some universities like in Japan and Taiwan.

What I think is BS in that article

Goabroad is a 3rd party site that makes money from TEFL course providers. The courses either pay them to advertise a better position there or they use affiliate links there to courses so that they get a cut.

Many of the articles there are written by TEFL course companies too.

Anyways here's BS #1

"With a TEFL certificate, you qualify for more teaching jobs overseas -- with higher salaries."

It's unlikely to actually qualify you for more jobs.

If anything a teaching license qualifies you for more jobs. As I previously mentioned it depends on the school and TEFL certification isn't the number one qualication to teach abroad, not even a CELTA.

Will you make more money with a TEFL certificate?

Again it depends on the school, but that's not likely across the board.

It doesn't hurt your application, however, I'd say it's not that likely to. It could in some places like EPIK mentioned below but, the teaching qualification is just as likely if not more to increase your chances of getting a higher salary than a TEFL certificate is.

Again experience (teaching English) is the best negotiator here.

Learn more about degrees, experience, certification and money.

Is this BS #2?

"Online TEFL course are just as highly regarded as in-person TEFL courses"

Says someone who sells an online course at Goabroad...

In Asia I'd say that is true most of the time, but there are a few schools in Asia that may want an in-class course. Well the only one I've seen there is a program in Korea called EPIK and normally to teach there an online TEFL will suffice, but in Busan you need in-class hours, but again I think if you have a teaching license that would supercede the certificate.

Outside of Asia I hear that in Europe and the Middle East in-class courses are more likely to be required.

But again it depends on the school.


A TEFL course provider that sells in-class courses is likely to say the opposite of the above course.

Or just for kicks go to reddit.com/r/tefl and make the above quote about online courses being "highly regarded" and see what kind of response you get.

Will you "beat out the competition" with a TEFL cert?

The article says:

"With a TEFL certificate, you’ll beat out the competition in your overseas teaching job interview."

You know like the above this is one of the lies that many TEFL courses tell. But will you really beat out the comp?

I don't think so.

On paper if you and the next person have no experience, but the other does have a certificate then maybe that looks better to someone, but you are not your resume and schools often take your personality, looks, age and all kinds of other discriminitory things into consideration.

What I don't necessarily disagree with 

Here's a quote from that article.

"By skipping TEFL certification, you’re shortchanging your students. They deserve the best possible learning environment -- and a teacher who’s properly trained and equipped to meet their specific needs. As a qualified teacher, you already know how hard a job it can be at times. Why make your time teaching overseas even more challenging?"

If you don't know what you are doing then you could say that you're "short changing your students" and you're not going to enjoy teaching any more either.


It's not the TEFL "certification" that makes a difference. Certification is just a piece of paper that makes it look like you know something. It's what you learn in the course that matters.

And I am going to do a little anti-TEFL marketing...

You can learn how to teach English a number of ways. You can read books, watch videos, attend workshops, etc.

A course is presumably the best way to learn because that's what it's designed to do or is it?

I've taken 2 different courses.

A TESOL pre-Taiwan and an online TEFL a few years ago to see what I'd get and compare it to some courses I have created.

The problems with TEFL/TESOL courses based on my experience:

  1. The courses I took were too theoretical and not practical enough. This is not just a problem with TEFL this is a problem with "education". I learned very little that I could use in the classroom. How practical were classes like geometry, chemistry, biology, history, etc? In TEFL chances are you'll study too much theory, jargon, and grammar and not learn enough about what to actually do in the classroom.
  2. No visuals. You need visuals to learn how to do most things. Watching other teachers in action is the easiest way to learn how to teach. Learning how to teach by either listening to a teacher lecture or by reading is no good. See why most courses suck (especially online courses)
  3. Little to no feedback. Feedback from a teacher or teachers can be quite beneficial because they can see what you can't. And that sort of interaction and feedback is missing from many online courses.

Why take a course?

The best reason is to learn. If you are always focused on extrinisic goals then you are unlikely to be happy. The bait being sold to you is "a better job", a higher salary and a "prestigious" certificate.

Those are extrinsic rewards

In reality those things can be nice, but more money and more stuff doesn't equal more happiness. And if you don't know that already then maybe try a search for:

does more money equal more happiness

My bias

I've taught in China, Korea and Taiwan and I live in Japan now. I haven't taught everywhere and I don't know everything, but I've taught in a lot of schools and I've been following the teaching abroad in Asia thing more or less since I started in 2004.

I tell it how I see it and know it because what else can I do?

"Tell the truth" I heard Jordan Peterson say once and I think that's what my mom always said too. 

So if you are planning on teaching English to mostly kids then I really recommend the course I've created because I think this is the best way to learn how to do that online.

And if you want to know some real data as to what schools in China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan really want in a teacher and NOT what a 3rd party says they want then if you create an account here you will be able to download that PDF called DATAFL.

It's kind of like DATA + TEFL, hehe.

There's also a few other free ebooks that may help you there too.


For most jobs that might require a TEFL certificate a license would supersede that.


  • Most places in China to get a Z visa
  • EPIK in Korea

However, it doesn't quite work the other way around. Meaning that if a license is required a TEFL or a CELTA won't replace it.

So then you have to have to decide if you want more specific training because teaching English in a foreign country is still probably going to be different from what you are used to teaching.