TEFL course scams range from total scams on the low end to lots of half-truths on the high end.
If you found this article by searching for "online TEFL course scams" then let's get clear on what a scam is.
So what is a scam?
If a scam is simply a "dishonest" scheme then like most courses will be considered a scam because of one or more of the facts below.
"Lies" and telling half-truths like below is common with like 90% of TEFL courses.
So then you could say that most TEFL courses are a scam.
Lies, half-truths and scams with TEFL courses
Are all the claims listed below outright lies?
No, some are half-truths.
- TEFL course hours: "60, 120, 150, etc. hour" courses
- "Internationally recognized" certification
- You can teach anywhere in the world
- Teaching abroad is a "vacation"
- Fake TEFL Accreditation
- You'll make more money
- You'll get a better job
- Guaranteed jobs
- You NEED it
- Fake reviews
GOOD NEWS there are hundreds of TEFL courses out there that will sell you a lie like above.
They'll sell you what you want.
Now, let's take a closer look.
Wow, these TEFL courses look so official... 60, 120, 150, 162.23 hours...
Have you heard that you should take a course that is a 100 or 120 or more hours? Well, that is mostly propaganda.
You are not in college anymore.
And those "hours" online don't mean anything.
Chances are that any online TEFL course and possibly some in-class courses are not going to be actually 120 hours or whatever they say.
Or even close to it.
Now that may be a standard with CELTA courses and a few others where you actually spend 120 hours in a classroom (8 hours a day for 4 weeks), but there is no online course that is actually 120 hours in length.
It's an industry lie.
You'll probably hear that some employers want a 120 or more hours course, but that's just a perpetuated 120 hour lie that is probably based on the fact that CELTA actually is 120 hours so many TEFL course providers just try to look more official by naming their courses that.
Don't believe me?
See what these folks had to say about the accuracy of TEFL course hours. Based on my experience I can tell you that it can happen with in-class courses too.
Things are not what they seem in TEFL.
And to throw 2 more cents into the bucket...
I'd say that the majority of TEFL courses (online or offline) out there are actually CELTA copycats. Not necessarily the course itself, but the cover of the course: "120 hours, internationally recognized, accredited, reputable," etc.
Behind the scenes the convo sounds something like...
"Tell em it's a 120 hours, accredited, internationally recognized... you know, kinda like a CELTA and then throw in a pic of a beach so we can fool those dumb a** neubs."
"Yeah, they'll never know. Those neubs are so stupid."
Oh, and I am not implying that CELTA is the best thing either...
Whoa... it's "internationally recognized"
Are they that famous?
Will it rub off on you?
Do you think your employer is going to be impressed with that certificate?
You want to believe that whatever certificate you earn will be accepted abroad.
But the truth is...
There is no course that guarantees that.
It's just like getting a job in your own country, but different. Did your degree guarantee you a job somewhere?
It's the same with TEFL.
"Internationally recognized" TEFL certification is mainly a bragging term. There is no stamp of approval that makes one course internationally recognized or not.
Again there is no one accreditation that makes it so. "Internationally recognized" TEFL certification doesn't mean much.
“Nobody actually gives a flying fuck where your TESOL is from unless you are applying at international schools and they require the aforementioned, (CELTA usually), plus an education degree, so that’s a moot point for you anyway.” — muirnoir
Some say, "You can teach anywhere in the world" with their certificate
You can't teach anywhere in the world with a TEFL certificate.
It's not a passport and neither is a CELTA.
You want to trust someone, but TEFL courses are usually just an intermediate step to teaching abroad. They are more like middle men or recruiters.
It's like you are on a journey to teaching abroad and along that path you will meet many people who will try to "help" you and sell you something along the way.
Is teaching abroad a vacation?
You'll probably go from...
WEEEEE! I'm going to teach abroad...
This is 'effin hard.
Unless, you're lucky and you are a naturally gifted teacher.
A picture of a beach in Thailand is a pretty inspiring thing.
Plenty of TEFL providers use that kind of marketing. But most of you will probably not be teaching anywhere near a beach.
Chances are you'll probably be teaching in a massive polluted, crowded city somewhere far from that secluded beach.
But you don't want to believe that.
You want to believe in the beach (and that's the blue pill).
It's an illusion to trick your dumb a** into thinking you are going one vacation (and my dumb a** into making a typo).
O.k they must be good since they are "accredited"
Accreditation is not all that it seems in TEFL land, which is really the truth for the TEFL course industry in general.
There are fake accreditations.
Like totally fake or partially.
A common one is when a TEFL course provider creates their own accreditation to make it appear as if it was awarded by a different organization, but it's actually the same person behind both.. Here's one...
Should you care if the accreditation is fake or not?
Don't support a crook and there are a few of those.
There is no rule requiring accreditation nor is there any "one" body for TEFL accreditation. Did you think that there was one body that overlooks the whole TEFL industry in 130+ countries around the world?
You might have read that TEFL is like The Wild West.
A provider is going to tell you that they are "accredited" because that's what your scared security-seeking self wants to hear.
They may be accredited too, but who are they accredited by?
There isn't any one organization business for TEFL. They are not organizations in the higher sense. They are independent accrediting bodies businesse$.
There are fake accreditations (example) out there too.
Learn more about TEFL accreditation or see GOACTA's (non-profit) on Why accreditation doesn't work.
Some say, "You'll make more money" with their certificate
Sounds nice, but across the board there is no guarantee that a TEFL guarantees more money. There are places where that is possible like for example the EPIK program. But in my experience I didn't make any more money than my non-TEFL touting friends.
Experience is much more likely to increase your salary or be a better negotiating factor.
Some say, "You'll get a better job" with their certificate
There is no guarantee that you will get a better job because of it. It's possible, but TEFL certification is normally secondary or less to qualifications like experience and it does not compare to a teaching license.
Ohh, boy let's look for reviews...
You can trust reviews right?
Especially if they are on a site called "Trusted" TEFL reviews or "Trust" Pilot?
Well, it depends on the review.
If you didn't know Amazon is said to have 200,000,000+ fake reviews and Yelp has 25% of its reviews are fake (source).
BBC was able to buy a false, five-star recommendation placed on one of the world's leading review websites, Trustpilot.
It also uncovered online forums where Amazon shoppers are offered full refunds in exchange for product reviews.
Both companies said they do not tolerate false reviews.
So there is a TEFL course review site out there owned by someone who writes fake reviews and uses fake identities and awards on his "Trusted" review site all to promote his other TEFL course site.
Keep in mind that all review sites are biased (people too) because all of these 3rd party sites have affiliations with advertisers or the courses themselves.
You'd think that on a site like "Trust" Pilot the reviews would be genuine. But as BBC stated above they were able to put fake reviews on that site.
And in TEFL there is a review site called "Trusted" TEFL reviews, but it's totally fake.
See the pic above.
But surely some TEFL review site has to be more reputable than another?
Isn't there a trustworthy site for TEFL like Amazon?
Remember, Amazon is said to have over 200 MILLION fake reviews.
Ooooh... They've got "guaranteed jobs"
Do your research.
Don't expect someone to hold your hand. You're going to a foreign country and usually those TEFL courses don't live or work where you are going.
You probably want a guaranteed job right?
I mean that's why you are thinking of taking a TEFL course right? Because you think you need it or it's going to help you get a job?
There are a lot of jobs out there and you don't need a TEFL course provider to find you a job. I mean if you want someone to hold your hand then go right ahead.
They (or any recruiter) are going to get you the job that works for them.
You can find a lot more jobs out there on your own if you look.
The TESOL course that I took offered "guaranteed jobs", but the reality was that they had only a few jobs where I wanted to teach.
You might have good luck with this, but the fact is you can find many more jobs on your own.
Another thing to consider is that if a provider is offering a guaranteed job then they are basically acting like a recruiter.
Some lie and say, "You NEED it"
Plenty of TEFL providers, bloggers or recruiters (often getting a cut for recommending a course) will tell you that you need it to teach abroad.
If you need it or not is dependent on the school that you are applying to and sometimes country. Some schools may require it, but many do not.
The short answer is that, it depends.
Also to get a work visa to legally teach in much of Asia you do NOT need a TEFL course, but you do usually need a degree and a passport from a certain country.
What about ESLinsider?
Who are you?
I see that you are selling courses online.
How can I trust you?
You don't have to trust me, but everything I said here I said or thought before...
In fact I originally wrote this before I even had a course.
And you don't have to take my or any TEFL course to teach abroad for that matter.
Before I created courses I created instructional videos, because in my experience it's way easier to learn how to teach by watching other teachers vs. reading or listening to some lecture about it.
And those have been free since 2012.
Some have said that my courses are:
- "helpful" and...
- "worth it".
Every TEFL course provider has a story and most of them are selling you a "prestigious" or what they say is a prestigious certificate that might get you a better job, make more money, etc.
Mine is that if you take ESLinsider's course (TEKA) then you are going to be better prepared and more confident to teach English to kids in Asia than if you don't.
And you can see the course for more on why that is.
"The ESL TEFL online course was worth it to me and it made a huge difference in my application to teach in China. The program itself was very informative and rewarding. I can't complain because It was money well spent. I will be teaching in Beijing this September, so I would recommend it to anyone who is looking to get certified. Thanks Ian!" - Sens
There is no one size fits all
You are going to be told a story and the difference is going to be whether you regret it or not after you pay for your course, get abroad AND start teaching.
You will know how well that course actually prepared you to teach.
They still might have lied to you. But if you believe it after you completed the course and started teaching abroad then I guess you didn't lose anything. So you could get scammed and still win.
But if you believed what a TEFL course provider told you and after taking it you regretted it then you lost.
Is TEFL a con? Is college a con?
You probably already fell for the biggest scam.
Or did you?
Was college worth it?
Here are some facts on college graduates (depending on which study you look at):
- 40-60% of college grads can't find work in their field
- 40-60% of college grads work in jobs that don't require a degree
Why did you go to college?
Didn't going to college have something to do with getting a job? Did that fancy "accredited" degree you paid thousands of dollars for make a difference?
You might say "well, I need a degree to teach abroad", but is that why you went to college?
Instead of focusing on extrinsic superficial rewards like a degree or an accredited "internationally recognized" TEFL certificate why not take a course to learn (an intrinsic reward)?
If you want to have a better year abroad then you have to think past just getting a job.
Teaching is hard.
This course (TEKA) focuses on making it easier.
- no fake hours
- no fake claims
- no fake accreditation (nor did I pay some mysterious 3rd party for it)
- no affiliate marketing
- no useless theory study
- no BS
It's a super practical course that will make your year teaching mostly kids easier, but hey if you want another "accredited internationally recognized 120 hour online course" because you think you need it or that it's going to get you a better job then it's your choice.