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When is the optimum time to take a TEFL course? That is the question that will be covered mostly in this article, but I will also answer some related questions such as when you can get/start a TEFL job.

Now "when" in regards to taking TEFL/TESOL/CELTA courses...

Do TEFL certificates expire?

Well, they don't usually expire. Certificates are like any other certificate or diploma - they last indefinitely. However, if you take a course far from the time you actually teach then you are unlikely to remember anything from it.

So when is the best time to take a course?

As far as the certificate goes after you complete it you can put it on your resume. But for the training and your memory I'd say it's best to take one right when you start.

Before you start is good which is common, but you won't have much context.

No context?

That means you won't be able to relate or see how the information that you are learning in the course applies to teaching since you haven't done it before. That's especially true for online courses.

Now if you could only take it once for the training I think the best time would be right when you start. So on day 1 you would start teaching and training together.

Now some of you might think that you should be prepared ahead of time.

I think so too, but...

Like I said if you take it before you teach you have no context and remembering that information will be more challenging.

You just can't relate and you are going to remember less and still be stressed and have a difficult start anyways. There are some problems that you may have and I will cover those and in the end of this article offer a solution.

So do you take an online or an in-class course?

You can read more about online vs. onsite TEFL courses here, but in this article I am focusing on when to take a TEFL course?

The problem with in-class courses

Well, if you take an in-class course it's only a one time deal. You don't get a second chance. You get what you pay for and that's the time period of the course that can last anywhere from a few days to a month or so.

The problem with online courses

If you chose the online route you will also have limited access to most courses. Some of the more popular courses only allow access for 2-3 months. If your access is only for 2-3 months, by the time you get abroad and start teaching your access will be discontinued.

Another problem w/ online courses

Most online courses have no visuals. You basically read and then answer questions.

One of the big arguments that you will hear for in-class courses is that in an online course there is no observation. You can't see teaching in action and that is true for many online courses, however not all like the one I will tell you about soon.

A solution

Teaching and learning are actually a long term process and it's not a one time thing where you do training once and then your set for your teaching career, however long that is (most teachers only last a year or two).

So what I would recommend is to take a course before you teach and again when you start teaching.

How can you do that?

You said that in-class courses are just one time and online courses have limited access so how can you do that?

ESLinsider's Advanced and Practical courses offer lifetime access. That flexibility allows for the most convenience and the optimum amount of access for training purposes. These courses are visual, include feedback and research suggests that they are more memorable.

I can tell you from experience that the easiest way to learn how to teach is by watching other teachers, not by reading about it.

O.k so here are some other related questions regarding "when" and TEFL.

When is the best time to teach abroad?

Well, if you are planning on teaching abroad and you don't know how it will fit in with your lifetime goals. I'd say you can teach at anytime. If you are just out of college then it can work. If you are a few years out of college it can work. If it's been 20 years since you went to college it can work.

Degrees are normally needed to get a visa to teach English in Asia. If you never went to college it's much more difficult to teach English without a degree, but it's not entirely impossible in some places or situations.

Does teaching abroad look bad on a resume?

A year or two doesn't mess up your resume.

When can you find or apply to TEFL jobs?



It depends on the school.

Private institutes around the world hire teachers all year around. This is the case in East Asia too. Private institutes are a large part of the market for teaching ESL and they do not typically operate on a semester system like public schools do.

But if you want to teach in a public school or university then there are usually two times of the year that they hire. In East Asia schools start in late summer/fall and usually after Chinese New Year and schools will start hiring months in advance.

The semesters are something like this:

  • Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan*: February-July & Aug-Jan

*In Taiwan you need to be a licensed teacher to teach in a public school which is different from TEFL certification.

In Korea, China and Japan you do not necessarily need a teaching license.

Learn more about the requirements to teach in China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

Are you interested in teaching in East Asia?

Here are some guides on teaching English in:

"When" as far as applying goes...

That can vary based on the school and whether it is public, private or other factors. In Korea schools tend to hire 2-3 months out in advance as there is a lot of paper work involved to hire from abroad.

If you are already in the country which can be advantageous there are always schools hiring that have ASAP openings. Just make sure you get all your paperwork together before you go there.