Which TEFL course should I take? You have been looking at so many options and your head is probably starting to spin. You might be getting conflicting information too.
I understand as I was there once too.
This article is a guide to choosing the right online or in-class TEFL course for you. Or if you have already decided for online you might be wondering which "online" TEFL course do I take?
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 let's meet the different personalities (viewpoints) that you'll find in your search for a TEFL course.
7 personalities that you'll meet online in your search for a TEFL course
These are the different kinds of views on TEFL courses and the ones they recommend or not.
So I grouped them into the following personality types and biases.
1. CELTA snobs (and that includes Trinity TESOL)
This person is likely a traditional learner. They may make comments like, "online TEFL courses are a joke", that "they are totally useless" or "...not worth the paper they are printed on".
There can be some truth to what they say, but it's not an absolute truth.
They are very dogmatic and they believe...
If there is no observed classroom teaching experience w/ feedback (from a CELTA snob^^) then it's totally pointless. It's one way or the highway for the CELTA snob.
I just wanted to add my two cents and that's that everything I learned about teaching I learned from watching other teachers or by reading about it. There was no snob in the back of the room judging me.
2. The affiliate marketer
These are often teachers whose motives are not so transparent. These people make money by recommending a course and then leaving a link to it.
If you click on their link they will make money if you then purchase the course.
Learn more about affiliate marketing in TEFL and what it looks like.
There are lot$ of them.
3. The direct marketer
This person works for or is the company that they are recommending. They may be transparent and honest or they may be a "sockpuppet" or use other devious tactics.
They are all over.
4. The renegade
The renegade is unusual. They might not recommend any TEFL course whether it was in-class or online or they may recommend some other new wave stuff. They might be savvy types who recommend the DIY path.
They are few in numbers.
5. The cheapo
This person is a bargain hunter. They don't usually care much about teaching and are just looking for the cheapest certificate that they can get so that they can "check the box". They assume all TEFL courses are the same so why not just get the cheapest one.
There is quite a few of them in places like Reddit.
6. The ignorant one
This person might not have even taught abroad and may have came to his/her conclusions in just a few minutes after a Google search. They don't actually know much about the TEFL industry and may recommend any course that is "accredited" or "internationally recognized", but little do they know that these terms are misleading as there is no one accreditation in TEFL.
And aside from a university accredited course like CELTA, accreditation in TEFL is just another layer of business and sometimes deceptive.
7. The honest reviewer
This person actually took a course and has no ulterior motives to make money. They are not an affiliate marketer.
They are few in numbers.
Who am I?
Am I unbiased?
I would say I am a combination of: The Renegade, The Direct Marketer, and The Honest Reviewer. I have a course that I created that I recommend for some, but not all. And I've taken 2 other courses that I didn't create.
EVERYONE is biased including you (the naive newcomer), I, and every other person or company out there.
However, there is a difference between a bias and a lie. And I've seen plenty of companies tell lies.
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.
So will having a certificate from one of these schools get me a better job?
It's possible, but usually the more "reputable" schools prefer teachers with experience.
Should you take an online or classroom based course?
You can take an online course, a classroom based course or combinations of the two.
Classroom courses are considered more reputable by 'some' employers and TEFL course providers.
However, in my experience teaching in Asia online courses are fine with most employers and sometimes you don't necessarily need to take a course.
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.
- What's your budget?
- What's your timeline?
- Are you a self-directed learner?
- Do you need personal feedback (tutor)?
- Are there in-class courses available in your area?
- How long are you planning on teaching abroad for?
- Who are you planning on teaching (kids, adults, businessman, etc.)?
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?
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 an online course that I'll recommend later. 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. 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.
Here is what most employers in Asia want.
6. Do you need personal feedback?
An in-class course would probably give you the most feedback, but it's going to depend on the course. 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.
Although courses vary from course to course an online course will still cover the same topics that an in-class course will. The main difference is that an in-class course is live and you'll meet with other people.
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.
However, keep in mind that these so called "hours" don't mean much especially online because they are pseudo "hours". They are not accurate and you may complete your 120 hour online course in 10 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.
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 something like 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? 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? Personally I like to know who I am buying from, but a lot of these courses have totally anonymous about pages and don't say anything about who actually runs the course. They put on an air of prestige to make it look like they are bigger or more university like than they are.
- What do the reviews say? There are some review sites out there, yet I know the popular one is an affiliate site. (Watch out for fake reviews too. They can be both positive or negative.)
"Accredited" TEFL courses
Other providers may tell you to take an accredited TEFL course and to look it up online. The thing is most courses are "accredited" so they say. Yet, some may use a fake accrediting council and others may not have accreditation as it's not required.
There isn't any one accrediting organization for TEFL.
Basically accreditation is a paid review.
The majority of courses out there that have accreditation have it from a private entity that no one knows anything about. Only very few have any sort of government related accreditation.
Accreditation by itself doesn't guarantee quality of a course (see GOACTA's PDF below).
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.
- Which online TEFL courses are accredited?
- Why accreditation doesn't work
- Do you really need an accredited TEFL course?
"Internationally recognized" courses
What about a course that's "internationally recognized"? That sounds good. Do I need one of those?
It doesn't actually mean anything. It's just a vague term that implies something that doesn't really exist. In reality there is no certificate that guarantees you a job everywhere.
You're looking for a guarantee right? A TEFL certificate by it's very nature is internationally recognized because that's what it has to do with. TEFL=Teaching English as a "Foreign" Language.
Did your degree guarantee you a job anywhere?
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
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.