Will an in-class or an online TEFL course be recognized when you go abroad? You don't want to spend your hard earned money on a dud right? Well this post was inspired from my experience teaching in Asia, from questions that I see around the web and this one on Yahoo Answers.

Will my online TEFL course be accepted? Can you get a job with an online TEFL course?

There are thousands of private language schools and public schools just in Eastern Asia. And there is only a very small percentage of schools in Asia that will care about the TEFL/TESOL/CELTA course that you took.

What's a factor and how much they care about it

Now out of that small percentage here are some things that they will care about. This is based on my experience living and teaching in Eastern Asia. This refers to employers and ESL schools in China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan:

  • How many hours was it? According to some more hours are more valuable. My estimate in the big picture is that 10% of the total job pool will care about this factor. That's roughly 1 in 10 jobs.
  • Are online TEFL courses recognised? A few employers will not accept online courses. This is more common in the Middle East or in Western Europe. Those are usually some universities or more prestigious language schools. Again very small numbers and to work in these schools you'll usually need experience anyways, so that probably won't matter. My estimate in the big picture is that these are 5% of the total job pool.
  • Who did you take it with? This is about which company you used to take the course. A few schools will prefer more reputable names like CELTA, DELTA, or Trinity TESOL. My estimated number is 3% or less of the total job pool. A lot of the schools in Asia will not know the difference between TEFL/TESOL/CELTA. The ones that care about this so much as to reject you because of the course provider that you took it with are a very small number.

Again these are small numbers in a land where TEFL/TESOL qualifications are not legally required to teach English and reside in Eastern Asia.

Between 2004 and 2013 I have applied for hundreds of jobs in China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan. I have worked in more than 20 schools in those countries and have personally interviewed with an estimate of 50 or more. I have spent a lot of time online over the years looking at jobs in these countries.

I haven't personally ran any statistics on this yet. But I think my own personal experience is sizable. Most people take a look at a few jobs and then decide on one, but that wasn't the case for me. I am a digger and a dreamer. I spent a lot of time looking for a particular kind of teaching job.

Does accreditation matter?

Accreditation is when an agency inspects a course, institute or university and deems it worthy or not. Has an employer ever asked you if your degree was accredited? You can read more on whether or not TEFL accreditation matters.

There is no TEFL or TESOL certificate that is accepted at "every" school... NOT EVEN CELTA

"Accepted" in the sense that it is a passport to any ESL teaching job. Regardless of what you have been told (maybe by another TEFL provider) there is no certificate that gives you permission to teach at any or every school.

Phrases such as "internationally recognized" or "accepted worldwide" are mostly marketing terms. The "F" in TEFL is for foreign, so a TEFL certificate is going to be recognized or accepted in many places, but remember it's not a passport to any or every TEFL job.

Think of it like this...

Is there any degree that guarantees a job with any employer? It's usually more complex than that. Employers will look at your whole package which includes experience, degrees, certificates, personality and other preferences.

There is a vast number of schools out there and each school can have their own individual preferences and qualifications aside from what is legally required to teach English in that country. Just because you have a CELTA certificate (a reputable TEFL certificate) doesn't guarantee anything and it's almost always going to come secondary to experience.

There are schools out there that will require you to be a licensed teacher in your home country.

Some examples of these schools are public schools in Taiwan, UAE, Dubai and most international schools across the globe. To teach English in these schools you need to be a licensed teacher. Aside from that each school has it's own requirements.

To legally teach (get a work visa) in Taiwan, China, Korea and Japan you do not need a TEFL/TESOL/CELTA certificate. That being said some schools can require them and some employers can prefer them and almost all schools prefer experience.

The bottom line

The chances are whatever TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA certificate that you are going to get will be accepted in Asia. Most schools in China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan will accept whatever certificate you are going to get.

Every school is different.

  • Many schools want teachers with experience.
  • Some schools need teachers with teaching licenses.
  • Some schools require teachers to have master's degrees.
  • Some schools want teachers to have taken an in-class TEFL course.
  • Some schools want teachers to have taken at least an online course.
  • Some schools don't care about TEFL certification at all. They'll take teachers with a bachelor's as long as they are from a native English speaking country.

One exception is the EPIK program in Korea. If I understand it correctly, if you do not have experience or a related degree then you will need a course that includes 20 hours of in-class instruction of you want to teach in Busan.

Other than that sure you may find a school that may not accept your "weekend course" or that may want you to have 120 hours, or may want you to have a CELTA, but most schools in Eastern Asia will accept online TEFL courses, "weekend courses" or accept you without any TEFL certification.

And if some school doesn't accept you then don't cry about it, just carry on to the next school.

Employers will look at the whole package. A CELTA doesn't guarantee you the best job. In fact you could get a CELTA and be working a pretty mediocre job. TEFL courses are usually preferences, but you know experience typically goes a lot further.

If you are still concerned about whether your TEFL/TESOL certificate will be recognized then I would like to ask you a question. What caused you to be concerned about it being accepted and recognized in the first place? Was it a TEFL course provider? An opinion? Some TEFL course providers have some poor tactics that they use to market their courses. I would be leery as I see some tell lies on a regular basis on Yahoo Answers and on other sites.

"I researched many different online cert programs and yours was the best, for the best price, with the best reviews." - Sandra Dee Bonadonna, TEFL-120

"Thanks Ian! You are a big reason I am here in China! Without your motivation I wouldn't have traveled so far and had all of these great experiences. It's been two years, now I am an English director for three kindergartens." - Raul Romo

"I am in China now, in the city of Yuyao. I teach in a kindergarten - apparently also thanks to the online TEFL certificate provided by you... Best regards, Stepan"

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