By completing a TEFL course, you'll achieve an internationally-recognised teaching qualification, learn new skills, discover a different culture and ensure a brighter future for many overseas students
Do I need a degree to teach English abroad?
The short answer is no. In China, South America and some parts of South East Asia, a good grasp of the English language is enough. If you're looking at teaching English abroad without a degree, a teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) qualification or volunteering in a school is a great way to build your experience.
However, TEFL is an increasingly competitive jobs market, so a degree in English, modern languages, linguistics or education may help you to secure a teaching post. In some countries, such as Japan and South Korea, you'll need a degree to get your visa.
Each country has different entry requirements for its TEFL teachers, so carry out some in-depth research to ascertain what you'll need. You can learn more about teaching English as a foreign language in individual countries by viewing our working abroad profiles.
Do I need a TEFL qualification?
You don't need a TEFL qualification for all teaching jobs, but finding employment will be much easier if you have it. This is because many other positions aren't as well paid and they're not always with the most reputable employers.
TEFL certification gives you the skills and confidence to stand up in front of a class of students and teach effectively, so it's definitely worth considering, especially if you don't already have any teaching experience.
Discover what to expect as an English as a foreign language teacher.
Which TEFL course is right for me?
Deciding which course to take will depend on whether you envisage a career in teaching, or if you just want to use your TEFL qualification to gain experience and see the world.
The most commonly accepted TEFL courses include:
- Cambridge CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Adults) - Part of the University of Cambridge, Cambridge Assessment English offers the trusted CELTA qualification at level 5 of the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF), enabling you to teach adults. The 120-hour minimum course is available to study full time or part time from around 90 approved centres across the UK. To be eligible, you'll need to be 18 or over, have reached a standard of education equivalent for entry into higher education (A-levels) and your written and spoken English will need to be at the required level. If you study the course full time, it will usually take you four to five weeks to complete, while part time can take from a few months up to a year. It costs around £1,400 (typically including the Cambridge Assessment Fee). There's also an online blended learning option, with hands-on-teaching practice complementing the online study.
- Trinity College London CertTESOL (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) - This is an equivalent to the CELTA certificate, with almost identical entry criteria and course structure. The level 5 CertTESOL course involves a minimum of 130 hours of training and 70 hours of additional study. As with the CELTA qualification, the cost varies depending on the course provider, but you can expect to pay about £1,000.
- Online courses - Make sure it's at least 120 hours in length and includes a classroom-based teaching component of six hours minimum. While online courses may seem like a flexible option, it's important to note that a large proportion of employers require class-based qualifications. Online and classroom course provider The TEFL Org now offers level 5 TEFL certification.
- Masters degrees - You can also choose to do a Masters degree specialising in TEFL. Many higher education institutions provide this type of course. Search for TEFL and TESOL Masters courses.
What will I learn on a TEFL course?
The course content will depend on the individual provider, but you'll usually be taught:
- how to work out what level a student is at and the best way to approach the different levels
- the basics of English including phonology, lexis and grammar
- lesson planning
- how to organise your classroom and use the board
- how to create tests and oversee assessments
- techniques to improve speaking, listening, reading and writing skills.
How much is a TEFL course?
As mentioned in the detail for both CELTA and CertTESOL qualifications, it's the course provider that sets the price, but they typically range between £700 and £1,400, including the examination fees.
Are my English language skills good enough?
For most courses, you only need to be a native-level speaker of English and have the enthusiasm to learn something new.
A TEFL course will teach you the basics, but if you feel that your skills might not be up to scratch then many providers offer grammar courses, covering everything from nouns to adjectives and adverbs.
Do I need to speak the local language?
No, in fact it's often preferred that you only speak English in the classroom to help the students learn. Many TEFL courses teach you techniques to overcome the language barrier including drawing pictures and using props.
Where can I find English teaching jobs abroad?
There are usually opportunities to teach English in Japan, China and other East Asian countries, the Middle East, parts of Eastern Europe and Spain, Italy and Germany.
Look for TEFL jobs and placements, and also find information on courses at:
- Cactus TEFL
- The China Teaching Experience
- English First (EF) - Teaching English in China
- The Fewer things
- i-to-i - TEFL jobs abroad
- Maximo Nivel
- Premier TEFL
- Teach English In China
- The TEFL Academy
- The TEFL Org - Jobs centre
What about volunteering opportunities in teaching?
In your TEFL job search, you may come across opportunities to volunteer overseas to help support schools that can't afford to employ international teachers. You can also help to break the poverty cycle by improving other people's English skills to help them get a job in the future. There's the possibility of volunteering for two weeks or more, so it's an ideal way to see if you'd like to commit to a longer permanent teaching job.
You can find out about volunteering opportunities abroad with Pod Volunteer.
Can I teach English to students online?
It's not just about teaching overseas - as well as taking the TEFL course at home, many providers are now giving teachers the chance to teach English online too.
With the coronavirus pandemic scuppering many plans to teach abroad in 2020/21, this is a fantastic way for English native speakers to earn money from teaching.
Joe Hallwood, director and co-founder of The TEFL Org, explains, 'We've seen a significant growth in interest in teaching English online due to COVID-19. These courses are designed to give you the preparation you need to embark on the same life-changing experiences of teaching English abroad that we had at The TEFL Org.'
All you need to teach English online is a recognised 120-hour TEFL qualification, a webcam, plus a reliable Wi-Fi network. Bear in mind that some restrictions may apply for certain online teaching platforms, but see the individual provider for their eligibility requirements.
You can explore how it works, get qualified and find opportunities at:
- English First (EF) - Teach English online
- Go Overseas - Teach English online
- i-to-i - Teach English online
- The TEFL Org - Teach English online