Gain an internationally recognised qualification to teach English as a foreign language (TEFL) and improve your career prospects

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 don't have a degree then gaining a TEFL qualification or volunteering in schools is a good idea to build up your experience.

However, TEFL is an increasingly competitive job market so a degree in English, modern languages, linguistics or education could help you to secure a teaching post. In some countries, such as Japan and South Korea, you need a degree to get your visa.

Each country will have different entry requirements for its TEFL teachers so you should carry out some in-depth research to discover what you'll need.

Do I need a TEFL qualification?

You don't need a TEFL qualification for all teaching jobs. You should be aware though that these jobs are usually the lowest paid and not always with the most reputable employers.

A TEFL qualification gives you the skills and confidence to stand up in front of a class of students and teach effectively so it's definitely worth having, especially if you don't already have experience in this.

Which course is right for me?

Deciding which course to take depends on whether you want a dedicated career in TEFL or if you want to use your qualification to gain experience and see the world. The most commonly accepted courses are:

  • Cambridge CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) - courses last four to five weeks if studied full time and will set you back between £800 and £1,400.
  • Trinity College London CertTESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) - generally internationally recognised to be an equivalent of the CELTA certificate. You must be over 18 and have evidence of qualifications achieved for entry to higher education in the UK (A levels) or equivalent. The price varies depending on the course provider, but you can expect to pay anywhere between £700 and £1,250.
  • Online courses - Make sure it's at least 120 hours in length and includes a classroom-based teaching component of a minimum of six hours. While online courses may seem like a flexible option, it's important to note that a large proportion of employers require class-based qualifications.
  • Masters degrees - You can choose to do a Masters degree specialising in TEFL. Many higher education institutions provide this type of course. Search for courses.

What will I learn on a TEFL course?

Course content varies depending on the provider but you will 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;
  • about creating tests and overseeing assessments;
  • techniques to improve speaking, listening, reading and writing skills.

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 will teach you techniques to overcome the language barrier including drawing pictures and using props.

Where can I find teaching jobs abroad?

There are usually opportunities in Japan, China and other East Asian countries, the Middle East, parts of Eastern Europe and Spain, Italy and Germany.

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