1. What is a TEFL certification — 2. Is getting certified worth it — 3. How you can get a free TEFL certification
1. What is a TEFL certification?
This will sound familiar.
You want to teach English and have started doing research, only to find there are so many acronyms that you can’t tell your TESOL from your TOEFL, or your TEFL from your FALAFEL. Allow us to help.
(If you already know about TEFL, feel free to skip to Part 3, where we finally answer how to get a free TEFL certification.)
TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language can entail getting a TEFL certificate after you complete English teacher training.
You’re undoubtedly wondering how long this training takes. That depends on a few things. For example, what country you want to teach English in or in which accrediting institution you choose. Some countries want teachers with a high level of TEFL certification while others are just happy to have native English speakers.
That being said, most TEFL courses take two to three months to complete with full-time study. Part-time courses can take much longer.
Different learning strategies are an important part of TEFL courses. To get a taste of what’s included, see our most effective English language learning tactics here.
2. Is Getting Certified Worth it?
In a nutshell: Yes.
If you’re going abroad to teach English, you will have a harder time finding a job and earning a high salary without a TEFL certificate than if you had one. This is because schools see a TEFL certificate as a stamp of approval on teaching ability. Employers hiring teachers will hold those with a TEFL in higher regards.
While you may be able to squeeze by with only a bachelor’s degree, most academic places of note will request a TEFL certificate. These are places such as universities, colleges and language schools in large cities.
Furthermore, many countries such as China are starting to limit visas for working foreigners and seeking a higher quality of professional applicants. A recognized TEFL certification will put you head and shoulders above non-certified candidates.
3. Can You Really Get a Free TEFL Certification?
Yes and no.
You may have read about people getting free or sponsored TEFL certification. The main way to get one is through volunteering. Some companies place applicants abroad for a few months to volunteer as part of their TEFL certification course.
Once their training is complete, they get a TEFL certificate. As amazing as this sounds, they often have to pay the company for the placement!
One cheaper way to get a TEFL certificate is online. You can do it from anywhere with a stable internet connection. To be clear, we’re not talking about a a free TEFL certification, but online courses are significantly more affordable. For example,
- Tefl.org offer their premium 120-hour online TEFL course for £289
- MyTefl is a little cheaper with their own 12- hour online course at $299
This is significantly less than on-site TEFL certification. Teflcertificatecourses.com, for example, have offline courses that begin at $1335 (plus a $50 registration fee). Another is Maximo Nivel, who have offline courses that start at $1100.
Teaching with VIPKID does not require a TEFL certification.
While cheaper, there are downsides to taking a TEFL course online.
Online courses are less hands-on, as everything is taught over a computer screen in bits of text and video. It doesn’t give you a feel of the classroom or even the culture of the country where you hope to teach.
On the other hand, taking a TEFL course on the ground is a fantastic way to network and get a feel for a new country. You can also learn a new language, which has countless unexpected benefits.
And another benefit is this: It is much easier in-person to apply and get a job that you will enjoy than from the other side of the world through a computer screen. Most teachers will attest that all classrooms are different and they differ even more from country to country. Being there will help you adjust to “classroom life” and get immersed in teaching.
Of course, remember to factor in the extra costs of flights, immunizations, rent and food. You may also be unsure about where you want to teach, and finding out you’ve made the wrong decision after getting to a foreign country can be costly.
In sum, there are a few crucial decisions to make before deciding to get your TEFL certification. These include:
- Where you want to teach English
- To what kind of school you plan to apply
- Whether to get TEFL certification online
- Whether to get a free TEFL certification through volunteering
Many companies market their courses as a free TEFL certification. In the end, though, there will always be costs – it’s up to you to decide how much you are willing to pay.