Teaching English as A Second Language (TESOL)


To teach English as a second language, teachers have to prove their qualifications with internationally-acknowledged certifications, such as TESOL, TEFL, and TESL. Let’s see what is required for these certifications, and how they can help when teaching English as a second language online.

Teaching English as a Second Language

TESOL stands for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. TESOL is a general name for the domain of ESL teaching that includes both TESL and TEFL, which will be explained later in this post.
Earning a master’s degree in TESOL can help an English as a second language teachers to move forward in their careers, be in higher demand, and earn more in the long run. A Master’s degree in TESOL also offers opportunities to work abroad.
People with a TESOL certification can teach English as a second language both in English-speaking countries and in countries where English is not a native language. TESOL certification typically requires that the applicants have a bachelor’s degree, but the prerequisites depend on institutions offering the certificates.
Duties and skills of an online TESOL teacher are basically the same as those that are required when teaching English as a second language in a classroom. However, an online TESOL teacher should also be familiar with the latest computer technology to ensure the best cooperation with online ESL students in a virtual classroom environment.

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) & English as a Foreign Language (EFL)

teaching english as second language
TEFL and EFL stand for Teaching English as a Foreign Language and English as a Foreign Language. TEFL certification is the most widely recognized type of teaching certification in countries where English is not a native language. A wide range of non-English speaking countries experience constant demand for TEFL certified teachers, with China, Japan, and South Korea as leaders. However, EFL can also be taught in some private schools in the US. It’s important to note that a TEFL certificate will give you more chances to get an ESL teaching job than a TESOL certificate.
An average program for a TEFL certificate includes 100+ instructional hours plus a supervised practice teaching component. However, there’s no unified TEFL standard for all countries. Requirements and prerequisites for getting a TEFL certificate depend on the educational institution that issues the certificate and the laws of the country where you are going to work. Some TEFL course providers ask for a high school graduation certificate or university degree. In some countries, it’s enough for ESL teachers just to be native English speakers.
It’s also possible to work as a TEFL teacher online. To do it, you’ll need your TEFL certificate, stable internet connection, and tools such as a webcam, microphone, messengers, document sharing services, and, in some cases, webinar recording tools.

Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) & English as a Second Language (ESL)

TESL stands for Teaching English as a Second Language. ESL means English as a Second Language. Like with TEFL, TESL holders can teach English to non-English speakers. The difference is in location: TESL teachers can teach English to foreigners who live in native English-speaking countries, such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. If you’re a native English teacher who’s not planning to relocate abroad, TESL is exactly what you need.
Requirements and prerequisites for getting a TESL certificate depend on the educational institution that provides the certification and on the laws of your country. For example, Canadian TESL providers require a university degree, a certain amount of hours of methodology learning and theory, and a certain amount of hours  teaching in a supervised adult ESL classroom. There are also several TESL standards in Canada. The higher the standard, the stricter the requirements.
In addition to a degree and TESL certificate, teaching ESL online requires a fast and reliable internet connection as well as familiarity with document sharing services, messengers, webcams, etc.

About ESL Students

There’s a special abbreviation for ESL students – ELL, which stands for English Language Learners. ELL refers to students who are not currently proficient as English speakers and are in the process of developing their English language skills. ESL teachers help ELLs become fluent both in spoken and written English. That’s how the TESOL, TEFL, and TESL programs are applied to teach English to ELLs:

  • TESOL teachers typically teach basic grammar, vocabulary and colloquial phrases to ELLs in a community colleges, community programs, or online programs.
  • TEFL teachers can work for international schools, companies, organizations, and universities.
  • TESL teachers can work for ESL schools, private tutoring companies, colleges, and universities.

Regardless of what certification you have, good news is that you can teach English online with any certification. VIPKID offers online teaching jobs for TESOL, TEFL, and TESL teachers from all over the world. Join our team today.

Earn up to $22 an Hour Teaching English from Home


  1. I like the ELL designation for a student, because for many English is not a ‘second’ language, but maybe a third or even fourth language!

  2. The article mentions that career opportunities are greater with a Masters degree than with a Bachelors plus a TESOL certificate. I have wanted to get a Masters Degree for some time. I have been leaning toward a Masters Degree in Linguistics instead of TESOL. In either case, I have struggled deciding whether or not to go forward because, I haven’t seen the actual proof the Master’s Degree holders earn more than Bachelors Degree holders. I love teaching for VIP Kids because of the convenience. I previously taught for a combination of international schools that target F-1 Visa holders including Inlingua, UCEDA, Orlando Language School, The Language Company, and most recently META Language Schools USA. After 5 years of teaching adults, I saw my hourly wage fluctuate between $12 to $21 per hour. I would be interested to know what Masters Degree holders earn, and/or what career tracks that are open to Masters Degree holders have that are not available to Bachelor Degree holders. Or is it simply about having a competitive edge?

    • You can generally teach your subject at a 2-year community college with a Masters. You may be able to teach other undergraduate classes as well if you find a university that accepts this (some require a Ph.D.) These are paid by the class and vary widely.

      My understanding there is a jump in pay from Bachelors to Masters and again to Ph.D.
      Elementary teachers in my area make 10-15 thousand a year less if they have a Bachelors and no Masters degree.

  3. I have always wondered what the difference was. This is a short, concise way to describe the difference between the certifications.

  4. Great article. Thank you for clarifying all those abbreviations. I would love to TEFL abroad somewhere and this article has given me a step in the right direction.

  5. I am happy to learn of the differences between these acronyms, and what they involve. I am interested in pursuing a Master’s in one of these. Thank you.

  6. […] For ESL students, pronouns provide a great way to liven up speech or make written text flow more naturally, because they can substitute for nouns and help avoid repetition. Therefore, it’s important to enrich the vocabulary of your students by teaching pronouns in a fun, engaging way. This important for all English teachers, but especially for those Teaching English as a Second Language.  […]

  7. Hello!

    I am waiting for my new (refurbished) laptop so that I will be up to speed for my demonstration video.

    I love teaching, but I am just starting. I have some experience teaching which includes 5th graders and college students, and tutoring experience in a juvenile diversion program. I was a tour guide for nine years. Being animated and a little goofy is an integral part of my “technique” for keeping the attention of people.

    I have a Bachelors of Interdisciplinary Studies and a Master of Arts in Sociology. I am interested in getting TEFL certification online. I am also interested in TESOL certification, but TEFL online is more affordable.
    Does VIPKID accept TEFL online certification?


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