What does TEFL stand for?

TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. The learners are non-native English speakers whose primary language is not English. Because of its acceptance as a global language and its importance in international communication, more and more non-native speakers are looking for teachers to learn English. As a result of this, TEFL is rapidly becoming one of the fasted growing educational industries in the online job market.

How is TEFL different from TESL?

Even though in both cases the English language is taught to non-native speakers but there is a slight difference.

  • TESL – It means Teaching English as a Second language; when you teach English to non-native speakers who live in native-English speaking countries such as the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand then is it called TESL.
  • TEFL – When you teach non-native speakers living in non-native English speaking countries (countries where English is not the primary language) then it is called TEFL.

Why is teaching English as a foreign language a good career option?

I have been teaching English as a foreign language online for almost 10 years now; it is my career and the primary source of income. When I chose to go online to start my teaching career as an EFL teacher my friends and family were not too sure of my plans. They did not see any future in online teaching and believed I was making a mistake. So, they all kept asking me why I wanted to become an online teacher. Even today, I still get asked the same question.

And I still give the same answer I did all those years ago, “English is never going to go out of business!”

Here are a few very important reasons why I believe becoming an online EFL teacher was the best decision I made;

  • Global language – English is a global language; it is spoken almost in every country and has been declared the official language of more than 50 countries. Due to its “reputation”, people from all over the world consider English a mandatory tool for success.

There are many reasons why people need to learn the language.

    • Some of the best universities in the world are located in native-English speaking countries; therefore, students living abroad who get enrolled in these universities need to learn English to excel in their studies.
    • People who immigrate to English speaking countries for permanent residence or look for job opportunities also need to learn the primary language. This requirement creates a huge demand for EFL teachers.
    • Women and men who have spouses working in native English countries want to learn English before moving to these countries.

This has created a huge demand for teachers who can teach English as a foreign language.

  • The language of the internet – English is the primary language on the internet; with the online job market growing rapidly, many entrepreneurs with online businesses need to learn English to communicate with their customers/clients. Once again, this means a nice job market for online English teachers.

What do you need to become an online EFL teacher?

  • First and foremost, you need to have an in-depth knowledge of the English language. You should not only be able to communicate in English but also have full command over all its elements, which include speaking, listening, writing and reading.  
  • Most of the online language schools such as VIPKID require you to have a bachelor’s degree to be eligible for hiring.
  • Another important aspect of becoming an EFL teacher is getting the TEFL certification. Now, you may not need this to become an online teacher but you certainly will need it to get better job opportunities.

What is TEFL certification?

I am sure anyone who teaches English online to non-native speakers must have seen TEFL certification ads pop up. So, the next time you see one, do not ignore it; click on it and find out how you can benefit from it. However, you need to make sure the link you click must direct you to a reliable training program. We will talk about it in detail later in this article.

So, to answer the question, as the name suggests, it is a certification for teaching English as a Foreign language. This is basically your license to teach English to non-native learners living abroad.  

Why do you need TEFL certification?

If you are an independent online teacher then you may not need this certification; however, getting one could prove to be the game changer; you can turn online teaching from a part-time job to a full-fledged career.

I am sure you must be thinking if you do not really need this certification to start teaching English online then why take it? So, to make my case, here are the advantages I enjoyed after getting my TEFL certification.


  • Benefits of TEFL certification


    • Better job opportunities – Yes, I was scoring teaching jobs even before getting this certification but they had their limitations. Most of the jobs did not offer too much money or were just a one-time thing. Moreover, I could not manage to secure non-native students who wanted to take more advanced English courses. For a major part of my career, I taught through online language schools for TEFL such as VIPKID; once, I got TEFL certification on my resume I started to get more and better teaching opportunities through these platforms.
    • Makes up for your lack of experience – Most of the people who come to me for guidance to become an EFL teacher have one major problem; they do not have any formal teaching experience. I always tell them not having experience is not a setback as long as they have TEFL certification. Why? Because of its credibility, TEFL certification is enough for many abroad based students.
    • You can get paid better – Once I had my certification, I felt more confident in asking for more money. And 9 out of 10 times the students only wanted to confirm if I had the certification before they agreed to meet my monetary demands.

The logical question is why getting a TEFL certification can get you better jobs? The certification offers a training program that helps you understand what practices need to be adapted to be an effective EFL teacher. The course allows you to understand different elements and parts of the English language and how best to plan the most effective lessons for your students.

How do you get TEFL certification?

The best thing about the TEFL certification is that it is not the toughest job in the world. The entire process – from registration to the training program – is quite simple and does not require too much time.

I am going to explain how it works in the simplest way possible;

  • First thing’s first; yes, you can get your TEFL certification online. Here is how;
  • Find an authentic online TEFL certification program – The most important first step is to find an authentic certification program. Remember, getting a TEFL certification may cost money; therefore, you should be aware of scams or fraudulent websites that are trying to con you out of your hard-earned money. Here are a few ways to find authentic TEFL certification programs;
    • The program must be accredited and accepted internationally; the website should have a list of accreditations.
    • Talk to their customer service representatives.
    • Do your research and read user reviews of different websites.
    • Check the website or talk to any representative of the parent institution/organization (the list of accreditations shown on the TEFL certification program you choose) to see if the accreditations are valid or not.
  • Select the program that suits you – The TEFL certification offers different programs based on the number of program hours that need to be completed to get the certificate. The minimum requirement is 100 hours; you can also opt for 120-hour or 150-hour programs.
  • The registration process – The registration process is quite simple; you just have to fill out a form and provide a few details. After filling out the initial application you will be taken to the payment page where you may be given a few payment options. Choose the one that suits you the best and then make the payment.  
  • The course – After registration comes the study phase of the program. You have to take scheduled classes to understand how to become an EFL teacher. You will also need to complete 6-20 hours of practical live teaching. These will be live classes with real non-native students.  
  • The evaluation –  At the end of the program you will be evaluated and your results will determine whether you qualify for the certification or not.

How does the training program work?

A TEFL certification program will help you understand the following aspects of TEFL;

  • English language teaching skills –You will learn the fundamentals of the five basic language learning elements;
    • Reading
    • Speaking
    • Pronunciation
    • Listening
    • Writing

Your students may need to learn the language for different reasons; some may need to improve their communication skills while others may be looking to write better letters and blogs in English. As a teacher, you need to be prepared and qualified to handle all queries regarding the language. For this purpose, you need to learn about all the basic elements.

  • Planning lessons – This is a major aspect of teaching English online; you will be taught how to plan lessons that cover the English language learning elements and create an environment that gets results. Learning how to plan proper lessons has many benefits;
    • Lesson planning helps you set learning objectives for each of your classes, which allows your students to know what is being taught and what are they supposed to learn from it.
    • It allows you to track your own performance by seeing if your students are achieving their learning objectives successfully. You can also monitor how much of the course has been covered and if you are getting the results.
    • You simply cannot teach the same thing to all your students because everyone has a different learning purpose. A lesson plan can help you gather and teach content that is relevant to each of your students.  
  • Simplify English grammar – Grammar is an extremely complicated aspect of the English language; you cannot expect your non-native students to grasp complex grammatical applications. Therefore, you will have to break down the entire concept. During your certification program, you will learn how to simplify English grammar concepts for your students, which will make the learning process easier and more effective for them.
  • Create effective learning content – English is an interesting language that can be taught using many different methods and activities. With the help of the TEFL certification program, you will be able to learn how to find and use the available learning material to encourage productive learning.
  • Learn different learning styles – Every student has a different learning style; some respond better to practical assignments while others benefit more from the written text. The certification program will help you understand the different learning styles of your students, which will allow you to plan effective lessons and teach the students according to their strengths and weaknesses.

How long does it take to complete your TEFL certification?

Every TEFL certification program is self-paced, which means you decide your own course length. The basic requirement is to complete the number of hours required to get the certification.

Generally (depending on the number of hours), it may take you anywhere between 30 to 90 days to complete your course.

How much does TEFL certification cost?

The cost of the course depends on a few factors;

  • The program you choose
  • The website you choose – many websites give signup discounts

Generally, a course may cost anywhere between $900-$2,000.

How to prepare for a TEFL certification program?

It may seem easy but preparing for your TEFL certification requires commitment and discipline. Here a few things I did to make sure I did not waste the money I spent on registering for the program;

  • Dedicate a few hours to your studies – You may be fluent in English but you will have to study to pass the course and get your certification. You will need to study and prepare for your end-of-module quizzes and tests.
  • Brush up on your grammar – If you do not know the proper grammar then you simply cannot teach it. Focus on your grammar in all elements of your language – listening, reading, writing and speaking.  
  • Be prepared – Most of the programs will give you all the course material and learning content at the start of your course. You should go through the material before the course starts; this will help you understand what the course aims to teach.
  • Stay connected with other students – When I did my TEFL course I made extra effort to get in touch with other students. It gave me an insight into how they were approaching the course and what their study methods were. They also shared their study material with me, which gave me more content to explore and prepare better for my certification.
  • Work on your public speaking – Remember, you are training to become an EFL teacher, which means you need to be comfortable with speaking to different students from different parts of the world. You should not sound nervous, intimidated or unsure of yourself. How well you communicate with your students may have an impact on your evaluation.

And above all, you should be committed and focused. Since it is a self-paced course, it is quite likely you may take it too lightly. You must try to learn as much as you can in order to effectively implement the knowledge you gain.


Does VIPKID need TEFL certification?

The simple answer to this questions is a no! VIPKid does not require you to be TEFL certified. If you have a bachelor’s degree in your hand you can get hired. However, the certification may help you get better jobs through the platform. Students may prefer teachers with a TEFL certificate to the ones who do not have it. You may not only get more and better job opportunities on VIPKid, you may also get paid better.


It is not impossible to become an online EFL teacher without TEFL certification but if you hope to turn it into a successful career, you should focus on getting it. It will teach you different skills that will help you become a better teacher and communicate more effectively with your students.