There are TWO main reasons an employer requires a TEFL Certification.
First is usually that the law or regulations in a specific country require it in order to obtain legal working papers. In that event, the employer has no choice – s/he must require it.
There will sometimes be requirements about the course itself (minimum number of hours, etc), but often as not – there are no requirements other than to just have one.
China is an example here, wanting a TEFL certification, but no set requirements about what should have been required to obtain it.
The second reason an employer seeks a TEFL certification is that they are looking for a specific skill set on your part and that is what I want to focus on here.
What is it that employers would like you to know how to do?
This can be fairly unique to specific employers but we can make some pretty good generalizations.
They want you to know how to walk into a class and do what is needed to make it work, without their supervision or intervention.
Teaching is a pretty independent occupation and most employers (schools) will want you to be able to work independently. To be able to develop lessons, to be able to manage minor discipline and behavior problems and even to know how to deal politely with the occasional parent.
Though this is what the employer is often looking for – two of those three skills expected of you are not usually covered in a TEFL training course! Some will cover a bit of behavior management, but almost none offer guidance on dealing with the parents of young students.
Fairly or unfairly, the typical school will want you to – on the first day if they have required training – to independently take over your new class and to move it along.
Don’t let this frighten you if you are total newbie or even just a wannabe. Most schools offer some assistance to totally new teachers. In some countries you might even have a teacher’s aide in your class.
If you are seriously thinking about teaching for a year or two, or even as an occupation, realize that it is a job that requires you to be independent in planning and in solving problems. If a school has required a TEFL certification prior to hiring you, it may well mean that they expect you to hit the ground running. This will certainly be true of most college and university level positions – probably less true of a school with very young students who often need a bit more mothering and nurturing than teaching.
TED’s Tips™ #1: The independence that most schools offer you is actually a great benefit of the job. You, once you have proven yourself a bit, can often create your won curriculum, build classes to solve specific problems that your students have and even plan for them long term. What a blessing, few other jobs give you so much freedom.