There are lots of generic statements out there on the web about a TEFL school must be this or must have that and on and on, but in fact, your personal factors are more important in the decision process.
There isn’t one correct answer. The right answer is as individual as you and the reason you are taking the training. And you are, in fact, spoiled for choice. That’s a good thing – as Martha Stewart would say . . .
A bit like real estate sales people “qualify” buyers, you need to qualify a school to see if it meets your needs. Most school advertising talks about they are this or that, but they don’t tend to ask you what you think you might need or want.
The Best TEFL Training School for You is the one that best meets your needs.
Factors to consider before making a decision:
COST: Can you afford what a particular school demands? Price ranges can vary widely. In-classroom courses can go from US$1200-1500 all the way up to $2800 or sometimes even more. Even online courses have a wide range of prices from US$140 on up to US$1000 and sometimes even a bit more.
TIME: How much time do you have to set aside for taking a course? If it is an in-classroom course, remember to add in the cost of not having an income for four to six weeks while you are in training plus accommodation and other living expenses. It is not realistic, unless you are already a somewhat experienced teacher, to work while taking a full-time in-classroom course. If you can’t afford the time, an online course is a good option as you can study at your own pace while you remain on the job.
WHERE do you want to take your course? Do you want to take the course near where you live now or in the city or country where you expect to begin teaching?
Where to you intend to teach? This is important as certain countries may have requirements you will need to meet. While most countries don’t require any TEFL training at all, if you want to teach in Europe, you can expect they will want a 100-120 hour program with at least six hours of observed teaching practice. Some countries – like Thailand, will be less strict but still want 100+ hours of training. China – requires a certificate, but will accept anything. There is no minimum hours or any other requirement. Just a certificate.
Since most countries do not require TEFL training, any training course you take is going to help you move to the front of the hiring line.
If you intend to teach in Europe, there is a name brand preference for CELTA and Trinity. Most of the rest of the world is not name-brand conscious or will not even have heard of those two brands at all.
WHO do you want to teach? Children, adults, business people? Do you want to teach any specialties like TOEFL or IELTS? Does the school you are considering offer options to help you with them?
Which TEFL Training will Maximize your Employment Potential?
This is the concern that is really behind most people’s questions and it is important! How do you maximize your employment possibilities while still paying attention to costs and time?
If you intend to make a long-term career of TEFL then teach for a year or two (make sure you like it!) and then go get a master’s degree in TESOL. If time and money don’t matter, that is by far your best option.
Other options: If you intend to teach for more than a couple years and time and money don’t matter – then take a good in-classroom course in the country where you intend to teach. There you can do your teaching practice with EFL students who have similar grammar and pronunciation problems as the students you will be working with. Learning how to deal with those issues will be a part of your training rather than a surprise the first day on the job.
If you intend to spend only a year or two teaching overseas and just want the experience – then an online course might be just fine for where you want to go.
If time and money are major considerations, consider a good online course to help you get the basics. Do get some training though as students will be paying a lot of money to sit in a classroom with you. It is only fair that you know how to deliver what they have paid for.
Is the School Responsive to you?
One last thing. TEFL schools should have YOU first in mind. Send them an email and ask about the program. See if they respond. Many programs won’t! What does that tell you about them? About their interest in you? What if an employer contacted them to determine if your certification was valid?! But more likely you will have some questions and it is a good way to find out if a school has any real interest in their customers/students. Give them an “F” for no response, a “D” for a generic cut-and-paste response and an “A” for having a real human get back in touch with you.
TED’s Tips™ #1: Advocate for yourself and make sure that you take a course that will meet your needs and qualify you for the job you want. Even if a training certification is not required, get some training anyway so you can provide a good service to your students.