TEFL Teacher Training Alternatives

A whole lot of dreams, not enough pay.  Sound like you?

As we mentioned in a previous post, not everyone can afford to take four to six weeks away from work on top of paying for the costs for a full-blown Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification or Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) course.

Not sure what path is best for you? Take a look at the options below:

Volunteer and Learn

First, any kind of training is better than no training. Help someone out while you help yourself—get free training to be a volunteer with organizations like Literacy Volunteers of America (now known as ProLiteracy and working internationally).

Study On-line

Inexpensive web-based courses will provide you with the beginnings of the knowledge and skill you need to do a decent job in a TEFL classroom. Will you become a seasoned professional with such a class? Probably not, but you will have a grasp of the theory behind TEFL and learn how to keep improving as a teacher.

Does ‘free’ sound better than ‘inexpensive?’ Of course it does!  I’ve written a free on-line TEFL course: TEFL Boot Camp. The course is self study and gives you the basics to help you get started as a good TEFL teacher. Of course, no certificate is on offer for the free version. You can try this course to see if teaching English abroad is for you. Even if you later choose to do an in-person TEFL, this course will give you a leg up.

How much training are bosses looking for?

Sadly, some people in some countries who are looking to hire teachers don’t care about training at all. On the other hand, other recruiters will have specific training requirements you will have to meet before they hire you. You won’t be able to please everyone in every country, but with a good TEFL training course you will satisfy about 95 percent of all employers. Plus, you’ll have enough training to feel like you are doing a good job. Satisfaction about the work you are doing—what a great feeling!

On-Line versus Face-to-Face Training

As with love and money, any training is better than no training. If you simply don’t have the time or money to do a full face-to-face course, or if you just want to experiment and see if it might interest you, consider an on-line course.  It can be a good introduction to teaching and can tide you over until you get into a full-blown program with observed teaching practice.

Get What You Pay For—”Free” In-Person TEFL Certification Training?

There are some TEFL certification schools around the world that will offer you “free” certification training if agree to work for them after your course for a specified period of time. Approach these programs with caution as things that look too good to be true often are.  You’ll sometimes be working at greatly reduced wages and the “free” cost of the program – well . . . is much more than if you just paid for it up front.

Beware of Swimming with (TEFL) Sharks

It’s also important for TEFL newbies to remember that not every school treats their foreign hires fairly. Certainly not all schools would do something dishonest, but there are some unscrupulous places out there and you should check out any school carefully before giving them money.

For example, some TEFL certification schools happily enroll you into their program and then happily place you in a job in which you are usually paid less than the going rate. The difference between the wages other people on the job are getting and your wage will go to lining the TEFL school’s pockets.  You will feel a bit cheated.

They, unfortunately, rarely tell you about this little arrangement, and month after month, for as long as you work there, you are literally paying for your TEFL course. So . . . remember that “free” things are rarely free.

Their little payback might seem small at first, but if you stay at that job for a couple of years the money will add up and you may end up paying for that “free” certification a couple times over or more.

No free time and no money?

I’m prejudiced of course, but my TEFL Boot Camp is as good as it gets on-line. You’ll learn the basics of TEFL teaching methods, lesson planning and even how do do classroom board work for a guaranteed lowest price anywhere.

Have a little money and still prefer to study on your own? Check out TEFL eBooks for some options.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Get the full four- to six-week TEFL Training in residence if you have the time and money to do so.
The full course is worth your time, money and effort. It will provide you with the confidence, knowledge and skills to get a good TEFL job right out of the gate.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Get some training. Any kind of training to help you along.
Any training is better than no training—you will enjoy yourself more and do a better job. Study a book, take an on-line course, or sit in on classes somewhere.

Take an interest in becoming a quality teacher.

Teaching Internships in China



TEFL Training for a Career Change

A reader recently asked:

I would like to become a TEFL or ESL certified teacher. Is this certificate necessary to teach abroad for an educated American?

If so, where is the best place online to study and affordable?

I was laid off so I don’t have extra income, but this is my dream to stop working for corporations and do something I’ve always wanted to do.  I enjoy helping people.

A TEFL certification is not a requirement to teach English in many countries, but knowing HOW to teach well is a nice idea.   It is only fair to your students who are spending money to sit in a classrrom with you.

You asked about an online course and you’ll find that China, Korea and Japan – three of the world’s four largest EFL employers accept them – so you will be in good shape.   I am a fan of the TEFL Boot Camp course, but that’s my bias.  I wrote it.  Fair warning!

There is a good amount of free information about teaching and how to teach on that website.  Give it a read even if you don’t wish to sign up.

I quite understand that the price of in-classroom courses can be prohibitive when you are first starting out and some colleges and universities do offer such courses, but they are often as costly as the commercially priced TEFL training schools that can run about US$1500-2500.  Add in the cost of not working for four to six weeks and room and board and it can begin to get expensive.

That is not always true though – so keep your eyes open!

Taking a course just for the certificate is not a bad thing. It does helps fluff up the resume and says you are at least interested enough to learn more and spend a  bit of money to do so.

Why not consider teaching in Korea, where you can save some serious money or even China where you will work a bit less, can have a university position and see a bit more of  the world?

Saying that, I am assuming you have a BA/BS degree? Lots of options are out there for you, take a look at:  TEFL Jobs in Korea and: TEFL jobs in China.

If you want a certification with a guaranteed placement offer – try TEFL Internships for a placement in China.

TED’s Tips™ #1:   It can be a lot easier than you think to actually get started teaching English abroad.  The most difficult part is making the decision to do it.

Teaching Internships in China


Questions about Online TEFL Training

I got an email today with some excellent questions about online versus in-classroom TEFL Training and I will address those questions here.

The person wrote:

I have heard a lot of talk on these TEFL forums and I understand that a 120 hour course is necessary and this is what I will do.

Usually 100 hour courses are okay too.

However, I have heard from many people that if an online program doesn’t have at least 6 course hours of supervised teaching practice with real ESL/EFL students than I shouldn’t bother.

Generally speaking a course with supervised teaching practice is FAR better for improving your teaching skills. Such courses, however, are also quite expensive. Usually starting about $1300 and going up to $2000 and more. And you’ll need to take four weeks off of work to do it and support yourself somehow at the same time.

I am semi-retired teacher trainer and YES, absolutely – if you can take a full in-classroom course with a minimum (try to get more!) of six hours of observed teaching practice, do it!

If you don’t have the time or money for such course (many people don’t – I didn’t when I started out in 1992), then an online course is fine.

I’m assuming your course doesn’t because its online. [referencing TEFL Boot Camp]

You are correct, we don’t offer observed teaching practice.

My question is, will an online course hurt me with my chances of employment?

Of course not! Most people look for TEFL jobs with no training at all. How would showing the initiative to at least get some training hurt your chances? Many places want a TEFL cert and don’t care if it is in-classroom or online. I place people in China and the schools there want a TEFL Certificate (see my website and the jobs list at: TEFL Jobs China) – The schools we work with don’t care online/in-classroom or not and don’t specify or require observed teaching practice as a part of the training. They are just happy that you got some training to learn to do a better job. This is true many places around the world.

Summary: Yes – an in-classroom course is a superior option. But the differences in price and time commitments and the ability to take the course when you can is why online courses are successful and so many people take them.

Usually people on internet forums want you to do what they have done. So the people telling you to do an in-classroom course – probably took one and want to persuade you to do what they have done. And – it is a GOOD idea! Just expensive and time consuming.

If you know you are seeking a career and want to work abroad for many years – then definitely do the Full Monty. If you want to just teach abroad for a couple years or aren’t sure how long you want to do it – or even if you would like it – then do an online course to test the waters. Nothing says you can’t go back and take a full course later.

If fact, I am working on an arrangement where if you take the TEFL Boot Camp course and later sign up for a full course at one of two schools in Thailand – we refund your TEFL Boot Camp course fees. That is a good deal!

TED’s Tips™ #1: Some training is always better than no training at all. Get what you can afford to help you do a better job.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Take a full four-six week in-classroom course if you can. You will leave the course a better teacher than you will with any other course.

The BEST EFL Teaching Jobs in China: Government Colleges, Universities and Secondary Schools offer the most reliable and worry-free jobs in China. Click on the Link if you would like to Teach English in China