TEFL Training: What are the Accepted Standards?

What makes a TEFL Training Program/Certificate Acceptable or Not?

The Internet is the Internet and you will read many opinions, some very definite and positive, but still just opinions about what kind of TEFL Training is acceptable.  About international standards.  About what employers will or won’t accept.  Some people say only the CELTA or Trinity are okay and suggest you are wasting your money with anything else.

Most of the people making these statements are not employers.  Are not teacher trainers.  Are they the people you really want to hear from then?

What you need to know is that there is not ONE organization nor ONE set standard in the world for TEFL programs. Period.  There just isn’t.  Sorry.  It would easier if there were . . .

Be aware also that some training companies have paid marketing people that are cruising the internet marketing their programs, pooh poohing programs that are not theirs or anything that is not similar to theirs.  Often suggesting that programs that don’t exactly match theirs will not be accepted anywhere.   Keep your ears open – of course – but ignore that noise as best you can.

Bottom Line:

What teachers usually really want to know is this: If I take a specific course, will it help me get a job?  Will it meet the standards of employers who might be looking to hire me?   Will my money be well spent with a particular program or just wasted?

Here’s how to judge TEFL Training/TEFL certifications for yourself.

China, Korea and Thailand – in that order – are the largest employers of EFL teachers worldwide.  Fourth place?  Probably Japan.  Other countries barely show up on the radar, those are the BIG 4 of TEFL.

China first as it is the largest employer of EFL teachers in the world.  In theory, a TEFL certification is required in China in order to obtain legal working papers.   I say “in theory” as things are sometimes different from province to province even though this is a national requirement.

China will accept anything from a 20 hour online program up to the Full Monty of a CELTA or SIT program.  Up to you.  If you have the US$1500-2800 and four to six weeks time off to take a super course – of course! – do that.   If you have only the time and money for something more modest – do that.


Employers know that.

Korea is EFL’s second largest jobs market.  They require NOTHING in terms of TEFL Training.  A degree, yes.  A TEFL cert, no.  But . . . Korea is a somewhat competitive market for teachers as the wages are reasonable and due to the flush benefits (free housing, paid airfare, very low taxes), teachers can save up to US$1000 a month without really trying.

As Korea is a competitive market, any effort shown by a teacher candidate/applicant to demonstrate an interest in doing the job well, will help move you to the front of the line.   Thus, getting any kind of training will benefit your job search.

Thailand is EFL’s third largest market and requires a TEFL certification of at least 100 hours.   If you want to teach in Thailand – be sure to get a certification that is at least 100 hours – and you will be fine.

Japan does not generally require a TEFL certification, but is – like Korea – a competitive market where some training will help you gain a better job.

It is really that simple.

One important note/exception – if you intend to teach in Europe or the UK there is strong preference there for the CELTA name brand. In most of the rest of the world employers don’t generally have a preference. Know that schools that sell CELTA or even their own name brand, often prefer to hire students who have taken their course.

Be aware that you can NEVER meet 100% requirements of every country or every employer.  With 15+ years of classroom experience, a masters degree in education, a post-graduate certificate in TEFL – even I can not qualify for every job.  It just doesn’t work that way.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Get the training that fits what you want or need.  If you don’t want to invest too much time and money (or just don’t have that much time and money) then find a modestly priced course and go to work in a country where that is acceptable and helpful to your job search.  If you have the time and money for a Full Monty certification and want to work in France . . . then get take an in-classroom program from SIT, TEFL International, Text and Talk, CELTA, Trinity or 100 other course providers.

This post is one of several about TEFL Certification at theEFL ESL Blog Carnival.

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