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 Options:

If the Traditional TEFL Training Model doesn’t Work for You

Okay, TEFL schools cost a bit of money and at least four weeks of your time – and time is money.

While it is nice to “Do it right”, not everyone has the money in savings or the ability to beg or borrow the money needed — or even the four-weeks vacation time that is required.

If you really think you can’t afford it, look into taking the course in countries where the course is cheaper. Don’t price it in your home country. It will be much more expensive there and ideally, you should take your training in the country where you intend to teach.


Because you will do your practice teaching with students similar to your real students when you go to work. It will also give you time to network a bit and find the best places to work.

Usually your TEFL instructors will have lots of experience in that country and region and can help set you off on the right path. Don’t miss all of that valuable experience and help.

Still not sold?

Okay, look into programs like Literacy Volunteers of America, who will provide you with some training before you start volunteering.

Here is a link to their mother organization called ProLiteracy: Literacy Volunteers in the USA and here is a link for volunteering with them outside the USA: Literacy Volunteers.

Also—take a look at some free online TEFL training at TEFL Boot Camp. It really is free [no catch, no fine print!] and has almost all the content of a full-blown TEFL course – but no tutoring or assistance is provided, nor is a certification provided.

Another option, try the TEFL Training for New Teachers eBook – which has essentially the same content as the TEFL Boot Camp website but comes with some great free bonuses: Two Peace Corps TEFL Training Manuals – designed for EFL teachers with no experience and the well known Fast Track Grammar Review for EFL Teachers. Usually the whole package is less than US$10. This is probably your best option if a real full-blown TEFL course is just not possible for you.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Any kind of training is always better than no training. Walking away from a lousy first class is not a good way to start your journey abroad. Give yourself a leg up by learning what to do, how to do it and when to do it.

TED’s Tips™ #1: If you can, do some real teaching, even if only on a volunteer level before you head overseas. It will make a big difference in your confidence level when standing in front of your first large class.