Are you thinking of studying for a TEFL qualification? When it comes to choosing a TEFL course, there are many different points to consider to make sure you pick a course that’s right for you. As your TEFL qualification will be the stepping stone to a new job or career, you want to choose a professional course that will teach you everything you need to know. Read our guide on how to choose a TEFL course to learn what are the most important considerations.
What is a TEFL qualification?
TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. It’s also known as ESL (English as a second language), TESL (Teaching English as a second language), and TESOL (Teaching English to speakers of other languages). There are different types of qualifications you can do that will equip you for different specialisations in the teaching world. The most academic and expensive courses won’t be right for everyone – it depends on who you want to teach, amongst many other factors. Also remember that you can build on the foundations of a generic TEFL course by doing something more in-depth later in your career.
Which Level of TEFL Certificate
TEFL courses will instruct you in getting qualified as a foreign language teacher, and different courses will prepare you for different roles. The most common qualification is a TEFL certificate, but there is a wide variety of choices. Some short courses are just an introduction, and won’t be enough to get you hired in any decent roles. A course that has 120 hours of study time is a good minimum to aim for, and is a basic requirement for most TEFL jobs worldwide. Few jobs will consider a candidate who only has, for example, a 40-hour online teaching qualification.
Courses with more hours will prepare you in greater depth and on a variety of specialist subjects, such as teaching English online or teaching to young learners.
Level 5 TEFL courses are an advanced option for those wanting access to the best jobs. You might have heard of a CELTA qualification – this stands for Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults. A CELTA won’t prepare you for teaching young learners as it’s specifically for teaching adults, and as a more intensive and expensive course, it’s a qualification more suited to career teachers.
If you’re unsure about the differences between Tefl and Tesol and are struggling to choose between the two, I recommend continually reading and learning more to help you make an informed decision.
What is the Difference Between a CELTA, DELTA, CLIL, and Trinity TESOL Course?
As mentioned above, a CELTA is a sort of TEFL certificate which is pitched at those who want to teach adults. It’s an entry level course that you can take without any prior teaching knowledge or experience, and if you want to study for a CELTA you need to be a native speaker or fluent to a CEFR level of C1 or higher. CELTA courses are provided by Cambridge English Language Assessment through authorised Cambridge English Teaching Qualification centres. You can study full-time or part-time, and CELTA will generally cost more than a standard TEFL certificate. Holding a CELTA can make you more employable in certain ELT fields.
A DELTA is a higher qualification that you can’t undertake without significant knowledge and experience of TEFL teaching. It stands for Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults, and like the CELTA, it can only be studied at an authorised centre. On a DELTA, you will learn about the TEFL world in more depth, studying topics such as teaching methodology and school management. A DELTA is a level 7 qualification – the same as a Master’s Degree – and would be an appropriate course to take for those qualified teachers who are hoping to become a DOS (Director of Studies) or found their own school.
CLIL (Content and language integrated learning) is not a course you can take but a teaching approach where second language acquisition is paired with subjects of other studies, so that the students are effectively learning two things at once. An example would be a school in Spain where Spanish students were learning biology, but the instructor teaches them in English. In doing so, the students are not only learning their second language, but also gaining knowledge in another subject of study. This sort of content-based language instruction is particularly favoured at bilingual and international schools, and for high-flying students who are fluent enough in a second language to grasp topical studies even outside of their mother tongue. The reasons for using this language immersion technique is to help students improve their second language as well as improving their L1 development.
Finally, a Trinity TESOL is another type of TEFL certificate, similar to a CELTA. It’s an entry level qualification provided by Trinity College London. Like a CELTA, it is different to a generic TEFL certificate as the studies include observed teaching practice as a mandatory element – something which is missing from online TEFL courses. It’s a level 5 qualification which can be studied full-time (in just over a month) or part-time. Also like the CELTA, it’s pitched primarily at teachers who want to work with adults, but has an optional extension for young learners.
How to Study?
TEFL courses can be delivered online, face to face, or as a combination. In general, employers prefer candidates who have studied a course with at least a little face-to-face interaction rather than the purely online courses. A great option is an online course that combines at least 120 hours of online content with an intensive 20-hour weekend course which you attend in person. If you prefer classroom learning, you can take your entire TEFL course face to face. These classes can be intensive (lasting a weekend for a quick introduction, or a week or longer for a comprehensive course) or they could be a session that you attend for a few hours a week over several months. Another option is internships, where you learn on the job or perhaps study intensively and then complete a work placement at the end of your studies. Choosing how to study will depend on a number of factors, such as:
- Your budget
- How quickly you want to get qualified
- Where you want to study
- Which learning style suits you best
- Availability of courses in your local area
How Long Do Courses Last?
The great thing about online courses (or combination courses) is that you can access the online material at your own pace, and fit in studying around your other commitments. This makes it a great choice for those in full-time education or work who want to have a career change by getting into TEFL, as they can study in their free time. There’s typically a deadline by which you need to finish looking at all the study materials (around 3 or 4 months for a 120-hour online course) but you can often pay for an extension if you need extra time. Intensive, full-time TEFL courses often last around a month which includes face to face teaching practice.
Who Do You Want to Teach?
When choosing your TEFL course, think about who you want to teach. There’s no point studying for a CELTA qualification if you’d rather work with young learners than with adults. Equally, a standard TEFL qualification will usually include a lot of tips and ideas for teaching children, which won’t be applicable if you only want to work with adults. Some courses offer extra modules in specialised subjects – if this is the case, you can tailor your course to suit the type of students you want to teach. Remember that who you want to teach isn’t just about the student’s age – you’ll need to think about whether you want to work with beginners, those of intermediate ability or more advanced learners, and considerations like the typical class size in the country you might teach in.
Where Do You Want to Teach?
Most aspiring TEFL teachers have a love of travel and want to move abroad for their first year of teaching. When choosing a TEFL course, think about where you want to go. If you want to teach somewhere in Africa, consider a course that offers a module in teaching with limited resources. If you want to teach in Asia, a module on teaching bigger classes will be more helpful than it would be to a teacher heading to a private language school in Europe. You can do specializations in online teaching, business English, grammar focus, and other topics, too.
TEFL Course Costs
Budget is often a major consideration for those looking to get a TEFL certificate, but with many excellent schools offering discount rates for both online and face to face courses throughout the year, you should choose the best course you can afford. Remember that you get what you pay for – a cheap course that only provides you with around 40 hours of instruction won’t be able to get you a good job in the future, so don’t bother with something that isn’t going to advance your career. When comparing TEFL courses, look at the rating and reviews they’ve received from previous students, and make sure you compare the different courses on offer.
If you feel like TEFL is for you but you really don’t have the funds to get on a TEFL course, there are still some options you can pursue. Grants such as Erasmus and Comenius can be used for those hoping to gain further qualifications in teaching, as well as gaining experience of living abroad and experiencing other cultures. There are eligibility criteria which will have to be fulfilled for you to gain funding, and these vary between grants. Other large companies such as the British Council offer numerous teaching and teaching assistant positions every year. Some internships offer you the chance to both study and work abroad at the same time, for a cost that could weigh up nicely against doing a TEFL certificate with no guaranteed job at the end. There are always opportunities to be found so do some research into grants and funds that could set you off on your TEFL journey.
Benefits of Having a TEFL Qualification
Being TEFL-qualified opens a whole world of doors to you, not just in landing your first teaching job. Many teachers who undertake a TEFL qualification have no intention of becoming full-time teachers, but of course there are those that do, and so for them it’s the perfect stepping stone to a new career. Here are some of the benefits of having a TEFL qualification:
- A great introduction into any sort of teaching if you’re looking at working as a teacher in the long term – having a TEFL and teaching experience can help you get jobs in mainstream schools as well as TEFL establishments
- For those without any job experience, doing a TEFL qualification and a stint of TEFL work will add something to your CV and provide you with a reference
- It’s a ticket to travelling the world, providing opportunities to find short-term or long-term work in a multitude of countries, giving you ample life experience as well as an excuse to travel
- Working in TEFL can help to build your people skills and gain experience working with the public, whether you’re teaching kids, teens or adults, and this experience could benefit you when applying for future jobs in other sectors
- There’s nothing like standing in front of a group of people for building your confidence, and so getting used to teaching can help you come out of your shell
- Choose a TEFL job in a country where the cost of living is low and you could easily save part of your monthly wages, putting cash towards travel, further study or even a deposit for a car or your first home
- Learn skills such as timekeeping, planning, and communication from the world of teaching
- Other benefits of living abroad or working in a TEFL industry are that you could learn a foreign language, make lifelong friends and contacts to help you gain work in the future, and experience a whole new culture
- It will give you the opportunity to use your technological expertise as an online online teacher
When choosing a TEFL course, you need to look at the whole picture, not just the course itself. Where could this qualification take you in the future? What’s your motivation for studying and what would you like to achieve? There are so many choices out there, but before you make any decisions, start with a bit of self-reflection to ensure you’re making the best decision to suit your own hopes and dreams.