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How to Pursue Your TEFL Certification and Career

Interested in Teaching English as a Foreign or Second Language? Here’s what you should know about getting your certification, finding a job, and more.

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is a great path for anyone who has an interest in teaching English abroad. But what exactly is a TEFL career and how do you get there? There are several other acronyms in the TEFL world, including TESOL, TESL, DELTA, and more! There are also hundreds of thousands of TEFL jobs around the world in many different countries. Let’s discuss the similarities and differences between these programs and everything else you need to know to pursue a TEFL career.

What is Teaching English as a Foreign Language?

Probably the most well-known acronym, TEFL certification allows students to pursue careers that are abroad, as most TEFL jobs are located in non-English-speaking countries. Some countries you could work in include Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Spain, France, Germany, and more! With an accredited TEFL certification, you can teach students of all levels at a language institute or school, or you could be a private tutor; there are many job opportunities for students interested in TEFL. Here’s an overview of some other related TEFL programs and qualifications you could pursue:

  • TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language): Similar to TEFL, this option can help you reach your goal of teaching English abroad. The main difference is where you would be teaching. According to the International TEFL Academy, “A TESL certificate usually refers to people who plan to teach non-native English speakers living in a native English-speaking country,” like the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States, or Canada.
  • TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages): This is a broad qualification for teaching English to non-native speakers. TESOL can refer to both teaching in English-speaking countries (similar to TESL) and non-English-speaking countries (similar to TEFL).
  • CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults): This option is pretty straightforward. With a CELTA, you can teach English to adults abroad or locally.
  • DELTA (Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults): Similar to the CELTA, this path lets you teach English to adults abroad or locally. The main difference is that the DELTA is strictly for teachers who have at least one year of teaching experience.

Related: Go Global: How to Get Certified to Teach English Abroad

How to pursue a TEFL program

The next big question is, how does one get TEFL certified? Depending on the certification, each requirement is different. You should choose a program based on your interests and goals. For example, if you’re interested in teaching adults, the CELTA may be for you. If you’re interested in solely teaching abroad, check out the TEFL and TESOL certificates. It all depends on whether you would like to teach young learners vs. adults, the specific region you can or would like to teach in, and other preferences.

Obtaining a TEFL certificate has become easier over the years. When COVID-19 shut everything down back in 2020, many programs and certificates became available online. You can choose between online, in-person, or hybrid options to obtain your certificate. Please note that every academy, school, or organization has different offerings and education requirements, so be sure to research any you are interested in thoroughly.

Training and coursework

To acquire a simple TEFL certification, you are required to complete 120 hours of TEFL training with an accredited organization or academy. Your coursework and training will be essential to your career as an English teacher abroad. You’ll also learn things like teaching theory, lesson planning, and classroom management, and you may be required to complete a few hours of practice teaching to receive your certificate. The top recommended certification programs include:

Do you need a bachelor’s degree to Teach English as a Foreign Language?

One common question among prospective TEFL teachers is whether a college degree is required to teach English abroad. The answer varies depending on the country and the specific teaching position. Most countries don’t require a bachelor's degree to teach, but some countries like Japan and South Korea require a degree to be considered for a job as well as a working visa. Any degree and major are accepted.

Regardless of your educational background, obtaining your TEFL certification is a crucial step that can significantly enhance your employment prospects and prepare you for the teaching experience. Without one, you may have difficulties finding a teaching job abroad.

Pursuing a TEFL career abroad

Once you’ve obtained your TEFL certificate, the next step is to gather information about the country you’re interested in and the specific qualifications you need to be able to teach there. Next, a valid passport and visa are required. If you have questions about visas and which one you need to obtain, contact your certificate program or search the website of the school, organization, or company you’re interested in working with.

The final important requirement: You must be able to speak English to pursue a TEFL career! Non-native English speakers can pursue TEFL jobs, but the main requirement for those who speak English in addition to their first language is to hold an English level of C1 or higher. To determine this value, taking a TEFL English exam is highly recommended.

Another thing to note is that you do not have to speak the language of the country you’re interested in working in (unless it is otherwise noted in the job description). It is highly encouraged to learn the native language during your free time to be able to communicate with locals, but the only required language to know for the job is English.

Related: 5 Great Reasons You Should Become a Teacher

TEFL careers are perfect for students who are interested in traveling and teaching English! There are so many opportunities out there for those willing to take the jump. Secure your certificate, be financially prepared, get excited, and jump into the world of teaching English as a second language abroad!

Start searching for schools that offer TEFL certifications and English language instructor programs using our College Search tool!

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