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10 Steps to TEFL Certification

by Kaz Weida
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

If you’re considering a TEFL certification, you probably know what the abbreviation means. For the uninitiated, TEFL is an acronym for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. There are lots of reasons why native English speakers and non-native English speakers might choose to teach English abroad. Before we dive into those, let’s explore a few TEFL certification basics.

What is TEFL certification?

If you want to teach English in another country where it’s not the native language, you’ll usually be required to hold a TEFL certification. It can be a creative way to fund traveling the world, and there are many private schools, online programs, and government organizations that recruit TEFL certified teachers.

TEFL courses abound, but this internationally recognized certification has to adhere to strict requirements that include the following:

  • 100 hours of coursework
  • 6-20 hours of live practice teaching with observation
  • Accredited curriculum

In addition to teaching English as a foreign language abroad, TEFL certifications are usually attractive resume builders for anyone who wants to go into a career in ESL (English as a Second Language).

What’s the difference between TEFL and TESOL certification?

When it comes to practical application, there isn’t a big difference between TEFL and TESOL certifications. TESOL stands for Teaching English Speakers of Other Languages. While TEFL certification is intended for anyone who wants to teach English in foreign countries, TESOL is specifically geared towards those teaching English in both non-native and English-speaking countries. A TESOL certification might be more appropriate for those who want placements in the UK, Canada, Australia, or the U.S., but it has similar requirements to TEFL, and the terms are used interchangeably abroad.

How long does it take to get a TEFL certification?

The time it takes to complete TEFL certification varies by program and by student, but on average you should expect to spend at least three months completing the coursework and practicum. Some students choose to do TEFL courses online to allow them the flexibility to accelerate learning, but be careful to select a program that will meet the minimum requirements of the country in which you plan to teach.

How much does it cost to get a TEFL certification?

TEFL certification costs also vary widely, mostly because programs operate both online and in traditional classroom settings. In-class options are generally more expensive and can average upwards of $1,000, while online courses tend to offer cheaper choices that average somewhere between $500 and $900. Professional TESOL certifications can also be more expensive because of the additional coursework (up to 120 hours) and practicum hours required.

TEFL certification in 10 steps

If you’re interested in what’s involved in getting TEFL certified, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s do a deep dive into each step of the TEFL process, including not only deciding on a TEFL certification program but also considering job placement strategies and long-term career options.

Step 1: Decide if TEFL certification is what you need

The first step is to consider why you want a TEFL certification and what you plan to do with it. Those who are pursuing TEFL certification for careers in ESL will likely want to evaluate programs with stricter criteria than those who want to use certification to fund their travel bucket list. Once you’ve decided where you’re likely to teach, research the requirements for the country you’ll work in. Decide if you need TESOL or TEFL certification and whether you’re likely to get a job placement if you’ve taken courses online.

Step 2: Meet the enrollment requirements for a TEFL certification program

There are only three conditions you need to meet to enroll in a TEFL certification program. 

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Have a high school diploma
  • Speak English proficiently (testing required for non-native speakers)

Contrary to what you might have expected, you do not need to be a native speaker of English or have a college diploma to obtain a TEFL certificate.

TESOL certificates are a bit different. These programs do require completion of a bachelor’s degree and may involve additional application requirements such as an interview.

Step 3: Budget for the cost of TEFL certification

We’ve given you some averages for TEFL certification programs, so take some time to do the math and make sure you can afford the coursework. If you’re currently a student, you may be able to direct some money from your subsidized or unsubsidized loans and put it towards TEFL coursework. If you decide to cut corners for financial reasons and go with a lower-cost online option, double and triple check the program to make sure it’ll meet the requirements for your preferred placement.

Step 4: Find the right TEFL certification courses for you 

The right TEFL certification course is going to be a combination of quality, personal preference, cost, and convenience. Evaluate certification programs with the following criteria in mind.

  • Does it fit your schedule? No matter the cost or the requirements, if you’re trying to hold down a full-time job, you’ll need a certification program with flexibility.
  • Is it accredited? While online courses may be convenient for your schedule, locations with stiff competition want an accredited program that not only meets certification requirements but has good standing in the international community.
  • Is it affordable? Some programs may look more prestigious, but carefully consider if the cost is worth it. If the kinds of placements you’re seeking don’t require additional coursework or more rigorous teaching experience, opt for low-budget options.
  • Are there job placement resources? Be wary of any TEFL certification that guarantees job placement, but do look for programs that offer job search advice and support.
  • Does it meet the minimum requirements for certification? A quickie course of 20 or 40 hours is not going to give you a recognized TEFL certification. One hundred hours is a minimum requirement for certification, but 120 hours is preferable because it also covers both mandatory visa stipulations.

Step 5: Carefully screen and verify your TEFL providers

Start with online Yelp, Google, and Facebook reviews to screen TEFL providers but don’t stop there. Look for complaints filed through the Better Business Bureau and ratings on Trustpilot. It’s also worthwhile to scan a few best TEFL certification programs lists to see if the course you’re considering shows up.

Step 6: Apply to the TEFL provider of your choice 

Depending on the TEFL or TESOL certification you’ve decided to pursue, the application process may be rigorous. For many programs you’ll be required to provide a high school or college diploma, valid identification, and English proficiency test scores for non-native English speakers. Often TEFL certification programs have short application periods, so be ready to hit the ground running.

Step 7: Complete your TEFL certification course

Once you’ve been accepted, gear up for the extra coursework and start studying. For native English speakers with high school diplomas, the hardest part will likely be time management. For non-native speakers whose English proficiency scores just barely made the cut, the coursework may be more challenging.

Step 8: Put your plan in place

Whether you’ve been scrambling to get your TEFL certification so you can kick your plans to travel abroad into high gear or you’re using it to beef up your resume for jobs in the ESL field, now is the time to plot your course. Decide what you need to do now, like securing a visa, to make your goals for teaching English a reality. 

Step 9: Find a job placement

At some point, you’ll want to put that certification you paid for to good use. It’s likely your TEFL certification provider can point you in the right direction towards resources for job placement, but first spruce up your resume a bit and secure a few letters of recommendation. Then you can start haunting the job boards and contacting schools to find the perfect destination for your TEFL adventure. 

Can Rosetta Stone Help Me Earn My TEFL Certification?

While Rosetta Stone doesn’t directly offer TEFL certification, our English lessons can certainly be helpful for non-native speakers who want to teach English abroad. If you’re trying to prepare for the English proficiency exams (TOEFL or IELTS) brushing up on advanced vocabulary and conversation skills is always a good idea. Rosetta can also be useful for native English speakers who’d like to learn the language of the country in which they’ll be teaching.Non-native speakers may also benefit from live tutoring sessions, which are either one-on-one or small group interactions with an experienced and proficient native speaker. Because these sessions take place entirely in the target language, they can provide an extra confidence boost for those attempting to pass the proficiency exams and embark on earning a TEFL certification.

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