Which TEFL course?


Search for TEFL courses and you’ll get a mind-boggling array of choices, making it difficult to know where to start. So, what’s the difference between all these courses, is there a “best” one to take, and do you really need a certificate at all?

Do I need to get qualified?

It is still possible in some countries to secure a job solely on the strength of being a native English speaker, particularly where supply of teachers has trouble keeping up with demand. However, these days are fading fast, as they should be. You deserve to be equipped and feel confident that you know what you’re doing when you step into the classroom for the first time, and your students deserve the same. So if you want to keep your employment options as open as possible, then getting qualified is an essential first step.

Which course should I take?

The most widely recognized and accepted entry-level TEFL certificates are the Cambridge CELTA and Trinity Cert TESOL. These are classroom-based courses of around 120 hours*, and involve six or more hours of observed teaching practice. They are usually studied over a very intensive four week period and involve a lot of work outside the classroom, preparing classes and writing assignments. (Most CELTA and Trinity graduates will attest to sacrificing their social life and being totally consumed by TEFL for the duration.)

* Edit – The CELTA is now also offered online with face to face teaching practice.

The application process for these courses usually involves an application form, a language awareness task and an interview.  Although requirements vary for each individual centre, in general you should be at least 18 years old and have sufficient  educational qualifications to gain entry to higher education. If you are a non-native speaker of English you should be able to demonstrate a high level of English language skills.

On a CELTA or Trinity course you will learn a good deal about teaching theory and methodology, and have some chance to put it  into practice. You will learn some grammar, but don’t expect to be an expert by the end of the course – this mostly comes in your first few years of teaching.

A large number of institutions offer courses of similar duration and content to the CELTA and Trinity Cert TESOL, and many  employers worldwide accept these as equivalent qualifications.

There are also many shorter classroom-based and online courses available, which may better suit your budget, and can give you greater flexibility. Some online courses include a teaching practice component favoured by many employers, by means of remote video lessons or by including a classroom-based weekend as part of the course.

There are many threads in the training and courses forum discussing the pros and cons of classroom-based versus online courses.

There are even courses specifically designed as introductory courses, to give you a “taster” of TEFL, to see if it’s for you before you take the plunge into a longer program.

A further option is an MA in TESOL, a route commonly followed in the US. As with most Masters degrees, these take one year or longer and consequently tend to cover theory and methodology in greater detail.

The most important thing to remember is that requirements vary from country to country and from employer to employer. Shorter and online courses, for example, do not enjoy such widespread recognition and acceptance by employers as 120 hour classroom-based courses. So you should research the requirements of employers where you want to teach before deciding on a course, to be sure that the one you choose will be accepted by employers in those countries.

Do I have to study full time?

Most classroom-based TEFL certificate programs are four to six weeks. These are intensive courses requiring a lot of energy and motivation. But many centres recognise that this full-time option does not suit everyone and offer part-time, distance or online courses which can be taken over several months or longer.

Where can I study?

Courses are offered in many different countries worldwide. Studying in Bangkok or Prague, for example, can give you the advantage of the centre’s connections with local schools when it comes to finding employment, and many course providers offer help with finding a job as part of the deal.

How can I find a course?

Have a look at the TEFL course directory to get started. You’ll find over 1500 courses in over 80 countries worldwide. Have a look too at some of the threads in the training and courses forum for teachers’ experiences of the different types of course.

Need more help?

Dig deeper into all the points mentioned in this article with 6 questions to ask when choosing a TEFL course.


  1. Bouzidi Sofyene

    Hello, I am a citizen of Algeria. I have a bachelor’s degree in English Literature. I would like to take a TEFL course but am I eligible, knowing that my speaking skill is a bit weak, since at university there was a huge focus on reading and writing, and not on listening and speaking. The second question is: Are there courses that prepare students for the TEFL course? In other words, a program which enables the student to enhance his level in the four skills including grammar, in order to be able to pursue a TEFL course?

    • Cristina Merino

      Hi Bouzidi, What you could do is take 6 months part time course in an English spoken country. This way will ensure to naturally improve your listening and speaking skills while enjoying an experience abroad. You can check some CELTA courses via Cambridge. Here’s the link to their school database: http://cambridgeesol-centres.org/centres/teaching/index.do Hope this helps.
      All the best,

  2. Emad Aysha

    Does TEFL qualify you to teach at the ‘school’ level? And does it qualify you to teach in general, all subjects, or just ‘English language’. I asked the British Council in Egypt about CELTA and they told me it only qualifies you to teach English, to ‘adults’, and won’t necessarily be accepted by British schools in Egypt (IGCSE).

    I’ve been applying for teaching posts in Egypt, I’m a university professor originally, and they tell me over and over again that you need a certificate from the British Council. I can understand that when it comes to teaching English language, but what about Social Studies or History or Economics?!

    • Ian

      I taught in Korea, China and Taiwan. It depends on where you want to teach. CELTA is actually not that recognized in much of Asia.

      See this girl who took a CELTA course comments on that: https://youtu.be/r1LQrQMZlpg?t=2m38s
      CELTA is considered a good course by many, however CELTA is time intensive and expensive. It’s generally not a replacement for a teaching license or experience.

  3. Rehnuma Tara

    Hello, I’m a citizen of Bangladesh. I have a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in English Literature. If i take the TEFL course and get the certificate, will i be able to teach English in north african countries like Algeria?

  4. Mario Reyes

    Hello, I´m from Colombia. I have a degree in Modern Languages and a diploma in ICT. I would like to get more information about these kinds of course. I’m truly interested in travelling to Malta, because I have received so many good comments about this country. Could you send me more info to my mail?

    thank you

  5. Mrs Abubakar

    Hello, I am from KSA; I wanna collect information regarding CELTA; actually I am cordialy interested in CELTA, and I have teaching experience too and I am also a degree holder and my speaking module and writing module are perfect, but unfortunately, I am not quite good in reading module even though, I practice alot but I couldn’t bring it off. MY question is this: should reading also be an eligibility for CELTA and is it difficult to get admission in CELTA and what I am supposed to do for getting admission in CELTA?? I willingly want to be a CELTA holder. Please assist me.

  6. MissTEFL

    Hello! What are some of your expected features in an online TEFL course? Has anybody here tried it? What can you say about it?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.