10 Things to Know about Getting TEFL Certified

What is a certificate in TEFL? Do you need one to teach abroad? How do you get one and how much does it cost?

Keith Taylor
Choosing a 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 TEFL certificate at all? Here are 10 things you need to know about getting your TEFL certification:

  1. What is a certificate in TEFL?

    TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language, and a certificate in TEFL is, simply put, a qualification that enables you to do just this – Teach English as a Foreign Language. In other words, it enables you to teach English to people whose first language is not English.

    People learn English for all sorts of different reasons, and a TEFL certificate, in theory, allows you to teach all of them – children, adults, those just starting out, those at advanced level, business professionals… Individual employers, though, may have different requirements in terms of experience.

    Note: Not sure what some of these acronyms mean? Read our guide to TEFL acronyms and terms.

  2. Do you need to have a TEFL certificate to teach abroad?

    Most people take a TEFL certification so that they can teach English abroad. It is still possible in some countries to secure a job solely on the strength of being a native speaker of English (having English as your first language), particularly where the supply of teachers has trouble keeping up with demand. But these days are fading fast. Without a TEFL certificate, your employment options these days are severely limited.

    What’s more, 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. I like to use the analogy of a hairdresser for this. Imagine one who says to you “Well, I’ve used scissors all my life, I should be okay”. Would you, as a customer, feel happy putting yourself in this person’s hands? And would the hairdresser feel confident that they could give you a good haircut?

    So if you want to keep your employment options as open as possible, then getting TEFL qualified is an essential first step to teaching English abroad.

  3. How do you get a TEFL certificate?

    A TEFL certificate is what comes at the end of a TEFL course, so to get one, you first need to find, take and pass a TEFL course. And that’s where, for the uninitiated, things start to get murky, because as I mentioned above, there are hundreds to choose from. You’ll need to decide between:

    • an online TEFL course, an on-site one, or one that combines the two
    • a 4 week intensive course or a weekend or week long course
    • a course at home or in the country where you want to teach
    • a full time or part time TEFL course

    The most important thing when looking for a course to get that all-important TEFL certificate is to do your research and make an informed choice.

  4. What is the best way to get TEFL certified?

    Should you take an online TEFL course or an on-site one to get your TEFL certification? Generally speaking, there is a hierarchy of recognition and acceptance by employers when it comes to these different types of certificate.

    CELTA and Trinity Cert TESOL

    The most widely recognized and accepted entry-level TEFL certificates are the Cambridge CELTA and Trinity Cert TESOL. These are on-site courses of around 120 hours. 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. Employers who only accept CELTA and Trinity Cert TESOL certification may state this in job adverts.

    Other 120 hour on-site TEFL courses

    A large number of TEFL course providers offer courses of similar quality, duration and content to the CELTA and Trinity Cert TESOL, and these are almost as widely accepted by employers, who may state that they require “CELTA, Trinity Cert TESOL or equivalent” or something similar. Any reluctance from employers about accepting “equivalents” probably comes from not being sure exactly what is included in each individual course.

    Online TEFL courses

    Online courses, especially shorter ones, are less widely recognised and accepted by employers, and this is mainly because they don’t provide the opportunity to put theory into practice. On-site courses almost always come with at least 6 hours actually teaching real live students.

    But there are some very good quality online courses available. Some online courses include a teaching practice component favoured by employers, by means of remote video lessons or by including an on-site weekend component as part of the TEFL course.

    There are many threads in our training and courses Q&A discussing the pros and cons of on-site versus online courses.

  5. What do you need to do a TEFL course?

    This depends on the individual TEFL certification provider. 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.

    For a lot of on-site courses (and some online courses) you’ll need to fill out an application form for the TEFL course. You may need to complete a language awareness task to demonstrate that you have the ability to understand different aspects of the English language. TEFL certification providers aren’t looking for mastery of language use here, just awareness!) You may also have an interview.

  6. Do you have to have a degree to do a TEFL course?

    Again, whether or not you need a degree depends on the individual centre offering the TEFL certification course. Normally it’s not a requirement, although you should be aware that a degree is a requirement to teach English in quite a few countries. So the restriction of not having a degree normally comes at the job search stage, not at the certification stage.

  7. How much does it cost to do a TEFL certification course?

    To get TEFL certified can cost anywhere from £50 to £1500 or more. Online courses are cheaper because they don’t require the physical presence of tutors for a 4 week period or the hiring of premises, and other associated costs. I have seen short courses with a special offer running for £50, although the usual cost for online TEFL certification courses is between £150 and £400.

    4 week on-site courses usually cost between about £1000 and £1500.

    A higher cost TEFL course doesn’t automatically mean higher quality. Cost of on-site courses usually depends on the location (the cost of premises hire and tutor salaries are very different in Poland, Thailand and the UK).

  8. How long does a TEFL course last?

    On-site TEFL courses usually last 4 weeks. On a standard 4 week course you can expect the days to be very intensive, with a lot of work to be done in the evenings and at weekends too, preparing classes and writing assignments. Some courses are offered over 2, 3 or 5 weeks instead. With 2 or 3 week courses you should check carefully to be sure that this will be accepted by employers in countries where you want to teach. CELTA and Trinity Cert TESOL courses always last 4 (or 5) weeks when taken full time.

    There are also weekend or 3-day courses, sometimes designed as introductory courses, to give you a taste of TEFL to see if it’s for you before you take the plunge into a longer TEFL certification 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.

    Most online courses are sold as a number of hours of study. So one provider may offer 40, 80 and 120 hour online courses, for example. The time you take to do this of course depends on how fast and how often you work!

    Online TEFL courses, by their nature, can be taken part-time, and some on-site TEFL certification programs can be studied part-time as well. So the question “How long does it take to get a TEFL certificate” depends entirely on the type of course.

  9. What is a TEFL qualification equivalent to?

    The CELTA and Trinity Cert TESOL have both been regulated in the UK by Ofqual at Level 5 on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF). This is equivalent to an HND, Foundation degree, Diploma of Higher Education or level 5 NVQ.

    Some other courses are accredited by bodies with Ofqual ratings too. For example, Training Qualifications UK (TQUK) accredits some TEFL certification courses by some providers, also to level 5 on the RQF.

  10. What is the best TEFL certification course to do?

    So the best TEFL course for you depends on your individual circumstances. It should be one that is suitably accredited and has a good reputation, and will secure you a job in the place where you want to teach. Beyond that, though, your choice of TEFL course will depend on some or all of these things:

    • Your budget
    • Whether or not you need to work at the same time
    • Where you’re based (and whether there are courses nearby)
    • Whether you want to take the course in your home country or in the country where you want to teach

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Read next: TEFL accreditation: What is it and why is it important?

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Keith Taylor

Keith is the co-founder of Eslbase and School of TEFL. He's been a teacher and teacher trainer for over 20 years, in Indonesia, Australia, Morocco, Spain, Italy, Poland, France and now in the UK.

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  • Brenda McCutcheon

    I am 70yrs old and currently employed as self employed registered Counsellor. I have 2 degrees – BA (majors Education & psychology), BA Hons in psychology.
    Not wanting my brain to stagnate I would like to know more about online teaching English &/or any other subject which I would be qualified to teach (again on the online basis).

  • Ronald G Rowe

    I would like to know if there is an age limit to do the TEFL course and, should I pass, would my age be a factor to secure a job in, say China. I am 70 but closing fast on 71

    • Keith profile photo
      Keith Taylor

      Hi Ronald

      There is not normally an age limit to take a TEFL course. Age does become a factor with some employers when it comes to looking for work, most notably in Asia. (Sometimes employers are unable to secure work visas for teachers over a certain age, and sometimes they impose their own arbitrary limit). But there are still, thankfully, plenty of employers around the world who recruit regardless of age. So be prepared for a little bit of age-ism, but know that there are still a large number of potential employers for you.

      These forum posts may help too:

      Am I too old for TEFL
      Am I too old for TEFL (2)
      Over 40?
      57 & only an associates degree, should I bother?
      Am I too old/qualified?

      Hope that helps


  • Ntombifikile

    Hello, I have just completed my TEFL course and attained a certificate with TEFL South Africa. How to check its Accreditation by Ofqual?

    How to get Accredited to offer or open your Training Centre by Ofqual? What is the procedure?

    • Keith profile photo
      Keith Taylor

      Hi – did the TEFL course provider state that the course was accredited by Ofqual? If so, the certificate you received on completing the course may have this information on it. You can also search the Ofqual register here: https://register.ofqual.gov.uk/

      Hope this helps.

  • Anjana

    Hi I am Anjana from India. I have my bachelors degree in Functional English. And Masters in English and Comparative Literature. Currently I am doing BEd. Do I need a TEFL certificate to teach in Middle East?

    • Keith profile photo
      Keith Taylor

      Hi Anjana

      It will depend on the employer. For some, this may be enough, but others will insist on a TEFL certificate as well.

      Hope that helps.

      • Shivi

        Hi… I am Shivi from India
        I am interested in doing this course. I am a Science Graduate. Can you please recommend me an Online site where I can get this course?

  • Dr sujata tanwar

    Hy, I am Dr sujata tanwar from India, did my ph.d in plant genetics, always interested in learning new things, want to do tefl, kindly suggest me which would be best for me

    • Keith profile photo
      Keith Taylor

      Hi – what are your plans for after the course?

  • Jeffrey Ayre

    My Wife is a HTLA /and is working as a teaching assistant, and recently done a Master’s level 4 TEFL. However, we are not sure about doing the level 3 TEFL because we checked online and basically you need a degree to stand a chance to teach Online at home? is this true? It seems so. However, we are not 100% sure.

    • Keith profile photo
      Keith Taylor

      Hi Jeffrey
      Of the 5 online jobs currently listed here, 4 of them state that they require a degree. So with some research you may find some employers that don’t require one. There’s a list of online language schools that you could get in touch with here.
      Hope this helps.


    Undoubtedly, TEFL/TESOL certificate is a brilliant one for those who are keenly interested to teach English online to the non-native speakers all over the world. I’ll try my level best to pass & get this one anyhow. I’ve come to know that TEFL/TESOL will be very beneficial for me to teach them. Thanks a lot. Tawhid

  • Earle Smith

    Dear Sir/Madam.
    I have private teaching experience, an NVQ 706/1 in Catering and Hospitality, a Diploma in Environmental Health and a Level 3 Education and Training certificate. Can you tell me what would I have to do next to get TEFL accreditation? Thank you.

    • Keith profile photo
      Keith Taylor

      Hi Earle

      Is your teaching experience related to TEFL, or in another field? Did the level 3 certificate include any TEFL?

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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?

  • 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.

      • Eduardo

        I don’t completely agree. Celta is widely known in Asia in the private sector. I lived and worked there in the private sector for 7 years. However, it is not a qualification for what in the US is known as the public school sector, or State Schools in the UK.

        Still, a MA in Tesol or Applied Linguistics would be a better bet for either the public or private sector.

        The Celta isn’t that expensive. I’d be curious to see any 120 hour courses which are under 1000 euros/dollars. Time intensive yes, but after one month one is ready to go out and teach. Not many other courses can promise that.

  • 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?

    • Eduardo

      Hi Bouzidi,

      I think you could do a course anyway, without doing an English course. The main thing is that during teaching practice, you know and can demonstrate what you’re talking about, grammar-wise, lexis-wise etc.

      On my Celta course there was a young woman from the Netherlands and she had a bilingual dictionary with her at all times.

      Also, on module 2 of the Delta, there were 5 people who were not native speakers but who were expert English users. Good luck!

    • 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,

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