TEFL Training Survey

TEFL Training Survey

In 2012 we conducted a survey to find out more about teachers’ experiences of TEFL courses. We asked them what kind of course they studied, why, and what they thought of it. Over two thousand teachers took the survey. Here’s what they said.

Have you done a TEFL course?

More than one in three teachers who responded have not taken a TEFL course but intend to do so. Of these, 35% are already working as teachers and 65% are new to the profession.
For those who have already taken a course, the CELTA and Trinty Cert TESOL proved the most popular, with 36% choosing one of these two courses. 28% chose another classroom-based course and 17% chose an online course, with or without a classroom component.

A high proportion of those who haven’t yet taken a course are thinking of taking an online course, with 40% saying they will probably go down this route. This is far higher than the 17% of those who’ve taken a course who actually studied online.

Just 18% are thinking of taking a CELTA or Trinity Cert TESOL. Again, this is very different to the 36% of those who’ve taken a course. This suggests that a large number change their minds while researching courses, choosing a classroom-based rather than online option.

26% don’t know yet which type of course they want to take.

Why do you want to take a TEFL course?

We also asked the respondents who haven’t taken a course yet why they intend to take one. For 68%, the main motivation is to pursue a serious teaching career. 17% said the main reason was professional development or to improve career prospects, and 12% wanted to try out teaching to see where it leads. The opportunity to travel is the main motivation for just 6%.

Why did you choose your course?

Next, we asked which factors influenced teachers in their choice of course. The most important factor turns out to be whether or not the course has accreditation. The cost of the course, the location and the course content come in next.

Here are some other answers:

  • “I was already a qualified teacher teaching foreign students, so only needed the TEFL qualification on paper.”
  • “It was offered by the school I was working for at the time.”
  • “Tutor – highly respected in the field.”
  • “The school was well known for its high standards.”
  • “Additional extras eg. free gym, 1 week free Spanish lessons.”
  • “Reputation of the course internationally.”
  • “I wanted the convenience of home-study.”
  • “Lots of good job offers asked for same / similar qualification.”

Interestingly, if we look just at the answers given by those who haven’t yet taken a course, 32% cited cost as the most important factor, with accreditation next at 30%. The professionalism of the website of the course provider came in third at 15%.

How did you find out about your course?

We asked those who have taken a course how they found out about it and how much teaching experience they already had. The vast majority found the course through the internet (40%) or by a recommendation (35%). About 39% had no experience, but over 50% were already teaching when they took the course, and 23% had been teaching for more than 3 years.

How did you find the duration of the course?

Of those who took a 4 week course or longer, 40% studied part time. 80% thought the duration was just right, and 13% thought it was too short. Just 2% thought it was too long. Some of the reasons people thought the course was too short were:

  • “Too much information to absorb in such a short time. Six weeks would have been better.”
  • “Not enough time to be confident in the practical work.”
  • “They were interested in getting you through the class in the minimum amount of time.”
  • “The amount of work crammed into such a short time period was really exhausting.”
  • “In retrospect, I was NOT ready to teach all levels. However, as a result, the learning curve ON THE JOB was steep.”
  • “Because it’s such a vast subject that we only touched the surface.”
  • “Too much pressure. Madness.”
  • “Great resources and information, but as you know, you don’t become a teacher in four weeks!”

Course content

We asked everyone how much opportunity they had to put theory into practice (including writing lesson plans, creating materials and actual teaching practice) during the course. We asked them to rate this on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being 100% theory, and 10 being 100% practical. Here are the results for those who took a CELTA or Trinity Cert TESOL:

15% of these thought that there was not enough theory.
4% thought there was too much.
23% thought there was not enough practical content.
1% thought there was too much.

Other classroom-based courses show a similar emphasis on practical content. However, 41% thought that this practical content was not enough, and 19% thought that the amount of theory was too high.

For those who took an online course, 51% thought that there was not enough practical content.

Course cost

One in three paid between £500 and £1000 for their course, with significant number (23%) paying over £1000. 15% received either partial or total funding for their course. 7% of those who took a CELTA or Trinity Cert TESOL didn’t think it was good value for money. This figure rises to 10% for other classroom-based courses and 12% for online courses. Some of the reasons given include:

CELTA / Trinity Cert TESOL

  • “Too many in the class – we were 18 crammed into a small classroom.”
  • “The pay back period is too long for me.”
  • “It soon became clear that as long as you complete the course you will pass.”
  • “There was little individual attention from course tutors.”
  • “CELTA is just a name. I got equivalent teaching instruction and practice in a course in another course for free. That course didn’t have the right letters though.”
  • “There were lots of other things to pay for, photocopying etc for the classes.”

Other classroom-based courses

  • “The theoretical content was disorganised and poorly delivered by this course provider.”
  • “The feedback we got was really poor, especially at the end. Half of the course participants failed without any prior warning.”
  • “The actual contact with staff fell far far short of the time ‘bought’ by the students collectively.”
  • “The location and classrooms were terrible… and they did nothing to help place you with a job. I was not looking for them to hold my hand but a 30 minute career day was a joke.”

Online courses

  • “The range of materials was either Mickey Mouse or way beyond the requirements of a pre-teaching course.”
  • “I got very little assistance in my studies apart from feedback when I turned in my exercises.”
  • “The promises of help to find a placement were non-existent.”
  • “I didn’t feel I actually got much out of it and felt that the instructors didn’t know much more than me.”
  • “Modules were too short and the content of some was very poor.”
  • “Lots of info could be accessed free on internet.”

After the course

We asked teachers if they felt ready for the classroom after their course. 68% of those who took an online course felt ready for the classroom by the end. This figure goes up to 72% for other classroom-based courses and 83% for CELTA and Trinity Cert TESOL.

We then asked if teachers experienced any difficulties with employers not recognising or accepting their qualification. Of those who looked for a job, only about 6% of CELTA and Trinity Cert TESOL graduates experienced difficulties. For other classroom-based courses the figure is 9%, and 14% of those who took an online course experienced some difficulty with employers.

Finally, we asked teachers if they would choose the same course again, and whether or not they’ve taken another qualification since their initial one.

36% have taken a further qualification of some kind, ranging from CELTA (for those who took an online or other classroom-based course), to TKT, to Diploma in TESOL, to MA in TESOL.
76% would take the same course again.
88% for CELTA / Trinity Cert TESOL.
67% for other classoom-based courses.
63% for online courses.

Of those who took an online course and wouldn’t choose the same course again, 59% would choose a CELTA, 12% would choose a different classroom based course and 18% would choose an online course again.

Written by Keith Taylor
Keith is the founder of Eslbase. He has been an English teacher and teacher trainer for over 15 years.


  1. Olga Cristina Bermudez Cely

    Is there any possibility to take the course by Internet without paying (for students with a low income)?

    • esl base

      That’s a good question… If anyone knows of a free online course, please add a comment.

      • Deirdre

        There aren’t any free courses like that and if you do happen upon one you better ask about the worth of the course. You should receive a diploma affiliated with a university. I don’t see how that’s going to be free.

        • David Karky

          I took a correspondence course at BSY, Devon. It did cost something but it wasn’t so expensive. It was hard work, doing a job and sitting around piles of books. But luckily, I already had some experience of teaching and that was a big help. You get the materials from the school and have to do a test after each “lesson”, send it to your tutor who corrects it and comments on the work, at the end you have to write a thesis type of work and when you pass, you get a diploma. Good luck.

  2. Anne

    I’ve been involved in teaching and assessing CELTA courses for over 20 years. I also took a CELTA course myself as a student in the late seventies. I firmly believe there is no better course in the world. Yes it’s stressful – 4 weeks of a hellish amount of work, but you learn so much! I watch candidates teach their first lesson, blushing and mumbling – 4 weeks later they are planning a well staged lesson and delivering it with confidence. Of course they still have a lot to learn on the job but they have learnt so much in such a short time. Also, unlike the TESOL , it is quite tightly regulated by the exam board. I would recommend it to anyone. And, by the way, people do fail sometimes.

    • Ian

      I took a UK RSA certificate course in the early 1980s. It was a good course but it was very eurocentric and of limited practical value in east Asia.The course is only an introduction,much greater study is needed to develop as a teacher.

  3. Bill

    I agree, ideally you want to do a TESOL course affiliated to a university, or the CELTA or Trinity. You should have 120 hours of onsite teaching, and 6 or more hours of teaching practice. The teaching practice component is invaluable. I even believe a blended learning course that has theory, methodology and language areas delivered through distance, with an onsite teaching practice component, is preferable to an onsite course without teaching practice.

  4. Keith Howell

    My TEFL course was through i-to-i, compiled and directed by the universities of Cambridge and Oxford, and it was extremely difficult. Having said that, I also think it was well worth the effort — and the money. It was entirely on-line, but vetted by a number of pre-certified guides.
    I have NOT taught abroad — which was my goal. I also do NOT have a degree, although I have compiled curriculum for university (Communications 340, on the invitation of the university, and vetted through both Admin and the Faculty of Arts) and taught the class for a number of semesters.
    I would advise everyone who might be interested in teaching abroad to do it, and do it sooner, rather than later.
    I have been teaching to Taiwan for two years now (on-line), and am approaching 800 classes. I love it, although I would rather do it in-country.
    SOME PLACES are requesting you not be more than 30-years of age. This is becoming a major consideration, especially for those of us who are older.
    I do have international experience, but as a media management specialist/press attache, covering East Africa (conflict areas, mid 1990s, and Europe/Africa (Abolition of Land Mines campaign).

    THANKS for the opportunity to “post” a LONGER note!

  5. Timi ben

    I have taught english in africa but when i wanted to get a similar job in the gulf region i was told i required a tesl or celta. I have a degree in english.I was told that there are no centres for the course in my location Nigeria. A friend had to go to England to do the course which was expensive.I was wondering if the British council or High commission could organize such courses in their location. this would make it easy for those who are intersted in the course.

    • Niki M

      Hi I just read your comment and noticed that you mentioned having a degree in English. Regardless of this they still required a TEFL or CELTA is this correct?

  6. Kevin O'Neill

    Hi, this is an inquiry not a comment. I’m considering taking my Tefl training in Cambodia. I’ve visited there twice and would like to move there. I’ve narrowed my choice of schools to either language corps or international tefl academy in Phnom Penh. Anybody out there with any knowledge or experience of either of the two schools?

  7. Terence

    Hi there, I am a young cameroonian wishing to move to Japan to teach English. I am native English speaking and I hold a Bachelors in Economics and Management sciences. I currently live in Dubai and work as a waiter in an American casual dining restaurant. I got no TEFL certificate. Any advice for me?

  8. Rory

    I did a CELTA course in Milan, Italy. It was online, but we ended up spending the majority of the last month in face to face lessons and observing others – as I had time to attend observations etc. it ended up being the best of both worlds.

  9. Niki M

    Hi, I am 51 and would like to teach in Vietnam or Columbia. I mentioned theses places as I do NOT have a degree. I have a GED from the USA. I have been working as a Cosmetologist for 20 years. How ever I would like to change careers. I do plan on doing this until I retire. (As long as I can work, eventually or simultaneously, work online)
    I do want to get the CELTA (I plan on doing it in South Africa, I am South Afrrican) as I would like to teach older students as well, especially once I have a few years experience.
    Do you think this is a good idea for me because I don’t have any degree versus doing a TEFL?
    I also heard that age is an issue however is this just for teaching younger kids?
    The other option for me might be teaching iTEFL classes online or abroad or recruiting for an agency at a later date.

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