According to TEFL Org, as of February 2019, over 1 billion people receive English language instruction. Earning a certification for teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) can lead to landing remote positions and teaching opportunities around the world. A TEFL certification marks the minimum qualification to earn a job teaching English as a foreign language. However, most jobs require that candidates hold a bachelor’s degree along with a certification.
TEFL positions draw individuals wishing to travel internationally and broaden their horizons. The certification can also benefit those desiring to stay in the U.S. Many opportunities exist for individuals to use their TEFL certification to teach English online. As of May 2021, PayScale reports an average annual salary of $45,970 for teachers specializing in English as a second language (ESL).
Earning a certification for teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) can lead to landing remote positions and teaching opportunities around the world.
The top five online TEFL certification programs below provide a good starting point for those interested in pursuing TEFL positions.
What is TEFL?
TEFL stands for teaching English as a foreign language. TEFL instructors teach students residing in countries where English is not their native language. The TEFL industry evolved from the study of Latin and French over 230 years ago.
TEFL instructors are increasingly in demand since English became the global language for business. Colleges and independent institutions offer TEFL certification programs. The certification can lead to job opportunities in dozens of countries located throughout Asia, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.
Why Get an Online TEFL Certification?
An online TEFL certification offers several benefits compared to a traditional English degree. Students can earn a TEFL certification much faster than a college degree. The typical full-time programs last from 2-16 weeks. TEFL programs can also cost substantially less than a degree. The price of comprehensive packages can start as low as $180.
TEFL certifications can lead to various job opportunities. TEFL programs prepare learners for jobs abroad, but domestic and remote positions exist as well. Earning a TEFL certification online provides the same flexibility as online degrees.
Online TEFL certifications feature the following benefits:
- Strengthens Your CV: A TEFL certification can boost the odds of landing future jobs. TEFL courses teach universal soft skills such as leadership, project management, and interpersonal skills. TEFL also focuses on cross-cultural communication, an invaluable skill in a global market.
- Remote Opportunities: Many TEFL certifications include courses that focus on teaching English online (TEO). Remote teaching positions rose in popularity over the last several years. Teaching online can provide flexibility and a wider selection of jobs not limited by location.
- Experience the World: Earning a TEFL certification can lead to several English-teaching jobs overseas. Employers from over 80 countries provide English teaching opportunities where TEFL instructors can meet new people, experience different cultures, and broaden their horizons.
The Difference Between TEFL, TESL, and TESOL
While looking for TEFL programs, applicants might come across several other terms in the industry. Two acronyms appear similar to TEFL: teaching English as a second language (TESL) and teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL).
All professionals working in a TEFL, TESL, or TESOL position fall under the umbrella term of English language teachers. According to Payscale, ESL teacher salaries range from $31,000 – $66,000 as of May 2021. The chart below explains the minor differences between a TEFL, TESL, and TESOL certification.
Comparing English Language Teaching Certifications
|TEFL Certification||TESL Certification||TESOL Certification|
|Target Demographic||Teachers who want to instruct students living in countries where English is not a native language||Teachers who want to instruct students in a country where English is a native language||Teachers who want to instruct anyone learning English as a second language|
|Job Location||Foreign or non-English speaking countries||English-speaking countries such as the U.K., Canada, Australia||Foreign or English-speaking countries, such as the U.S.|
|Educational Qualification Awarded||Certification or diploma||Certification or diploma||Certification, endorsement, or degree|
|Average Pay||Varies by country||Varies by country||Varies by country|
Featured Online Schools
What To Expect From a TEFL Certification
TEFL certification programs come in hybrid, online, or in-person formats. A single school might provide multiple TEFL course packages to choose from. Each package can include a different price, topics of study, and amount of coursework. The courses can also result in different levels of certifications.
Professional TEFL curriculums usually entail 120-300 hours of coursework or more. Some schools might offer basic or specialized programs ranging from 20-100 hours. However, those programs might not give students the professional qualifications needed for a job. High-quality curriculums often include 6-20 hours of hands-on experience teaching or observing a classroom setting with ESL students.
Professional TEFL curriculums usually entail 120-300 hours of coursework or more.
In comprehensive courses, participants can learn from an instructor with a master’s in TESOL or an equivalent qualification. TEFL program participants divide their time between learning teaching methods and reviewing English grammar. Supplemental courses cover online teaching and tutoring methods, while comprehensive packages may include these topics within the program.
Online courses often include access to course materials and video guides paired with worksheets, quizzes, tests, and other assignments. TEFL institutions may also provide career services and advisors.
How Much Does a TEFL Certification Cost?
Many TEFL programs are part of course packages. The same school or institution can offer several different packages that vary from supplemental courses to full professional programs.
The cost of professional TEFL programs starts at $315 and can reach $2,750 depending on the institution and course length. The higher-priced packages may include additional course materials and features, such as study guides and career services. For example, the 300 hour TEFL Diploma package at i-to-i advertises a guaranteed job interview while its lower-tier packages do not.
Many independent TEFL institutions are not eligible for FAFSA or the GI Bill®. However, each program may feature independent payment plans, scholarships, grants, and fellowships. Some government-sponsored teach abroad programs, like JET Japan, may also provide financial aid and other benefits to participants.
Getting a Job Teaching English Abroad
An international TEFL job can satisfy a person’s sense of wanderlust. However, obtaining a TEFL job abroad takes a lot of planning. The International TEFL Academy (ITA) estimates a 3-6 month period between beginning a TEFL program and starting a job abroad (based on its own courses). The ITA strongly recommends that students contact a TEFL program advisor after registering to establish clear career goals and begin planning for their trip.
English teachers can train business professionals or teach in classroom settings with age groups that span children to adults. TEFL employees can also become private tutors. Along with a TEFL certification, some employers might require postsecondary degrees up to a master’s. TEFL jobs may include benefits such as prearranged living quarters and reimbursement for travel expenses.
The average salary varies drastically with the location. According to ITA, average monthly salaries can begin as low as $300 and reach as high as $5,000. Wages tend to break even in average monthly salary versus average monthly cost of living. Applicants should research currency exchange rates and living costs for each potential destination.
The ITA strongly recommends that students contact a TEFL program advisor after registering to establish clear career goals and begin planning for their trip.
TEFL markets feature peak hiring seasons that vary depending on the region and country. For example, Latin America and Europe focus on two major hiring periods, while Asia’s market often hires throughout the year. Most paid jobs last from 6-12 months with the possibility to renew the contract.
Specific qualifications and necessary preparations can also vary depending on the job location. Applicants must coordinate with employers and arrange documents such as a passport, work visas, and copies of academic records. In some cases, employers require criminal or background checks. Travelers should also stay current on vaccinations and check with a doctor well in advance for any additional required immunizations.
Teaching abroad includes additional upfront costs, such as travel. Teachers working abroad should prepare additional funds for start-up expenses until they receive their first paycheck.
How COVID-19 Impacts Teaching Abroad
The COVID-19 pandemic can impact current and future opportunities to teach abroad. However, earning a TEFL remains a valid career choice.
Teaching English online programs actually rose in popularity during quarantine. TEFL certificate-holders can teach remotely until traveling abroad becomes safe again. The increasing prevalence of remote teaching does not seem likely to fade. Compared to in-person work, remote jobs provide a flexible schedule and convenient living situation.
As the availability of vaccines increases and the world begins to reopen, prospective TEFL certificate candidates can consider future opportunities. A comprehensive TEFL program can take half a year or more to complete. Finding a position abroad and preparing to travel takes considerable time as well.
Be sure to check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘s travel recommendations for an updated list of safe travel destinations.
Choosing the Right TEFL Certification Program
Accreditation is the biggest factor in choosing a TEFL program. However, some countries might not recognize all accreditations. No universal regulations exist for TEFL programs and positions. Therefore, it is important for prospective students to research an institution’s accreditation to ensure it is recognized by a reputable agency.
Students looking to teach in the U.S. must seek programs recognized by the Department of Education. Those who wish to teach abroad should first decide where they want to teach before selecting a TEFL program.
Applicants should look at a TEFL institution’s website for a list of the countries and entities that honor its certifications. TEFL students might want to research a country’s TEFL requirements. Program advisors can also help applicants understand the job opportunities available with a specific certification.
A quality TEFL program should offer career guidance services and resources long after a student earns their certification. Prospective students can contact the institution’s admission advisors with additional questions. Many programs also provide free webinars.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get a TEFL certification?
You can earn a TEFL certification after completing a TEFL program offered by a college or independent institution. Not all TEFL courses result in a certification, so be sure to review the program’s website or contact an admission advisor.
How long does TEFL certification take?
A full-time TEFL certification program can take as little as 2-16 weeks, depending on the credit hours. Online programs may last longer or provide self-paced options for schedule flexibility. Most professional TEFL certifications require at least 120 hours of coursework.
What can you do with TEFL certification?
A TEFL certification can prepare you to teach English to students while living abroad. You can also teach English remotely. TEFL positions include working at schools, training facilities, or as private tutors.
Is online TEFL certification worth it?
Yes, an online TEFL certification is worth it for those with interest in teaching English as a second language. The versatile TEFL job market provides opportunities to travel abroad or work remotely. The global demand for English teachers does not seem likely to fade soon.
The Top Online TEFL Certifications
The following ranking represents the top five best online TEFL certification programs. These schools were selected via research based on the best elements of an accredited online TEFL certification. In the event of a tie, the lower-cost program is ranked higher on the list.
Rating and Ranking Methodology
- Quality of online classroom portal and learning resources (1-3 points)
- Student-teaching practicum or similar experiential learning opportunities (1-4 points)
- Range of TEFL/TESOL/TESL courses that provide an accredited, reputable certification (1-3 points)
- Quality and breadth of job placement opportunities (1-4 points)
- Graduate testimonials and reviews (1-4 points)
- An additional point was awarded for noteworthy features that made it a top TEFL certification online
Program Cost: $139.00 – $349.00
myTEFL brings over 35-years of teacher training experience, providing both online and onsite certification programs. myTEFL has a strong history of job placements around the world. Online certification programs offer several tracks ranging from 40-140 hours. The 40-hour TEFL online certification covers fundamental classroom management. The 60-hour TEFL certification online emphasizes teaching techniques and methods. The 120- and 140-hour advanced certificates include curriculum development and test design. All myTEFL course programs offer 24/7 curriculum access, tutor support, technical support, and full library access.Program Website
Program Cost: $599 – $1,499
Established in 1994, i-to-i is a teacher training company known particularly for its hands-on, student-centered approach to TEFL education. i-to-i is the first teaching abroad company to offer a two-day teaching course. Employers on a global scale recognize the i-to-i reputation, which may improve long-term career job placement. Additionally, the company is partnered with STA Travel, a well-established global tourism agency. I-to-i boasts highly experienced instructor faculty. The TEFL certification programs offer 100% online, in-person, or hybrid formats. The hybrid programs are available in 140-, 200-, or 320-hour courses. The online TEFL certification courses feature options for 120-, 180- or 300-hour increments.Program Website
3. Premier TEFL
Program Cost: $439 – $1,099
Premier TEFL boasts high approval ratings from its graduates, averaging a 4.3 out of 5-star rating over 160 reviews. For those seeking an online TESL teaching certification, Premier has several options for accredited programs, ranging from 120-300 hours. Premier’s online teacher training certifications are all internationally recognized. These programs require about three months of study and are led by knowledgeable, experienced instructors. Regardless of which certification program students select, accessible personal tutors are available for added support.Program Website
4. Bridge Education Group
Program Cost: $280 – $1,495
Bridge Education Group is a seasoned leader in teacher training programs, bringing over 30 years of experience to the field. Bridge offers numerous internationally renowned TEFL online certification programs. All programs stay current in the latest teaching technologies and teaching methods, along with providing job placement services. Future teachers can typically complete this flexible 40-150 hour program within eight weeks. Bridge programs offer a wide range of study resources, a personal tutor, videos, and a grammar advisor. Graduates provide glowing testimonials, particularly in regard to career preparation resources and quality of instruction.Program Website
5. TEFL Pros
Program Cost: Contact for rates
TEFL Pros receives consistently strong reviews from its graduates, particularly for its supportive staff, quality of instruction, and return on investment. This company’s online TEFL certification is a flexible 120-hour program. Many of these hours are designated for instructional videos and real-life classroom experiences. TEFL Pros help students build a practical skill set, which may ensure more versatility in job placement. This teacher-training company has a “try before you buy” option. Prospective TEFL online students can test out a free module to see if it is the right fit. This program has extensive offerings, including job placement, networking, and interview and resume preparation.Program Website