Before you launch into the exciting world of teaching English as a foreign language and drafting up plans to teach across continents, you’ll need to get TEFL certified.
It is vital, and that’s no surprise. After all, you wouldn’t go to an unqualified mechanic with your car or an unlicensed dentist with your teeth. You wouldn’t expect one of your school teachers to be standing in a classroom if they didn’t have the required qualifications to teach.
You get the point. However, not all TEFL qualifications are equal. There’s a significant difference between a highly-accredited, widely-accepted TEFL qualification and something from a discount website that promises TEFL certification for a rock-bottom price.
Given the landscape in the advent of Covid-19, though, a lot of TEFL courses are exclusively online. No bad thing, of course, but with the number of false promises and shady providers out there, it’s easy to see why some employers could be wary of online certification.
Not only that, but do TEFL teachers who have trained online have the practical, in-person skills to really lead a class? We say yes! However, you can understand why a narrative has been built around online TEFL courses.
So, do employers recognise online TEFL courses? Let’s discuss.
Are online TEFL courses recognised?
To put it simply: yes.
That is, if a TEFL course is accredited – we’ll get to that later on. However, the basic facts are these: if your TEFL qualification is from a renowned provider that is sufficiently accredited and lasted for at least 120 hours, then employers will see you’ve put the work in.
After all, distance learning has only grown in reputation over recent years. The old ways, where certificates were only seen as “valid” if they came from classic universities, are long gone.
Even big institutions understand that distance learning is just as valid as in-person teaching. People have commitments outside of learning, or may have additional support needs, which necessitates distance – primarily online – learning.
So, to answer the question – good TEFL certifications from online providers are recognised. Quality is extremely important.
Should TEFL training include a practicum?
Some providers will tell you that a practicum, an assessed, in-person teaching practise with real English learners, is a necessity. Therefore, online TEFL courses won’t get you a job, since they don’t provide this experience.
Well, that’s nonsense. Online courses don’t need to contain a practicum to be valid, as lots of online courses contain plenty of classroom practice and practical tips to get you started. Meanwhile, courses with a practicum can be prohibitively expensive. The TEFL Org’s 120-hour Premier Online course, for example, is about £1,000 less than a course with a practicum, but will yield similar results in the job market.
If a practicum really was necessary to get a TEFL job then why would tens of thousands of people train with online TEFL course providers every year? And how are they managing to secure work teaching English abroad and online without any problems?
What to look for when studying TEFL online
Now we’ve established that quality online TEFL courses are indeed recognised by employers. However, what’s important to look for when considering an online TEFL course? What separates the so-so from the kind of qualification that will leave employers impressed?
If you’re looking for a high-quality online TEFL course, be sure to use a provider that has impressive accreditation. Essentially, that means the TEFL course provider has been given a stamp of authenticity and value by a reputable external body, such as Ofqual, the British Accreditation Council or the Distance Education Accrediting Commission.
If your TEFL course provider can boast high levels of accreditation, it means their courses have been approved by the best in the business. That process, for a course provider, takes time and vigorous examination of class materials, so it means that both you and employers can trust that the course delivers quality.
If you’re unsure, or an accreditation doesn’t look right, just do a web search to see whether the company is advertising accreditors that A: exist and B: matter, from an industry perspective.
Another good way to build confidence in a TEFL course provider is to read the reviews. Market-leading TEFL companies will put reviews to the forefront of their web offering, and that’ll be because a lot of students have become teachers!
It’s not just the reviews that companies want you to see, though – try services like reviews.io, Trustpilot, Google Reviews and others to ascertain whether the course provider is well-rated by its graduates.
Obviously, the international reputation of a TEFL course provider is important. How, though, do we ascertain whether a company is held in high esteem worldwide?
The clues are in the details. Does a course provider have evidence of former students of working abroad? Does a company work in partnership with international companies or government programmes?
It’s worth finding out whether a TEFL course provider has graduates with a positive story to tell of teaching abroad. If they’ve done a course with a company, and have managed to secure work overseas, that would dictate that the company’s reputation is a good one. Even more so if there are multiple examples.
When are online courses not recognised?
There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. So when we say that online TEFL courses are recognised by employers, there’s a caveat – quality matters.
Groupon TEFL courses are advertised at unbelievably low prices. Why are they so cheap, though? Most often, Groupon TEFL courses offer either minimal or non-existent tutor support, they aren’t accredited by reputable bodies, they weren’t actually designed by EFL teachers, and there are a host of hidden fees. The cost of a hard copy certificate alone can easily be more than what you paid for the course.
The reality is, a budget TEFL course in comparison to an 120-hour or more course with an established and reputable TEFL course provider isn’t going to impress an employer.
While these Groupon TEFL courses aren’t inherently scams, there are illegitimate “course” providers out there. TEFL scams are, sadly, commonplace.
There are ways to tell when a TEFL provider isn’t what they seem, and it’s similar to those Groupon courses; the teaching will be inadequate, the course materials won’t be any good (if a course exists at all), and there’s either a lack of accreditation or fraudulent claims made about it.
TEFL course scams can be easy to spot if you know what you’re looking for. A dodgy website that hasn’t been around for very long (it’s easy to check the age of any site), no reviews on well-known reviews sites, rock-bottom prices, and claims about accreditation that can’t be verified are all common tells. At best, a TEFL scam will leave you with a qualification employers won’t recognise, at worst you’re handing over payment details to a bad actor who may take more money from you than you were prepared to part with.
So, online courses are recognised, but with the significant caveat that they need to be courses provided by reputable online providers, not a Groupon offer or a scam.
How to choose the best online TEFL course
For the TEFL-curious first-timers amongst you, a long overdue welcome! You might be reading all this finding some comfort in the fact that online courses are recognised, and will undoubtedly help you find employment overseas.
Which course, though…? It’s a good question. TEFL courses aren’t a one-size-fits-all operation, and the “best” course for you depends on your requirements.
For example, are you in full-time employment, or are you on a sabbatical? Are you between university and the next step? Or school and the life afterwards?
Do you have childcare concerns, and flexible study is a priority? Are you a beginner or do you want to expand your current number of TEFL qualifications? Is cost a significant barrier?
There’s a lot to consider. Fundamentally, though, it’s about finding the right course provider. You want a TEFL company that has all the right accreditation, tutor support, time flexibility and prices that are right for you.
Thankfully, the options are vast. The crux of all this, though? Online courses are valid if they’re provided by a reputable, accredited TEFL company, and if they work for your needs!
Want to know what TEFL course is right for you? Check out our course quiz and find out in just a few minutes!