Should you do a free TEFL course?

Can you get TEFL qualified for free? Not quite, but that’s not to say there aren’t free courses out there than can be beneficial for both early-stage and experienced teachers!

As one of the leading TEFL course providers in the world, we know what goes into providing quality TEFL training. Our courses have been developed by EFL professionals, they’re kept up-to-date, and come with full tutor support from a qualified and highly experienced EFL teacher. We also have a team of people you can contact by phone, email and livechat for advice about anything TEFL-related. This all costs money! Course providers have overheads, which is why they can’t run free courses.

So, if it’s not possible to run a free course that will get you a job teaching English abroad or online why can you find so-called “free” courses online? We’re going to take a look at the different types of free TEFL courses out there and what they involve.

Are free TEFL courses legitimate?

They can be! There are great sites out there such as FutureLearn, which is a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) platform where you can find thousands of courses. These courses can help give you a taste of what TEFL involves before signing up for a course that will certify you to teach English as a foreign language. They can also be a great option for those who are already TEFL qualified and are looking to develop further as a teacher.

MOOCs are your best bet for free training, and they don’t need to specifically be about TEFL to be beneficial. You can find a handy list of useful teaching-related MOOCs here.

Where they’re less legitimate is when they make false promises about employment prospects and include hidden fees. Less scrupulous TEFL course providers are notorious for hidden fees, so make sure you do your research. If you’re going to be applying for TEFL jobs abroad then it will be essential to have a hard copy of your certificate, and ideally you want the fee for that to be included in the course. A free TEFL course isn’t going to offer one for nothing.

A person writing in a notebook while sitting in front of a laptop

Can you get a job with a free TEFL course?

A free TEFL course is unlikely to get you a job. A big reason for this is the number of hours. Most employers require teachers to have at least a 120-hour TEFL qualification, which is the industry standard. A lot of free TEFL courses aren’t 120-hour courses, and so they won’t meet this requirement.

Another reason is accreditation, which is external quality control and provides assurance – both for you and employers – that the course will sufficiently train you to teach English. Accreditation can be a costly process for a TEFL course provider, so it’s unlikely that a free course is going to be accredited or regulated in any way. Many of these companies will claim to be accredited but, as always, do your research – you’ll often find that you won’t be able to verify their claims or they are their own accreditor.

Put yourself in an employer’s shoes, are you going to hire the candidate who took an unregulated free online course, or the candidate who invested in their education and qualified with an established and internationally recognised course provider? Who looks like they’re more serious about the job?

Jobs that come with free TEFL courses

You might have come across jobs that offer free TEFL certification as part of the package. This usually means that you’ll complete your training while you work.

It can seem like a good deal but it does have its disadvantages. Firstly, it often means that you’re starting a job with no real understanding of how to teach English, which can be a daunting prospect for many. Secondly, the courses offered are often cheap and unaccredited, which can be a problem when you move on from that role in search of another teaching position. One of the first things employers look at when hiring is accreditation.

And finally, the jobs that offer this quite often pay less than other positions. Employers can justify offering lower wages because you’re untrained and they’re offering the “perk” of getting TEFL qualified for nothing. But you’re not really saving any money in the long run if you’re working for less. In fact, you can be significantly out of pocket compared to a the wage you could have been on with a proper TEFL qualification. Getting a good quality TEFL certificate can be really affordable these days and it’s well worth the initial investment.

A woman holding a pen and typing on a laptop

What can you expect from a free TEFL course?

Free TEFL courses will usually be quite short and will have material for you to read through or watch. You may have quizzes to complete, but there are unlikely to be any assignments or other means of assessment. Proper assessment, which is really the only way to ensure you’re engaged and capable, requires tutors to mark work, and free courses won’t come with tutor support.

As we’ve already covered, don’t expect to get a job with a free TEFL course. You’ll need a 120-hour course from an accredited provider for that. MOOCs are great for continual learning, but be wary of other courses that claim to be free – they always come with a catch.

If you want to get an internationally-recognised TEFL qualification then check out our courses. And feel free to get in touch by email (advice@tefl.org), phone (01349 800 600), or livechat to speak to one of our TEFL advisors.

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