TEFL course scams: how to tell if a provider is legitimate

If you’re trying to choose a TEFL course but are feeling a bit lost then don’t worry, you’re not alone. There are hundreds of providers out there, some good and, unfortunately, a lot more bad. But how do you tell them apart?

Due to lack of regulation in the industry anyone who wants to can create and sell a TEFL course. And there’s nothing stopping them from using misleading practices and tricks to make you think a substandard product is worthy of your time and money.

In this article we’re going to cover what you need to watch out for to ensure you choose a reputable TEFL course that will prepare you for teaching and leave you with a qualification recognised by employers.  

Rock-bottom prices

You can find TEFL courses on discount websites for as little as £20. We’ve previously covered the issues with courses you can find on sites like Groupon, but the bottom line is it simply isn’t possible to offer quality TEFL training at such a low price. Take it from us, we’ve been running TEFL courses since 2008 and know what’s involved!

Good TEFL course providers offer courses that have been developed by experienced EFL teachers and trainers. They should come with support from a tutor, be accredited by established bodies (more on that shortly), and have a team of people who can support you throughout your TEFL journey. The cost of your course should reflect this.

It should also be noted that hidden fees are very common when it comes to online TEFL courses. In particular, it’s important to establish if a hard copy of your certificate and the cost of shipping is included in the course fee, as some providers are known to charge exorbitant fees for this. In order to teach English abroad you must have a hard copy of your TEFL certificate.

Accreditation

We know we bang on about it all the time, but accreditation is so important. It’s one of the first things employers will check when recruiting and it’s the only way for you to be sure that what a provider is claiming is true.

Accreditation means that a provider and their courses have undergone external quality control. However, because there’s no over-arching accrediting body for TEFL courses the quality of accreditation itself can vary. To keep things simple, look out for accreditation from government or government-affiliated bodies. There are lots of other reputable bodies that accredit courses, but you want to ensure the provider has at least one accreditor that fits this criteria.

For more information about accreditation and what to look out for see our post explaining everything you need to know about TEFL accreditation.

Insufficient hours

Most employers require teachers to have at least a 120-hour TEFL qualification, which you’ll see specified on many job adverts. However, without sufficient accreditation there’s nothing to stop a course provider from advertising their course as a 120-hour TEFL course when it isn’t.

If a company claims you can complete the course within a few days – or if you spot reviews where people say that’s how long it took them – then be very wary. If a 120-hour course can be completed within two or three days then it’s not a 120-hour course – you do the maths!

How long it takes to complete a TEFL course can vary since most online courses are self-paced, but on average our students take 10 to 12 weeks to complete one of our 120-hour courses. See our post about the time it takes to get TEFL qualified for more information.

Teaching practicum: necessary or not?

A teaching practicum is not essential provided that you complete your online qualification through an accredited and reputable provider. Just because a provider doesn’t offer a practicum does not mean the course is a scam. For more information about TEFL practicums and the myths surrounding them see our post where we do some fact-checking.

Lack of reviews

If a provider is established and internationally recognised you shouldn’t have a problem finding plenty of reviews about them online.

It’s important to bear in mind that reviews can be faked or manipulated and, unfortunately, this is common in the TEFL industry. Make sure to check out reviews on websites that conduct some sort of verification process, like reviews.io or TEFL Course Review. Review sites that have no verification process can very easily be flooded with fake reviews.

Legitimate or not? Some more tips for choosing a provider

Cost, accreditation, number of hours, and reviews are all key areas to research to determine if a TEFL course provider is legitimate or not. Below are a few more questions to ask when doing your research:

  • Does the website look professional? If a provider is offering online TEFL courses and their website looks outdated, poorly designed or sparse, then that is usually a reflection of the actual course being offered.
  • How easy is it to speak to someone from the company? Good TEFL course providers should be easy to reach via multiple channels such as livechat, email, phone, and social media.
  • Can you easily find information about their accreditation? If a provider claims to be accredited but you can’t find information about who accredits them on their website this is usually a sign that they are, in fact, not accredited.
  • How is the course assessed? Courses entirely assessed through multiple choice quizzes are to be avoided, as are those that only require you to complete one assignment or exam at the end of the course. There should be a number of assignments throughout the course that will be marked by a tutor.
  • Does the course have a tutor? And is that tutor TEFL-experienced? It’s common for scam TEFL courses to not have a tutor or for the tutor to have no teaching experience whatsoever. It’s so important to have the support of someone who’s been on the journey you’re about to embark on!
  • Is the provider established? New providers offering low-quality courses spring up all the time. It’s easy to check how old a website is, and if they’ve not been around for long we recommend caution.

The subreddit r/TEFL is a very useful impartial resource and has information about how to choose a TEFL course, which we recommend for further reading.

If you have any questions or need help choosing a course you can get in touch with our experienced TEFL advisors via livechat, by emailing advice@tefl.org, or calling +44 (0) 1349 800 600 / +353 01 697 1389.

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