With so many different TEFL course providers out there choosing a course can sometimes feel like a bit of a minefield. It can be really hard to know what to look out for, which is why we’ve put together these top 5 questions you should ask a TEFL course provider before signing up.
You should be able to find the answers to these questions on a provider’s website, but if you can’t it’s important to get in touch with them to ask before making a purchase. It’s essential to make sure the course that you sign up for fits your goals and expectations. Avoid nasty surprises like hidden fees and feel confident that the qualification you’re studying towards will prepare you for teaching and is recognised by employers worldwide.
What accreditation do you have?
Accreditation is absolutely key when choosing a TEFL course provider. It’s one of the first things an employer will look into when hiring, and it also helps you to have confidence about the quality of training. We have a whole article about why accreditation is so important, but here’s a brief overview.
Accreditation is essentially quality control. An external body will periodically review a course provider, looking at course content, the standard of tuition, and the company’s practices as a whole. If the standards set out by the accrediting body are met then they will award the course provider accreditation. Having a third party carry out this sort of assessment helps to give you the confidence that the provider is really offering what it says it is, which is part of the reason why it’s so important.
However, the problem in the TEFL industry is that there doesn’t exist a single over-arching body that accredits TEFL providers. This means that providers will have accreditation from all sorts of different bodies, which makes it a little bit trickier for you to understand what is good accreditation and what isn’t.
When asking a TEFL course provider what accreditation they have you’re looking for them to be accredited by reputable, well-established bodies. A provider might tell you they are “fully accredited”, but that’s a meaningless phrase given what we’ve already established – that there is no one TEFL accrediting body.
How long do I have to complete the course?
For most online TEFL courses you’ll be given a set period of time to complete your course. This is information that should be clearly displayed on a provider’s website, but if it isn’t you should ask directly.
The reason why it’s important to ask this question is because some less reputable providers deliberately give you a short period of time to complete the course. This way they can charge you more money on top of what you’ve already paid because you’re more likely to require a course extension.
For our 120-hour online TEFL courses you’re given 6 months to complete the course, and 7 months for our Level 5 course. Most of our students complete their course within 10 to 12 weeks, so this is plenty of time. If a provider is giving you fewer than 12 weeks to complete a 120+ hour course then make sure you ask how much they charge for extensions. Some budget TEFL course providers will actually charge you more for an extension than you paid for the entire course!
Is the cost of my certificate included?
Good TEFL course providers will be completely upfront about what’s included in your course before you sign up. When you complete your TEFL course you will, of course, want to be issued with a certificate as evidence of your newly-acquired qualification. Having a hard copy of your TEFL qualification is essential for teaching English abroad and you’ll need a digital copy for online positions.
Yet, it’s surprisingly common for TEFL course providers to not include the cost of a hard copy certificate in the course fee. If it’s not clear from their website if this is included or not then make sure to ask. The fee for a certificate plus shipping can be a lot higher than you might think.
How is the course taught?
Most online TEFL courses involve self-paced study. You’ll work through material hosted on the course provider’s learning platform and you should have the support of a tutor throughout. As you’re studying it’s so important to have the assistance of an experienced EFL teacher and teacher trainer who can answer your questions and provide you with helpful feedback on your assignments.
A lot of very cheap TEFL courses haven’t been created by actual education professionals and the tutors – if there are any – may not have a background in TEFL. Some may carry out little to no assessment and have no written assignments or just a single one at the end, which isn’t sufficient for testing comprehension. Part of the reason why these courses don’t have adequate accreditation is because they simply don’t meet the standards of reputable accrediting bodies.
For those aiming to work through their qualification quickly there are a couple of things to check. Ask about the turnaround time for marking and responding to queries as well. For example, at The TEFL Org we have a 48-hour turnaround, this is the maximum amount of time you would be waiting to hear back from your tutor. And check if you’re able to progress with the course after submitting an assignment. Some providers don’t allow you to do this, so you have to wait for work to be marked to continue studying, which can really hold things up – unless you’re willing to pay extra for “speedy marking”, which some providers offer.
What support is given during and after the course?
We’ve already discussed the importance of tutor support, but there’s more to being a good TEFL course provider than just the course. From running webinars, offering advanced training, keeping you informed of industry trends and news, and connecting you with other students and graduates, there’s a lot more a provider can offer students to help them on their TEFL journey.
TEFL course providers are not recruiters, so they aren’t going to find you a job after you’ve completed the course. But a good provider should help you on your way. This can be with access to a jobs centre where you can apply for positions, assistance with applications, and advice from industry professionals who can help point you in the right direction.