What you really need to know before you TEFL

What you really need to know before you TEFL

So, you’re thinking about getting TEFL qualified and embarking on the adventure of a lifetime? You’re in the right place!

We’ve been helping people just like you find work teaching English across the globe since 2008. After training over 120,000 teachers we know how crucial is it to be as prepared as possible from the start.

TEFL is a huge industry; there are hundreds of thousands of jobs out there and there are all sorts of different courses and course providers claiming to offer what you need to secure one of them. Even just getting started can seem a bit overwhelming, which is why we’ve put together this guide, so you can find out what you really need to know.

Before you sign up for a TEFL course, there a few main areas to research to make sure that you:

  1. Choose the right course for you and spend your money wisely.
  2. Research visa requirements so you know where you can (or can’t) teach.
  3. Think about what you want to get out of the experience, which will help you apply for the right positions in the right locations.

By the time you’ve finished reading this post you’ll be clued up on the above and ready to take the first steps in your TEFL journey!

TEFL courses and qualifications

In this industry we love an acronym. You might have come across a few already: TEFL, TESOL, ESL, TESL, CELTA, DETLA, to name a few. But what do they all mean?

Thankfully, many of these acronyms refer to the same thing - teaching English to English language learners. TEFL, TESOL, ESL, and TESL are often used interchangeably. If you’d like to find out more about them then check out our previous post where we break them all down.

What course should I take?

For most people a TEFL qualification from an accredited (more on that soon) and internationally recognised employer is what you need to get started teaching English abroad or online.

A TEFL course can be done entirely online or you can combine online and classroom study. Here at The TEFL Org we run short classroom courses held in locations across the UK, Ireland, and in Madrid, as well as a range of online courses.

What about CELTA courses? The CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is a month-long, full-time or part-time intensive course that is highly regarded by employers. It’s an expensive option, costing over £1000 and can require you to take a significant amount of time off work. A minority of employers demand a CELTA qualification (the British Council, for example, but you’ll also need at least two years of teaching experience as well) and since pay scales tend to be based on experience, rather than qualifications, the CELTA won’t necessarily land you a better paid job as a first-time teacher. If you’d like to read more about about TEFL vs CELTA then take a look here.

If you have previous experience teaching English but no formal qualification then a shorter course may be more suitable for you. You can always chat to our TEFL advisers who will be able to talk through your options and suggest the right course for you!

How long should the course be?

Most employers look for a minimum of a 120-hour qualification, so if you want to be in the best position for finding work then this is what we generally recommend. If you’ve never taught English before then it’s very important that you cover grammar and TEFL methodology in your course and a 120-hour qualification will ensure that you’re prepared for your first teaching position.

Specialist courses

Thinking about specialising in business English, teaching young learners, or teaching English online? We have Advanced TEFL courses as well, which will get you started in those areas and really boost your CV, but this is something you can think about signing up for towards the end of your initial TEFL course.


If you’re going to spend the money, time, and effort on a course you want to be sure that the qualification is going to be recognised internationally - and this is where accreditation is important. Without adequate accreditation there’s no g; accreditation is your assurance that the course has been externally assessed and meets the rigorous guidelines set by reputable accrediting bodies. There’s no single over-arching accreditation body for TEFL, so you want to look out for government or government-related bodies, such as Ofqual .

Taking a TEFL course you’ve found for £50 on a discount website like Groupon might seem an attractive and cost-effective option at first glance, but if it’s not properly accredited then employers may not recognise it. At the end of the day, you tend to get what you pay for!

You should be able to easily find details of a provider’s accreditation on their site and we’d recommend looking into the accrediting bodies listed (it’s been known for some TEFL providers to set up their own accrediting bodies and accredit themselves!). You can find details of our own accreditation here – we happen to be the most accredited TEFL provider in the UK… just saying!


While a TEFL qualification is essential for getting a teaching job abroad it isn’t always the only requirement, so it’s very important that you research visas. Visa requirements can vary a lot from country to country so you’ll want to make sure that you’re eligible before you set your heart on a specific location.

Doing your research will mean you’ll have a clear idea of where you can start looking for work after you’ve completed your qualification and you won’t be disappointed to find out you can’t teach in a certain country because you don’t have a degree or you don’t meet the age requirements. There can also be restrictions depending on citizenship – for example, South Korea will only grant visas to citizens from a recognised English-speaking country – so that’s another important thing to check out.

Support on the job

How independent are you? This is something to consider as some employers offer more support than others. For example, it’s common in certain Asian countries for accommodation to be included in your contract and to get assistance with the visa process. If this kind of support is important to you then it can help narrow down the countries where you would seek work - and if it’s not it can open up some exciting places that may be off the beaten track and require a higher degree of independence!

A great option if you’re looking for lots of support during your first TEFL position is an internship. We run a Semester Teaching Position in Vietnam , which includes full TEFL training, accommodation, living allowance, orientation and in-country support.

Take a browse through our TEFL Jobs Centre to get an idea of what’s offered by employers in specific locations.

What are your priorities?

This is a good question to ask yourself at the very start. For example, if it’s money and you’re looking for a job that’ll allow you to save as much as possible then you’ll want to research where the best-paid TEFL jobs are. If you’re looking to supplement your existing income then you might want to look into teaching English online or providing one-to-one tuition locally. If you have a more altruistic goal then there are volunteer opportunities at home – you can get in touch with local organisations working with refugee and asylum seekers to see if they require English teachers, or you can look for volunteering opportunities abroad.

If your goal is to travel and see as much of the world as possible then perhaps the lifestyle of the TEFL digital nomad is for you! David, one of our course graduates, teaches English online and travels all over the world- you can read his story here .

If you’re not really sure what you want to get out of TEFL then that’s okay! There are many different options when it comes to finding work with a TEFL qualification, so spend some time doing a bit of research (you’re reading this post, so good start!) and you can always chat to our TEFL advisers who will be happy to help.

Read student stories

We can tell you that we train thousands of teachers every year who go on to teach all over the world but it’s far more interesting and compelling to actually hear from them! Some of our wonderful graduates have written pieces for our blog about their TEFL experiences and we would strongly recommend taking a read through for lots of handy tips and insights into the world of TEFL from actual teachers.

Things that shouldn’t stop you pursuing TEFL

I’m not a native speaker

As long as you’re fluent in English then there’s work for you out there – we’ve trained many non-native speakers who’ve gone on to find work! It’s true that some employers have an unfortunate preference for native speakers so it can mean that it takes a bit more perseverance when it comes to applying for jobs but don’t let it put you off. As mentioned above it’s important to research visa requirements to make sure you’re not ruled out based on your citizenship as some countries will only grant a visa to teachers from English-speaking countries. Remember, you know exactly what it’s like to be an English language learner and that insight into things from your students’ perspective can be a real strength!

I don’t have a degree

While it’s true that there are a lot of countries out there that require a degree for visa reasons there are options for if you don’t have one! Europe (if you’re an EU citizen) and South America are your best bet, as well as Cambodia. If you’re under 30 then look into working holiday visas as it’s possible to teach in certain countries without a degree on this type of visa. We have some more information about TEFL without a degree here .

I think I’m too old

You’re never too old to TEFL! You may find that there are age restrictions for certain countries or programmes, but there is work out there for all ages.

I don’t have any teaching experience

Most of our students have no prior teaching experience so there’s no need to worry about that. The course will set you up to find your first TEFL job – keep in mind, everyone has to start somewhere! We have this useful blog post with employment tips for finding your first teaching job .

Whether you’re interested in teaching English abroad  or online studying with The TEFL Org will help you get there. Check out our range of courses and start your own TEFL adventure!

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