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Cheap TEFL Certification: should I get it from Groupon?

As the number of options in the online TEFL marketplace grows, more and more providers are offering courses that promise certification at a rock-bottom price – but is it all it seems?

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When you’re navigating the world of TEFL courses, and you’re keen to start teaching English abroad as soon as possible, there are a whole host of considerations to make first. Firstly, can you fit TEFL learning around your schedule, or do you have to take time off from other commitments?

Alternatively, do you want a class to be online or in person? Ultimately, what are your aims with TEFL; full-time work somewhere abroad, or working from home as an online teacher?

One of the biggest factors is cost. What fits into your current budget? A TEFL course is no small undertaking, and getting value for money is so crucial. Sometimes it can look as though the more a course costs, the more “legitimate” it is to prospective employers. 

This is where unscrupulous TEFL “course providers” (and we use the term as loosely as possible) come into the picture. Sadly, the waters of online TEFL can be muddied by Groupon and the like, promising TEFL certification for next to no money. It might sound great, but trust us - there isn’t a hope of landing a reputable, lasting teaching job if all you’ve got to offer is a discount TEFL “certificate”.

So, let’s explore the murky world of Groupon and discount TEFL courses, why they’re a bad idea for anyone exploring a TEFL career, and why going cheap might mean paying twice.

Why are Groupon TEFL courses so cheap? 

Here is the key question: why are these Groupon courses so cheap?

The truth is, it’s more about what isn’t present in a Groupon course than anything else. We’ll dig more into that, but at the very least, these courses are cheap because there’s a demand in the marketplace, but not a great deal of knowledge about the product.

Groupon and the likes present TEFL courses as a cheap and cheerful pastime, or they genuinely try to trick people into believing that these “qualifications” will mean anything in the future. TEFL courses used to only be available in person, through esteemed institutions. Now, the online world has opened TEFL up - this means good TEFL courses are readily available, but it’s also a system that’s ripe for abuse.

These "TEFL certifications" are unlikely to have proper accreditation (which we’ll explore), tutor support, proper up-to-date materials, online resources, help with finding a job after, exam guidance, adequate assessment, or anything you’d expect from a reputable TEFL course provider. 

What’s more, hidden fees are likely, which means the course can end up costing you a good bit more than you might have expected. Let’s explore the pitfalls of the Groupon TEFL course in more depth.

Read more about TEFL course scams.

Cheap and Groupon TEFL courses often lack accreditation

Accreditation means that an external, independent regulator has deemed a course provider to be of a fitting standard to deliver meaningful, high-quality TEFL courses.

When a provider says they're 'fully accredited' don't just take that at face value. Considering the fact there is no over-arching accrediting body for TEFL training, it doesn't really make sense to say a course is 'fully accredited” in the first place.

We’ll get on to why accreditation matters, but bogus claims of accreditation are commonplace when you get into the lower rungs of TEFL “certification”. Either, a course provider will simply rush their enterprise and intentionally miss out on accreditation, or worse: they’ll make it up.

Yes - we’ve known bogus TEFL course providers to pretend they have accreditation, by making up their own awards bodies and hoping customers won’t notice. Sadly, it sometimes works, but it’s important to check - whoever the provider - that the accreditation they list on their page is real. A Google search should suffice; an accreditation body should have a recognized name, a history in the industry, and other examples of accredited organizations.

If a company is willing to falsify something as important as accreditation, who knows what else they’ll lie about?

What is good accreditation? 

There’s no overarching body in terms of accreditation, but there are signs to spot whether an accrediting organization is legitimate, and therefore, so is the TEFL course provider you’re looking at.

“Good” accreditation comes from bodies that are established and well-recognized. Examples of this include the DEAC (Distance Education Accrediting Council) and Ofqual, an English government department that specifically regulates qualifications and examinations. Providers should be listing all the course providers they accredit, and this information should be easy to find, as well as their processes - i.e. what standards they have, and how they grant accreditation status.

Finally, if they accredit other reputable course providers, it’s a good sign. The phrase “judge a TEFL course provider by the company it keeps” isn’t exactly common, but it rings true here. Online TEFL certification isn't worth anything unless it's from somewhere with good accreditation.

Why is accreditation so important?

All of this fuss about accreditation - does it actually matter?

Well, yes. It’s hugely important. Accreditation is an objective sign of quality. When choosing a TEFL course, your priorities ought to be learning how to teach effectively and landing a teaching role once you’re qualified. For both of these, accreditation is absolutely vital.

For one thing, you want the online TEFL course you choose to be good at teaching you how to deliver English classes. Solid accreditation is your guarantee that the online course offered will perform that task. It’s simple - if a reputable accreditation body thoroughly examines how courses are delivered, and it passes their standards, then you’ll be signing up to do a course that gets results.

Then, you want to be certain that your TEFL qualification will get you a job. The first thing reputable employers look at when an application comes through was whether their TEFL course has sufficient accreditation.

Why? Well, it’s straightforward: accreditation is the biggest indicator of quality for you as a student and customer. It also demonstrates to employers that you’ve gone through TEFL training that is sufficient for the job. If you’ve taken a TEFL course from a provider that isn’t accredited, or their accreditation doesn’t check out, then you can be at a serious disadvantage when it comes to trying to secure work.

In fact, we’ve welcomed plenty of students to complete a course with us after initially signing up for a Groupon TEFL course, or other budget courses, only to find that a lot of employers don’t recognize it. So, whether you have designs on teaching English online or teaching young learners in a classroom, the cheapest TEFL courses aren't going to get the job done.

Download our teaching English online guide

Hidden fees 

The low price is a big part of the allure of Groupon and other discount courses. However, in most cases, the idiom “buy cheap, buy twice” applies here; for one thing, there are myriad hidden costs that come later down the line with cheap online TEFL courses, and if you’re serious about a teaching career, you’ll end up having to pay for a proper course eventually.

So, hidden fees: in what form do they emerge, and what can you expect to shell out on?

Certificate costs 

It seems audacious in the extreme, but cheap TEFL courses online will actually charge you for a certificate. Does it matter if the certificate is essentially meaningless? Apparently not.

While reputable TEFL course providers will provide both physical and digital copies of your course certificate upon completion, discount and shady course providers will genuinely charge you an extra fee for the “privilege” of what you paid for in the first place. Physical copies of certificates are often required for applying for a visa. It’s absolutely essential to have one, and shady course providers know this; the cost of the TEFL certificate, and posting it, can end up being more than the cost of the course.

So, if you had designs on hanging up a cheap TEFL course certificate on your wall, you might want to get the less expensive frame.

Faster marking fees 

Oh, you wanted your work back in a timely manner, so you can go about completing your course in the scheduled timeline?

Bad luck! Yes, faster marking fees are an actual thing.

Often, a cheap TEFL course online will be carried out by one or two people looking to make a fast buck. For an extra cost, you can get your work back quicker. Whether it’s been graded appropriately, you get any useful feedback or any of the marking matters is beside the point.

Also, budget courses often don’t include any actual assignments, just multiple-choice quizzes. 

Fees to resit exams/assessments 

If you’ve not been adequately prepared for an exam or assessment - which, given the context, seems very likely - don’t despair! You can pay extra to resit. If it feels like a trap from a Groupon TEFL course, then it is; rather than encouraging students to pass first-time, with exam preparation and one-to-one tutoring from an experienced ESL teacher, there’s more money in resits.

How much can they be? Well, depending on how many times you have to resit, the prices can go up. You’re essentially being set up to fail by some shady TEFL course providers who, in case you hadn’t guessed, are very much trying to rip you off. 

Again: a proper TEFL course provider isn’t going to charge you for a resit, and the likelihood of having to re-take important assessments is lessened if you have the proper infrastructure to succeed. A TEFL course provider worth anything wants you to succeed and have the teaching skills to actually make a difference to young learners.

The course content lacks quality 

More often than not a cheap TEFL course will lack quality. What does that mean?

Well, let’s take a look at what a good TEFL course is supposed to offer. Is it self-paced, and transparent about fees? Yes. Has it been developed by experienced TEFL tutors, and delivered by TEFL teachers? It should be. Does it contain adequate assessments, with rigorous lessons on methodology and grammar and language awareness? It ought to.

What’s more, has the course received positive reviews and is it from a highly accredited TEFL course provider? If the answer to any of these is “no”, it’s a red flag.

So, let’s go into more specifics about course quality. It is, after all, the most important factor of all.

How long should a TEFL course take to complete? 

The duration of a TEFL course is more often than not identified in the course title. For example, 120 hours and so on. What that means in practicality, though, is a different thing. 

If you’re available to start a course and go full-time, it could take you a month or two. If you’re juggling other responsibilities, like work, care needs, full-time studies, or something else, you should be allowed plenty of time to complete a 120-hour course, for example. It’s about going at your own pace.

If you aren’t given the time you need to thoroughly learn everything you need, then it’s useless and low quality.

Beyond a standard TEFL course, there are also extra TEFL certificates available to bolster your CV, such as Business English. These courses take far less study time, but can be valuable. Again, though, these should be completed at your own pace, without pressure from the course provider.

Discover more about TEFL hours and levels.

Taking a TEFL course online shouldn’t be a risk. Finding an accredited course provider shouldn’t be hard. Finding a job teaching English abroad, too, shouldn’t be a major undertaking. However, cheap, unscrupulous TEFL providers have made it more difficult for consumers to make informed choices.

In short: no. An employer worth its salt won’t recognize a cheap, Groupon TEFL certification. One of the first things a good employer will look at is where your TEFL certificate is from. If it’s a provider with no accreditation, no reputation within the TEFL industry and it’s a low-hour TEFL course certificate on your CV, it’s unlikely your application will go far. You might find work with a similarly questionable employer, but at that point, you have to ask if it’s worth it.

Will a cheap or Groupon TEFL course be recognized by employers? 

Reputable TEFL providers will have some form of accreditation, will adequately prepare you for TEFL teaching, and will provide the course materials to equip you to teach English abroad. They'll provide job assistance, you'll have a personal tutor throughout, and you’ll be perfectly prepared before you start applying for jobs.

In short, the big, reputable TEFL provider names are popular for a reason. There are a lot of good TEFL certifications out there that’ll help you to teach grammar, lesson planning, classroom management and maybe even electives, like business English.

The cheap TEFL courses will not do any of these things. You won’t be ready to teach English abroad. A big part of that is because reputable employers - who are good work for - won’t recognize the TEFL certification you’ve been “awarded”.

This might sound elitist to an extent, but it’s not a question of affordability, as much as it is quality. Affordable TEFL certification that will get you a job teaching English abroad is out there, but it’s not on Groupon, and it’s not from a cheap, unaccredited TEFL provider.

It’s about investing in yourself. If you want to make the most out of TEFL, then it makes sense to learn from experienced teachers. To use course materials that are tried and tested, and work in the real world. To be able to complete a course at your own pace (within parameters), be able to pass assessments and get ready for the classroom.

Signing up for something fly-by-night through a discount site is essentially saying “I’m not that interested in teaching English”. So why waste your time and money?

So, to answer the question: should I do a TEFL course from Groupon or a discount website? No. Absolutely not.

Investing in a good TEFL course is worth it 

To summarise, you get what you pay for in life. If you wanted to become adequately qualified to teach English abroad for a reputable employer through a discount course, you’re not in luck. If it has no verified reviews, is it worth doing? If there’s no job assistance offered by the provider, can you really land your dream teaching job from that course?

Yes, a good TEFL course is an investment. However, TEFL certification courses earn esteem because students go on to get great teaching jobs, they leave positive reviews and the course provider is properly accredited. Employers notice these things, and there’s a circular effect - the higher quality of teachers emerge, the better reputation a course provider gets,

With cheap certificates from unknown or unreputable providers, that just doesn’t happen. It’s utter luck if scam providers last more than a year because they’re found out, and either change their name or give up. 

Frequently Asked Questions

    Now, we'll address some of the internet's most-searched questions when it comes to cheap TEFL certification online.

  • Q. How much does online TEFL certification cost?

    High-quality TEFL certification can cost between $500 to $2,000 depending on a range of factors, including the length of the course, the type of TEFL certification, and the amount of teaching practice.

  • Q. Are online TEFL certificates recognized?

    Yes, online TEFL certificates are recognized by employers - provided they’re from an accredited TEFL provider with a solid reputation in the industry. You must have completed at least 120 hours of high-quality TEFL training to be recognized by reputable employers.

  • Q. How can I get TEFL certification fast?

    Speed isn’t the most crucial thing when it comes to TEFL certification. The industry standard is 120 hours of TEFL training, at your own pace. The quality of the course is more important than the speed at which it’s delivered.

  • Q. Are there free TEFL courses?

    Free TEFL courses are not going to get you a job in the TEFL industry. While there are decent taster courses around, a free TEFL course isn’t going to result in employment. Typically, courses advertised as “free” will have hidden fees, so they’re well worth avoiding.