The Definitive Guide

The Definitive Guide to TESOL & TESOL certification overlay
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Everything you need to know about TESOL Certification!

TESOL certification: the basics

TESOL certification: what is it, why do you need it, and how do you get it? In this guide, we're going to cover all you need to know about getting TESOL certified, so let's dive in first with the essentials!

What is TESOL?

TESOL is an acronym that stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. It concerns teaching English to non-native English speakers both abroad and in English-speaking countries.

Every year the number of English language learners grows rapidly. The British Council has estimated that in 2020 the number of English speakers and learners globally will hit a staggering 2 billion. As this number increases so does the need for qualified TESOL teachers!

What is the difference between TEFL and TESOL?

TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and TESOL are terms that are usually used interchangeably. The only slight difference is that TESOL encompasses teaching English language learners who are residing in English-speaking countries - but it is by no means only concerned with this. When it comes to applying for jobs it doesn’t matter if your qualification says TESOL or TEFL, employers will regard them the same.

The TESOL world loves acronyms, so here are a few more you may come across:

  • TESL: Teaching English as a Second Language
  • ESOL: English for Speakers of Other Languages
  • ESL: English as a Second Language
  • ELT: English Language Teaching
  • EFL: English as a Foreign Language
  • EAL: English as an Additional Language
  • CELTA: Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
  • ENL: English as a New Language

TESOL Certification Courses

Completing your TEFL/TESOL certification online is by far the most popular option for those who are time-constrained and looking to fit study around their existing schedule and commitments.

Our online TEFL/TESOL certification courses come with full tutor support throughout so you are never alone, plus we also include all required learning materials so you can enrol and get started on your course the same day.

With over 185,000 fully TEFL/TESOL qualified alumni worldwide, The TEFL Org has become a trusted and recognized TESOL course provider by schools overseas and online.

Browse TEFL/TESOL Courses

Which TESOL certificate is the best?

There are a lot of different TESOL certification courses out there so it can get a bit confusing. Here’s what to look out for:

  • Accreditation from external bodies
  • Length of course
  • International reputation
  • Tutor support

Let’s take a closer look at each of these points.


Accreditation is quality assurance and it really is key when choosing a TESOL certification provider. There is no over-arching accrediting body for TESOL, so while many course providers can claim to be accredited it’s important to do a little digging yourself.

What you’re looking out for is accreditation from established external bodies. An easy way to spot less reputable accreditation is if the body only appears to accredit TEFL providers or other course providers that you can find advertised on budget sites like Groupon. You can check out our cheap TEFL certification program, which is fully accredited by ACCREDITATION.

When you look into an accrediting body you want to easily be able to find two things: 1) the list of providers they accredit, and 2) information about their criteria and processes. Most good providers of TESOL certification programs seek out accreditation from established bodies that will accredit a wide range of different course providers.

How many hours of  TESOL do I need?

With most employers - both abroad and online - requiring teachers to have a 120-hour qualification it’s recommended to take a TESOL course with at least these hours.

The more hours the better, right? Not necessarily. If you want to boost your CV the best way of doing this is to complete a 120-hour TESOL course and add on specialist training in areas you’re aiming to go into. Doing a course that consists of hundreds of hours of TESOL training is unnecessary if it isn’t tailored to your aims.

International reputation

This very much ties in with accreditation. If a provider is suitably accredited then the qualification should be recognized internationally.

You also want to check out how long the course provider has been around for. New TESOL courses are popping up all the time (often for extremely low prices) and may not have much standing with employers abroad or online. Choosing a provider that is well-known in the industry will give you the best chance of finding work.

Tutor support

A good TESOL course should come with full tutor support. And these tutors should be highly experienced English teachers.

It’s really important to be able to get feedback throughout your course from someone who knows their stuff. And if you’re studying online this couldn’t be more important; without this support and feedback you’ll have no guidance throughout the course and little idea of whether or not you’re on the right track.

What can you do with TESOL?

Qualified TESOL teachers can find teaching opportunities across the globe. And there’s a diverse range of jobs out there! You can work with children and adults, with beginners and advanced speakers, in language schools and universities, online and in classrooms - the possibilities go on.

Find out more about TESOL Certification

Career paths in the TESOL industry

There are so many different paths you can once you're TESOL certified. With TESOL you can teach English from home or travel the world - but within both of these options there's a wide range opportunities for teachers. In this video, TEFL Org tutor Carl talks through some of the paths teachers can take. Find out:

  • Where in the world TESOL has taken Carl
  • How most people get started in TESOL + tips
  • About specialist areas of TESOL, such as Business English
  • What opportunities are out there and how to boost your CV
  • + lots more!

Online vs. Classroom TESOL certification

Do you need to study in a classroom or can you complete your training completely online? Contrary to what some providers will claim, completing classroom training or a practicum isn’t necessary for the overwhelming majority of teaching jobs.

Classroom courses can be costly, with some requiring you to commit to a month of full-time, in-person study! Studying online - provided it’s with a reputable, suitably accredited provider - can be the most ideal way of getting started in TESOL. It’s cost-effective, allows you to fit studying in around existing commitments, and you can study where and when suits you.

How much does it cost to get TESOL certificate?

How much your TESOL course will depend on the provider and type of course.

Around $200 - $500 will bag you a good quality online 120-hour TESOL course. Courses priced lower than this should be approached with caution. The reason being that budget courses can often cost you a lot more than the incredibly low price advertised. Often there are hidden fees and if employers don’t recognize the qualification because of lack of accreditation then it’s a waste of both time and money.

Course priced above this typically involves classroom training, which hikes up the cost. These courses are usually in the $2,000 - $3,000 price bracket, so they’re quite a significant investment both in terms of time and money.

What are the TESOL certification requirements?

To sign up for a TESOL course the only requirement is fluency in English. It’s as simple as that.

When it comes to applying for jobs there can be additional requirements depending on the employer and country. Visa requirements are very important to research to establish where you’re able to secure work. Requirements can stipulate a degree (in any field) and particular nationality (typically US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa), which can be a barrier for some teachers.

If you’re a non-native English speaker, you can still teach English but it’s important to have evidence of proficiency when applying for jobs. Most employers will require non-native English speakers to have at C2 level .

Where to teach English abroad with TESOL? 

Wherever there are English language learners you can find opportunities to teach English! Check out the below table for information about some of the most popular TESOL destinations in the world, including requirements and how much you can expect to earn.

Country Avg. monthly salary Degree required Start of term Teaching experience Housing & flights included Suitable for non-native English speakers Age restrictions
Teach in Cambodia £560 - £2,000 GBP
($700 - $2,500 USD)
No November No No Yes under 65
Teach in China £1,000 - £2,000
($1,300 - $2,575)
Yes September No Yes Yes, if degree obtained from an English-speaking country Under 55
Teach in Hong Kong £1,550 - £6,300
($2,000 - $8,380)
Yes August No Not usually Yes Under 60
Teach in India £120 - £775
($150 - $1,000)
Yes April Yes No Yes None
Teach in Indonesia £560 - £1,187 GBP
($700 - $1,500 USD)
Yes July No Not usually No under 60
Teach in Japan £1,600 - £2,000
($2,100 - $2,675)
Yes April No Sometimes Yes under 65
Teach in Kazakhstan £360 - £470
($465 - $600)
Yes August Yes Yes Yes None
Teach in Malaysia £550 - £1,450
($720 - $1,900)
Yes January Preferred Sometimes Yes under 65
Teach in Myanmar £600 - £1,500
($800 - $2,000)
Yes June Preferred Sometimes No under 52
Teach in Mongolia £700 - £1,120 GBP
($875 - $1,400 USD)
Yes September Yes Sometimes Yes None
Teach in Nepal Voluntary No April No Sometimes Yes None
Teach in South Korea £1,280 - £1,600
($1,670 - $2,000)
Yes March No Yes No Under 62
Teach in Taiwan £1,335 - £1,735
($1,700 - $2,220)
Yes September No Sometimes No Under 65
Teach in Thailand £740 - £980
($1,000 - $1,280)
Yes May No Sometimes Yes None
Teach in Vietnam £920 - £ 1,500
($1,200 to $2,000)
Yes August No No Yes Under 60

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Q. Do I need TESOL certification to teach English?

    The simple answer is a big YES! Long gone are the days when it was possible to find work teaching abroad just because you’re fluent in English. These days the vast majority of employers require teachers to have a 120 hours TESOL certification, and it’s usually a red flag if you come across a job application that doesn’t ask for any qualifications or experience at all. Find out more about how to keep yourself safe from scams and bad employers.

  • Q. How long does TESOL certificate take?

    When you do your TESOL certification online the course will likely be self-paced. This means you’re able to study in your own time and at your own speed.

    A 120-hour online TESOL course will take most people around two to three months to complete working at a comfortable pace. But it’s all about the time you have to devote to the course, meaning it’s possible to complete it quicker or take your time with it!

  • Q. How long does a TESOL certificate last?

    The good news is that TESOL certification does not expire. However, if there’s a bit of a gap between getting certified and applying for jobs it’s advisable to ‘top up’ your qualification.

    You can do this by taking an advanced TESOL course, which will focus on a specific area of TESOL. Not only does this serve to refresh your previous studies, but it also helps to boost your CV by furthering your training.

  • Q. Do I need to speak another language to teach English?

    Being able to speak another language isn’t necessary for TESOL. While it can certainly be beneficial to speak the local language when living and working abroad, it’s not needed for the job because only English is used in the classroom.

  • Q. Can I get TESOL certification without a degree?

    While it’s possible to teach English without a college degree the truth is that your options are limited. For US citizens without a college degree, you can find work teaching in South America but in Asia the only exception is Cambodia. And when it comes to Europe it would be extremely difficult to secure work.

    Don’t let it put you off TESOL, though - just be aware that you won’t be eligible for as many positions as someone who does have a degree. And there are plenty of options for teaching English online as well!

    Read more about How to become an ESL teacher.

  • Q. Will a TESOL provider find me a job?

    Good TESOL course providers will provide a level of assistance to help you find work but they won’t place you in a job. The best colleges in the world can’t claim to guarantee you a job after graduation! In fact, TESOL courses that claim to “guarantee” you a job after completion are usually best avoided. Our post - Should you take a TEFL course with a guaranteed job placement - delves further into this.

  • Q. Can I teach English without prior work experience?

    No previous teaching experience is required to get started in TESOL. The global demand is so high that there are plenty of entry-level positions to be found that don’t require previous experience.

  • Q. Are there age restrictions for TESOL?

    You can teach English at any age, but it’s important to remember that some countries (particularly in Asia) do have upper age limits. If you’re over 50 don’t let that put you off getting started in TESOL, you just need to be aware of those countries that have strict retirement ages. You can find more information about age requirements by country over on our Definitive Guide to Teaching English Abroad.

  • Q. Will a TESOL certificate help me get a better job?

    In this industry, salaries are typically determined by experience. This means that one TESOL course isn’t going to get you a better-paid job than another. But that certainly doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter what course you do! We’ve already talked about why it’s important to ensure your certification is done through an accredited and internationally accredited provider. Remember, cheaping out on a course can actually end up leaving you out of pocket and out of work!

  • Q. Where to find TESOL jobs?

    You can find thousands of TESOL jobs online. Good TEFL course providers will have their own jobs boards where students and graduates can apply for positions. There are also a number of large jobs boards specifically for TESOL jobs, such as Dave’s ESL Cafe, TEFL.com, ESL Base, and Ajarn.

Teach English Online & https://www.eslbase.com/jobs/Abroad with The TEFL Org

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