TESOL Certification

TESOL – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages – is a booming industry around the world.

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According to Babbel, there are 1.35 billion English speakers worldwide. However, just 360 million of those speak English as their first language. English is, by some distance, the most studied language in the world, with 1.5 billion learners according to the Washington Post

This could be where you come in.

TESOL certification programs are a fantastic opportunity to be part of that study experience. With TESOL certification, you can travel the world, have incredible adventures, and forge a career in teaching English as a foreign language.

For those with an itch to travel the world, while passing on vital skills as a teacher, it couldn't be a more perfect path.

It's probably much easier than you thought, too. With a versatile schedule, affordable course prices, and an endless range of support and materials to get you through, TESOL certification isn't some pipe dream, something other people do. You can, too!

So what do you need to know about TESOL certification before beginning your teaching journey?

Here’s our guide to attaining TESOL certification.

What is TESOL certification?

So, before embarking on a career teaching English as a foreign language, you'll need TESOL certification.

TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. The acronym - handily - also represents the academic certification you'll need.

With a TESOL certificate, you'll be eligible for a range of jobs worldwide. While some employers might require a degree or previous experience, the demand for English language teaching means that a TESOL certificate is probably more than enough to embark on something truly special!

TESOL certification can be achieved online or in a classroom. The best online TESOL courses last at least 120 hours, with dedicated tutor support, a wealth of resources to draw upon, and many offer the ability to complete the course in the comfort of your own home.

Other entry-level TESOL certifications include CELTA and Trinity Cert TESOL courses.

What about diplomas, and the like? What’s the difference there?

A TESOL course is not a diploma. It’s an entry-level course that will give you the grounding to teach English abroad as a foreign language. A TESOL diploma, meanwhile, is understood in the industry to be the DELTA or Trinity DipTESOL diplomas, which is a postgraduate level of study.

There are discount “diplomas” offered out there. Be wary; recognized diplomas require an initial TESOL/TEFL certificate as well as a few years of teaching experience. If you’re being offered a “diploma” from the off, it’s definitely not something that’s recognized as such. Employers will know the difference.

What's the difference between TESOL and TEFL?

So, TESOL, TEFL; what's the difference?

TESOL - Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages - and TEFL - Teaching English as a Foreign Language - tend to be used interchangeably. Both concern teaching English language learners.

Generally speaking, TESOL is more commonly used in North America, while TEFL is the term most often used in Europe.

So, whether you see a job description including TEFL, TESL, TESOL, or another similar acronym, you'll be prepared for the exciting world of teaching English abroad whether you have a TESOL or TEFL certificate.

What are the requirements for taking a TESOL course?

So, if you want to be a TESOL teacher, surely you need a degree, some teaching experience, or relevant qualifications to get started?

Nope, nope and nope! Perhaps the best thing about switching careers and entering the world of TESOL is that all you need is fluency in English, the fee to complete the course, and - obviously - the time to complete it.

TESOL courses can take different amounts of time, depending on what you’ve chosen. 120 hours is the industry standard and tends to be what employers require on a CV before they’ll consider an applicant. A Level 5 or Advanced TESOL course may take longer to complete. Good providers will give you self-paced options to complete courses to your own timescale.

A Groupon TESOL course might promise certification within far less time. It's entirely up to you how much or how little time you want to take in completing the TESOL course, but be wary of courses claiming to be 120 hours that have reviews where people say they’ve completed it within a few days.

By the end, you'll have classroom experience, a wealth of resources to draw upon, and the confidence to know you can teach English abroad or online. Sounds good, right?

How much does TESOL certification cost?

TESOL courses vary a great deal, in terms of pricing.

There are Groupon deals and discounted courses that promise a great deal for little expenditure. Groupon courses may be cheap, but they are rarely adequately accredited and there are usually a number of hidden fees, so they might not be quite as cheap as you first thought.

However, for higher-quality TESOL certification programs, you can expect to pay between $250-$550. Course providers often run promotions on courses, so you can pick up a good deal, but TESOL courses from accredited and internationally-recognized providers tend to be around that price range.

There are more pricey options. For example, the CELTA, which is an intensive course usually run over four weeks, costs around $1,500 – $2,600.

So, ultimately, it’s about finding value. You don’t necessarily need a CELTA qualification to teach English abroad. An accredited, well-costed 120-hour TESOL program normally does the trick, and won’t cost the earth to complete.

Not only that, you’ll be able to finish the course in your timescale. That’s not necessarily a luxury that’s afforded at higher price brackets.

How long does it take to get TESOL certified?

Really, like everything else here, the time it takes to gain a TESOL qualification is up to you.

As explored before, there's a great degree of flexibility. We've got a whole blog post about the duration of a TESOL course, but in case you're in a hurry; it depends on your lifestyle and commitments.

On average, most students take 10-12 weeks to complete a 120-hour TEFL course. If you study full-time, you could complete the course in less than a month, but if you're working, have child-care needs, or any other reason to do part-time learning, then it can take a bit longer.

Be wary of courses offering a complete TESOL course within a week, or a similarly narrow time frame. Chances are, it's not accredited by reputable bodies.

Can something so important and potentially life-changing really be done quickly and on the cheap?

It's all about getting back what you put in. The more you absorb the material, and the more practical experience you have, the better a TESOL teacher you'll be. It makes no sense to rush something that could change the course of the rest of your life, does it? If you're unsure about your time commitments and how much you'll be able to do, take our quiz to decide which is the right course for you, or try a taster session!

What jobs can you get with TESOL certification?

The demand for new, enthusiastic people to teach English abroad is enormous. You'll be embarking on your teaching career in no time, with demand for new teachers stretching from Costa Rica to Japan, Honolulu to Ho Chi Minh.

With TESOL training, you'll be very well placed to meet the high demand of the market for TEFL providers around the world.

TESOL jobs abroad

Becoming a TESOL teacher abroad these days couldn’t be easier.

Language schools are almost always looking for new teachers for all kinds of learners, especially with the prominence of the English language in business settings. In a globalized economy, knowledge of English is particularly important - and that's where your teaching skills come in.

Colleges and Universities, too, regularly hire TESOL certified teachers. TEFL/TESOL courses at Universities for non-native speakers of English are perennially popular, especially in the Middle East and Asia. These roles are an excellent option for the academically-minded.

You could even start your own English language teaching school abroad. Yes, the demand for TESOL training and having English as a second language around the world really is vast, and if you're able to, you could be your own boss and tailor a learning experience all of your own, somewhere far from home.

Alternatively, you could become a course designer. The options are vast if you've got the wherewithal and resources. This can't be stressed enough though: make sure you're aware of the visa requirements for employment in a new country. As our guide to teaching English abroad shows, some countries will require a degree for English teaching positions. Unfortunately, there's no way around that for the most part. That can be a degree in anything; not necessarily in language or teaching specifically.

TESOL jobs online

Want to teach English online? Not a problem!

Many employers are looking for online classes and distance learning options. You could teach students based in Cambodia, South Korea, or Samoa, all from the comfort of your own home.

You could work as a freelancer, teaching English online in your own hours, at your own discretion. If you're particularly entrepreneurial, you could even start your own TESOL service, offering tutor support in an ad hoc setting!

The ability to work remotely, especially owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, has created a booming industry. Teachers don't have to be in the classroom to provide excellent English teaching anymore.

It's surprisingly easy to get started. With an internet connection and the range of communication tools available these days, you can teach English online in a variety of ways.

Whether teaching online or conducting in-class training, there are always - and we mean always! - online TESOL companies needing teachers.

You certainly won't be struggling for opportunities after doing TESOL training - teaching English is a valuable skill in the job market.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

    It certainly helps!

    Employers will at the very least ask for some kind of formal training in teaching English as a foreign language before you embark on such a role.

    You might not need a degree, but having at least a 120-hour TESOL certificate in the bag when you apply for roles abroad will certainly put you in far better stead to land that first teaching job.

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

    Yes, you absolutely can.

    While TESOL certification is like any other academic pursuit, it's also about creating new opportunities. Stopping people from exploring TESOL because they lack a degree makes no sense at all. 

    As long as you can speak English, you have the grounding to explore teaching. It really is as simple as that.

    In terms of work, it helps to do your research. Employers in Japan, for example, will require a degree because it’s necessary for a work visa. However, there are lots of other great places where a degree isn't required to teach English.

    Ultimately, it depends on the employer, but as far as top TESOL course providers are concerned, you don't need a degree to get started.

  • Q. How long is a TESOL course?

    As explored, the timeline is up to you.

    Some students prefer to get it done quickly, others need time to work the TESOL course around their schedule. Either approach is absolutely fine.

    If a student is considering moving across the world with a brand-new skill, then they'd want to be confident they have the skills and know-how to thrive. For some that might be from doing an intense course in a short time, or from taking several months to get it done.

    The upper limits tend to be around 6 or 7 months when studying part-time. Do what works for you.

  • Q. Which one is better: TEFL or TESOL?

    Really, TEFL and TESOL are the same things. You're learning the skills to teach English abroad or online. 

    TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language, while TESOL means Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. 

    Confusing? Maybe a little. Be assured though, they're essentially identical.

  • Q. Is a TEFL / TESOL Certificate worth it?

    Before making any kind of investment, you want to be assured you're making the right decision. That stands to reason.

    These days, it’s very difficult to get a TESOL job without TESOL certification. Meanwhile, you're far more likely to feel confident about teaching English abroad if you've had the requisite learning to do so.

    It's up to you, of course. If you're looking to start a career abroad teaching English, though, chances are a TEFL / TESOL certification is worth it.

    Put it this way: if you were looking to hire someone to teach English at your school or college, would you want the candidate with or without an accredited TEFL / TESOL certificate?

  • Q. What is the best TESOL course?

    That's not for us to say, of course. However, accreditation is key. The more highly accredited a TESOL course is, the likelier it is to help you find that first job.

    120 hours is the industry standard, while there are advanced courses with specific reference to business, grammar and other areas where having English is crucial.

    That serves anyone far better than a Groupon deal that promises to equip you with the skills and certification required to teach English as a foreign language for just $50. These budget courses will not have sufficient accreditation, meaning the quality of the course is anyone’s guess! This isn’t just an issue for those taking the course, but for employers as well, who will check that an applicant’s certification was completed through an accredited, reputable provider.

    It's a serious academic undertaking, after all.

  • Q. Can you fail a TESOL course?

    Sadly, yes, you can fail a TESOL course. Again, it's an academic undertaking, and like all the others, you can pass or fail.

    Some TESOL providers may insist that there’s a guarantee of passing. However, just like any other institute in any other industry, the more reputable providers won’t promise you a pass. Otherwise, how are you meant to be assured of the best-quality course?

    With the right tutor support and resources, you won't fail. Graduates from all walks of life and different career paths have passed a TESOL course and are now living their dream somewhere far from home.

    With the right course, and the right materials and tutoring, anyone can pass the TESOL course. All it takes is initiative, hard work, and dedication. Just like every other bit of coursework, like every career challenge you've had, and anything you might've done in school.

What's stopping you?

So now, you know everything you need to know about TESOL certification.

There are few restrictions, you know what kind of courses are available, you know whether they're worth doing, and what kind of opportunities there are after doing an online TESOL course.

Remember, time is so important. Make sure you've got enough flexibility to fit a course around your own obligations. If you're able to do full-time study then great, but it's all about what works for you.

Any TESOL course worth doing will give you sufficient resources and time to learn everything that you'll need to be fully qualified for a teaching job. Don't be rushed by seemingly great value courses that are cheap and quick but aren’t comprehensive or accredited. Simply put, you won't have the skills you need or the preparation required.

Once you're done, there are so many fantastic jobs available around the world. You could be somewhere completely new in a matter of months!

Not sure which is the best course for you? Why not try out our TESOL Course Quiz to see which of our programs is best suited to your needs?

Or, maybe you’re deciding where to start your TESOL journey? Our TEFL Country Guide has you covered, with new fantastic opportunities going up every day!

The TEFL Org has a range of excellent online courses to get you started. All of our TESOL courses are designed by teachers, and we’ve trained over 185,000 teachers, equipping them with the skills and expertise they need to embark on an incredible English language journey. Just take a look at our student stories page to get a flavor of how it’s worked out for several of our alumni!

What's stopping you from getting TESOL certified and having a successful career teaching English as a foreign language?