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The 5 Best FREE & Cheap Online TEFL Certification Courses

Getting TEFL certified doesn’t have to cost you your life savings, and, in fact, there are even some free online tefl certification options. While many higher-priced courses will set you back thousands of dollars, you should be aware of these more moderately-priced (and free) alternatives.

Unless you’re aiming for a particular niche within the ESL industry that requires specialized certification, an accredited, affordable or free online TEFL certification course can be just as marketable as one that costs thousands of dollars.

Free TEFL Certification Courses

Without further ado, here are our top picks for cheap and free online TEFL certification courses in 2022.

TEFL Hero 40 Hour Free Online TEFL Certification [Best Overall]

The TEFL Hero 40 Hour Free Online TEFL Certification is the only truly free online TEFL certification course that’s both a.) accredited and b.) comes with no strings attached.

Teachers-in-training who’ve taken the course and offered their feedback appreciate the top-tier training materials developed by actual teachers, including ESL veterans Kristine Thorndyke and Quincy Smith.

free online tefl certification

The course consists of 4 modules that focus on foundational elements of ESL as well as how to effectively manage your classroom.

Here are the highlights covered in the course:

  • Background info regarding what TEFL is and an overview of how the industry works
  • Lesson planning training to develop the core ESL skills (reading, writing, speaking)
  • Classroom management techniques to effectively govern students and create a learning-friendly environment
  • Fully-accredited 40-hour TEFL certification awarded at the end of the course

Pros:

  • Totally free (the only 40-hour course of its kind with no commitments or extensive application required at all)
  • Practical curriculum developed by ESL pros with real-world classroom experience
  • You can finish in as little as two weeks (or on whatever schedule you choose; it’s self-paced)
  • Minimal entry requirements (you must be 16 and reasonably proficient at English)

Cons:

  • Some employers might require a 120-hour certification as a baseline requirement
  • No live instruction element

Free Online TEFL Certification Scholarships

Free online TEFL certification scholarships/sponsorships differ slightly from fully free online courses like the one explored above from TEFL Hero.

The key differences are the major strings attached.

Accordingly, it’s critical that you know what you’re signing up for when you agree to one of these programs. Under the right circumstances, they can be an excellent option to get certified – if you don’t mind the catches like, for example, being locked into a contract for a year or so or writing lengthy essays.  

EF Free TEFL Certification Sponsorship [Best for Teaching Abroad]

If you know for sure that your heart is set on teaching abroad (and want guaranteed job placement), then the EF Free TEFL Certification Sponsorship (emphasis on might) be your best bet. You can learn more about this sponsorship here.

To qualify, you’ll need to have a bachelor’s degree, a clean record, and a gung-ho attitude about shipping off to Asia for at least a year.

This is how it works in a nutshell: English First foots the bill up front for training new teachers through a certified program. In exchange, you, the teacher, agree to teach at one of their schools for a year — probably in China where they do most of their business. But you might get placed in Indonesia as well.

Pros:

  • Full-on visa support (a huge bonus, which you’ll appreciate if you’ve ever attempted to navigate Kafkaesque foreign bureaucracies on your own)
  • Immediate access to a support network in a foreign country (EF is an enormous ESL company)
  • In-classroom training provided once you arrive at foreign destination
  • Specialized units in the curriculum devoted to teaching adults, children, and in online environments 

Cons:

  • More stringent entry requirements than other courses (must have a bachelor’s degree, be a native speaker, and pass a background check)
  • Must agree to a year-long contract

Via Lingua TEFL Certification Scholarship [Best Study Abroad]

The Via Lingua “Ernestine Moore Scholarship” Essay Contest is your chance to shine if you’ve got a knack for writing persuasive essays – and if you want to take on your TEFL certification studies overseas in an exotic locale such as Florence, Italy or, my personal favorite city in the world, Budapest, Hungary.

Here’s how the scholarship program works: you write an awesome and poignant essay on the topic of “Why I Want to Become an English Teacher.”

It has to be in English, obviously, 300-500 words, and well-written. You submit your work via email to info@vialingua.org and wait to hear back.

If your essay prevails and impresses the judges, you’ll get a departure date and pack your bags for your international TEFL training.

Pros:

Cons:

  • Significant legwork required (an essay) with no guarantee of placement
  • €275 (about $300) application deposit

Cheap Online TEFL Certification Course Alternatives

Free is ideal, of course, but free might not be what you need or what you can get.

Luckily, you have TEFL certification options that are doable even within narrow financial parameters – i.e., even if you subsist on a Ramen Noodle-type budget.

What to look for in a cheap online TEFL course

Not every cheap TEFL course is going to be worth your while and worth the price tag, even if that cost is low. Here’s what to look for in a high-quality, low-cost TEFL course.

  • Is it accredited? Accreditation is essential; without it, your certification is pointless in the eyes of employers. TEFL Hero’s 120-hour online course, for instance, is accredited by globally-recognized accreditation agency ACCREDITAT. Accordingly, it’s recognized worldwide.
  • Is the length a minimum of 120 hours? The minimum standard that many employers (and government immigration bureaus that issue visas) require in a TEFL certification is 120 hours. 40-hour or 100-hour courses may suffice in some circumstances, but not all.
  • What do student reviews say? Read reviews from a wide array of sources (Reddit, TrustPilot, Glassdoor, just to name a few) to get an unbiased sense of what former students have to say. You can learn a lot from their experiences.
  • Does the provider offer student support? You want a program that will respond to any pleas for help you might have – whether technical or curriculum-related in nature.

If the answer to any of the above is “no”/”not good,” or any variation thereof, steer clear for better TEFL waters.

TEFL Hero 120 Hour TEFL Course [Best Value]

The fully-accredited TEFL Hero 120 Hour TEFL Course is hands-down your ideal choice for a fully online, self-paced, value-packed TEFL course.

The course covers all the ESL essentials:

  • classroom management
  • the basic English proficiencies and how to teach them
  • constructing and executing flawless lesson plans that produce results
  • phonics and other nuances of the language
  • the optimal use of body language and non-verbal teaching cues (sometimes called “total physical response“)

It’s not quite free, but at $99, this investment will pay for itself and then some over time as you set out on your ESL career. You get 24/7 tutor support – we pledge to respond within 48 hours to your questions so you can stay on target.

Check out this review of TEFL Hero from an actual student featured on goabroad.com:

Pros:

  • Developed by real ESL teachers with years of real-world, in-class experience
  • Covers all the fundamental aspects of teaching, including classroom management, the four basic proficiencies (reading, writing, listening, and speaking) and various teaching theories
  • The most affordable accredited 120-hour course on the market
  • Digital copy of certification available immediately after finishing the course

Cons:

  • No live instruction element
  • No job placement assistance

ITTT TEFL 120 Hour TEFL [In Person Options]

In-person TEFL courses largely went the way of the buffalo in the post-COVID era, but they’re still out there. And some are still affordable. The ITTT TEFL 120 Hour TEFL course could be what you’re looking for if you want that in-person learning experience.

ITTT is arguably the most well-established TEFL certifier in the industry. It’s been around since the 90s, has passed thousands of students through its courses, and is a member of the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language.

You can get certified through ITTT online (which I actually did back in 2010) or you can sign up for one of their in-person courses scattered across North America, South America, Europe, and Asia.

Here’s a video breakdown of the course:

Depending on the course location, the cost will be in the range of $1,400-$2,200.

Pros:

  • One of the oldest and most respected names in TEFL certification
  • In-class learning, which carries various potential advantages over online learning
  • Lots of locations, so you can train where you want to teach
  • Plenty of location-specific networking opportunities and logistical support

Cons:

  • Significantly more expensive than online options
  • More restrictive schedule than self-paced online options

Premier TEFL 130 Hour Hybrid TEFL [Best Hybrid Option]

Let’s suppose you want the best of both worlds – the convenience of online instruction plus some of those irreproducible benefits of in-person learning that you simply can’t get online (at least until we’re all living in the Metaverse). You might want to look at Premier TEFL 130 Hour Hybrid TEFL.

The course includes a 120-hour online learning component plus a 10-hour Teacher Studio class with live hands-on instruction from an experienced ESL teacher.

At €185 (about $200), it’s only slightly more expensive than a lot of 100%-online options. For many students, the benefit of the live training component is worth the extra cost.

Pros:

  • 14-day money-back guarantee after joining
  • The best of both worlds – most is self-paced and online but with live, in-person complementary learning
  • Various start dates available
  • Well-reviewed online

Cons:

  • More expensive than entirely online TEFL course options
  • Requires physical presence in a specific location at a specific time

Free & Cheap TEFL Course FAQs

You’ve got questions. We’ve got answers.™ (That’s a 90s-era Radio Shack boomer reference; sorry, Gen Zers).

What’s the difference between a 40-hour and 120-hour TEFL?

120-hour certification is the industry “gold standard.” It will open nearly any ESL job to the holder. 40-hour TEFL certification is still valuable, but it might not meet the requirements of some employers.

Are all TEFL courses accredited?

All the courses described here are fully accredited, but there are some courses on the web that are not. Never pay for a non-accredited course; it’s a waste of money.

Can I get a TEFL certificate without a degree?

Yes. Many TEFL certification programs are open to non-degree holders. You can also teach without a degree in many institutions.

Is a 120-hour TEFL enough?

Unless you’re planning to teach in higher education, an international school, or some other elite training program, a 120-hour TEFL certification (provided that it’s accredited) is absolutely enough to meet employers’ requirement thresholds.

Bottom Line on Free & Cheap TEFL Courses

Getting TEFL certified through an accredited program for free or on a tight budget is possible. Do your due diligence by researching the provider thoroughly beforehand to make sure their course will be worth your while – specifically, that it’s accredited by a recognized accrediting agency. Luckily, the providers discussed here have all been vetted for quality and legitimacy – so why not start with these options?

Happy certifying!

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We give away a FREE TEFL course every month​ – enter to win and start your teaching journey!

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