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How to Get a Free TEFL Certification

Getting TEFL certified doesn’t have to cost you your life savings, and, in fact, there are even some free online TEFL certification opportunities (which we’ll get into shortly). To help you understand your options for free TEFL courses, TEFL scholarships, and TEFL courses on the cheap, we put together this in-depth guide on how to get a free TEFL certification online in 2024.

But first, let’s answer this key question:

Is There Even Such a Thing as a Free TEFL? 

Yes. But there’s just one – and it’s ours. 

We offer the only free TEFL certification course with no strings attached. To receive your free 40 hour TEFL certificate, you simply need to enroll in our 40 hour TEFL course, complete the lessons and quizzes, and pass the final assessment. You will then be able to download your TEFL certificate immediately upon completion – which is yours for life

The only FREE tefl certification course

Is there a catch?

Nope. There is no catch. But keep in mind, a 40 hour TEFL certificate may not meet the requirements that some schools online or abroad require. If a school requires a 120-hour TEFL certificate, then a 40 hour TEFL will simply not meet this requirement and you will need to complete a course with the minimum 120 hours in order to qualify. We’ll get into some cheap (but quality) 120 hour TEFL courses later in this post.

Why Take a Free 40 hour TEFL Certification Course? 

teach english online for free

We designed this free online 40 hour TEFL certification course as a foundation for newcomers to the ESL industry. Albeit “only” 40 hours, you will still gain several benefits for your career in teaching English online or abroad such as: 

  • How to plan lessons: learn the frameworks of planning ESL lessons that can be used in your first class
  • Teaching grammar and speaking: how to build lessons that allow students to express themselves through reading, writing, and speaking activities
  • Manage your students and classroom: Gain skills in classroom management to guarantee your classes run smoothly
  • Confidence: Teaching your first class can be intimidating, so gaining the knowledge and confidence as an ESL teacher means students will respect you as the expert. 
  • Expanded employment opportunities: Adding your TEFL certificate to your CV and harnessing what you’ve learned in your interviews can open up a wide array of employment opportunities

How to Get a Free TEFL Certification

Now that you understand the free TEFL landscape, I want to go through a few scenarios that may open up additional opportunities for you to get a free TEFL certification – or, at the very least, a sponsored TEFL (we’ll explain more on this shortly). First, let’s start with the easiest option – enrolling in a free TEFL certification course – with no strings attached:

Scenario 1: Enroll in a free TEFL certification course

As I mentioned previously, there is only one actually free TEFL certification course that does not require you to move abroad or be the lucky winner of a scholarship or work hundreds of hours to earn back the TEFL course. This is the free 40 hour TEFL certification course from TEFL Hero

40 hour free tefl certification course

Who benefits from a free 40 hour TEFL course? 

If you are new to teaching ESL online or are considering teaching ESL abroad, this is a fantastic foundational course that will teach you about the ESL landscape, provide the basic fundamentals of teaching ESL and managing a classroom, and get you prepped to teaching your first class. 

Many students who take this course are doing so because they are looking to gain more skills that they can use in the classroom or are already teaching or volunteering and want to brush up on their ESL teaching skills immediately. One of our students was a 40-year veteran teacher who used it to improve her volunteer ESL classes she was teaching weekly.

This course is also a great starter for anyone who is on the fence about teaching ESL and wants to dip his or her toes in the industry without any risk or investment. We have had students take our free course and use this newfound confidence to land jobs teaching ESL online or who decided that they wanted to go all-in with a 120-hour TEFL certification course so that they can teach abroad at their dream school!

Will a 40 hour course be enough for me to teach abroad? 

Very often, schools hiring teachers from abroad will require a 120-hour TEFL certificate. If this is the case, a 40-hour TEFL certification course will not satisfy this requirement. If a school or particular destination does not require a 120-hour TEFL certificate, then a 40-hour TEFL certificate can be a great asset for you during the application and interview process and help you to guarantee that your classes run smoothly and effectively!

Why do we offer a free TEFL course? 

TEFL Hero was founded by real ESL teachers – and we believe high-quality education should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their economic or geographic circumstances. We’ve had students from various backgrounds take our free course all around the globe and utilize it to expand their career options.

So what’s the catch? 

This is a free 40 hour TEFL certification course – and there are no hidden fees or “gotcha” moments. That said, if a job you’ve been eyeing requires a 120-hour TEFL certificate, this 40 hour TEFL will not be enough and you will need to either pay for the certification or embark on the following 2 scenarios: 

Scenario 2: Get a TEFL Sponsorship in Exchange for Teaching Abroad

A second way that you can get a free TEFL certificate is if you take a job teaching English abroad through EF – they will sponsor your 120 hour TEFL so that you can legally work for them in their language training center. 

What is EF? 

english first

EF (English First) is a language training company that hires English-speaking teachers and places them in their language training centers in China and Indonesia. They offer a lot of support for their new teachers – assistance in getting their Z visa, airport pickup service, 2 weeks free at a hotel, and even a flight allowance. 

They’re a very reputable company and you can rest assured that if you work for them, you are working by-the-books with a proper visa and you’ll get paid on time. 

How they’ll certify you for free

For EF to sponsor your 120-hour TEFL certificate, you must apply and be accepted to teach at one of EF’s training center locations in China or Indonesia. If you meet their requirements and you pass the interview process, then they will provide you with a free online 120-hour TEFL certification through one of their training partners. 

Who qualifies for the free 120 hour TEFL certificate? 

english first sponsorship criteria

To apply to EF TEFL Sponsorship, you must meet the following requirements: 

  • Have a bachelor’s degree
  • Be a passport holder from: UK, USA, Canada, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, or New Zealand
  • Have a clear background check
  • Commit to at least a one-year contract with EF

If you meet the above criteria and pass the interview with EF, then they will sponsor your online 120-hour TEFL certification course (which they say is valued at $500).

Is this legit? 

Their TEFL sponsorship is, indeed, legit. I personally know teachers who have taught at EF for their first job abroad and really enjoyed the experience – 55% of EF employees would recommend it to their friends, according to Glassdoor. 

That said, it may not be worth working at EF simply for getting a free TEFL. There are plenty of extremely affordable online 120-hour TEFL certification courses (ahem, like ours) that do not require you to move abroad to China in order to receive it. 

As someone who taught ESL abroad in China, I also think it’s worth noting that EF is a notoriously low-paying training school that churns through new teachers at an alarmingly high rate due to their great marketing and recruitment efforts. Salaries at these training centers are often a fraction of what you will make teaching ESL at other training centers or bilingual schools. You can see more about the types of ESL jobs in China here

Who should apply to EF for the sponsored TEFL? 

If you were already considering moving abroad to China and you are overwhelmed on how to apply for a visa and move abroad, then this may be a fantastic way for you to get your first job abroad and score a free, accredited 120 hour TEFL certificate. 

Scenario 3: Win a TEFL Scholarship

win a tefl scholarship

We haven’t found a TEFL scholarship that covers the entire cost of a 120-hour TEFL, but these 2 options will award you with a discount on your TEFL certification course if you meet their requirements: 

The International TEFL Academy Scholarship

international tefl academy scholarship

The International TEFL Academy offers a discount to active U.S. Military Personnel and Veterans. Additionally, those who have served in the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, Teach For America or City Year are applicable to this scholarship. Those who qualify will be provided with a scholarship to be applied to tuition for any Chicago TEFL Course and Part-Time/Full-Time Online TEFL course.

This will be deducted from the standard tuition; no other discounts apply. Official proof of service, ID cards, etc. is required.

  • The 11-Week Online TEFL course will be discounted from $1,499 to $999;
  • The 4-Week Intensive Online TEFL Course will be discounted from $1,999 to $1,699;
  • The Chicago TEFL Course will be discounted from $2,299 to $1,799.
Is this legit? 

Yes, this is a legit scholarship that can be applied towards a TEFL certificate. That said, it’s pretty much just a discount on their already marked-up TEFL courses. Their prices for their TEFLs change regularly and their current 11-week online TEFL course already has a discounted rate for the general public from $1,499 to $1,399.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you could score the same military service scholarship deal with a holiday promotion – so if you do not currently qualify, you can keep on the lookout for any discounts around big holidays. 

Premier TEFL Paid TEFL Scholarship

premier tefl scholarship

Premier TEFL will sponsor up to 97% of your in-person TEFL certification course in one of its 20 venues spanning across England, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Ireland, Poland, Malta, and Romania.

This TEFL certification course comes in options of 1,2, or 3 weeks at the specified location. All transportation and room-and-board costs during your training are mostly covered by the program (again, up to 97%) so you’re just on the hook for your flight to the country as well as a program fee that ranges from $19 for 3 weeks, $129 for 2 weeks, and $189 for 1 week. 

The TEFL certification course includes real, observed teaching – 60 hours in 1 week, 130 hours in 2 weeks, or 200 hours in 3 weeks. This can be a pretty great way to get your teaching jitters out of the way early, as you will be learning by doing from day 1. 

Who is eligible for this TEFL scholarship? 

You must be a passport holder from one of the following countries: USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, or New Zealand and be able to provide a clean criminal record check.  

Is this legit? 

Yes – this is indeed a legit TEFL training program that can get you TEFL-certified on the cheap! The only catch is that you are working a lot – and not technically getting paid for it.  Essentially, you are paying your way through your TEFL by teaching an excessive amount of hours – 200 teaching hours in 3 weeks chalks up to 67 hours of live teaching each week. As an experienced teacher, 67 hours of live teaching in one week sounds absolutely grueling.

Who can benefit from the Premier TEFL Scholarship?
tefl certification course with premier tefl

Apart from the long teaching hours, this is a great way for teachers to spend some time abroad and to get a TEFL and some teaching experience along with it. The perk of this Scholarship over the EF TEFL Sponsorship is that you aren’t locked into a year-long contract – simply spend the 1, 2, or 3 weeks with them and you receive a TEFL.

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 affordable 120 hour 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.

We’ve put this criteria into our rankings of the best online TEFL certification courses in 2024.

TEFL Hero 120 Hour TEFL Course [Best Value]

tefl hero 120 hour tefl certification course

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“)

Get Certified to Teach Anywhere!

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]

ittt 120 hour tefl

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]

premier tefl

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

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?

Get Certified to Teach Anywhere!

Happy certifying!

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