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How Long Does it Take to Get a TEFL [GUIDE TO TEFL 2021]

When looking at possible courses, you might wonder: how long does it take to get a TEFL certificate? In general, depending on the type of course you select, you can expect to invest approximately 1-3 months into a high-quality TEFL course from start to finish. The exact answer, as we will explore further will depend on the individual course format.

Factors like the hour count (more on course hours later), group learning vs. self-paced, online vs. in-person, etc. all affect how quickly you can finish the course. The web is chock full of TEFL courses. Here are a few factors that you might consider when browsing through the numerous offerings online:

  • Are you in the market for an online or in-person TEFL certification?
  • Do you plan to teach English online or abroad?
  • Do you want to transition into a teaching career using your TEFL certification?

Let’s get into it.

How Many TEFL Course Hours Do I Need?

One of the first differences among TEFL course offerings that you are sure to notice when you begin the selection process is the respective time commitments that they require. Per the industry standard, the lengths of TEFL courses are typically labeled in “hours” instead of “days” or “weeks.”

Most TEFL courses follow one of the following formats:

  • 100 hours
  • 120 hours (most common)
  • 150+ hours

100-Hour TEFL Courses

As a rule of thumb, if you plan to use your TEFL certificate to find international ESL employment, you should avoid 100-hour TEFL certification courses because they do not meet the requirements of many schools and immigration agencies (which in, many instances, include a TEFL certification as a requirement for a visa).

A 100-hour course simply doesn’t offer the return on investment that a 120-hour course does. The bottom line: If you are serious about adding a TEFL qualification to your resume that will impress potential employers, eliminate this category from consideration and look for a 120-hour TEFL course.  

120-Hour TEFL Courses

The 120-hour TEFL course format is the industry “gold standard.”

Unless you have some special considerations or circumstances that require additional instruction (more on that in the next section), a 120-hour TEFL course will be sufficient for your needs.

how to get an online TEFL certificate

Why? A high-quality 120-hour TEFL course from an accredited provider is sufficient for nearly every type of ESL employment. Schools and language institutions that require more than 120 hours of training in a TEFL course are exceedingly rare.

Related: 15 TEFL Sample Questions & Quizzes

The only significant potential downside to taking a 120-hour course and not a more involved one is that, in many cases, you miss out on hands-on classroom practice – a valuable component of ESL teacher instruction that prepares you for work “in the field” by exposing you to a real classroom environment (read our guide on CELTA vs TEFL here).

Many 120-hour TEFL courses offer a few hours of supervised in-class teaching practice (usually around 6 hours) but some do not. If this is an important aspect of a TEFL course for you, then you might want to look at a 150-hour class or higher.

150+ Hour TEFL Courses

At the highest end of the time commitment spectrum is the 150+ category. These courses typically offer extensive in-class teaching practice (sometimes more than 20 hours) as well as cultural training to help you adjust to the new social environment you will find yourself in – assuming that international ESL employment is your ultimate objective.

Aside from extra teaching practice (teaching practicum), these more involved TEFL courses also usually offer another invaluable component to their curricula: cultural training.  

For ESL teachers that find work overseas, culture shock is a very real psychosocial phenomenon. Certain individuals — based on life experiences and personality traits — are more susceptible to developing culture shock than others.

A quality 150+ hour TEFL course, taught by an expert instructor who has experience in the destination you are interested in, will likely help prepare you to meet and overcome the cultural challenges that we all face when we move to a new location. Many 120-hour courses do not have this feature.

Despite the perks, the downsides of 150+ hour TEFL courses are higher cost, more time investment, and limited long-term payoff (the vast majority of ESL employers do not require above 120 hours of training).

Get Certified to Teach Anywhere!

Does a ‘120-Hour’ TEFL Course Really Take 120 Hours to Finish?

Not usually.

For self-paced, online TEFL courses, the “120-hour” figure is just a rough estimate for the time that it takes for an average person, working at an average pace, to finish the course. When calculating these hours, companies err on the side of caution in terms of the estimations – meaning that you are not likely to, in fact, spend 120 hours to finish a 120-hour course.

However, if you are learning in-person in a physical classroom, then your 120-hour TEFL certification course will likely take the allotted time to complete because it will follow a set schedule (i.e., 9am-5pm daily, for example)

The ability to work at your own pace and, if you desire, to speed up your progress through your TEFL course to finish faster is an important potential advantage of an accredited, DIY, all-online TEFL course.

How Long Is a TEFL Certificate Good For?

Think of a TEFL certificate as a college diploma – there is no shelf life. TEFL certificates do not have an expiration date. You can use a TEFL certificate – provided that it is properly accredited (more on TEFL accreditation in the following section) – for decades.

What Is the Best TEFL Certification Program?

Given the dizzying array of TEFL course programs offered on the web (some aggressively marketed), deciding which program best suits your learning preferences, budget, and career goals is a daunting task.

There are a few things to consider, in addition to what we’ve already covered, in terms of whittling down your options.

A Note on TEFL Accreditation

Accreditation — which basically means that an inspecting organization confirms the course to be what it claims to be — from a globally recognized TEFL accrediting agency is a must-have. If the TEFL course you are considering is not accredited, then your TEFL certificate is essentially worth the paper it’s printed on and nothing else.

Accordingly, you should check out a prospective TEFL course’s accreditation status before even considering enrolling. Scores of TEFL accrediting agencies (some legitimate, some not) certify courses, but these are some of the leading TEFL course accreditors:

  • ACCREDITAT
  • IATEFL (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language)
  • Teacher Training Council
  • ACCET (Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training)
  • ODLQC (Open & Distance Learning Quality Council)

Rely on Reviews From Real TEFL Course Students to Help You Decide

Whether the products are hamburgers or TEFL courses, advertising is advertising. The TEFL industry – which generates $63 billion in annual global revenue — is big business. This profit motive is more than enough incentive for marketers to exaggerate or even to outright misrepresent the benefits of the TEFL courses they are promoting.

It’s up to you to do your due diligence. The good news is that you can use the free resources below to connect with real former students of any TEFL course you are interested in. The following sites host forums and review pages where ESL teachers can interact and share their unfiltered experiences:

Why Should I Consider a 120-Hour TEFL Hero Course?

If you’ve narrowed down your TEFL search parameters to an all-online, 120-hour, fully accredited TEFL course that will open the door to new ESL employment opportunities, then TEFL Hero (founded and run by bona fide ESL teachers with international experience) should be at the top of your list.

how long does it take to get a TEFL

The standout features of the TEFL Hero 120-hour course are:

  • Online accessibility 24/7 (compatible with all mobile devices)
  • Real tutor support (with responses to your questions guaranteed within 48 hours)
  • Lifetime access to all course resources (including any new materials or updates)
  • Significantly more affordable than similar 120-hour TEFL courses ($99)

TEFL Hero has earned an endorsement by ACCREDITAT— one of the industry leaders and most recognizable names in TEFL accreditation.

How Quickly Can I Find a Job After Finishing My TEFL Course?

After you earn your TEFL certificate, there is nothing to stop you from beginning your job search immediately. Check out some of these fantastic ESL job boards to discover teaching opportunities around the globe (maybe in places you haven’t even considered):

To elicit maximum interest in your services from the schools and language centers that you approach, as a general guideline, you should include the following documents as a standard part of any application:

  • A copy of your passport photo page (you can blur or cover the passport number to protect against identity theft)
  • A copy of your higher education diploma
  • A copy of your TEFL certificate
  • Your resume
  • A stand-alone photo of yourself (not always required but many schools, especially in Asia, are likely to ask for one)

The Bottom Line on the TEFL Certification Process

If you play your cards right, stay diligent about your coursework, and choose the best course to meet your needs, you can realistically plan to complete an online 120-hour TEFL course (which does not always actually take 120 hours) in a matter of 3-4 weeks. 

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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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