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How to Get TEFL Certification in 5 Steps – Online or In-Person 2023

If you’re eager to break into the international English as a second language (ESL) game – whether your preferred employment destination is South America, Asia, or Europe – you’ll want to read this comprehensive article with step-by-step instructions on how to get TEFL certification – a must-have for any up-and-coming teacher.

Increasingly competitive online ESL providers increasingly require TEFL certification as well from prospective teachers on their platforms.

Let’s get into it.

What is a TEFL certificate?

“TEFL” stands for “teaching English as a foreign language.” It is a particular discipline under the broader English education umbrella, referencing English instruction provided to non-native-English-speaking students, usually in foreign countries.

Because most English teachers of non-native-English-speaking students don’t have degrees in education, earning a TEFL certification demonstrates to employers that job applicants have received specialized training in the ESL discipline.

tefl certificate

Your ideal accredited* TEFL program, as TEFL Hero’s 120-hour online TEFL course does, will cover:

  • How to manage classrooms (both in-person and digital)
  • How to plan effective lessons that deliver results
  • The big four English proficiencies for non-native learners to acquire: listening, speaking, reading, and writing
  • Various theories of learning and associated instruction techniques

*Important: Always, always look for proper accreditation in a TEFL program you are considering. Without such an endorsement from an internationally-recognized accrediting agency, your TEFL certificate will be essentially worthless.

In a later section, we’ll explain more about TEFL accrediting bodies and how to determine whether a course you’re considering is legit.

Requirements for getting a TEFL certificate

In order to gain acceptance into a TEFL certification program, here are the basic requirements you must meet (these might vary slightly from course to course):

  • High school or GED
  • 18 years old
  • Bachelor’s degree (rarely required for some higher-end courses)
  • High level of English proficiency (non-native speakers may be required to present proof of IELTS score)

As you can see, TEFL certification courses have relatively low entry bars. Most adults meet the basic standards. If you don’t, there are still places you could teach – see more in our post on teaching English abroad without a TEFL certification.

You can expect to invest a minimum of 100 hours into the program in total. Self-paced online courses such as TEFL Hero’s are flexible in this regard, as you can fit your study time into your personal schedule around work or school.

How to get TEFL certification in 5 steps:

how to get tefl certification

Let’s run down a step-by-step guide to get TEFL-certified. Follow these and you’ll have a brand-new highly marketable TEFL certification in your name to help you land your ESL dream job in no time.

Decide if you want to complete a TEFL course online or in-person

One of the biggest choices you face is whether to take an online or in-person course. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a massive proliferation of online courses due to social distancing requirements. A slew of big-name TEFL providers, accordingly, now exclusively offer their courses in online formats.

Here are some considerations to weigh when deciding upon which type of TEFL course to pursue:

  • In-person courses have more rigid schedules; some online courses require attendance in digital classrooms at particular times but many are entirely self-paced. If you’ve got a busy schedule, chances are you’ll want to opt for an all-online class.
  • Due to the need to utilize physical classrooms with all the associated costs and the teacher’s physical presence, in-person courses tend to be more expensive.
  • Some students learn more effectively in in-person environments due to more personal interactions and greater accountability
  • It’s easier to “burn out” in online courses – a phenomenon sometimes dubbed “Zoom fatigue” in reference to the popular online meeting application. As effective as curricula designs might be, online learning is often simply less stimulating than in-person learning. (Online support forums for ESL teachers to share their experiences and challenges can lend help prevent burnout.)
how to get tefl certification

Read more about the respective pros and cons of online vs in-person learning.

Here are the unique benefits of TEFL Hero’s 120-hour self-paced online course:

Get Certified to Teach Anywhere!

Here’s what a real-life teacher who completed TEFL Hero’s online course has to say about her experience:

tefl hero review

Research accredited TEFL certification programs

Like most relatively new industries, the TEFL industry finds itself in a bit of a Wild Wild West phase of its development. There is currently no strong, centralized governing regime that parses out the professional TEFL courses from the pretenders.

Instead, employers, as we mentioned previously, rely largely on accrediting bodies to vet and confirm the validity of a particular TEFL course.

Examples of recognized TEFL course accrediting bodies include:

  • ACCET (Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training)
  • Teacher Training Council
  • IATEFL (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language)

Bear in mind that the above is not an exhaustive list; check out a more comprehensive listing of accrediting bodies here

The unfortunate reality, unsurprising though it will be to savvy internet users, is that scammers are out there. Accordingly, the TEFL industry operates in a largely unregulated, buyer-beware kind of market.

It’s on you, therefore, as an enlightened consumer, to ensure that the TEFL course you enroll in has received appropriate accreditation to make it worthwhile and economically viable.

Narrow the list down to 3-5 TEFL programs and contact them

What you’ll notice once you begin searching is that the web is chock full of accredited TEFL programs of varying quality.

Here are some questions to ask to parse out the course best-suited to meet your needs:

  • What requirements must students meet to pass the course (final assessment, demo class, etc.)?
  • Is the course online, in-person, or hybrid?
  • What kind of student support does the course offer? Will you get to talk to an actual person or a bot when an issue pops up, which is likely?
  • How long does the content access period last?
  • Are there hard deadlines or is the course self-paced?
  • Which organization accredits the course?
  • Do course developers/instructors have on-the-ground experience teaching ESL?
  • Does the course provide job placement assistance and/or employment guarantee?
  • What job search resources does the course provide post-graduation?

Reputable TEFL providers will provide timely, transparent answers to any questions you might have via their FAQs and/or contact pages.

Apply or enroll in chosen TEFL program

Once you’ve selected the right TEFL course for you based on the above criteria, the next step is to enroll in your chosen TEFL course.

Students who enroll in online courses like TEFL Hero’s are usually able to start learning immediately, while in-person courses are often scheduled to begin months out from the time of registration – so if you want to get started, get certified, and start teaching ASAP, that’s just another reason to go digital.

Set aside time each week to progress through course material

Once you’re all registered, paid up, and ready to go, the next step is to set aside time each week to make steady progress through the material for timely graduation.

Pacing is one of the biggest challenges posed by self-paced online courses because making a schedule – and, just as importantly, sticking to it – is entirely on you, the student. No one is looking over your shoulder to make sure you’re on target time-wise, and there are no scheduled classes to force you to keep your commitments.

Studies show that writing down goals makes meeting them in the prescribed time more likely. In fact, “people who very vividly describe or picture their goals are anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish their goals.”

Accordingly, if you’re going the online course route, consider putting hard goals in writing – for example, completing one module per week. In the case of TEFL Hero’s 120-hour course, that would put you on a trajectory to complete the entire course in under three months.

Related: CELTA vs TEFL: What’s the Difference? 

How long does it take to get TEFL certified?

The answer depends largely on whether the course is online and self-paced or in-person:

  • If it’s an in-person course or an online course with a live instruction element, the timeline is structured. The average length of an in-person course is about six months.
  • If it’s a self-paced online course like TEFL Hero’s, the timeline is entirely up to you. Students who hit the digital books hard can reasonably expect to finish in as little as a month. Alternatively, those who have busy schedules can stretch the course out for six months or more. When you purchase TEFL Hero’s accredited 120-hour online course, you have lifetime access to the material, so you enjoy a great deal of flexibility.

Related: Practice these 15 TEFL Sample Questions and Quizzes

How much does it cost to get a TEFL certificate?

TEFL course costs vary widely.

In-person courses tend to be more expensive for reasons enumerated previously – the cost of live instructors, utilities and rental costs for classrooms, etc. The average accredited in-person TEFL course cost is in the range of $1,000-$2,000.

Online courses have less such inherent overhead costs, and so can pass those savings onto students.

TEFL Hero’s price point of $99 is one of the lowest of any accredited course in the world – accredited being the operative word. You might find lower-cost TEFL courses out there, but chances are they’re not accredited and are therefore, again, essentially useless from an employment-seeking standpoint.

TEFL certification process FAQ

Let’s explore a few FAQs about the TEFL certification process.

Is it hard to get a TEFL certificate?

No. TEFL certification isn’t rocket science. There are no advanced mathematical formulas to memorize. If you’ve got a solid grasp on English, a good work ethic, and common sense, you’ll do fine.

Is a TEFL certificate worth it?

Yes. TEFL certification opens up employment opportunities that wouldn’t be available without one. It is increasingly a baseline, universal requirement of schools worldwide for ESL job applicants.

Do employers accept all TEFL certificates?

No. TEFL certificates are only universally accepted by employers if they are properly accredited and exceed 100 hours.

The bottom line on getting TEFL-certified

Here are the key points from our How to Get TEFL Certification post to keep in mind:

  • If you are over the age of 18 and have a high school diploma or GED, you’ll qualify for enrollment in most TEFL certification programs
  • Earning an accredited TEFL certification dramatically increases your attractiveness to ESL employers worldwide
  • If you devote lots of time and energy, you can earn a TEFL certification through an online course in as little as a month.
  • Always insist on verifying the accreditation status of any TEFL course you’re interested in.
  • Accredited online courses are generally more affordable than, and equally valuable for career prospects as, in-person courses.

Get Certified to Teach Anywhere!

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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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