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How Much Does a TESOL Certification Cost? [GUIDE TO TEFL/TESOL 2021]

For nearly all purposes, an affordable 120-hour TESOL course in the $200-$300 price range is sufficient for most ESL jobs. Some students looking for a more robust TESOL certificate of 150+ hours or university-level will see fees raise significantly, with the average online TESOL certification cost between $400-$2,500. 

TESOL, which stands for “teaching English as a second language,” represents a significant financial investment for most teachers. Accordingly, for ESL teachers on tight budgets, TESOL certification cost is a major factor to consider when choosing a program.

Are you considering an investment into a TESOL course but are unsure if it’s worthwhile? As a specialized teaching discipline, higher-end TESOL courses (150+ hours) can run into the thousands of dollars – far out of reach for those on a tight budget and largely unnecessary. But have no fear, we’re going to give you the lowdown on what kind of TESOL you need and what can make them more affordable!

Let’s get into it. 

What Is the Difference Between a TEFL and TESOL Training Course?

Understandably, nearly every new teacher that enters the ESL (English as a second language) global marketplace is immediately confused by the terminologies at play. Like any industry, the ESL sector is full of its own jargon that can seem intimidating to an outsider.

Courses that train teachers to deliver effective, engaging English instruction to non-native learners generally fall under two similar but distinct categories:

  • Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)
  • Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL)

The essential distinction, at least in theory, between the two is that TEFL is the term designated for English instruction delivered in a non-native-English-speaking country (hence, the “foreign” part) while the “second” portion of TESOL refers to instruction to non-native learners in English-speaking countries (i.e., recent immigrants).

The bottom line on TESOL vs TEFL certification: In practice, TEFL and TESOL are functionally equivalent. The terms are used interchangeably in everyday environments. Employers do not generally have a preference, so either will grant you access to the higher-paying jobs that you seek – provided it is properly accredited and internationally recognized (more on accreditation later).

Is Getting a TESOL Certificate Worth the Cost?

The short answer, with caveats, is “absolutely.” If you take a look around at any leading ESL job boards, you will notice that a large majority of employers – from Thailand to Greece to Argentina and online as well – list TEFL/TESOL certification as either a requirement or a preference.

Especially at the higher end of the ESL pay scale, hiring managers will often not even consider a candidate that does not present a TESOL certificate with his or her application – it goes straight into the garbage bin. Finding employment in the most competitive job markets without a TESOL certificate is virtually impossible (for international schools or universities often a CELTA is required).

A 120-hour TESOL course will open up the following job opportunities that you cannot access (or will have more difficulty accessing) without one:

  • Private language centers
  • Higher education (college level and above)
  • Corporate training programs (often the most lucrative)
  • “International schools” (among the highest-paying ESL jobs)
  • More competitive job markets like the UAE (where some qualified teachers earn in excess of $5000 monthly), Saudi Arabia, South Korea, etc.
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In addition to making yourself more attractive to employers, having a TESOL also gives you negotiating leverage in terms of pay – as in most professions, higher levels of certification translate (if you negotiate correctly) into higher pay.

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Why Do TESOL Certification Costs Vary So Widely?

If you’ve done any amount of online TESOL course shopping, you probably noticed a wide variation in the price tags of various programs. Since the ESL industry – at least in its current, global, multi-billion-dollar-per-year form — is relatively new, part of the reason for such large TESOL course cost discrepancies might be the market working itself out.

However, certain tangible features will affect the value (and hence, the cost) of a TEFL course.

TESOL Course Features That Affect Price

The factors that affect a TESOL course cost and contribute to the disparity in the industry are:

  • Level of instruction (standard vs university level)
  • Live instruction vs. self-paced course
  • Number of course hours
  • Online vs in-person
  • Teaching practicum (observed teaching practice) vs no teaching practice
  • Tutor vs no tutor
  • Accreditation status

Always look for proper TEFL accreditation from a recognized accrediting organization. Without such credentials, a TEFL certification will have little value in the international market.

A savvy hiring manager will check the accrediting organization that verifies the quality and legitimacy of an applicant’s TEFL certification. The leading TEFL-accrediting agencies that are most sought-after by ESL employers are:

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

To summarize, generally speaking, an unaccredited self-paced, all-online TESOL course with no, or limited, teaching practicum and/or tutor support will be significantly more affordable than an accredited in-person, university-level course featuring live instruction, tutor support, and observed teaching practice.

Understanding TEFL Certification ‘Levels’ and Costs

Your chosen TEFL course will grant you certification – assuming that it is accredited — at one of eight proficiency levels (1-8) as laid out by the UK Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual).

  • Levels 1-3: Minimal training, intended as “refresher” or introductory courses, limited marketability for ESL employment.
  • Levels 3-4: The level of certification that most employers look for. Accredited 120-150-hour courses fall into the TEFL “sweet spot” of maximum cost-effectiveness in terms of future job prospects.
  • Levels 5+: Generally intended for teachers with long-term career goals who want to break into the upper echelons of the industry – such as in higher education at the post-high school level.

If you are looking for a TEFL certificate that will qualify you for meaningful ESL employment without spending unnecessary time and money on certification that you don’t need, a level 3-4 course (120-150 hours) will suffice and this TESOL course cost won’t break the bank. 

TESOL Certification Cost Breakdown

We’ve broken down the standard TESOL course costs below by hour commitment, level of instruction, and mode of instruction (online vs in-person).

Average Online TESOL Course Cost

100 hours$150-$500
120 hours (Level 3-4)$350-$600
150 hours (Level 3-4)$400-$700
168 hours+ (Level 5)$800-$1500
University Level (Level 6-8)$1,000-$2,500

Average In-Person TESOL Course Cost

100 hours$300-$500
120 hours (Level 3-4)$350-$650
150 hours (Level 3-4)$500-$800
168 hours+ (aka Level 5)$750-$1,000
University Level (Level 6-8)$1,500-$2,500

Additional (Hidden) Potential TEFL Costs

It’s worth keeping in mind any additional expenses that come with an in-person course that might include:

  • Room and board (if the course is not in your hometown)
  • Any visa fees (if your in-person course is in a foreign country)
  • COVID-19 testing (if required for participants)
  • Transportation costs

Many in-person TEFL courses, especially more expensive ones, offer accommodation packages — often in collaboration with an affiliated local hotel or hostel that will partner with the course provider to lend a discount to students.

What are the components of a standard TESOL course?

TESOL certificates, depending on the length and the level, generally include the following components:

  • Review of basic grammar, sentence structure, parts of speech, etc.
  • Written/verbal teacher training that covers learning styles, learning theories, and delivering instruction on the basic competencies of English (reading, writing, listening, and speaking)
  • Cultural training (beneficial for first-time teachers considering employment overseas)
  •  Teaching practicum (observed teaching practice) – usually reserved for more intensive, in-person TEFL courses at level 4+
  • Reflection essay and/or end-of-course examination

What requirements must you meet before enrolling in a TESOL course?

Most TESOL courses require that their students:

  • Are at least 18 years old
  • Have a high level of English proficiency
  • High earned a school diploma or equivalent

Some more exclusive TESOL courses have higher requirement thresholds such as:

  • 4-year degree or equivalent
  • Pre-course interview with facilitator
  • Written application

TEFL Hero – which offers a 120-hour, online TESOL course designed by ESL teachers – is more flexible in its standard, which require that students:

  • Are at least 16 years of age
  • Have a reasonable competence in spoken and written English. 

Which TESOL certificate is the best? 

Ultimately, the ideal TESOL certificate for you will depend on a variety of factors that you should consider:

  • Desired time commitment
  • Type of ESL position you desire (full employment vs volunteer?)
  • Preferred learning environment (online or in-person?)
  • Your budget
  • Level of certification required
  • Preferred learning style (live instruction or self-paced?)
  • Job search help? (some TEFL courses offer assistance landing a job after graduation; a handful, at the higher price ranges, even offer job placement guarantees)

Why choose an accredited 120-hour online TESOL course?

For most learners — especially in the current environment of COVID-19 social distancing when many TEFL providers have suspended in-person courses indefinitely – a 120-hour, online, self-paced, accredited TESOL course like the one offered by TEFL Hero is more than enough to springboard your ESL career forward.

Why choose an accredited 120-hour online TESOL course? Here are a few reasons:

  • Sufficient to meet nearly every ESL employer and visa requirement globally
  • More affordable than in-person options
  • Allows greater flexibility time-wise than a course with a fixed schedule such as one with a live or in-person instruction component

TEFL Hero: An Emerging TEFL Leader

The standout features of TEFL Hero’s 120-hour online course include:

  • Email support from the real, experienced ESL teachers who founded and currently run the company
  • 1/3 the price of competing accredited TESOL courses
  • 24/7 accessibility on all mobile devices

The Bottom Line on TESOL Certification Cost

For the most part, for the reasons described above, the cost-to-benefit ratio indicates that an accredited 120-hour online TEFL course is likely to deliver the biggest “bang for your buck.”

If you are keen on live instruction, tutor support, or a more robust qualification for finding work at the highest ends of the professional spectrum, then you should look at alternatives to the 120-hour format. For everyone else, an accredited 120-hour online course offers the training and certification that you need to get you where you want to go.

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