Online TEFL Courses FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about Online TEFL Courses

Note that while we mainly use the term TEFL on these pages, in most cases the terms TESOL and TESL could equally well apply.

Is it true that you can get most TEFL jobs with only an online TEFL certificate?
There are certainly plenty of jobs in some countries where you don’t need any TEFL qualifications or experience at all, and so you can certainly get those same jobs with a short online course or weekend course. These are obviously not the jobs with the best conditions, locations and/or attitudes towards professional standards. There are few if any job ads specifically asking for an online TEFL certificate, but loads asking for a 4-week face-to-face TEFL certificate, and even more specifically asking for Cambridge CELTA or Trinity CertTESOL.

Which online TEFL courses are the best known/most respected?
Unfortunately, there are no online TEFL courses that have the same name recognition as the best-known face-to-face courses (Cambridge, Trinity and SIT). The Cambridge CELTA is also offered as a blended course (mixed online and face-to-face), leading to the same certificate as a purely face-to-face course.

Does an online course count as a “TEFL certificate” for job applications?
Very rarely. If it is not specified, “TEFL certificate” means the industry standard of 100 to 120 hours of instruction with at least six to eight hours of observed and graded teaching practice. If the job says a TEFL certificate is desirable or optional, any training will give you an advantage over people with none.

There aren’t any TEFL course providers near me. Should I just do an online course instead?
Purely online courses are better than nothing but will leave you with a limited range of jobs that you could apply for. If you are planning to teach abroad, it makes much more sense to just take a 4-week face-to-face course in another country, or at least a course with a face-to-face component. TEFL course providers will usually arrange or supply accommodation, airport pickups, job advice etc, and in a cheap country like Thailand you can get all that help to do a CELTA for the same price as a course close to home.

I’m planning on taking a 4-week face-to-face course soon. Is it worth taking a short online course first to prepare?
Sure, why not? 4-week courses are very intensive, and any preparation beforehand will make them a lot easier to cope with. There are other ways of preparing before the course, e.g. pre-reading, so compare them by price and see how much help (rather than just giving you things to read and watch) the online course will be.

How can I tell if an online TEFL course is a scam?
Not many online TEFL courses are complete scams (e.g. taking your money and providing you with no training or certificate). What is much more common is exaggerated claims about the training you will receive or the jobs that you will be able to get with it.

Why are some online TEFL courses so cheap?
Usually it’s because the cheapest ones are not really courses, as nobody checks what you got out of the reading or marks your writing - although strangely almost all of them still offer certificates! This means that once the course providers have set up the site, their running costs are basically zero. If that is the case, you may as well just read basic TEFL books such as How to Teach English (Jeremy Harmer). To check if your course will be like this, ask if you will be graded and if feedback will be given on your writing, check that the whole course isn’t just online quizzes, ask for your tutor’s name, and ask what the interactions between you and your tutor(s) will be.

I’ve seen a free online TEFL course advertised. Can that really be true?
No. The administration charges for things like printing and sending a certificate add up to pretty much the same as an equivalent cheap online course.

How can I choose an online TEFL certificate?
The most important thing is observed teaching practice. As this is impossible to do online that would mean a course, like the new Online CELTA and a few others, where you do most of the work online and then the observed teaching practice face-to-face. Other important things to look out for are the number of hours of study, varied and professionally-produced materials (e.g. videos with good production values), and regular online contact with a tutor (not just reading things online, taking quizzes and writing about things - all of which you could just as well do without their help). Alternatively, contact a school that you are thinking of working for, or several schools or recruitment agencies in a country that you want to work in, and ask them for recommendations.

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