What you really need to know before you TEFL

So you’re thinking about getting TEFL qualified and embarking on the adventure of a lifetime? Fantastic! Here at TEFL Org UK we love nothing more than helping to make those exciting adventures happen and we want to make sure you’re as prepared as possible with all the information you need before you start on your TEFL journey.

Before you sign up for a course it’s important to do a bit of research to make sure that you:

  1. Spend your money wisely on the right course for you
  2. Are aware of visa requirements so you know where you can (or can’t) teach
  3. Have an idea of what you want to get out of the experience, which will help you apply for the right positions in the right locations

Below are some important things you should think about before you TEFL, which should help you gain a clearer understanding of the direction you want to go in!

Accreditation

First of all, you want to make sure that if you’re going to spend the money, time, and effort on a course then the qualification is going to be recognised internationally, and this is where accreditation is important. Without adequate accreditation there’s no guarantee of quality; accreditation is your assurance that the course has been assessed and meets the rigorous guidelines set by reputable accrediting bodies. There’s no single over-arching accreditation body for TEFL, so what you want to look out for are government or government-related bodies.

Taking a TEFL course you’ve found for £50 on a discount website might seem an attractive and cost-effective option at first glance, but if it’s not properly accredited then employers may not recognise it. At the end of the day, you tend to get what you pay for!

You should be able to easily find details of a provider’s accreditation on their site and we’d recommend looking into the accrediting bodies listed (it’s been known for some TEFL providers to set up their own accrediting bodies and accredit themselves!) You can find details of our own accreditation here – we happen to be the most accredited TEFL provider in the UK… just saying!

Length of the course

Most employers look for a minimum of a 120-hour qualification, so if you want to be in the best position for finding work then this is what we generally recommend. If you’ve never taught English before then it’s very important that you cover grammar and TEFL methodology in your course and a 120-hour qualification will ensure that you’re prepared for your first teaching position.

Thinking about specialising in business English, teaching young learners, or teaching online? We have Advanced TEFL courses as well, which will get you started in those areas and really boost your CV, but this is something you can think about signing up for towards the end of your initial TEFL course.

If you have previous experience teaching English but no formal qualification then a shorter course may be more suitable for you. You can always chat to our TEFL advisors who will be able to talk through your options and suggest the right course for you!

What about CELTA courses? The CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is a month-long, full-time or part-time intensive course that is highly regarded by employers. It’s an expensive option, costing over £1000 and can require you to take a significant amount of time off work. A minority of employers demand a CELTA qualification (the British Council, for example, but you’ll also need at least two years of teaching experience as well) and since payscales tend to be based on experience, rather than qualifications, the CELTA won’t necessarily land you a better paid job as a first-time teacher. If you’d like to read more about about TEFL vs CELTA then take a look here.

Visas

While a TEFL qualification is essential for getting a teaching job abroad it isn’t always the only requirement, so it’s very important that you research visas. Visa requirements can vary a lot from country to country so you’ll want to make sure that you’re eligible before you set your heart on a specific location.

Doing your research will mean you’ll have a clear idea of where you can start looking for work after you’ve completed your qualification and you won’t be disappointed to find out you can’t teach in a certain country because you don’t have a degree or you don’t meet the age requirements. There can also be restrictions depending on citizenship – for example, South Korea will only grant visas to citizens from a recognised English-speaking country – so that’s another important thing to check out.

Support on the job

How independent are you? This is something to consider as some employers offer more support than others – for example, it’s common in many Asian countries for accommodation to be included in your contract and to get assistance with the visa process. If this kind of support is important to you then it can help narrow down the countries where you would seek work and if it’s not it can open up some exciting places that may be off the beaten track and require a higher degree of independence!

A great option if you’re looking for lots of support during your first TEFL position is an internship. We run internships in Vietnam and Thailand, and both include your TEFL training, accommodation, living allowance, orientation and in-country support.

Take a browse through our TEFL Jobs Centre to get an idea of what’s offered by employers in specific locations.

What are your priorities?

This is a good question to ask yourself at the very start.  For example, if it’s money and you’re looking for a job that’ll allow you to save as much as possible then you’ll want to research where the best-paid TEFL jobs are. If you’re looking to supplement your existing income then you might want to look into teaching English online or providing one-to-one tuition locally. If you have a more altruistic goal then there are volunteer opportunities at home – you can get in touch with local organisations working with refugee and asylum seekers to see if they require English teachers, or you can look for volunteering opportunities abroad.

If your goal is to travel and see as much of the world as possible then perhaps the lifestyle of the TEFL digital nomad is for you!

If you’re not really sure what you want to get out of TEFL then that’s okay! There are many different options when it comes to finding work with a TEFL qualification so spend some time doing a bit of research (you’re reading this post, so good start!) and you can always chat to our TEFL advisors who will be happy to help.

Read student stories

We can tell you that we train thousands of teachers every year who’ve gone on to teach all over the world but it’s far more interesting and compelling to actually hear from them! Some of our wonderful graduates have written pieces for our blog about their TEFL experience and we would strongly recommend taking a read through for lots of handy tips and insights into the world of TEFL from actual teachers.

Things that shouldn’t put you off pursuing TEFL

I’m not a native speaker

As long as you’re fluent in English then there’s work for you out there – we’ve trained many non-native speakers who’ve gone on to find work! It’s true that some employers have an unfortunate preference for native speakers so it can mean that it takes a bit more perseverance when it comes to applying for jobs but don’t let it put you off. As mentioned above it’s important to research visa requirements to make sure you’re not ruled out based on your citizenship as some countries will only grant a visa to teachers from English-speaking countries. Remember, you know exactly what it’s like to be an English language learner and that insight into things from your students’ perspective can be a real strength!

I don’t have a degree

While it’s true that there are a lot of countries out there that require a degree for visa reasons there are options for if you don’t have one! Europe (if you’re an EU citizen) and South America are your best bet, as well as Cambodia. If you’re under 30 then look into working holiday visas as it’s possible to teach in certain countries without a degree on this type of visa. We have some more information about TEFL without a degree here.

Am I too old?

You’re never too old to TEFL! You may find that there are age restrictions for certain countries or programmes, but there is work out there for all ages.

I don’t have any teaching experience

Most of our students have no prior teaching experience so there’s no need to worry about that. The course will set you up to find your first TEFL job – keep in mind, everyone has to start somewhere! We have this useful blog post with employment tips for finding your first teaching job.

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