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Do I Need a TEFL Certificate if I'm Already a Teacher at Home?

Ask a Teacher: Do I Need a TEFL Certificate if I'm Already a Teacher at Home?

So, you’re a certified teacher. You’re newly qualified or you've got some teaching experience under your belt. Whether you're looking for a change of pace and a new adventure or struggling to find a full-time teaching gig in your home country, you may be thinking of heading overseas to teach.

You’re not the only one! Thousands of qualified teachers just like you choose to teach overseas -- right after they’ve completed their teaching training, or even after a few years of teaching in their home country. It’s not hard to see why: teaching overseas is a wonderful way to get beyond the routine of your daily life, see the world, and experience new cultures.

Much more than that, though - teaching happens to be one of very few professions where you can travel and work your way around the world, while still developing professionally. What’s really great about teaching overseas as a licensed teacher is that you can grow your career prospects while working with students who are diverse, bright, and highly motivated. In many cases, opportunities for career progression are also better than in your home country. It’s a win-win all round!

Now that we’ve got you all excited about your new adventure overseas, you might be wondering what to do next. How can you set your teaching resume apart from the crowd? Should you just start applying for those exciting teaching jobs in the far-off destinations you’ve been dreaming of right away?

Not so fast -- although we do love your enthusiasm!

"Do I really need a TEFL Certificate? I'm already a qualified teacher!"

If you’ve been browsing job openings online, then more than likely, you’ve seen a "TEFL certificate" popping up repeatedly as a requirement on online teaching job boards. With your formal qualifications and experience, you might very well have disregarded this particular requirement.

Maybe you’ve assumed that, as a licensed teacher, you don’t really need a TEFL certificate to qualify for teaching jobs overseas. Surely teaching overseas isn’t all that different from teaching at home?

We hear this from qualified teachers a lot. Many people believe a TEFL certificate is only for candidates who don’t have any teaching experience or who lack an education qualification. If you think that’s the case, then you might be in for a small reality check when you actually head overseas to teach for the very first time.

There are lots of good reasons why certified teachers need to think about getting TEFL certified before heading overseas to teach. These apply whether you plan to teach English or land a job teaching your chosen subject and level -- in either a public or international school setting.

Without further ado, let’s get into the nitty gritty of why earning your TEFL certificate is worth it.

With a TEFL certificate, you’ll be ready to teach overseas.

Taking a TEFL course isn’t just about maximizing your employability in the overseas teacher market (although it definitely helps!). In a very practical way, getting TEFL certified will make you a better and more effective teacher.

By skipping TEFL certification, you’re shortchanging your students. They deserve the best possible learning environment -- and a teacher who’s properly trained and equipped to meet their specific needs. As a qualified teacher, you already know how hard a job it can be at times. Why make your time teaching overseas even more challenging?

Don’t underestimate how tricky it can be for teachers who haven’t encountered ELLs in the classroom before to teach students across language and cultural barriers. This will be the case for all teachers in the foreign-language classroom, whether you’re an English teacher or, for instance, a math or science teacher.

On the most basic level, every overseas teacher is a language teacher to an extent, regardless of the subject they’ll be teaching. Your classroom will be a mix of students with a huge variance in English abilities -- from advanced speakers to students who are just beginning to learn the language. Some students might not even be able to understand most of the words coming out of your mouth!

That’s why it’s important to know how to reach all of the different types of students in your classroom. And put yourself in their shoes -- they might be learning new math skills AND and a totally new language, all at the same time. Their understanding of the subject will be hugely limited by their English language skills.

That’s why you need some TEFL in your life: a TEFL course gives you a grounding in the practical skills needed to be a competent teacher to all types of English language learners.

With a TEFL certificate, you qualify for more teaching jobs overseas -- with higher salaries.

Quick ego boost for you: as a TEFL certified teacher, you’re every school’s dream teaching candidate! Because of your teaching credentials, you’ll be in the running for many of the top teaching jobs overseas. There’s very little standing in your way. Even so, many reputable international schools or private language schools overseas will still only consider candidates who are TEFL certified.

With a TEFL certificate to complement your teaching credentials, you’ll be in the running for more, better-paying jobs, at better schools overseas. It would be a huge shame to be automatically out of the running for your dream teaching job because you have a TEFL-sized gap on your resume. If you’re thinking of skipping TEFL certification because you’re in a time or financial crunch, then consider online TEFL courses as a flexible, affordable alternative.

Online TEFL course are just as highly regarded as in-person TEFL courses. Just remember to choose a TEFL course with international recognition, from a reliable provider, like the University of Toronto TEFL Online. TEFL courses range in length, but as a general rule many employers look for at least a 100-hour TEFL certificate.

With a TEFL certificate, you’ll beat out the competition in your overseas teaching job interview.

When it comes to the interviewing stage for teaching jobs overseas, hiring schools are going to want to do a deep dive into your approach to teaching. While you’re well versed in everything to do with classroom management and lesson planning, you won’t have developed these skills as they relate specifically to the foreign-language classroom -- and this is ultimately what’s important to schools overseas.

It’s critical that you take an internationally recognized TEFL course that will walk you through key terms and practices. In your overseas teaching interview, the hiring school is bound to ask some probing questions about how you would tailor your teaching methods for English language learners. Here’s the kicker: other candidates -- who are likely less qualified than you but who took the necessary step of getting TEFL certified -- will leave you in the dust when it comes to these critical interview questions.

Whether you’re looking to teach English or a totally different subject, a TEFL certificate is the best way to impress at the interview stage. Anything you can add to your resume to demonstrate that you have prepared for the job you’re applying for can only be a positive.

As a qualified teacher, the world is truly your oyster! Plenty of hiring schools overseas are looking for your skills and expertise. The best way to prepare for everything that teaching overseas is bound to throw at you is by getting that TEFL certificate in the bag. Good luck out there!

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Christie Van Tol

Christie Van Tol is the online course coordinator for the University of Toronto's online TEFL course. Learn more about UoT's TEFL courses on their Go Overseas profile.