While requirements to teach English abroad vary greatly based on the country and school system you're applying for, simply being a native English speaker typically does not make you qualified to teach English as a second language.
However, there's really only one thing stopping you from traveling anywhere in the world and teaching English -- and that's getting a TEFL certificate.
TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. The certification course provides you with training and support to give you all the skills you need to become a qualified teacher, including how to evaluate students' language levels, prepare lessons, and improving your understanding of the subtleties of the English language that are pertinent to teaching it.
The international standard for an accredited TEFL course is 100-120 hours of instruction, including 6-20 hours of teaching practice in a live classroom. Additionally, the course itself should be verified by an external organization.
Types of TEFL Certificates & Their Cost
If you're seriously considering getting certified, you may be wondering what the cost of a certification program is. The price depends on the type of certificate you get and where you get it: at home, overseas/in-person, or online. The kind of TEFL certificate you choose will depend on your budget and what your intentions are with earning it.
Read on to learn about each type of TEFL course and why these costs vary -- as well as other costs and fees to keep in mind as you decide which TEFL course to take.
TEFL Certifications - Onsite In Your Home Country: $1,500-$2,000
One of the most convenient and effective ways to do a TEFL course is in a real classroom right in your hometown. Some people simply learn best in the classroom with a live teacher and other students.
There are also certain countries where onsite programs are highly preferred over any form of online training, especially in the high-paying Middle East region. It's important to know where you want to teach English before you start your TEFL program so you can make an informed decision.
Onsite programs taught at a university level generally cost around $1,500-$2,500. They typically take four weeks of intensive study, and you don't have to pack up and leave the country to do it!
An important consideration is if you have the time to take on a full-time course in your hometown or if you'd need to take time off of your current job to study. If so, you'll want to figure in the cost of not working while your course is in session. You'll also still need to factor in the cost of housing, food, and expenses for the duration of your in-person course.
TEFL Certifications - In-Person Abroad: $1,000-$2,000
If you want to teach English in Bolivia, why not go to Bolivia to learn how to teach English in the first place? You'll get exposure to teaching in the actual culture where you want to be working and improve your familiarity with the local language, as well. Additionally, your TEFL course provider may help you find a job during/after your certification course.
Wherever you decide to get certified overseas, you'll need to figure in the cost of living for the duration of the course and have that money saved up ahead of time. Think about expenses such as:
- International airfare
- Food and other daily expenses
Although you'll likely make the money back once you start earning as a teacher, you'll still need to make sure you have a healthy cushion in your savings account before committing to a TEFL certificate program in another country.
However, the cost of TEFL courses abroad tend to be cheaper than in the U.S., so you might be able to include the aforementioned expenses with the cost of your certificate and not pay more than you'd pay taking a $2,000 course at home.
The real benefit of getting certified in the country you'll be teaching in is the immersion you get within the environment you intend to teach in. You'll make local contacts during your training that could help you land job interviews –and you'll be able to interview for teaching positions in person instead of on Skype. Because you're already on the ground, you significantly increase your chances of getting a job and choosing the best placement for yourself.
Suggested In-Person TEFL Courses:
Online TEFL Certifications: $250-$600
Online TEFL courses can be very affordable, some as low as $250. An online certification is a great option if you can't afford to go abroad or have no onsite TEFL courses in your hometown. It's also a great way of seeing if teaching English abroad is for you –- without going abroad or investing too heavily in the idea.
If the answer is yes, you may decide to invest in a more robust training that includes more real classroom experience once you know for sure that you want to teach.
Although online TEFL courses are convenient and affordable, they may be too good to be true, especially if they are really cheap. Before paying even a few hundred dollars, you'll want to check on the following items:
- Is the course accredited?
- Are the instructors well qualified?
- How many extras do you have to pay for later on?
- If there a job placement option?
A typical online TEFL course that provides the requisite number of hours to be validated by an employer (120 hours) usually costs between $300-$600.
Another potential downside is that some employers don't take online TEFL certificates too seriously, even if they meet the requisite hours, because most (but not all) online programs don't include a live classroom teaching component. If you do choose to get TEFL certified online, be sure to do your research on the program provider ahead of time.
Suggested Online TEFL Courses:
Hybrid TEFL Certifications: $300-$1,000
Hybrid TEFL courses offer a combination of self-study and in-person classroom training –- the best of both worlds perhaps.
The cost of hybrid programs is also a hybrid. Prices come in about halfway between the low end of an online course ($300) and the low end of an onsite course ($1,000). A four-week program with some online instruction and some live classroom practicum (either in the U.S. or abroad) costs between $500-$700 on average.
Some programs involve travel as part of the onsite study, so be aware that the cost of the certificate program does not include additional expenses like airfare, housing, and meals anywhere onsite, whether the location is New York City or Barcelona.
Suggested Hybrid TEFL Courses:
Other TEFL Course Cost Factors
TEFL courses are usually priced based on their number of hours. Most teaching jobs require at least 100 hours, so make sure to check that the course, whatever type it is, fulfills that minimum requirement. If it doesn't, how much will it cost to reach 100 or 120 hours?
To understand precisely how much you'll pay in the end for a TEFL certificate, you'll also want to factor in other potential costs that are not included in the course fee. Ask your course provider about:
- The cost of physical TEFL certificate itself (sometimes $50-$75)
- Tutoring hours costs, if you need them
- Job placement fee, if any
- Books and other course materials
Is a TEFL Certification Worth it For You?
Without a TEFL certificate, you may still be able to find opportunities to teach English overseas, but they may be difficult to find or very low paid. By investing in yourself and your qualifications as a teacher, you are likely to attract more lucrative positions at well-established schools or organizations that would make teaching long-term more viable.
Perhaps the best question to ask is: Imagine you're teaching up to 100 students per week whose parents have invested hard-earned money in seeing their children get a good education. Are you in the position to give them the experience they deserve? Do you have the requisite training to deliver lifelong knowledge and valuable language skills to other people? Depending on the answers you come up with will help you make the right choice regarding which TEFL course you want to pursue.
The cost of a TEFL certification is typically more than compensated for by increased wages, better preparation for the classroom, more job opportunities, and any additional resources the TEFL program provides.