You've decided to teach abroad -- but now the real work has just begun! Finding the perfect TEFL program is one of the biggest questions most people have before teaching English abroad. With so many different program choices, it can be difficult to know where to begin.
Most TEFL programs fall into one of three categories: At Home, Abroad, or Online! There are big differences between getting your TEFL at home or away, and even more differences between studying in-person or online.
Take this quick quiz to see where your should get your TEFL to teach abroad this year!
Now that you've taken the quiz, let's go over the biggest differences between the three TEFL options.
1. Learning Style
This one's pretty obvious, but it's important! Online TEFLs are online, of course, and usually involve some sort of combination of reading and listening with a quiz at the end of each section. They can be done very quickly, if you're studious or already know the material, and they usually contain a lot of information about grammar and theory.
If you've taken an online course before and enjoyed it, an online TEFL could be prefect for you. However, if you prefer to learn in a classroom, collaborating and working with hands-on activities, an online TEFL might not be the best choice.
In-person TEFLs (both abroad and at home) involve practical, hands-on instruction and observation. You'll also have the opportunity to work in small groups with other TEFL learners. This can be great for boosting your confidence. My TEFL class even had a few of us teach mock lessons to the whole class!
2. Money Matters
Photo by Lea V.O., Start Me Up Bali Alum
Online TEFL courses will be your cheapest option by far. The best online TEFLs will be around $500 USD, but you may be able to find a good TEFL certificate for around $300 USD. The most important thing to look for is a trustworthy accreditation and good reviews.
Since you're paying for a program and not a live-teacher, obviously online TEFL companies are able to charge much less. An in-person program will usually run between $1,500-$3,000 USD depending on the services it provides. If you have the money, an in-person TEFL is an incredible investment into your teaching career. But obviously, not everyone has over $1,000 USD lying around.
On the other hand, some companies like my previous company, Ameson Year in China, will provide a "free TEFL" as part of the program. This TEFL was half-online, half-in-person, with just a 3-day practicum at the end. While the TEFL was supposedly free, there's no such thing as a free TEFL and I paid for this by having a lower salary. While I don't necessarily think this is the best option for everyone, if you're low on funds before teaching abroad, this can be a good start for you.
3. Where Are You Going to Teach?
Photo by Katie M., International TEFL Academy Alum
If you know exactly where you want to teach, an on-site TEFL is the perfect opportunity to become familiar with the local landscape, teaching environment, and classroom education style. During my on-site TEFL in China, I learned classroom tips specific to Chinese students: how to manage a classroom of 50 kids, how to work with Chinese students who are afraid of volunteering, etc.
Getting a TEFL on-site is also a great way to help you find a job if your on-site TEFL does not already provide one for you. You'll be able to learn the culture in a safe environment while making connections with other teachers who will be teaching in your country.
However, if you have no idea where you want to teach, an on-site TEFL might not be right for you. You'd be better off getting a TEFL online while looking for jobs, or studying at a local TEFL academy, networking with your fellow classmates.
4. Teaching Experience
Photo by Ge Fang B., Vantage TEFL Thailand Alum
Having taught part-time as a student in China previously (it's not technically legal, but it's very common), I would have been perfectly satisfied with just an online TEFL. I wasn't looking to make teaching a career, and merely wanted to get certified so that I could get my work visa. When certification is a means to an end, you're probably best off saving your money while getting a TEFL online.
However, if professional development is very important to you, I highly suggest investing the money to get an in-person TEFL. I learned so many classroom management tips that I didn't know otherwise, and that was just from a 3-day practical course!
On the other hand, if you've never taught before, an in-person course is also the best option for you. You'll get experience working hands-on, leading demos, and practicing your skills in a safe environment. There are honestly just some things you can't learn from reading and watching videos, and an in-person TEFL will give you the confidence to stand in front of a class on your first day.
Photo by Chase C., Greenheart Travel Myanmar Alum
One of the biggest differences between an in-person and online TEFL is the amount of time it takes to complete. An in-person TEFL requires you to be at the center all day for 2-4 weeks. The certification process is very intensive, and they cram a lot of material into the class in a short amount of time.
Because the TEFL is in-person, this requires you to be available for at least a few weeks with no other commitments. For some people this is ideal, but for others who need to work or study and can't take the time off, an online course may be a better option.
Most people take online courses part-time over the course of a few weeks or months. However, if you're crazy like me, you can finish it in a few days. Once I handed in my bachelor's thesis, I set down to work on the TEFL, treated it like it was one of my final exams, and finished my TEFL as everyone else was finishing their tests and papers.
6. Do You Have a Job?
Photo by Brooke M., International TEFL Academy Alum
Many TEFL programs, especially on-site ones, will help you find a job abroad if you don't already have one. While online TEFLs may say they can help you apply to jobs, living and studying in the country where you want to teach is usually the best way to find a position. You'll be able to apply for job and interview in-person, and have a look at the school before you sign any contracts.
Another option if you know where you want to teach but don't have a job is to get a TEFL online while living in the country where you want to teach. You'll still be able to apply in-person, however, you won't have the same support network of those in an on-site TEFL program.
If you're in need of a job but have no idea what country you want to teach in, an in-person TEFL at home is a great option for you. You'll be able to network with your fellow teachers, get a few ideas, and maybe one of them will help you find a job!
Here's some more articles on the different types of TEFL certificates and why you should have one to teach abroad!