CIEE TEFL Certification

CIEE TEFL Programs


CIEE: Council on International Educational Exchange – world leader in international education and exchange – is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization. For more than 70 years, CIEE has helped thousands of people gain the knowledge and skills necessary to live and work as a global citizen.

At CIEE TEFL, we believe that English teachers are essential to bridging cultural gaps and breaking down barriers both at home and abroad. As a TEFL-certified ESL teacher, you can put your skills to use teaching English to non-native speakers in your local school or community center, or abroad in countries and communities around the world. Whether you're fresh from college and seeking adventure, or ready for a change after a long career in another field, a TEFL certification will make you eligible for employment in almost every country across the globe.


300 Fore St.
Portland , ME 04101
United States


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Yes, I recommend this program

CIEE's TEFL course is the real deal. Spoiler alert: This course WILL make you a better ESL teacher.

I'm a planner who spends entirely too much time conducting mountains of research before committing to any one thing (seriously, you should have seen how many Amazon reviews I read before purchasing my 13 gallon, stainless steel kitchen trashcan – who ever know the trashcan market was so big!). Point being – I do not make decisions lightly!

Before taking the plunge, I read my fair share about various TEFL Certifications (all the way from super sketch to legit) on the market. I’m so happy I selected CIEE’s program. While the course was a bit rigorous, it truly pushed me to learn and develop my skills. If you’re looking for a TEFL course simply to tick off a checkbox, this isn’t the one. Take this course if you’re interested in devoting 11 weeks to working with a tutor, learning new material and want to become a knowledgeable ESL teacher.

One of my main reservations about this course was that it is hosted online. Knowing my learning style, this certainly gave me pause. I identify as a good student, but don’t always trust myself to find my motivation. While the course moves along at a fast pace, I was actually very appreciative of the internal deadlines set in the course – they gave me just enough time to complete the work and move along at the same speed of the rest of my peers. This keep me motivated and on track.

By the end of the course, I was surprised by the amount of material we covered. I reflected over the assignments I submitted and was proud of the work I produced (I still refer to them from time to time!). Through the guidance of my tutor and the in-depth lessons covered, I finished the course feeling truly prepared and confident.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
If I had to restart the process, I would have taken the course sooner!
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Yes, I recommend this program

I took this course to prepare for the CIEE Teach Abroad in Thailand program. I wanted to gain intercultural skills and culturally sensitive teaching skills that would help me be the best teacher possible even though I don't know Thai. Since CIEE offers program participants a course discount, I didn't look into any other TEFL courses. However, I have not been disappointed. My favorite thing about all my experiences with CIEE (Study Abroad, Teach Abroad, TEFL) has been the incredible staff who are all experienced travelers with incredible advice and personal accounts of their own traveling experiences. To me, this aspect is invaluable because the specific challenges in any country or foreign job are unique to that culture or environment. Therefore, I loved the resource of a real tutor and the weekly tutorials where we could discuss course content as a group. This made the course a little more personal as well since most of the work was independent besides occasional discussion boards or peer reviews. The course itself was engaging, informative, and very culturally aware. They integrated cultural challenges and communication barriers in much of the material (not just as its own topic). I also enjoyed how they brought up topics multiple times in different contexts to cover how they may change depending on the age group of students, their proficiency level, the country or culture your in, the classroom environment, and many other factors that are often overlooked. The assignments were very practical and required thoughtful responses to how you may handle real teaching situations. It is hard to feel completely prepared for everything as a new teacher (or even an seasoned one), but overall, I am very satisfied with the course content and believe it is worth the investment.

What would you improve about this program?
The biggest problem for me was the time restrictions to finish the material assigned for each week. I understand the need to keep everyone on the same unit and to finish the course timely, but I wish there was some more flexibility. Luckily, my tutor, and I would assume most tutors, was very understanding about extending deadlines. As a warning, you shouldn't assume this course is easy enough to complete with a full-time job or other serious obligations. It's possible especially if you mention your situation to your tutor, but take CIEE's time estimations seriously, and adjust for differences based on your own work style.
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Yes, I recommend this program

This course was a lot of work. They told us to set aside about 15 hours/week, and they weren't joking. I worked full-time and between that and taking the course, I pretty much didn't have a social life for two months. However, it was still very doable. I also really appreciated, yes appreciated that the CIEE TEFL course includes the 20 hours of real-life-experience as a requirement. I live in a small town and was still easily able to find experience working with ESL students, and that in-class experience helped me learn how to not only interact with students, but how to interact with students who can't easily understand everything that you're saying. As an EFL teacher, I know how important giving instructions is, and without any prior experience giving those instructions, I would not have felt as prepared.

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Yes, I recommend this program

I am a local coordinator working with international high school exchange students, and I volunteer in an adult EFL program in my community. I took this course to enable me to help my international students as well as provide the training I need to be an effective teacher in our adult EFL classes. I use what I learned on a regular basis both in content and in how to organize a lesson. Our course teacher was awesome and encouraging and made the time online enjoyable. The coursework was rigorous enough and thorough enough to keep me invested in the class for the full length of the course. I highly recommend this program. I did not go overseas to teach so I can not speak to that part of this program. I took it for what I was doing in my like at the time.

Yes, I recommend this program

I'm so thankful I completed this TEFL course with CIEE before leaving to teach abroad. I didn't have a background in education, and the hands-on experience through the practicum gave me the confidence and ability to lead a classroom. If I hadn't completed this, I don't believe my time abroad would've started well! My tutor was very personable and professional, and the live sessions and discussion boards were a great way to connect with everyone. Although the class is online, it's still a very personal feel and the small class size is appreciated. I worked full-time while completing this course, and found the time requirement still possible- but keeping current on content greatly helped. I would absolutely recommend this course to anyone looking to increase their skill set, gain valuable teaching experience, or simply expand their horizons!


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Leonard Barrett

Leonard is a 28 year old from Alexandria, VA by way of San Diego, CA. Prior to joining the CIEE Teach Abroad in Thailand program, he worked for four years as a property manager for one of the world's largest real estate firms.

Why did you choose this program?

Honestly, I chose CIEE's Teach Abroad in Thailand program on a whim.

I had become really dissatisfied with the corporate world and felt as if I was just spinning my wheels for far too long. As this happened, a friend of mine had just had a similar epiphany and took off to Bali, advising me: "Life's too short, go live it." That same day, I decided that I would be teach abroad.

After some quick research (seriously, like 3 hours worth) about teaching English abroad and the countries looking to hire native English speakers, Thailand appeared to me as the best choice. From my readings on the 'Mai Pen Rai' lifestyle, to the lore of Buddhism throughout the country, I became transfixed on getting to S.E. Asia for my first experience.

It sounds crazy to some to just decide on such a life changing decision so quickly, but I've never been the type to be too analytical about life - it's going to happen one way or the other, it's up to you to make sure that what happens is exciting and challenging to you in order to grow.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

CIEE really held my hand throughout the entire process, from my initial application to participation in my TEFL course. They really do any and everything, save for purchasing your ticket, for you and collecting your necessary documentation from your university.

By far the most helpful assistance I received was with obtaining my initial, non-immigrant B visa, which I've heard is quite costly and very cumbersome to do by yourself.

Figuring out flight information, collecting transcript copies and all other necessary documentation (background check, school certification letters, etc.) was pretty tiring as well, but I think that my frustration with these processes came mainly from my knack to be anxious and worry about every little thing. It really wasn't a 'hard' process per sé, just very monotonous and a lot of the 'hurry-up and wait,' mindset.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

At the point of conducting this interview, I'm still stateside at home in Virginia, four days before my imminent departure. Unfortunately I can't really attest to advice for once you get to Thailand because I'm just as green as those who are reading this now searching for insight.

What I can offer as a bit of wisdom is to remain calm and organized. Getting worked up about the what-ifs and crazy hypotheticals you've concocted in your head won't do you any favors; take your preparation seriously and give yourself time to get things straight - you'll thank yourself as you're staring down the barrel of your coming flight.

In regards to your question of "What do you tell your friends who are thinking of going overseas," I tell them to do it. If you're unencumbered in your life and don't have anything but bills to pay, take the chance. The opportunity to freely take off and fully-immerse yourself in a new culture while earning a living is rare, and if you have that itch or feeling you can't quite put your finger on - satisfy it and enroll. You'll regret NOT taking the chance more than you ever would regret taking it.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

So I think that I was a rare-breed in this program when it came to scheduling and my station in life at the time of my joining. Due to my full-time position, that was really draining, I did not have the luxury of taking my TEFL course when and where I saw fit, I had to be incredibly vigilant in my studies.

A typical day in the 10-week (150 hr.) course went something like this*:

7 AM - 5:45 PM (Work)
5:45 PM - 6:30 PM (Go for a walk or get outside somehow)
6:30 PM - 9:30/10 PM (Fire up my laptop and get to work on the TEFL course-work)

*Some weeks I would get behind and wound up having to dedicate my weekends to catching up on homework and various lessons I may have missed.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

As I stated earlier, I'm still not abroad, but will be soon, so what I can offer here is pretty limited to my limited experience.

My biggest fear thus far in the program was failing my TEFL course and not being deemed an appropriate fit for any schools in Thailand. I quickly overcame this though by setting a schedule for myself in which I knew that I would be able to dedicate the necessary amount of time to complete my work in a satisfactory manner, all-the-while proving my worth to a Thai school and what do you know, I've been hired by a school in Chachoengsao, Thailand to teach 7th, 10th - 12th graders English for an entire year!

Any tip before the trip?

In my lead-up to departing for Thailand, the one thing that I would have done differently is to pay closer attention to the documents needed while you're abroad. I'm referring to your original transcript copies from your college and certification of attendance from college. While I obtained a copy of each of these, I had to submit the originals to the visa company and forgot that they wouldn't be returned. Now I'm in a panic trying to obtain original copies of these vital documents prior to leaving, and let me tell you: it is NO FUN.

Do yourself a favor and get 3 original copies of all of your documents and do it early. It may sound crazy and may be a pain to keep these organized well, but you'll thank yourself when you're calm and collected, hopping on a plane ready to take you half-way around the world.

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Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Belén Rojas Ruiz

Job Title
CIEE TEFL Academic Coordinator
She was born in Melilla, a small city in the North of Africa, but she’s lived in Madrid, Spain since 2009, when she started to work at the Educational Technologies and Teacher Training Institute (Spanish Ministry of Education).

In February 2014, she started in her current position on the rewarding and motivating CIEE TEFL adventure. She's completely convinced of the potential of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in all fields of education, which is why she's passionate about eLearning and the platforms which make the development of online education possible and permit its increasing reach, and the new pedagogies facilitated by technology, and in which the student is the center of learning.

She really enjoys designing, testing, experiencing and making the most of these Learning Management Systems (LMS) - and Canvas is one of her favorites :) - and exploring new ways to enhance the impact of ICT on education and training.

What is your favorite travel memory?

My favorite travel memory was traveling to Scotland in 2014. It was two months after having started working for the CIEE TEFL project, my first international experience in terms of working. So I believe I rapidly became more open-minded, which made me feel that that trip, the country, the people, were different from what I have previously experienced so far when traveling.

There was the issue of the language too: I had never used English in a real-life context before working on the CIEE TEFL project (even though I had studied it for a lot of years), and this trip gave me the opportunity to put it into practice. So I felt I had more freedom, more capacity for making choices, for being more "myself" but in a different country.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Being part of CIEE is like a dream. Its values, mission, aims, the people working and participating in its programs... I remember when I started working on the CIEE TEFL project, more than 5 years ago, when the project was a pilot. And now it's a huge one!

I’ve had the chance to see how it has evolved, improved, as well as its tutors. I love coordinating the tutoring team, trying to make their tutoring life easier, supporting them, making them feel that they are not alone. I could not be prouder of this project, the CIEE team and, of course, its tutors.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

In my almost 40 years of life, I've never heard from anyone saying that traveling and living abroad is not worth it; on the contrary, it's one of the best experiences one can have. Traveling means becoming open-minded, generous, solidary, friendly, sensitive and, generally speaking, the acquisition of all the good traits a good person should have.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

I'd choose Morocco, undoubtedly. Even though I've been to there a lot of times (Melilla, my hometown, is a Spanish city, but geographically located in Morocco), and know some cities like the palm of my hand, I'd love to be part of their culture, which I consider one of the richest in the world. So yes, Morocco would be my first choice.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

I work in a virtual team from whose members I've met just one in person once. But I feel like we all are in the same office, from the very first minute I joined the team.

We often laugh, tell about our personal lives, pour our hearts out to each other ... Which makes our working environment unique. While we have a lot of autonomy when it comes to tasks and responsibilities, we are a tribe when difficulties or hard times come.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

I'm convinced that the biggest factor in being a successful company is related to people who not only work but also enjoy the programs they are part of. Being passionate about what they do, wanting to learn every day from their peers, being willing to share their knowledge and experiences, contribute with their ideas to the company growth, and especially... smile :)

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