A TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification is an excellent investment. Not only does it open up doors to higher salaries, but it gives you the preparation to lead a classroom of students of all languages and cultures.

Before you decide to take an online TEFL course, ask yourself a few questions. Do you want to teach English long-term (several years or more)? Are you just looking for some training before a brief stint overseas? Or are you interested in a flexible online teaching career?

Depending on what your goals are, an online program could be a great option since you can become a certified teacher without having to leave the comfort of your home. Online teacher training programs can also be quite affordable, with prices ranging from $500 - $1,800.

Before signing up for an online TEFL course, make sure to ask yourself these questions to assess the quality and find a program that fits your needs:

How many training hours do I need?

Many employers require that their ESL teachers have a minimum number of TEFL training hours. Take this into consideration when looking at courses and be sure to sign up for an online class that meets your school’s requirements. Many schools will require a minimum of 120 training hours before you can start teaching English abroad, but you can take up to 250 hours or more. You can earn your 120-hour TEFL certification online with programs like ITTT TEFL and TEFLPros.

Often, you’ll be able to find courses that balance theoretical training with in-person practicums, about 15 - 20 hours of teaching English to students under the observation of the TEFL educator. While practicums are more common with on-site TEFL programs, it’s also possible to find online programs with this option. Do your research and make sure you’re signing up for a program that offers a balanced and comprehensive training program since it’s important to make sure it will prepare you for the jobs and career you want to pursue.

What is the program’s reputation?

There is no single, international accreditation body that evaluates the world’s TEFL courses. Reputable online TEFL programs will instead be accredited by an independent or national organization.

Aside from accreditation, you’ll want to want to vet the program by doing some research. Things to look at when considering a program include: Does the company list their email and physical address on the website? Can you find an outline of the course syllabus with specifics of what the course will cover? Are there ways to contact past alumni? In general, it’s a good sign when information is readily available and given.

Finally, keep in mind that while TEFL schools can be members of an international TEFL organization (by paying a fee), it does not mean that their courses are evaluated by these organizations.

And remember: always read reviews! See what others are saying about the program and how it’s helped them achieve their goals.

Read more about what you'll learn in an online TEFL course.

What should I look for in an online TEFL program?

What you’re looking for in a program will depend on what you’re hoping to do with a TEFL certification.

If you want to get certified to further a long-term teaching career, you’ll want to think about the value and prestige of the program. University-accredited programs hold the most international value. For example, the Cambridge CELTA is by far the industry’s gold standard of TEFL certificates. Developed and accredited by Cambridge University, this prestigious program is available worldwide and online.

On the other hand, if you are interested in English teaching as a shorter-term gig, the prestige of a program may be less of a factor. While it’s still important to make sure you’ll be getting enough training hours and meeting the requirements of the places you are hoping to get hired, you may want to make cost a significant factor in choosing a program.

Also, take note if you'll have access to a tutor throughout your studies. Studying online can feel isolating and having a TEFL tutor who can provide feedback on assignments, lesson planning, and classroom observation can improve your teaching abilities.

If you’re ready to start researching programs, start by checking out these best online TEFL courses!

Pro's of Online TEFL Courses

Lower Cost: Online classes generally cost a lot less than on-site programs. The prices of online courses are determined by the number of hours and the value of the certificate. For example, a prestigious university’s TEFL program will cost more than a private company’s program.

More Flexibility: Online classes allow you to read, complete assignments, and take the tests around your own schedule. If you work full-time or don’t have consistent blocks of free time to dedicate to on-site programs, then an online course is a great option. Unlike on-site programs (which run for about 4 weeks), online programs usually run for 2-3 months. As long as you have an Internet connection and a way to type your assignments, you can work from anywhere.

Con's of Online TEFL Courses

Little classroom experience: When learning how to teach, the chance to observe professionals and receive feedback on your own teaching is extremely valuable. Practicing in a classroom also gives you a chance to adjust to a classroom environment before moving abroad. Many online programs will not include practical experience in classrooms as part of their curriculum, so it’s important you look for programs that include this component. Practical experience in this setting will often involve completing a certain number of practicum hours in a school within your own community.

Harder to connect with peers: Another perk to a classroom course is the camaraderie with your group of fellow teachers-in-training. Learning online can be a solitary experience. However, some online courses make a big effort to create a strong community through the use of student forums and peer reviews of assignments.

Limited employment opportunities: The TEFL world is booming, and with the vast amount of certificates available, some employers are highly selective of their new hires. For that reason, some will not hire teachers who only have online certification due to their lack of classroom-based training. Again, think about your goals and what you’re hoping to accomplish. If you are hoping to be a highly competitive candidate, then you may want to look at an on-site alternative.

When signing up for an online TEFL program it’s helpful to have a sense of what to expect. Here are a few things to be aware of:

Cost

Online TEFL courses are generally less expensive than on-site courses, since there are fewer overhead costs for the programs to be administered. Some online classes run for as little as $500, but the majority of 120-hour TEFL courses from private companies will range from $1,200 - $1,800. Be cautious if you notice fees that drastically stray from this range, and be sure to ask a lot of questions about quality, recognition, and teaching methods.

The 4 steps to getting your online TEFL certification
  1. Select a program and enroll directly through their website. You will often pay tuition at this stage.
  2. Keep up with the reading, assignments, and enjoy asking questions and learning. Most courses will last for about 2-3 months.
  3. After completing the theoretic part, the final step for some programs is completing several hours of “in-classroom” experience.
  4. After receiving a passing grade in your online course, you will be issued your TEFL certificate.
Other TEFL options

While most employers will only be looking for a TEFL certification, if you are interested in pursuing TEFL as a long-term career you may want to enroll in an online masters program in TEFL. Many accredited universities, such as USC Rossier now offer these programs online.

What’s Next?

Now that you’re certified, it’s time to look for teaching jobs abroad!

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