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

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)? Or are you just looking for some training before a brief stint overseas? If you’re thinking of teaching as a possible career, then signing up for an on-site TEFL program is a better decision, since it will give you more classroom experience. Otherwise, an online course is a great way to go.

That said, it’s important to choose a course that fits your needs and is accepted by schools abroad.

Would you rather take an offline course? Browse on-site TEFL Courses by location.

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

Before signing up for an online 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 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; a common requirement is 120 hours of training. You can find online courses that comprise 100 hours of theoretical training along with 6-20 hours of required practicum.

This is a good option. Remember, any program with less than 120 hours will probably not be recognized by schools abroad. Finally, some schools do not even accept online TEFL certificates. If an employer doesn’t say if they accept online certification, contact them directly to find out.

What is the program’s reputation?

For the record, 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.


It’s a good sign when information is readily available and given. 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?

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.

How can I tell a course is legit?

After hours, you'll need to look for value -- that is, can you afford it, or is it worth the extra money -- and prestige. When we say “prestige”, we’re talking about who is issuing the certificate. University-accredited programs hold the most international value.

The Cambridge CELTA is by far the industry’s gold standard of TEFL certificates. Developed and accredited by Cambridge University, this high-end program is available worldwide and online.

The TrinityCert Tesol is another UK-developed course of equal value, but it is not available online. Both of these certificates are the most widely-known and respected around the world.

Online Master's Programs in TEFL

Another option is obtain a Master’s Degree in TESOL/TEFL. Many universities, such as USC Rossier now offer these programs online.

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, you will be issued your TEFL certificate.

Pro's of Online TEFL Courses

Lower Cost: Online classes generally cost a lot less than on-location 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 (we’ll get into how to choose the right course later.)

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-location programs, then an online course is a great option. Unlike on-location 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-to-no practical 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. In online programs, there is little-to-no “hands-on” experience. Instead, online courses tend to focus more on theoretical reading and lesson planning assignments. However, many online courses do require students to complete a certain amount practicum hours in their local community, although this is still minimal.

Another perk to a classroom course is the camaraderie with your group of fellow teachers-in-training. Learning online is 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.

Some employers do not accept online TEFL certificates: The TEFL world is booming, and with the vast amount of certificates available, many 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 (and rightly so). If you want to make yourself more competitive, then it’s highly recommended to complete an on-site TEFL program.

Online TEFL courses are generally less expensive than on-site courses, since they need less overhead to run them. However, depending on the course you choose, you could end up paying not too much more than you otherwise would.

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 their fees drastically stray from this range, and be sure to ask a lot of questions about quality, recognition, and teaching methods.

What’s Next?

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

Contributed by Andrea Moran


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