ESOL, or Teaching English to Speakers of a Second Language, is a certification that prepares you to teach English to non-native speakers. This is often used interchangeably with TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). However, TESOL typically refers to teaching English to non-native speakers in a country where English is the native language. So if you wanted to teach English as a second language in a high school in the UK or the US, you might want to consider a TESOL course.
Many aspiring TESOL teachers opt for an online TESOL course because it's more flexible and more affordable than a traditional course. That doesn't mean a TESOL course can't also be completed on site. In fact, there are hundreds of programs from Europe to Asia that will train you to teach English as a second language, as well.
Depending on your goals, different TESOL courses may be more suitable to help you achieve precisely the kind of career you want teaching English.
TESOL Course Types
If you plan to teach English as a second language in the US, for example, you probably want to explore university TESOL programs. Most public schools and colleges won't accept independent non-degree TESOL certificates as sufficient preparation for a career in TESOL. If you want to take your work overseas, you need to ensure that you are meeting the minimum education requirements of the country where you want to work.
To teach English as a second language as a freelancer or with a private company, the requirements are generally not as strict. An independent TESOL certificate course can quickly put you on your way to a career in teaching English as a second language. The main difference between a degree course and a certificate course is that the certificate course is specialized and will only focus on teaching English. These courses can be done through independent companies, English schools, colleges or universities.
A growing number of online TESOL programs allow you the flexibility to work on a TESOL course at your own pace and on your own time. This is ideal for anyone that works or studies full time and can't afford to press pause on their lives in order to get a TESOL degree or certificate. An online TESOL option would also be fitting for someone who already has a background in education and is looking to specialize in teaching English as a second language.
Comparing TESOL Courses vs. TEFL Courses
TESOL courses will be very similar in content to TEFL courses since they both involve the teaching of English as a second language. And both can generally be obtained online as a certificate or through an in-person program. Nearly all international private English schools will hire you with a TESOL certificate instead of the TEFL. In fact, many people don't really differentiate between the two certifications.
The main advantage of doing a TESOL course is that it may also give you the opportunity to teach English in your home country or some other English-speaking country as part of the public school system. In other words, having a TESOL certification will allow you to teach anywhere that a TEFL certification will. But having just a TEFL certification might not be sufficient for some jobs.
The best place to do a TESOL course depends largely on where you plan to teach. Courses held in-person at a university or language school are most valuable if they teach you how to work with learners from that specific country. On the other hand, online TESOL courses are more general in nature and designed so that teaching methodologies can apply to any non-English speaker.
Popular Locations for TESOL Courses
Many in-person TESOL programs include job placement, which is a great reason to consider this option. This is especially true if the place where you're doing the TESOL course is also where you intend to work. Another good way to narrow down places where you should do your TESOL course is to identify which countries have the largest need for English teachers.
- China: English teachers are in very high demand in China. Many in-person TESOL courses in China include group orientations and lessons in Mandarin Chinese, so you'll meet a new group of friends and get settled in no time.
- Japan: Another Asian country where English teachers are constantly in high demand is Japan. You'll have your choice of teaching English to either adults or children in this exciting country. TESOL courses are abundant and provide varying degrees of support in terms of housing and visa paperwork.
- Czech Republic: The Czech Republic is one of the European countries with the largest need for English teachers. This is an attractive option because aside from good pay, the country is very affordable. TESOL courses taken in-person typically offer placement contracts.
- The United Kingdom: There may not be a high demand for English teachers in an English-speaking country, but a TESOL certificate or degree from a prestigious institution can open a lot of doors for you at home and overseas. It's worth considering studying in the UK even if you don't plan to stick around and work there.
- Online: Of course, online TESOL courses will be the cheapest because they go wherever you are. There is no need to relocate or even take time off work. The flexibility is what makes online courses a desirable and popular option for aspiring TESOL professionals.
Accommodation for TESOL courses varies depending on the length and the cost of programs around the world. Programs that do offer accommodation during the length of your training typically put you in shared housing. Some programs expect you to find your accommodation on your own, while others at least help point you in the right direction. The TESOL program you choose should reflect your needs and your budget.
The best thing about online TESOL courses is that housing isn't a concern, because you can complete them from the comfort of wherever you live now. This also makes getting your TESOL certificate cheaper because you don't have to factor relocating or accommodation expenses into the cost of your course.
Cost of Living
The cost of living will vary depending on where you intend to take your course, but it's a very important consideration, particularly if your course is long. Paying for accommodation and food for four months is certainly not the same as doing so for a course that is just two weeks long.
When teaching English overseas, it's easy to forget that you might need to do some language learning of your own to settle in and get by. Having a basic knowledge of the language in the country you choose can be helpful, not only for you but for your students. If you already know Spanish, for example, it might be a good idea to take a TESOL course in South America or Spain in preparation to teach there.
Obtaining a TESOL certificate can be a big investment, but it's one that will pay off in the long run. TESOL courses are available at many price points, making it affordable for just about anybody.
Average Cost of TESOL Courses
The most expensive way to study TESOL is to do it as a degree course. College and university tuition and fees would apply in this case and can be several thousand dollars depending on where you study. Though the up-front costs are higher, this is the most robust way to study TESOL and will qualify you for the majority of English language teaching jobs around the world.
For an in-person non-degree TESOL course, you can expect to pay anywhere from several hundred dollars to $2000. If your course includes accommodation or language lessons, it can cost at least double that, depending on the length of the program.
But budget-minded travelers, there's no reason to despair. If you're tight on funds, you can also get a TESOL certification online for less than $200. Taking a TESOL course online also saves you the cost of visas, accommodation, and transportation overseas.
Scholarships & Funding Options
There aren't many funding options for non-degree TESOL courses, though certain schools offer payment plans or loans to be able to finance your studies.
Colleges and universities, on the other hand, have many scholarship opportunities and federal funding sources that can help you pay your way through a TESOL degree.