TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. It is usually one of the first steps involved in making plans to teach in a foreign country.
Many people who are curious about getting a TEFL are already certified teachers in their home countries. You might wonder: is getting a TEFL certificate worth it for certified teachers?
In many cases, especially if you want to teach abroad, the answer is “Yes!” However, it is a decision worth weighing out before committing.
In this guide we will cover:
- Benefits of Getting a TEFL Certification
- Potential Downsides
- Considerations for Certified Teachers
- FAQs about TEFL
Benefits of Getting a TEFL Certification
A TEFL certificate can increase geographic mobility by giving you the credentials needed to teach in a foreign country. Even if you don’t have immediate plans to move, you will still have the option.
Earning a TEFL certificate will improve your teaching skills, especially with ESL and foreign students in your district. Many skills learned in a typical TEFL course are transferable to other aspects of teaching.
A TEFL certificate will give you a competitive edge over other teachers, because it displays commitment to teaching and a versatility of skills. This is especially important in countries where TEFL certified and non-TEFL certified teachers are both allowed, as it will definitely give you a leg up.
Even if you don’t move halfway across the world, you can still earn additional income through teaching online. Having a TEFL certificate will make it easier to do so.
More indirectly, a TEFL degree can provide perspective and additional cultural sensitivity and understanding.
A TEFL is a permanent option but not a permanent commitment. The certificate doesn’t expire, nor does it force you into any one career path for life.
In general, a TEFL is almost always a bonus. But it mostly helps if you are serious about teaching in a foreign country.
Like anything else in life, there can be downsides to obtaining a TEFL degree. For the most part, however, having a degree is not likely to cause any significant negative consequence.
Over-qualification is a possible risk, as some employers may be suspicious as to why you are overqualified for their teaching position. But you also don’t have to list the TEFL on your resume if you fear this could be a problem.
Getting a TEFL degree also comes with a financial investment, the size of which depends on the exact course you take.
If you have a busy schedule, you should also know that pursuing a TEFL degree does require a certain time commitment. Most courses are officially 120 hours long, but can be completed in less.
Considerations for Certified Teachers
If you are already a certified teacher, here are a few points to consider when deciding whether or not to get a TEFL certification.
Consider the overlap in training. A certain amount of the coursework will be redundant for certified teachers- for example, parts of the coursework on lesson planning.
This could be either good or bad, depending on your perspective. Redundancy may mean getting less value overall, but it also means an easier time completing the coursework.
Consider a cost-benefit analysis of obtaining a TEFL degree. Weigh the cost against potential earnings and opportunities.
Finally, consider the duration and intensity of the course. It could be a burden handling the course load on top of a full workweek.
That said, many online TEFL courses do offer the option of going at your own pace, so that you can find time to fit it into your schedule.
Do I need a TEFL to teach abroad?
In most cases, yes.
There are exceptions. A TEFL certificate is not a legally mandated requirement for teaching in Spain, for example. And in some countries, employers may look the other way when it comes to official mandates.
However, even when a TEFL certificate is not explicitly required, having one can make a big difference when it comes to getting hired and negotiating a salary.
Will my existing certifications help with teaching overseas?
General teaching skills are applicable everywhere, and having a background in teaching will certainly help if you move to another country.
In some countries, it makes little difference to employers whether or not you have such a background. In other, usually higher paying countries, having existing credentials is a major selling point.
In any case, formal teaching certifications are almost always a plus.
What does a TEFL certificate cover?
A TEFL course covers diverse topics related to teaching English as a foreign language. Some topics include:
- Teaching English Language Skills
- Simplifying English Grammar
- Lesson Planning
- Classroom Management
- Identifying Learning Styles
- Building Effective Learning Materials
Teaching English Language Skills covers everything related to the five major elements of language learning: reading, writing, speaking, listening, and pronunciation.
Simplifying English Grammar is a strategy used to help English learners grasp grammatical concepts more easily. English grammar is surprisingly complicated, and it takes skill to explain it in digestible terms.
Lesson Planning is necessary for delivering effective lessons that meet learning objectives and promote productive learning
Managing a Classroom covers techniques used to promote positive student behavior and address disruptive actions.
Identifying Learning Styles helps teachers recognize the important differences among students, and how to best teach to each child’s particular learning style.
Building Effective Learning Materials covers physical materials like flashcards, as well as digital materials like presentations.
How Long Is a TEFL Course?
Most TEFL courses are officially 120 hour courses.
However, that does not mean that it will take the full 120 hours to complete. Many courses are self-paced, and teachers report completing them in much less time.
Most of the time will be spent on watching lectures and completing projects, with slightly less time spent on quizzes and tests.
Who is TEFL for?
TEFL certification is primarily for three groups: new college graduates, teachers, and career changers.
Many new college graduates pursue foreign teaching as a first job out of college and as a way to see the world. The ease of getting a TEFL makes this an attractive option.
Teachers who want a change of pace may pursue a TEFL for the opportunity of teaching outside of their home country.
Career changers may come from a variety of jobs and backgrounds. In any case, they are looking for a change, and a TEFL degree affords them exactly that.
Not everyone who pursues a TEFL certificate falls into these categories, however. Anyone who is interested in teaching abroad may decide to get one.
TEFL is a valuable certificate that many types of people can benefit from. Even if you are a certified teacher, getting one can help you pursue new opportunities, like teaching overseas.
People from many different backgrounds pursue a TEFL, for many different reasons. Not every school requires one, but it always helps you stand out when applying to work abroad.
In some cases, a TEFL degree might not be a worthwhile pursuit, especially if you have no interest in foreign teaching. But getting one could still provide cultural perspective and practice with general teaching skills.
Curious about learning more? Teach Away’s TEFL guide has everything you need to know!