The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best TEFL Course for You

While it’s true there are still many countries where one can teach EFL without a certification, it’s also true that the market is changing. With travel getting easier and more affordable than ever before, more and more people are finding ways to stay abroad longer, and teaching English as a foreign language is one way to do so. That means that even in places like Thailand and Costa Rica, where the schools and/or governments don’t require EFL teachers to have a TEFL certification (we choose to use the TEFL acronym, though the a TESOL/ESOL/CELTA/EFL certification are variations of the same idea — read the differences here), competition has become stiff enough that completing one will certainly make you more marketable.

Choosing the course that’s right for you, however, can often be an overwhelming process. Here’s our complete guide to choosing the best TEFL course for you.

Is online or onsite better?

best tefl course
Our client, Joanne (middle) with two other EFL teachers in Thailand.

We’re often asked which is better; to take an online course or one onsite, and the answer really depends on you. Ask yourself if you’re a self-driven learner, or if you learn best in a classroom environment surrounded by others who are learning the same thing. Perhaps you don’t have the time to devote to a three- or four-week course abroad, and instead would like to get TEFL certified while you work and figure out what’s next, or while you finish up your studies. Maybe you’re not yet sure where you want to teach English abroad, but you’re ready to get the certification underway. If this sounds familiar, an online course can be the most convenient and cost-effective option for you.

However, if you know you want to teach in Thailand or Costa Rica or Prague, you’d be smart to look into local course offerings and participate onsite, which will give you — along with all the usual TEFL requirements — an introduction to the local culture, language and food while allowing you to gain hands-on experience teaching students who more closely resemble those you’ll work with once you find a job.

Not only does it give you a head start on understanding the culture, but also most onsite courses are well connected to schools in the area, and you’ll be the first to find out about jobs (or perhaps they’ll even place you in one).

What should I look for in a course?

best tefl course

Regardless of if you choose to do a TEFL course onsite or online, you’ll want to make sure that either course option has all the components you’re looking for. Here are just a few questions you might want to ask:

  1. Is it internationally accredited, meaning it’s recognized by schools/governments as a quality certificate, allowing you to teach English around the world?
  2. Does it require a teaching practicum, so you can gain hands-on experience? If so, how many hours? If it’s an online course, how will this work? (Note: many online courses do not, so you might want to find somewhere to volunteer, or find a course that does.)
  3. Does the curriculum cover all the things you’ll want to be better prepared for (ie lesson planning, grammar guides, classroom management, etc.)?
  4. Does the curriculum focus on a specific age group?
  5. Who will my instructors be?
  6. Are there any hidden costs (like book fees, lodging, application fees, etc)?
  7. Does the course come with job assistance/placement? After all, you’re getting certified to make you a more competitive candidate on the job market, so shouldn’t the agency you study with take pride in their highly qualified graduates and thus help guide them into the marketplace?

Can I get the best TEFL course at a bargain?

best tefl course
Our client, Doug, during his teaching practicum in Thailand.

That age-old phrase, “you get what you pay for,” couldn’t be truer when it comes to choosing a TEFL certification course, like most things in life. While it’s true you can find Groupon deals for ridiculously cheap online courses, you’ll want to make sure you know what you’re getting in return. Most of these courses do not require a practicum, have no job placement assistance, and the course material consists of a packet of PDFs, which you read through and answer questions about. Then a tutor, who is not a qualified TEFL instructor, “grades” your homework for accuracy. Ask yourself if you’ll actually be learning from this, and if not, then even the cheapest course is money wasted. It pays to do your research before you commit to anything.

Most quality TEFL courses will cost between $1,000 and $2,500 USD. It’s best to look at it as an investment into your education, and perhaps your future career. Your return on investment will be worth it if you decide to teach English abroad for a year or more.

Getting started with teaching English abroad can be an overwhelming experience, but choosing the best TEFL course for you could help eliminate some of that hesitation and fear so common to starting out on this journey. If you choose wisely, you won’t be left stranded along the way.

Thinking about getting TEFL Certified? Contact us today! We’ve personally scoured the globe to find the best TEFL courses online and in Thailand, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Chicago.


4 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best TEFL Course for You

  1. Good point about the self-directed learner. If you need a lot of help and assistance then the online option is probably not for you. In my experience teaching in Asia the whole accreditation thing is kind of a misnomer. There is no certificate that is accepted everywhere.

    It depends on the school. For example just because you have a CELTA doesn’t mean you are guaranteed the best job. It’s almost just like a job in your country. The schools have preferences which can be for personality, looks, youth, race, etc. And yes most schools prefer experienced teachers. And the experience that they want is usually in that country.

    But if you don’t have experience then a TEFL course is a way to give you an edge over the person who doesn’t have one or experience. More importantly it should help you teach too.

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