Decide to Teach English Abroad – Step 3 – Get TEFL/TESOL Certified

Get TEFL/TESOL certified, what does it mean anyway?

Step 3 of the series is all about how to get TEFL/TESOL certified. This can be a confusing subject because there are a lot of different courses and certifications advertised. I want to break it down for you so you understand the different terminology and what makes a legitimate TEFL/TESOL course.  As I mentioned in the last post (Decide to teach abroad – Step 2 – Find a TEFL job) every job has different qualifications and requirements, so it’s important to have a look at the different jobs available and see what the requirements are. Once you have done that you can now focus on how to get TEFL/TESOL certified.

Step 3 - Get TEFL/TESOL Certified

A quick note before we start…some jobs may not require an English language certification. However, I would strongly advise doing one for a few main reasons (especially if you don’t have any previous teaching experience).

  1.  If you want to teach and travel in different countries getting a certification beforehand will give you more job options in the future.
  2. You will have more knowledge, experience, and confidence teaching English before even entering a classroom which will set you up better in your new job.
  3.  It positions you in a more professional way to potential businesses and will often time help you earn more money!

Okay, now that I have gotten that out of the way, let’s get started with the TEFL/TESOL certification breakdown.


You will see a lot of certification courses offered using the acronym TESOL, TEFL or TESOL/TEFL or TESL. The biggest difference between TEFL, TESL, and TESOL is their meanings.  TEFL refers to Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL – in a non-English speaking country) and TESL refers to Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL – to language learners in an English speaking country). The reason most websites advertise their courses as TEFL courses is that they are sending their students abroad to foreign language countries (hence using TEFL).  TESOL has been included in the mix, referring to Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. This acronym is meant to cover both TEFL and TESL. This is why TESOL and TEFL are used interchangeably to name English Language certification courses.  To get your TEFL/TESOL certification to teach abroad both TEFL and TESOL named courses will be recognized overseas.

There are also accredited courses that offer intensive TESOL/TESL training in English speaking countries. These kinds of courses will differ based on the country. For example in Canada, there is an 8-month college level TESOL course which allows TESOL teachers to teach in Canada at Colleges and in higher level ESL jobs. For this post, we will focus specifically on courses for teaching English abroad.


The CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) course is a Cambridge TEFL Course offered part-time, full-time and online with a practical component. It is well-known and recognized worldwide with Part 3 - Get TEFL/TESOL Certified - pic 2over 300  centres all over the world. To make sure that you can find a legitimate course in your area they have a search function on their website to find the closest centre to you. For the online component, you will receive training online and will have to travel to the centre for lesson planning and practical lessons. This is a great option if you are looking for a legitimate course that you can build you teaching career on.  I took this course myself (the in-class option) and found it very helpful and very intense! It is also important to note that if you want to teach English in Europe or Britain a CELTA is a requirement.

For more information go to the CELTA Website

So what differentiates CELTA from other TEFL/TESOL courses?

The main difference is that CELTA is a specific brand of TEFL training courses offered by Cambridge. Also,  they don’t offer job placement assistance. Most recruitment websites offer a generic TEFL course and job placement. CELTA is a stand-alone course so once you complete the course you find your own job.

TEFL/TESOL courses

General TEFL/TESOL courses are offered by a number of different companies and have to follow specific standards and requirements in order to be an accredited and legitimate TEFL course. So what this means is that the company creates the course based on the standards of the accredited bodies.

The most important thing when deciding on a TEFL course is to take one that meets the set standards of an accredited body and is recognized internationally. Click To Tweet

So let’s break down what to look for in an accredited course:

  • At least 100 hours of coursework
  • At least 6 hours of practical teaching experience
  • The course is taught by an instructor with a Masters Level teaching degree in English Language teaching (MA TESOL) or a DELTA (the equivalent of an MA TESOL through Cambridge)
  • The course has been accredited by a proper external accreditation body such as TQUK, Accet, IATQUO.

It is also important to note that most TEFL/TESOL courses offered by Universities will be accredited.

COurse suggestions

I would be wary of cheaper courses that don’t meet these standards! Of course you don’t want to overpay for your course, however, remember that this is an investment in your future job. It will help you feel comfortable and confident as a teacher and help to get you set up in your new place.

It is important to note that both TEFL (including CELTA) and TESOL courses will be recognized as proper certifications for teaching English abroad.

To help make your search for courses easier I have compiled a list of TEFL courses that are accredited, legitimate and offer a lot of different options for you as far as jobs, types of certifications and job placement help. You can also choose to do these courses online, in-house or in the actual country you want to work in.

For a list of Certified TEFL courses that meet these standards and provide different options for you to get your certification go to my TEFL Courses page HERE.

Internships are also a great way to get TEFL certified especially if you don’t have a degree! For more information check out the blog post The Best Way to Teach ESL Without a Degree.

(There are affiliate links on this page and post!! For more information on this please go to my  Disclosure Policy)

You will notice that there are specialized courses that may be useful for you, later on, to help develop your teaching career and open up new opportunities for you. However, for your first time, the basic 120-hour course will do for most teaching positions.

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Pinterest- Part 3 - Get TEFL/TESOL Certified

Other posts in the Decide to Teach Abroad series

Decide to Teach English Abroad – Step 1 – Find your Why

Decide to Teach English Abroad – Step 2 – Find a TEFL Job

Decide to Teach English Abroad Series – Step 4 – Apply for TEFL Jobs Abroad

Decide to Teach English Abroad Series – Step 5 – Preparing to Move Abroad 

Don’t miss the next Step in the series Decide to Teach English Abroad – sign up for my newsletter today!

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For the first two steps of the series click on the links below:

Decide to Teach English Abroad – Step 1 – Find your Why

Decide to Teach English Abroad – Step 2 – Find a TEFL Job

For the Next Steps:

Decide to Teach English Abroad – Step 4 – Apply for TEFL Jobs Abroad

Decide to Teach English Abroad – Step 5 – Preparing to Move Abroad

Comments or questions? Let me know and comment below.


Welcome to the Unconventional Life Blog! I'm Eliza a professional English Langauge teacher living an international life. Find out everything you ever wanted to know about teaching English, working and living abroad.


  1. Agree that the TEFL is valuable in and of itself. Seems it’s very country specific if it helps with jobs or not. In Georgia, it doesn’t matter a bit (I got mine after I’d been teaching for a few years when contemplating a move). I recently saw an advertisement for a teaching job in Georgia (which paid below the usual wage) “Desired qualifications: DELTA or TEFL (optional)”…yeah…sure.

    • Hi Em, yes you are right, ESL jobs in North America have very different standards from those countries abroad so it is important not to generalize. That’s why doing the research and knowing you end goal is so important when making decisions about courses. Most jobs in Asia ask for a legitimate TEFL course, however in Europe and North America the standards are different. I’ve seen a lot of jobs being advertised in America too!

  2. This is very informative. I have to bookmark this because I’m tired of explaining it to my friends over and over. I took a 120 hrs TEFL course at My TEFL. I got lucky because one blogger shared a code for 50% discount. 🙂

    • Hi Karla, please feel free to share! It is very helpful for others as I find it can be pretty confusing. Score on the discount code! I’ll have to see what I can do 🙂

  3. Lots of useful info here. One part I think is important is that in many countries in Europe such as England, they won’t accept TEFLs to teach, CELTA or DELTA is seen as better!

    • Hi Mina, Thank you so much for your helpful feedback! I’ll make sure to include that in my description. I got my CELTA in Canada and it has been good for traveling and teaching, however to work in a College or Public schools as and ESL teacher you actually need a TESOL certification throug an accredited body in Canada. You really have to do your research! Thanks again for the great information.

  4. I’ve got a cheap, generic TEFL, but it was more for skill development than the addition to my resume. I never trained as a teacher, so it was pretty useful for me to learn some classroom management techniques. That said, I still kick around the idea of getting a CELTA certification, as it seems to be the industry standard and I’ve considered teaching in Saudi Arabia someday.

    Thanks for these tips! TEFL/ TESOL and all the variations can be a bit overwhelming, this guide was super clear and informative!

    • Hi Nathan! I’m glad it made it clearer for you! I actually updated it with some more details related to TEFL, TESL, and TESOL with some great advice from a fellow blogger. I would definitely recommend doing the CELTA course especially if you want to continue teaching abroad. It is a great course to really increase your professional resume. Also if you feel like continuing there is the options to do the DELTA later on which is the equivalent of a Masters in TESOL. It’s always good to keep up with professional development! Good luck!

  5. It’s good to see that you care a lot about teaching and you are teaching here in S. Korea. It shows dedication and competence. Cheers to you for blogging about the things that teachers should know about and acquire when they plan/when they teach here.

    • Thanks so much for appreciating my nerdiness. haha! I really want to help other people have the same wonderful experiences I have had traveling and teaching abroad. If I can help break it down for them and make the right decisions for themselves and their careers I want to! I’m hoping these posts will help other potential teachers.

  6. What an informative and in-depth guide for those looking to teach abroad! I got a combo TEFL course that was straightforward. I’m thinking of doing some more teaching in South America next year and hopefully, my current certification and experience in Korea are enough. I wouldn’t really want to get certified again as these courses aren’t cheap! I’m curious what certification you have Eliza?

  7. Very informative article, Eliza! I’m an English teacher here in Korea and got my TEFL through International TEFL Academy. My wife hasn’t got her TEFL yet though and we’re not sure who to get it through, so reading this was a great refresher course. I’m curious, do you know if a CELTA has any advantage over a TEFL? Or are they practically the same?

    • I’m happy to help Eric! I took the CELTA myself and found it to be very helpful although intense! I think the main difference is where you might want to teach in the future. From what I have heard only CELTA is recognized in Europe. So if you guys are thinking of heafing over to to Europe / Britain then I would suggest the CELTA course. I think the only other differences are the course structre but they are built on the same framework as they are TEFL courses. One final thing to consider is that CELTA has been created by Cambridge which in itself is a big education institute whereas TEFL courses can be created by schooling facilities so may vary more in quality. I hope this helps!