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How To Get Your TEFL Certification Online or In-Person in 4 Steps
Learn more about the process to become TEFL certified, how long it takes to get a TEFL Certificate and how quickly you can begin teaching English abroad and online as a result.
Written By: John Bentley | Updated: October 17, 2023
Written By: John Bentley
Updated: October 17, 2023
An Essential Guide for How to Get Your TEFL Certification & Plan Your Timeline for Teaching English Abroad & Online
You've searched about TEFL and are now looking for step-by-step instructions on how to become TEFL certified. You've come to the right place! In this guide, we'll walk you through the TEFL process, address any questions you may have, and provide a case-by-case timeline of how long it takes to get TEFL certified. Ready? Let's dive in!
How long does it take to get a TEFL certificate?
Not everyone will earn their TEFL certificate in the same amount of time. Some students take intensive courses to get TEFL certified in as little as 1 month. However, most students should plan to set aside about 4 to 6 months to complete their TEFL course.
How to get TEFL certification?
Now that you know about all 4 steps, let's look into them in more detail:
1. Research TEFL Courses
Researching which TEFL course is best for you will be key to your success as a future ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher. There are several factors that come into play, including your budget, your schedule, your timeline, the quality of the TEFL course, the reputation of the TEFL school, and your ability to find a TEFL job online and/or overseas after your receive your TEFL certification.
Explore: What Are My TEFL Options?
Where can I get TEFL certification?
Four-week in-person TEFL courses are offered in many cities and locations in the United States and around the world. You can also get TEFL certified from anywhere in the world by taking a part-time or intensive online TEFL course.
You will encounter two types of TEFL courses during your research: online TEFL courses and in-person TEFL courses. Both types of courses have their advantages and their inconveniences. Just know, however, that not all TEFL schools and courses are created equal. We highly recommend you be diligent in how you conduct your research. In other words, you want to invest in a TEFL school and a TEFL certification course that provides quality TEFL training and thoroughly assists you in finding a great TEFL job online or abroad.
TEFL course red flags to watch for
There are a lot of TEFL schools out there and the quality of your TEFL certification can vary greatly as a result. Here are some red flags to watch for:
- Cheap TEFL courses and Groupon classes
- Unaccredited TEFL courses that fail to meet international standards
- No live practice teaching (practicum) including with your TEFL course
- No help finding a TEFL job provided with your course
- No options to talk to an advisor prior to or during enrolling in your TEFL course
We've written extensively about this topic and you can find below a few tips to help you navigate the TEFL industry:
- Mistakes to avoid when choosing your TEFL course
- Why you should be wary of cheap TEFL courses
- Online TEFL courses vs in-person TEFL courses
2. Enroll in Your TEFL Course
You've done your research and you're ready to enroll. In this step, you'll find yourself having to choose between two types of courses. You can either choose to get TEFL certified online or to take your TEFL course in person. Let's take a look at both options.
How to get TEFL certification online?
- Research online TEFL course options & create a plan for teaching English abroad or online.
- Enroll in a part-time or full-time online TEFL course
- Complete your TEFL course.
- Begin your job search during or after your course.
- Interview & accept TEFL job.
There are 3 different timeline scenarios when you consider how to get a TEFL certificate online. In these cases, we will address the 11-week part-time online TEFL course option primarily but know that these examples work just the same for the 4-week full-time intensive online TEFL Course option. Simply count 4 weeks for the duration of the course instead of 11 weeks.
Case 1: Obtain your TEFL certification online and interview for English teaching jobs in advance over the phone.
This will be typical if you are planning to teach in many countries in Asia; Persian Gulf countries in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (including Dubai and Abu Dhabi); and limited instances in Europe, including Russia, Turkey, and government assistantship programs in countries like Spain, France, and some others.
Example: You want to take your TEFL course online and interview in advance for an English teaching position in Korea.
Your Online TEFL Certification Course will take 11 weeks, and your job search will typically take 2-6 months from the time you interview for jobs to your actual departure date for your destination. This is not because it takes that long to receive a job offer, but the process of interviewing, accepting a contract, and then making travel and visa arrangements simply takes several months. However, because you begin receiving job search guidance during the course, your certification and your job search can be conducted simultaneously. Therefore, it will typically take you 3-6 months from the beginning of your online course to your departure abroad.
Case 2: Take an online TEFL course and traveling to your destination to interview in-person.
Example: You wish to take an 11-week Online TEFL Class and fly to Costa Rica right after class finishes to interview and begin teaching.
Your online TEFL course will take approximately 3 months to complete. In most cases, you will need an additional month or two to make your travel arrangements and to take care of your personal affairs. Once you arrive in your destination country, the process of interviewing and getting hired usually takes 1-3 weeks.
If taking this approach, you should be sure to time your arrival in your destination country with a major hiring season to give yourself the best opportunities to land a good job quickly.
Case 3: You are already living abroad and taking your TEFL certification course online.
Example: You live in Italy. You want to take an Online TEFL Course and begin teaching as soon as possible.
You can start teaching while you are taking your TEFL class. You will begin receiving job search guidance in the third week of the course, so you can begin contacting schools and interviewing during the course. Some schools will interview and hire those who are in the process of earning their accredited TEFL certification.
Note that your ability to begin teaching may depend on local hiring seasons and other factors including your qualifications and circumstances.
How to get TEFL certification in-person
- Research in-person TEFL course options & create a plan for teaching English abroad or online.
- Enroll in an in-person TEFL course
- Complete your TEFL course.
- Begin your job search during or after your course.
- Interview & accept TEFL job.
You've researched TEFL courses and you've decided that 4-week-long in-person courses are the way to go. That's great! Let's look at 3 different scenarios as far as a timeline for teaching English abroad and online goes.
Case 1: Take a four-week TEFL course at an international location and stay on to teach.
Example: Let's say you want to take your TEFL course in Costa Rica and teach English in Costa Rica following the course.
You could register a few days before a class starts, fly to the location, take your course, interview for jobs at the end of the class and begin teaching in week five.
For most people, the prospect of arranging flights and transporting their lives overseas for training and a new job in a matter of days, or even weeks, is not realistic.
We highly recommend that you enroll in any international onsite TEFL course at least 90 days in advance. This gives you plenty of time to secure your spot and make all of your arrangements. Please note that summer and early fall courses in South America and Europe are very popular and may fill well in advance 3 to 6 months in advance of the course start date.
Timing your onsite course with regional hiring seasons will present you with the best job opportunities when you complete your course. With hands-on job search guidance from the onsite staff, students who earn their certification onsite usually begin working within two weeks of the completion of their course.
Case 2: Take a four-week TEFL course in the U.S. and interview in advance for a teaching position before you go overseas.
Example: You want to take your TEFL course in Chicago and line up a job in Korea or Japan before going abroad.
Your onsite course in Chicago will take four weeks total. Additionally, lining up a job in advance can take 1-5 months depending on where you want to go. Factors to consider include hiring seasons, length of the interview process as well as how long it takes to get your visa, make your travel arrangements, etc. You should speak to a TEFL Advisor to determine how long this process will take based on where you want to teach English abroad.
- Why You should take your TEFL Course Before Moving Abroad
- TEFL course in Chicago, IL
- Korea and Japan's TEFL Job Markets
Case 3: Take a four-Week TEFL course in the U.S. and then travel to the country where you want to teach to interview and begin teaching.
Example: You want to take your TEFL course in Chicago and then travel to Spain to interview and begin your English teaching job.
In most countries in Western Europe and Latin America, interviewing and hiring are conducted locally on the ground in person. Remember, your onsite course in Chicago will take four weeks. Once you arrive in your destination country, the process of interviewing and getting hired usually takes 1-3 weeks.
If taking this approach, you should be sure to time your arrival in your destination country with a major hiring season to give yourself the best opportunities to land a good job quickly. Following hiring seasons closely is critical to gaining employment in many countries in Europe and Latin America.
3. Complete Your TEFL Course
When looking at TEFL courses, it is important that you think about a timeline and create a plan to successfully achieve your goal of teaching English abroad or online. You should ask yourself the following two questions, and plan accordingly:
- How long does it take to get TEFL certified?
- How long before you can be actually teaching English?
The short answer: it depends. If you can jump into an in-person TEFL course immediately and you plan on working in the location where you take the course, you can be certified and teach English professionally in a little more than a month. However, this scenario is not typical or realistic for most people and we recommend that you allow yourself 4-6 months to get your TEFL certification, make your arrangements, and conduct your job search prior to beginning your job as an English teacher abroad.
Again, knowing which process is best for you will depend on your personal circumstances, where you want to teach, and which TEFL class best fits your schedule and budget.
4. Apply & Interview for TEFL Jobs
Earning your TEFL certification is one thing but finding a TEFL job is the ultimate goal when you become certified to teach English abroad. Additionally, we're not talking just about any ESL job. We're talking about a TEFL job that's the best fit for you. As mentioned above, choosing a TEFL course that will provide you with top-notch assistance when it comes to your job search is critical.
Read more: Job Search Assistance for TEFL Certification
Furthermore, remember that timing your job search will also have an impact on your timeline for teaching English abroad or online. You can start looking for TEFL jobs during your TEFL course or after your TEFL course. Refer to our various case scenarios above for further details and create the best plan according to your agenda and personal circumstances.
Read more: How to find TEFL Jobs
So congrats, you did it! You researched, created your plan and timeline, and got TEFL certified. Then after looking for a TEFL job - hopefully benefiting from stellar assistance offered by your TEFL course - you finally got the offer you wanted and accepted it.
It is now time for you to make the most of your TEFL certification, change the lives of aspiring English learners whether you decided to do it online or in person, and live the experience of a lifetime in a foreign country.
Takeaways & Advice on Next Steps
Other timing issues to consider when planning for your departure to teach English abroad:
- Passport: Did you know that processing a passport can take 8-12 weeks?
- Police Background Check: Many international jobs require a federal criminal background check with an international notary known as an Apostille. This process can take up to 8-12 weeks in the United States.
- Medical Exam: Schools in most Asian and Middle Eastern countries and some European countries require that you take a physical prior to your departure. They may require TB and/or HIV tests.
- Work Visa: Asian countries and some Eastern European countries require that teachers’ work visas be processed in advance. This process may take up to a month or even longer.
- Tourist Visa: Gaining entrance into China, Russia, Brazil and some other countries requires a tourist visa for Americans and citizens of some other nations to be obtained in advance, which can take up to 30 days or longer in some cases.
- Airline Tickets: Booking well in advance will get you the best deals on your airfare. The longer you wait, the more it will cost you.
We would love to help you achieve this experience of a lifetime. Know that you can get in touch with us at any time, and ask all of your questions to one of our expert TEFL advisors. They have all taught English/lived overseas so they'll be happy to share their own experiences as well.
John Bentley is Co-Founder & Senior Writer for International TEFL Academy (ITA), the world leader in TEFL certification for teaching English abroad. A graduate of Harvard University and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern, John is a recognized expert in the field of TEFL. His articles have appeared across the field's top websites, including GoAbroad.com, StudyAbroad.com, InterExchange, GoOverseas.com, Adventure Teaching, & many others. He has also spoken as an expert on Teaching English Abroad & TEFL certification at major conferences like MeetPlanGo and Lessons from Abroad (LFA) in Portland & San Diego.
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