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What is TEFL and What is TEFL Certification?
Written by: John Bentley
Last Updated: April 22, 2021
“TEFL” is the acronym for Teaching English as a Foreign Language, or simply, English language instruction for non-native speakers. Also known as Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), English Language Teaching (ELT), and teaching ESL (English as a Second Language). The field of TEFL/TESOL represents one of the fastest growing educational fields in the world, and it presents thousands of excellent professional opportunities for teaching English abroad in all corners of the globe to native and fluent English speakers who earn their TEFL/TESOL certification.
In practical terms, in the field of teaching English abroad, there is little or no difference between “TEFL” and “TESOL.” They are both acronyms that essentially mean the same thing: teaching the English language to non-native speakers. Likewise, in the vast majority of cases, when it comes to ESL teaching certificates & teaching English abroad, a “TEFL certification” and a “TESOL certification” are the same and the terms are interchangeable.
On a more technical level, TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) is the term applied to the teaching of English to non-native speakers in native English speaking countries, so those who will earn degrees and work domestically in the field in the UK, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and South Africa and US will typically use the term “TESOL.”
TEFL or TESOL Certification and requirements for getting a job teaching English abroad
To Teach English as a Foreign Language in a foreign country (non-native English speaking country), a TEFL Certification is typically required as schools and language institutes want to hire teachers who have received proper training. You don't need to possess a degree in education, prior teaching experience, or even a college degree to get paid to teach English abroad. Private language schools abroad, online teaching companies and government programs that recruit native English speakers to teach abroad all seek to hire people who have received a certain degree of professional level training.
How does TEFL certification work?
Accredited TEFL certification will provide instruction from a highly qualified instructor covering the skills and tools you will need to work as a professional English teacher. Professional-level TEFL courses must meet certain standards and include live practice teaching.
These standards include:
- At least 100 hours of coursework;
- At least 6-20 hours of practicum (live practice teaching and observation with actual non-native English speakers and NOT role-playing with fellow TEFL classmates);
- An accredited curriculum from a recognized, independent organization within the field;
- Instruction provided by a qualified instructor (who has an equivalent to a Master's Degree in TESOL or a related field);
- It is also recommended that you take your TEFL certification course from an organization that provides comprehensive job search guidance.
To learn more about what to consider when looking at TEFL certification courses, check out 7 Key Tips to Evaluate a TEFL / TESOL Training School on our TEFL Articles page.
International TEFL Academy TEFL Certification Course Options:
- Four-week International Courses in 25 Locations Worldwide
- Online TEFL Certification (11 weeks, part-time)
- Read more about accreditation for TEFL certification here.
Awards & Recognition:
All International TEFL Academy (ITA) courses are internationally accredited. In addition, International TEFL Academy has enjoyed an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) since 2012.
Since the beginning of 2019, ITA has been named the #1 TEFL school by GoOverseas.com & GoAbroad.com across a range of awards categories for TEFL certification:
Check out a full run-down of ITA's awards, reviews and recognition in this article.
Is it Possible to Earn a Valid TEFL Certification Online?
With the growing prevalence of online education, one question that frequently arises from those seeking to teach English abroad is: can I actually earn a valid TEFL certification online that employers will recognize when I apply for jobs to teach English overseas?
The answer is "Yes" - as long your online TEFL course is accredited and meets all of the standards outlined above. If you seek a truly professional-level certification that will provide you with the skills, resources and qualifications you need to get a top job, be mindful that many online TEFL courses - especially the cheaper ones - do not meet these standards. Online TEFL classes that do not include a practicum for example, are not recognized by many language schools and TEFL programs around the world.
To learn more, check out: Is International TEFL Academy's Online TEFL Certification Course Valid & Accredited?
Will a TEFL Certification Qualify Me to Teach English Online?
Yes it will! In addition to providing a recognized qualification for TEFL jobs overseas, TEFL certification will qualify you to teach English online, a fast growing market that provides opportunities to make money teaching English as a foreign language, whether you are living in the U.S., the U.K., or if you are teaching English abroad in a non-native English speaking country. Many English teachers abroad teach English online part-time as a way to supplement their income as an English teacher at a local school.
Others teach English online full-time, which gives them the chance to move more frequently from country to country while still earning income because they can teach English online from anywhere as long as they have a strong Internet connection. Most teachers are able to make at least $10-$20 (USD) per hour & work schedules are very flexible.
Specialty Training Post Class Graduation:
To enhance their online teaching skills and make themselves more marketable for teaching English online, ITA students and alumni have the opportunity to enroll in an optional ESL teaching certificate: ITA's exclusive 30-Hour Teaching English Online Specialty Course.
To learn more about teaching English Online, check out Teach English Online Your Guide on How to Make Money & Travel the World.
Posted In: TEFL Certification
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.
Want to Learn More About Teaching English Abroad?
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