Do Certified Teachers Need a TEFL Certification to Teach English Abroad?

I am a Certified Teacher with an Education Degree:

Do I Still Need a TEFL Certification to Teach Abroad? 
Do certified teachers need a TEFL certification?

By Michael Kunik

I often get this question when speaking with certified teachers who wish to teach English abroad, and for good reason.  Personally, I have a Master’s Degree in Education, and I am a former Elementary and Special Education teacher in Chicago Public Schools. I also earned my TEFL certification and taught English in Madrid, Spain, one of the great experiences of my life.

Schools around the world seeking to hire English teachers highly value training and experience. So, can you get a job without a TEFL certification?  Possibly.  Do I still highly recommend that you do become TEFL certified to teach English abroad?  Absolutely!  Here are several reasons why. 

best teaching jobs abroad


1. Getting an Accredited TEFL Certification will Qualify You for More Jobs
(& often Better Paying Jobs as Well) 

Globally, teacher training programs can vary considerably, but the majority of English schools and language institutes overseas will require, or strongly prefer their teacher candidates to possess an internationally recognized TEFL Certification.  In many cases, it is just a standard requirement, and you will qualify for more jobs and better jobs with a TEFL certification; it's that simple. And, in some cases you will also qualify for a higher salary.

You may possess advanced degrees and endorsements - even an ESL endorsement - but that doesn't mean that school directors in Madrid, Istanbul or Tokyo will recognize such credentials, or even know what they are. But they do recognize and are familiar with TEFL certification.

Possessing this internationally recognized qualification and training, combined with your highly valued classroom experience and credentials, will make you an excellent candidate for the most highly desired, and competitive jobs available around the world.  Not having a TEFL credential may very realistically result in your application getting lost in the shuffle with lesser qualified candidates.  

Click here to receive a Country Chart that details salaries,  hiring requirements, interview procedures, and visa information  for teaching English abroad in more than 50 countries worldwide.

You Will also be Better Prepared for Job Interviews

During many interviews for English teaching jobs, potential employers will ask specific questions relating to teaching practices, classroom management, and lesson planning in the context of teaching English as a foreign language. If you are unable to articulate an in-depth knowledge of TEFL-related terminology and concepts, you will lose out on job opportunities to others who don't possess nearly the same qualifications or experience that you do. 

Do licensed teachers need a TEFL certification to teach English overseas?


2. Gain Critical Skills Specifically in the Field of Teaching English as a Foreign Language

Teaching English as a foreign language is like any field such as physics, history or mathematics in that it requires a particular skill set and knowledge. You can teach university physics, high school math or 5th grade language arts for 20 years, but that doesn't mean you are prepared to teach comma usage to Spanish businessmen or ready to manage a classroom of 20 South Korean 4th graders.

Taking an accredited TEFL course ensures that you will also have explicitly developed the skills of Teaching English as a Foreign Language in areas like:

  • Teaching methodologies and practices for teaching skills like grammar, reading, writing and conversation;
  • Lesson planning & development;
  • Classroom management skills & engaging non-English speakers;
  • Error correction;
  • Visual  aids & technology;
  • Grammar & Lexis;

Also, a quality TEFL course will also incorporate live practice teaching (practicum) with actual ESL students to provide you with hands-on experience.

BOTTOM LINE: You will be a far more successful teacher and enjoy a far more rewarding experience as an English teacher if you gain the skills and knowledge covered by an accredited TEFL class. As a trained teacher, you understand that preparation is a critical ingredient to providing your students with a quality educational experience. 

* Take a look at the ITA course syllabus for more information on what you will learn.

I have an education degree, do I need a TEFL certification?

3. Have You Considered Job Placement Assistance?

So, you want to teach English in Spain, Japan, or perhaps Argentina? Fantastic! There are hundreds of thousands of English teaching jobs that open each year that you will qualify for, particularly if you do earn an accredited TEFL certification. But if you were to kick off your job search today:

  • Would you know how, when or where to look for teaching opportunities?
  • Do you know the correct hiring seasons & procedures for individual job markets?
  • Do you know which recruiters have the best reputations, and which ones should not be trusted?
  • Are you aware of which documents, including criminal background checks, you need for visas and work permits in particular countries?
  • Are you aware of where you can interview for jobs in advance from home, and which countries require that you go to interview in-person?

The ins-and-outs of navigating international job markets for teaching English abroad can be complex and confusing, and the process will vary from country to country. But, a quality TEFL certification provider will provide comprehensive free job search guidance to help you get a top tier job in a country where you want to teach.


At International TEFL Academy, all students and graduates receive free, lifetime Job Search Guidance, which includes:

  • Personal guidance from an experienced Job Search Advisor
  • Comprehensive 350+ page job search manual detailing all aspects of the hiring process and job markets worldwide
  • Contact information for more than 20,000 schools and language institutes around the globe
  • Referrals to preferred recruiters, placement agencies, and language schools
  • Job interview assistance and international resume and cover letter development
  • Listings of hundreds of ESL job boards and other useful online resources
  • Exclusive opportunities to network on social media and correspond with thousands of International TEFL Academy alumni teaching in more than 50 countries worldwide.

These services are lifetime, so once you've taken your TEFL course, you have access to them whenever you wish to go abroad in the future. International TEFL Academy trains more than 3,500 people a year, many of whom possess a background in education.Virtually all of them can gain employment precisely because they do receive the resources and guidance they need actually to make it happen.  

As I mentioned before, if you are already a certified teacher with classroom experience, you are going to be a superb candidate for teaching positions abroad. Your experience managing a classroom, lesson planning, communicating with colleagues/parents, and assessing learners will be invaluable in your job hunt, and eventual position overseas.  But, not all English teaching jobs are the same, and each TEFL market has its unique guidelines that you will need to be aware of when applying for work within them.  

4. Boost Your Resume & Build Skills for the Future

Do qualified teachers need a TEFL certification to teach English abroad?

As a teacher, I know how important it is to be able to work with students from diverse backgrounds, including English Language Learners (ELLs).  Even if you are not currently working in a classroom with ELLs, you can just about bet your bottom dollar that you will one day. Having targeted TEFL training focusing on language methodologies, grammar, phonetics, intonation, pronunciation, and vocabulary will only make you a more skilled educator, and will have a positive impact on all of your students. 

Consider your TEFL certification like a continuing education class that is the equivalent to 6 credit hours at a major university. It is an investment in your skills that will enable you to teach English virtually anywhere in the world. Some districts may even accept your TEFL training as part of your professional development requirements (Check with your individual district).  

I think of my TEFL Certification as an endorsement to my teaching degree, similar to my endorsements to teach Middle School English and Social Sciences in my home country. Your TEFL Certification, as well as your experience teaching abroad, will look great on your resume, and I keep my TEFL certification at the top of my C.V., right along with my Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees.

Watch certified teacher Moriah Flagler discuss earning her TEFL certification & teaching English in Costa Rica


Final Takeaway:

Being a certified teacher is something you should be very proud of, as it means that you possess a unique skill set, and a passion for making a difference in people’s lives.  Earning a TEFL certification will only enhance your tools as a teacher, and will ensure that you are as marketable as you can be when applying for English teaching positions overseas.  Also, being a graduate of ITA will give you access to our lifetime job guidance and a network of English teachers around the globe. You will qualify for the most competitive jobs abroad, and we will be there every step of the way to make sure that you have all the tools you’ll need to be successful securing those positions. 

Best training for teaching English abroadLooking for more perspectives from certified teachers who got TEFL certified & are teaching English abroad?

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Want to Learn More about Teaching English Abroad?

Fill out a contact form or call us at 773-634-9900 to speak to a trained advisor about all aspects of job opportunities for teaching English abroad & TEFL certification.

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Michael-staff-photoAbout the Author - Michael Kunik:  In 2009, I became TEFL certified and moved to Madrid, Spain to teach English.   Invariably, whenever asked how I feel about my time in Spain, my answer is the same: “Next to marrying my wife, choosing to move abroad was the best decision I have ever made in my life.” My time in Madrid turned out to be the catalyst for many profoundly positive changes for me as an individual and a global citizen.  I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to do so, and I am eager to help others as they plan to embark on their journeys abroad.

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