To TEFL or not to TEFL?

TEFL by Matt Borden

This article was written by Helen Johnson, published on 5th April 2016 and has been read 1630 times.

Helen Johnson is a Student Brand Ambassador for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office 'Know Before You Go' campaign for Northumbria University. During her gap year in 2014 she worked as an au pair and English tutor. Here is Helen's guide to the most well-known language teaching certifications, why you should do a teaching course, what you can do with your qualification and her top tips when going abroad to teach!

There are so many different opportunities available at the moment for people who have a passion for teaching and would like to do so abroad. Most teaching roles available require some form of teaching qualification, and there are plenty to choose from. After I completed a TEFL qualification at the beginning of my gap year, it opened up so many different opportunities for me, enhanced my CV and gave me transferable skills which came in extremely handy for when I became an Au Pair and English Tutor abroad.

There are quite a few different teaching qualifications and then different variants, I’m just going to look at a couple here, but there are plenty more if these don’t suit! 

1. TEFL

These TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificates can be used anywhere in the world to teach English to non-English speakers and all you need to be able to do to get qualified is a native-level ability to speak English! TEFL has many different levels and types of courses, some being both online and classroom based and other being purely courses allowing you to work around other commitments. 

2. TESOL

TESOL (Teach English to Speakers of Other Languages) courses are very similar to TEFL courses and they sometimes mean the same thing. TEFL is the name mainly used in the UK and TESOL is usually what it is called in Australia and the USA. TESOL can also be used as a way of teaching immigrants or refugees who come to a native English country and their needs are very different from someone you would teach using a TEFL qualification as they will hear English all around them in their new country.

3. TESL

TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) TESL teachers mainly work teaching English to either immigrants or teaching to people living in a country where many languages are used and English is one of the main ones. TESL is sometimes referred to as TEAL (Teaching English as an Additional Language).

4. CELTA

CELTA (Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults). They are provided by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate and are regarded very highly by employers. These courses are available to study both full and part time, can take up to five weeks and although they are very intensive and quite expensive compared to other courses they do produce well-equipped and highly regarded teachers. To get onto this course you also need some type of formal English qualifications.

Have a good look through what each course offers and the different modules available and choose the one which you think suits your requirements the most! After all, there’s plenty to choose from!

5. Why complete a teaching course?

1. Boosts your CV
Showing you’ve chosen to complete extra qualification is always a bonus and by showing you’ve committed to and completed a course of your own choice will always look good to future employees

2. Transferable skills
Completing a teaching course will give you many beneficial skills such as communicative and organisational skills which these can be used in many different roles both relating to and outside of teaching English

3. Sometimes needed to get a teaching job
Employees looking for English teachers will usually like their employees to have a one of these qualifications depending on the type of job and it shows that you’ve taken the next step and are committed to teaching English abroad.

6. What can I do with my qualification?

There’s a range of different jobs/roles and a variety of different environments you can work in depending on the qualification you’ve completed and what sort of role you’d like to do, but these are a few ideas to get you started!


1. Language Assistants/ Full-time/Part-time teachers
There are many teaching opportunities all around the world, so if you’d like to assist other teachers or teach your own class there’s plenty of choice! These roles can be both full and part time so you can choose the option which suits you and your schedule best! Make sure you look into the country you’re thinking about applying to and check that its traditions, culture and customs suit you as everywhere is different and if you’re going to be there for a longer period of time you’ll need to make sure it’s the right place for you!

2. Summer Camps
If you’d like to work in a fun environment working with children over the summer period then this could be the perfect role for you! These summer camps can be found in many different locations, they’re usually pretty common in Europe, but there are also other places which run them too. Tutor positions can be from 1 week long up to a few months long so depending on how long you’d like to be a tutor for and your summer plans, there’s lots of choice! Make sure you check the requirements for each country regarding visas and work permits as each country differs in this (you should do this for any job abroad)

3. Au Pairing
Even though it’s not working in a school or a summer camp and you don’t usually need a teaching qualification to do it, Au Pairing usually requires you to teach English to children of different levels and of different ages. The skills learnt from these qualifications, including different lesson ideas, instruction on how to plan different lessons and how to teach English in different ways can really help if teaching is part of your Au Pairing role. There’s a variety of Au Pairing sites and thousands of different families searching for Au Pairs, so have a look at the different places you can go and make sure it’s somewhere that will suit your requirements and where you’ll like their customs and way of life.

If you’re interested in completing a teaching qualification, there’s plenty of choice and each have a specific focus so there’s something to suit your needs and requirements. Make sure you have a close look at the different options, do your research and find the one which will suit you the best and which will be the most relevant for your future teaching plans. Completing one of these certificates can open many doors, add something extra to your CV and shows that you’re committed to taking your English teaching skills to the next level, so if you’re wanting to gain an extra qualification which will really broaden your horizons and allow you to teach in many different places, then I’d say go for it!

7. Top travel tips and reminders when going abroad to teach

1. Insurance
Make sure you get the right insurance for where you’ll be going and the sorts of things you might be doing there. Some teaching courses offer packages and some involve going abroad to take the course so insurance might be included as part of this, but be sure to check exactly what this covers as you might still need to purchase your own personal insurance too.

2. EHIC
If you’re planning on teaching in Europe, make sure you have an EHIC which can help reduce costs of healthcare and can sometimes mean you get it free. If you already have one, make sure it’s still in date before you go and that it won’t run out whilst you’re there. (Also remember that the emergency number throughout Europe is 112 - this could come in useful!)

3. Passport
Make sure, like your EHIC card, that your passport won’t run out whilst you’re away, and take this into account if you’re thinking about renewing your teaching contract for a few more months.

4. Visa
Check which visas will be required for the country you are going to as each country is different and you may need a special type of visa if you’re planning on working there too!

5. Research
Do some research into the customs of the country you’re thinking about going to and any laws they expect you to abide by to ensure you don’t get into any sticky situations!

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