How long does it take to get TEFL certified?

The first major factor that has an impact on how long it will take to get TEFL certified is which type of course you choose to take. There are three main TEFL course types to be aware of:

In-person TEFL course

The most common form of in-person TEFL course is the four-week, 120-hour TEFL certificate. Trainees on this course usually travel from their home country to one of many locations around the world to take the course. Courses should involve a theory component, covering language awareness and teaching skills, and a practical teaching component where trainees teach classes of real English language learners and receive feedback. These courses usually take four weeks to complete and therefore some form of accommodation is required for the duration of the course. This and the travel aspect, make this form of certification a more expensive option than the other two alternatives below.

Check out our in-class TEFL course options

Online TEFL course

The standard entry-level requirement for an ESL teaching position is a 120-hour TEFL course. These courses, as the name implies, are taken online and therefore can be completed from home or while traveling, or both. This has the advantage of making them a cheaper option than the previous example. If you were to apply yourself to the 120-hour course on the basis of a 12-hour working day you could theoretically finish it in 10 days (or less if you work faster than average). These courses usually cover the same theoretical background as in-person courses, namely, teaching skills and language awareness. Some course providers offer a portion of online teaching practice as well.

Check out our 120-hour online TEFL course

Combined TEFL course

Sometimes also referred to as ‘hybrid’ courses, this type of course combines the two previous methodologies. You typically cover the theory portion of the course first, doing it online. This is then followed by attendance at a training center in some location throughout the world to undertake the teaching practice for the course. As you only need to find accommodation for around ten to fourteen days, rather than four weeks, this course type is generally cheaper than a full in-person course but more expensive than an online course. The duration of the course is also about four weeks when adding the two components together.

Check out our combined TEFL course options

Course levels

Entry level = 120-hour

All the courses described above are for this level of certification. This is often seen as the baseline qualification needed for EFL employment worldwide.

There are other courses of differing levels and content and these are outlined below.


A diploma usually covers at least 200-hours of study. Using the full working day calculation of an 8-hour day five days a week, you may be able to finish this in five weeks.

Many diploma courses will cover more than 200-hours and their timeframe will be extended accordingly. The diploma qualification is useful for the next level of teaching management roles, such as a director of studies in an ESL department of a training school.

Specialized Courses

Teaching ESL is often generalized; however, there are particular specialist areas that you may wish to teach. Each of these areas has a certification which involves around 50 hours of study. Using our calculation of 5 days a week at ten hours a day, you could finish each of these courses in a week.

The three most common specialist areas are:

  • Teaching Young Learners: Focused on pedagogical theories and practices related to children
  • Teaching Business English: Focused on skills such as, agreeing, disagreeing, negotiating, presenting and so forth. The majority of business English is the same as general English.
  • Teaching English Online: Relates specifically to teaching English in an online environment, therefore covers areas such as equipment and teaching platforms.