The acronym TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. While this term is used for the physical act of actually teaching English abroad, it is also commonly used to refer to the training courses that many prospective teachers complete before heading overseas, as well as the qualification they receive upon successfully graduating from the course. By gaining a TEFL certificate it is possible to find work as an English language teacher in almost any country of your choice worldwide.
While researching the ins and outs of English language teaching you are likely to come across a few other acronyms similar to TEFL that can cause some confusion, such as TESOL, TESL and ELT. The truth is that these acronyms are generally used interchangeably and different countries, companies, and individuals have their own preference as to which they use and how they use them. The technical definitions of these acronyms are outlined below.
TEFL - Teaching English as a Foreign Language
This term is predominantly used when English is being taught in a country where it isn't the native language (for example teaching English to Spanish people in Spain).
TESL - Teaching English as a Second Language
This is where English is being taught to non-native speakers of English in a country where it is the native language (for example teaching immigrants in the UK/USA).
TESOL - Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
This term theoretically encompasses both of the above.
ELT - English Language Teaching
This term is often used to refer to either TEFL or TESL by some institutions in the U.K.
If you plan to join the many thousands of people who head overseas each year to teach English, you should seriously consider completing a TEFL certification course before you start applying for jobs. A TEFL certificate is the standard qualification for English language teachers worldwide, and although it is still possible to find teaching positions in some countries without certification, the vast majority of employers who offer a good rate of pay and a settled work environment now expect their teachers to be TEFL certified.
Choosing a TEFL Certificate Course
Unfortunately, a quick online search will reveal that there are a large number of course providers offering all manner of TEFL courses that vary hugely in terms of cost and the time required to complete them. So how do you know which one to choose? The first thing to remember is that TEFL courses are usually categorized by the estimated time they take to complete. For example, you will find courses ranging from as little as 40 hours or even less, all the way up to 500-hour courses and beyond. The rule of thumb here is that anything under 100 hours is generally considered an introductory course that is ideal for people planning to volunteer as an English teacher; however, a certificate of over 100 hours is usually expected for most jobs that pay a good salary. Take a look at our FAQ for more information regarding TEFL course hours.
Online or In-Class TEFL Course
As well as being offered in different durations of study, TEFL courses are also offered in different formats. If you are looking for a complete training package that includes real classroom teaching practice, an in-class TEFL course might be the right choice for you. In-class courses generally run for 4-weeks and are often held in areas where there is a strong demand for teachers. With the benefit of teaching practice in a controlled classroom environment and the local knowledge of the training center, most graduates have little trouble finding a job upon graduation. The downside to this form of certification is the cost, as 4 weeks training at an international location can be prohibitively expensive for some trainees. For further information take a look at our in-class TEFL course pages.
If you are restricted by budget or have time restrictions that rule out an in-class course, then an
online TEFL course is probably your best bet. Although online courses don’t normally involve any teaching practice, a good quality course from a reputable course provider is still widely accepted by many employers worldwide. As distance learning has rapidly gained in popularity over recent years, the quality of online TEFL courses has also increased to meet the demand. Regardless of your timeframe and budget, there is now a TEFL course option available to everyone who wants to change their life by starting a new career as an English language teacher at home or overseas. For more information take a look at our online TEFL course pages.
Finding a Teaching Job
Once you have successfully completed your TEFL certification course you will be in a great position to find a teaching job in the country of your choice. Due to the strong global demand for the English language there are a wide range of opportunities on offer across the globe, from major European cities to exotic beach resorts. Where you decide to live and work as an EFL teacher could depend on several factors, such as the time of year, your level of qualifications and experience, your financial situation, and your own personal preferences. Take a look at our jobs page for an insight into the options available in different countries around the world.
Teaching Hot Spots
Although it is possible to find jobs as a TEFL qualified teacher is most countries around the world, the majority of new course graduates head to a country that has a proven track record for having plenty of job openings, good salaries, comfortable working conditions, and an environment that is safe and welcoming. Many of the most popular destinations that fit this criteria are located in Asia which continues to be the hottest region for teaching English abroad. If you are looking for a country where a job is almost guaranteed then China might be the perfect choice, although South Korea, Japan and Taiwan are also popular options that comfortably tick all the main boxes.
Outside of Asia, the other main destinations for teaching English overseas are located in Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. In Europe the traditional hot spots are Spain, Italy and France which have been attracting large numbers of teachers for many years. However, due to the high cost of living in these countries, Central and Eastern Europe is becoming increasingly popular. Destinations such as Czech Republic, Poland, Russia, and Slovakia are really booming as they are affordable and offer a huge amount of teaching opportunities. Whether you are drawn to one of the long established TEFL locations or prefer to be a little more adventurous, Europe provides a wide range of options in a relatively small area. One of the many benefits of teaching in this region is you can be teaching in Paris on Friday and exploring Vienna on Saturday!
Latin America is another area that offers a huge amount of potential for TEFL qualified teachers. The region has a population of around 640 million spread over 20 different countries, many of which have a thriving market for EFL teachers. Although the average salary on offer is not as high as some other parts of the world, Latin America is home to many fascinating cultures, spectacular scenery, exotic wildlife, and seemingly endless opportunities for adventure. Teaching jobs can be found in most parts of the region, although countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, and Mexico are particularly popular. Another benefit of this region is that it is within easy reach of the USA, making it a favourite with many thousands of Americans every year.
If you are keen to earn as much money as possible while teaching English abroad, the Middle East could be a good option for you. This region has a very strong demand for TEFL qualified teachers in a wide range of fields, including private language schools, international schools, colleges, and universities. The two destinations that employ the majority of teachers are Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both of which routinely offer a very generous, tax-free salary, free accommodation, and paid flights in and out of the country. Other countries that also have a significant market for EFL teachers include Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar. However, before you jump on a plane, it is worth noting that the majority of employers in this region will expect their job applicants to have a degree and at least one year of teaching experience.
The Recruitment Process
How you actually go about securing a job in your country of choice will vary as there is no one best method for every situation. In countries such as China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, and the U.A.E., it is common for teachers to land a job in advance via online job posts or a recruitment company. In this situation, the application process is completed by email and interviews are conducted by webcam or telephone. In contrast, employers in much of Europe, Latin America and Southeast Asia, generally prefer to interview their candidates in person. In this situation, teachers will need to head to their country of choice first and apply directly to schools in the local area.
Why Choose ITTT
As one of the most experienced and most trusted course providers in the field of teacher training, ITTT can provide everything you need to ensure your teaching adventure gets off to a flying start. We will guide you through the process from choosing the right TEFL course to suit your needs, all the way to finding a reputable job in the country of your choice. Once you have secured your dream job we will continue to support you no matter where your career as an English teacher takes you. Our lifetime job support service includes help with job applications and CV/resumes, interview preparation and contracts, as well as leads for jobs in countries all over the world.
If you are ready to start a new life of travel and adventure, but still have a few questions that need answering, there are several things you can do to put your mind at ease. You can download our free brochure and free e-guide to TEFL to get an insight into ITTT, the courses we offer, and the general world of teaching English abroad. You can also visit our extensive FAQ page which should answer most of your questions regarding TEFL courses, teaching jobs, expected salaries, and much more. If you still have any unanswered questions regarding any aspect of TEFL, you can contact us via a range of options, including phone, WhatsApp Chat, Facebook Messenger, or our convenient contact form.
Once you have all the information you need and all your questions have been answered, you can sign-up for your chosen TEFL course by clicking on our application page.