If you’re thinking about doing a TEFL, your mind is probably filled with thoughts of aeroplane food, postcards and cocktails on the beach. But before you get to Cuba or Cambodia or Kazakhstan or wherever you want to go, you will need to invest in a TEFL course. As with anything that involves your time and your money, you need to be sure you are serious before committing. So here are a few things you need to know before doing a TEFL.

You’ll be spoiled for choice…

…but you need to choose wisely. There are a lot of TEFL courses out there. It can be overwhelming to decide which course to take. This is an important decision, so it is necessary to compare your options. The first point is that your TEFL course should not be less than 120 hours. To be proficient and comfortable in teaching a class, 120+ hour is essential. Also, awarding government bodies like the DEAC and Ofqual will not certify courses below that time frame. The course should provide you with support and the option of practical experience. Cheap and cheerful is not an option in this case – look for a course that is serious about TEFL. Check out their accreditation and make sure they know what they’re talking about. Most of all, find out what other people are saying about the course. 

You don’t need to be from the USA, Canada, UK or Australia

…or be a native speaker. Your first language is a non-issue as long as you have an advanced level of English. There is even an argument that non-native teachers are better equipped to teach English as a Foreign Language because they have taken the journey themselves. They have been in their students’ shoes, so to speak. The bottom line? If you’re not a native speaker, you can still do the TEFL and find a TEFL job.

You don’t need a degree

Having a four-year degree will most certainly make your life easier, we can’t deny that, but having a degree is not essential to being a TEFL teacher. While there are many countries which won’t, loads of countries will give you a working visa without a degree. Having an accredited TEFL certificate is usually more important to employers than a degree.

It will take more than five minutes

Yes, there are people who claim that they can complete a 120-hour online TEFL course in a day. But let’s be real. If this is possible, then the TEFL course is probably not worth the paper the certificate is printed on, or you’re doing it wrong. The TEFL course involves a ton of reading. The course materials are not particularly complex, but they will require some thought and concentration. Completing a TEFL course is not possible without this reading, so go make yourself a pot of tea and get comfortable. Don’t underestimate the hard work that goes into a TEFL course. If it’s not challenging, what have you even learnt, anyway?

It’s not all Pictionary and Simon Says

When you first start your TEFL it might seem like it’s just a whole lot of fun. Because it is. But that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Being able to engage your students with creative lessons which are at the same time effective takes skill, knowledge and practice. The TEFL course will introduce you to a mountain of learning theories and teaching methods. Plus you need to make sure you have a handle on English, too. So while being a TEFL teacher is a lot of fun, doing the TEFL course is a lot of hard work. 

English is a funny language

If you are going to teach the language, you need to know the language. We don’t just mean that you need to be able to speak the language. You need to have a firm understanding of word classes and grammatical terms and natural language. If you don’t know what a phrasal verb or a conditional is, then you need to crack the books. On the TEFL course you will be given a chance to brush up on your linguistic knowledge so that you will be prepared to explain the language in the EFL classroom.

TEFL can be a lifelong relationship

If you want to be, you could be a TEFLer for life. Many people think TEFL is only for backpackers or gap year students, but the truth is that many TEFL teachers never return to their original jobs and lifestyles. Having a career in TEFL is not only being a teacher– you can become involved in teacher training, materials writing, marketing or publishing.

But you don’t have to make that decision now. Right now, you need to choose a TEFL course, get your TEFL certificate and find the dream job that’s waiting for you.

Editor’s Note:

  • The TEFL Academy offers TEFL courses completely online or combined with in-class training.

Written by Rhyan O’Sullivan

Managing Director, The TEFL Academy. Rhyan is proud to be running an organisation which gives those seeking a teaching adventure abroad excellent opportunities to explore the world, funding their travel through the work they do and gaining invaluable experience as they go.


  1. Goodday I am in contact with a Agency in South Africa called OVC work and travel they are offering a package and opportunity to teach in Costa Rica, I’m unsure if they are legitimate or going to give me a hard time and runaround is it true that the TEFL certification can be obtained whilst in Costa Rica??


  2. Hi Priyen,

    I haven’t heard of OVC before, but Costa Rica is a popular country for taking a TEFL course. Here are a few companies that offer courses there:


  3. Hi,I am very much interested in teaching, but I want to do it online I don’t want to travel. I am from South Africa and I haven’t started with TEFL course, which one is the best?


    1. Hi Zama,

      The “best” program is the one that best suits your needs 🙂 — people have positive experiences with a lot of different TEFL programs. Hard to say one is “the best”.

      That said, I think trainees end up most satisfied when, like you, they have some idea about the type of employment they want afterwards. So shop around for a course with training that matches up with your teaching goals. You might even want to start by looking at job ads that interest you and seeing what training is requested by those companies.

      Also, ask TEFL course providers detailed questions about their syllabus before registering. Try to find a course that offers a practicum of at least 6 hours with students most like those you intend to teach (ex. adults / teenagers / children / business executives, etc. ).

      Courses in teaching online are often offered as short courses or specialization “add-ons” after your complete a standard TEFL course. However, 100% online TEFL courses which include an online practicum might be enough to get you started. It depends on how much teaching experience you already have, both on an offline, before starting the course.

      Good luck in your research!


  4. Hi Karen thanks for the reply I have applied for admission at Maximo Nivel


    1. Nice! Good luck in your studies 🙂


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