Get Certified to Teach Abroad

Teaching English in a foreign country is a great way to explore the world and contribute to the communities you visit. If you hope to join this profession and work with teachers and students anywhere from San Lorenzo, Peru to Shenyang, China, a first step is to get training and certification. While it is certainly possible to find a free-lance job tutoring English without much training or experience, you will find that your choices for steady, well-paid work increase greatly when you take the time to become certified.

What are the options for earning a TEFL certificate? If you Google TEFL training, you’ll get 715,000 results. To help guide you through this morass, answer a few questions:

1) Have you taught in the U.S.? Teaching in American public school settings usually requires certification from the state in which you want to work. To become a specialist in working with English language learners, most teachers earn a Master’s degree in TESOL or a closely related specialty. If you have these qualifications, there will also be options for you outside the country. If you do not currently hold these degrees or certifications, gaining them will be a long process.

2) Can you attend an intensive one-month training course? The most established and recognized teacher training program is run by the CELTA which is administrated by the University of Cambridge. It lasts four grueling weeks at one of around 100 approved centers around the world, including several in the U.S. The workload is tremendous, and the pace exhilarating, but if you are successful, this certification will get you an entry level position at schools around the world. Other similar training programs which vary in quality and price are offered by many providers.

When investigating programs, look for their accreditation. Accreditation by a recognized body, such as ACCET, the Accrediting Council of Continuing Education and Training, or CEA, means that an outside, agency has audited every aspect of the program – from the school’s financial stability to training staff’s qualifications to the program’s objectives, methodology, assessment procedures, and recordkeeping – and found the program to meet appropriate standards.

The process of accreditation is painstaking and time-consuming, so institutions that make this effort tend to be stable, reputable, and concerned about high standards in the industry. TEFL training programs that do not undergo the accreditation process tend to be less committed to best practices, which at times results in sketchier programs with short histories and shorter futures.

Remember that you want both a quality training experience and the ability for future employers to check your certificate six months or six years from now. You don’t want them to get the dreaded “Web page unavailable” message a few months after you complete your training.


3) Can you take an online course?
Today the top universities in the country offer classes online. There are many TEFL programs online; some with university credits and/or certification from recognized providers or colleges. A number of certification courses are self-paced and self-study; others feature close guidance from highly qualified trainers and peer interaction. This is another case in which it is important to check the background of the provider. Here are some questions you can ask to conduct your investigation:

  • What are the program and its parent school’s professionalaffiliations?
  • How many years has the school been in business?
  • What are the trainers’ qualifications?
  • What is the maximum number of students per class?
  • Are references with contact information available from former students?
  • What system is established for verification of certification and employment references?

4) Have you considered getting a taste of what is available? Many TEFL providers have weekend orientation programs or will allow you to observe a day of their courses. While nobody can learn a profession in a day or a weekend, it may be possible to see what is available and to find out whether the field is right for you.