What is TEFL and What is TEFL Certification?

“TEFL” is the acronym for Teaching English as a Foreign Language, or simply, English language instruction for non-native speakers. Also known as Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), English Language Teaching (ELT), and teaching ESL (English as a Second Language). The field of TEFL/TESOL represents one of the fastest growing educational fields in the world. The field presents thousands of excellent professional opportunities for teaching English abroad in all corners of the globe to native and fluent English speakers who earn their TEFL/TESOL certification.

In practical terms, when these terms are applied to the field of teaching English abroad, there is little or no difference between “TEFL” and “TESOL.” They are both acronyms that essentially mean the same thing: teaching the English language to non-native speakers. Likewise, in the vast majority cases, when it comes to teaching English abroad, a “TEFL certification” and a “TESOL certification” are the same and the terms are interchangeable.

On a more technical level, TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) is the term applied to the teaching of English to non-native speakers in native English speaking countries, so those who will earn degrees and work domestically in the field in the UK, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and South Africa and US will typically use the term “TESOL.”

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TEFL or TESOL Certification and requirements for getting a job teaching English abroad

To Teach English as a Foreign Language in a foreign country (non-native English speaking country), a TEFL Certification is typically required as schools and language institutes want to hire teachers who have received proper training. You don't need to possess a degree in education, prior teaching experience, or even a college degree to get paid to teach English abroad. Private language schools abroad, online teaching companies and government programs that recruit native English speakers to teach abroad all seek to hire people who have received a certain degree of professional level training. Internationally recognized standards hold that professional-level TEFL certification must meet certain standards established by leading bodies in the field.

These standards include:

  • At least 100 hours of coursework;
  • At least 6-20 hours of practicum (live practice teaching and observation with actual non-native English speaker and NOT role-playing with fellow TEFL classmates);
  • An accredited curriculum from a recognized, independent organization within the field;
  • Instruction provided by a qualified instructor (who has an equivalent to a Master Degree in TESOL or related field);
  • It is also recommended that you take your TEFL certification course from an organization that provides comprehensive job search guidance.  

To learn more about what to consider when looking at TEFL certification courses, check out 7 Key Tips to Evaluate a TEFL / TESOL Training School on our TEFL Articles page.

International TEFL Academy TEFL Certification Course Options:

All International TEFL Academy (ITA) are internationally accredited. In addition, International TEFL Academy has enjoyed an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for more than 6 years. Read more about accreditation for TEFL certification here. 

Is it Possible to Earn a Valid TEFL Certification Online?

With the growing prevalence of online education, one question that frequently arises from those seeking to teach English abroad is: can I actually early a valid TEFL certification online that employers will recognize when I apply for jobs to teach English overseas?

The answer is "Yes" - as long your online TEFL course is accredited and meets all of the standards outlined above.  If you seek a truly professional-level certification that will provide you with the skills, resources and qualifications you need to get a top job, be mindful that many online TEFL  courses - especially the cheaper ones - do not meet these standards. Online TEFL classes that do not include a practicum for example, are not recognized by many language schools and TEFL programs around the world.  To learn more, check out: Is International TEFL Academy's Online TEFL Certification Course Valid & Accredited?

Will a TEFL Certification Qualify Me to Teach English Online?

Yes! In addition to providing a recognized qualification for TEFL jobs overseas, TEFL certification will qualify you to teach English online, a fast growing market that provides opportunities to make money teaching English as a foreign language, whether you are living in the U.S., the U.K., or if you are teaching English abroad in a non-native English speaking country. Many English teachers abroad teach English online part-time as a way to supplement their income as an English teacher at a local school. Others teach English online full-time, which gives them the chance to move more frequently from country to country while still earning income because they can teach English online from anywhere as long as they have a strong Internet connection. Most teachers are able to make at least $10-$20 (USD) an hour & hours are very flexible. To learn more, check out Teach English Online Your Guide on How to Make Money & Travel the World

Teach English Online: Your Guide on How to Make Money & Travel the World.  DOWNLOAD AS PDF FILE



Learn more about Teaching English Abroad

Request a free brochure or call 773-634-9900 to speak with an expert advisor about all aspects of TEFL certification and teaching English abroad, including the hiring process, salaries, visas, TEFL class options, job placement assistance and more. 

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NOTE: This article was originally published in 2011. It has been updated and refreshed for accuracy & freshness on October 9, 2018.

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