Is that online TEFL course worth it? Is the certificate worth the paper it is printed on? TEFL forums around the world debate the value of online programs, often heatedly, and some “experts” express strong opinions on both sides of the issue. But the bottom line is that the only opinion that matters is the opinion of the employer to whom you present your certificate when you are looking for a job overseas.
FACT: Most employers don’t care what kind of certificate you get, a few might care if it is online versus in classroom and very very few care if it is a name brand certificate like CELTA or Trinity or similar. Most employers in most countries are not even aware of the heated debates on TEFL forums, nor are they tuned into brand names.
FACT: We all know that the future of education includes online or distance education as a way to control costs and ensure consistent quality. One of the best examples is that Mexico provides secondary education to over one million students through its telesecudaria program. These programs have recently expanded to Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Panama and El Salvador. And there are now similar pilot programs in the USA in California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Florida. Distance education will one day likely be more common than the standard brick and mortar schools we all grew up with.
Here’s how to best understand the arguments and make your own decision about whether an online TEFL course is worth it for you.
CELTA course in-classroom and in country
The very best course to take? Probably a CELTA in-classroom course in the country where you intend to teach. If I was an employer in your preferred country and you took a CELTA course there, I would put you to the head of the line. Good course, a bit antiquated in method, but demanding of the teacher trainees and you’ll certainly know some basics when you complete the course. Issues with this for you? Usually quite expensive. You’ll typically need US$2000-2500+ for the course, plus books and materials AND you’ll need to budget for accommodation and food until you finish training, find your first job and get your first paycheck. So you are looking a couple months of basic support plus the cost of the course. You are looking at several thousand dollars even in an inexpensive country.
Note that even the venerable CELTA these days offers an online version of its course, though it too is very expensive compared to its competitors.
TEFL course in-classroom and in country
Next step down the food chain? Any in-classroom TEFL course in the country where you intend to teach. The advantage of taking a course where you want to teach is that your practice teaching will be with the local population and you will have an opportunity to learn the problems that the local population has with grammar and pronunciation. Even experienced teachers take a bit of time to make this adjustment when they change from one country to another. Issues for you with the TEFL in country? Pretty much the same as with the CELTA except the TEFL is often half the price of a CELTA. Course content is about 85% the same, so it is a better deal.
CELTA vs. TEFL?
Very few employers, probably less than 5%, will care about a CELTA versus a TEFL cert. But someone always prefers something over something else. The author of this post has a masters degree in education with a TEFL certification. Some employers want only an MATESOL. Okay, no problem, those employers are less than 5% of the market when looking for college/university teaching jobs, so it has never been a problem. There are PLENTY of jobs out there.
ONLINE TEFL Courses
Online TEFL courses are fine. And even though TEFL Educator sells TEFL courses, we would still recommend that you take an in-classroom course if you have the time and money to do so. Most people can’t. An online course is fine. Content is about 85% the same. Many people volunteer locally to teach English at an immigration program or literacy program to get a bit of practice in before heading overseas. It’s easy to organize, programs are delighted to have you even if just for a short time and the experience can provide a bit of confidence. All of our courses include an optional TEFL teaching practicum component that is free with each course.
An online TEFL course is a good way for you to get a sense of how TEFL works and if you might enjoy it or not. If you intend TEFL to be just a one or two year journey overseas, it is fine. If after a couple years teaching, you find you love teaching abroad and want to continue as a career, then by all means take the best in-classroom course you can find, or even better pursue a good MATESOL program. An MATESOL will open up college and university jobs in most countries. Much better work if you can qualify for it. Fewer hours, better wages, lots of paid vacation time and much more.
Most employers are delighted if you take any course at all and demonstrate that you have a real interest in helping your students. Employer requirements are sometimes really the country’s legal requirements from the Ministry of Labor (or similar) as to what is needed to obtain official working papers in that country. Those requirements will never specify a specific name brand of certificate as a requirement. At most some employes might mention a name brand and then always say or equivalent.
So . . . is an online TEFL course worth it? As a starting out qualification, absolutely yes. As a career credential, no, get something more powerful, but that can come after you have had a bit of experience.
Internet forums often have people who are PAID by various course companies who will tout that brand and claim other brands are no good. They are often on a commission as to how many people they will bring to the company. They are not always obvious as they would be booted out of the forum if it became clear what they were doing. So, take everything with a bit caution and use your own head when making these kinds of decisions. But is not really so difficult a decision. For most of us it depends on our budget and what we can realistically afford to do.
If you have any questions on this issue, please feel free to ask them either through the chat box on the bottom right of this page or through our CONTACT FORM. We are happy to you help you if we can.
Is an online TEFL course worth it?