Why I Chose to Get TEFL Certified When it Wasn’t Required

Authored by:
Kyle V.

Kyle V.

Why did I get TEFL certified? 

So you’ve decided to embark on your journey overseas to teach English? Great. And you’ve decided to apply to CIEE to get you over there? Fantastic. Now, do you need TEFL? Good question. 

If you google whether you need TEFL to teach in Thailand, you will find a ton of long articles and spicy forums arguing for and against. You will hear seasoned veterans with teaching degrees telling you “TEFL is a worthless certificate, get a degree.” You will hear different agencies and TEFL groups claiming you won’t get a job without one. At the end of the day, I don’t think any of these extremes are helpful. Instead, I want to give you my top 3 reasons why I chose to get TEFL certified, and why I would make the same choice if I had to do it again. 

Because I wasn’t prepared:

Sure, I have a BA and partial MA, and two years of experience teaching high school students literature. I like to think of myself as an intelligent person, with a strong command of the English language. Did I really need TEFL? I think I did. Even though it’s only a crash course for teaching English, it gets you familiar the with terminology. I knew something about learning styles, but TEFL gave me a deeper understanding of them. I had heard of lesson plans but never made one. TEFL helped me understand what goes into a good lesson plan. At the end of the day, even though I am a college educated person with work experience teaching literature, I wasn’t technically equipped to teach English to non-native speakers. TEFL didn’t fully equip me in every sense, but it did help to familiarize me with the process and tools.

Because schools want it:

Do you need it for every school? No. Do most schools prefer you to have it? Yes. Thailand is very much about formalities. They love ceremonies, documents, and awards. They will regularly cancel class to honor events ranging from retirement parties to birthday parties. So yeah, they like it when you have a little piece of paper that says you are TEFL certified. They may hire you without it, but it helps to have the administration on your side. Also, if you plan on teaching in Thailand for more than a year, you should definitely get it because between a TEFL certificate and a year of experience, you can begin to qualify for a higher salary from other schools. Additionally, if you seek employment with a new school, without an agency, it’s more difficult to secure a position without this certificate. So if you plan on doing this for more than a year, then don’t shoot yourself in the foot. 

Because it will benefit your students:

Again, at the end of the day, you might be able to get hired without it. But do you really want to show up in front of 30 adorable Thai children who expect you to teach them English with zero real preparation? I hope you don’t. Remember your job is to teach kids English. The travel and lifestyle are just an amazing bonus. They are counting on you as the expert. Don’t shortchange these little, sweet Thai children because you don’t want to waste the time and money it takes to earn a TEFL certificate. Do it for the kids. Even though you will still face a steep learning curve teaching, coming in at least a little prepared, will honor your students. 


I recommend getting TEFL certified because it helps prepare you, the school will appreciate it, and it will benefit your students. Don’t listen to the complainers. It sometimes can feel pointless. I know, but it is helpful preparation. It’s also very flexible. I did mine through CIEE online and worked on it across two different states before completing it in Thailand. 

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