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What Is a TEFL Certification?

The First Step to Teaching English Abroad

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Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification is the first step to becoming a teacher of English to non-native English speakers and is often required by schools hiring English language teachers. TEFL certification opens doors to travel and teach English abroad, online, or in your own community to non-native speakers.

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Types of Programs

It’s easy to get confused by the acronyms for teaching English programs, or wonder whether schools abroad require specific certificates. Many institutions use TEFL, TESL, and TESOL interchangeably when referring to the certification to teach English abroad, and that’s because they’re all the same credential.

  • TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language
  • TESL stands for Teaching English as a Second Language
  • TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

If an institution lists a TESOL or TESL certificate as a prerequisite, you’ll be able to use a TEFL certificate earned with CIEE to fulfill the requirements.

Interested in learning about what to expect in our TEFL course? Check out this blog post by a CIEE TEFL Alumni.

Which Course Is Best for You?

A major difference between certification courses is the total number of hours included, which can range from 20 to 200. (This number is printed on your certificate.) The number of course hours you choose depends on your goals. If you need a TEFL refresher or want to learn more about TEFL but aren’t ready to pursue a job yet, choose a course with fewer hours. If you plan to apply for a teaching job abroad and would like to stand out in a sea of applicants, we recommend choosing a course with at least 120 hours.

It’s also important to choose an accredited course to ensure that your certificate will be respected by international employers. Make sure the course you choose is properly accredited.

There are four ways to earn TEFL certification:

Automated Online Courses

Known as one-way learning courses because there is typically no interaction with instructors or peers, these courses range from 20 to 100 hours. You complete material at your own pace, and learning is reinforced with online quizzes. CIEE TEFL’s 60-hour TEFL Certificate Course is an automated online course – though unlike many automated courses, this one includes personalized feedback from an experienced TEFL instructor.

In-Person Courses

Some universities offer certification programs for Teaching English as a Second Language. This can be a great option if you live nearby and have a flexible schedule that allows you to attend classes on campus. These programs generally involve a four-week, full-time commitment.

Distance-Learning Online

Known as distance-learning certification, these courses allow you to interact with classmates and instructors no matter where you are, using a computer, tablet, or smartphone. Students attend virtual classes, chats, and discussions and also complete work on their own time. CIEE TEFL’s 150-hour TEFL Certification Course is a distance-learning certification that’s great for busy schedules. Classes are limited to 16 students, which allows for individual attention and an opportunity to get to know your classmates. Our instructors are experienced English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teachers.

Hybrid-Learning Online and In-Person

Hybrid courses are courses that are completed both online, and in-person. Students attend virtual classes, chats, and discussions, and also complete work on their own time. After completing the online coursework, students practice what they’ve learned in-person. This is a great way to gain knowledge in a flexible online learning format, and then apply what you’ve learned, with your peers and TEFL instructor. Both the 180-hour TEFL Certificate and the 150-hour TEFL Certificate courses have a required 20 hour practicum component so you can practice on what you learn.

Have More Questions?

Check out our Frequently Asked Questions
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