So you’re finally moving forward with your plans to teach English abroad? I bet you’re getting really excited, and you should be– living abroad as a teacher really is the experience of a lifetime!  I remember when I was first starting out. I had a goal in mind to teach in Costa Rica, but getting there was a bit confusing. I knew I needed a something called a TEFL certificate, but there were so many choices! I wasn’t sure how many hours I needed, if I should study in the classroom or just take an online course, or how to tell if a TEFL school was even reputable.

I know it can be frustrating, but I can help. Let me share what I’ve learned about how to choose a TEFL course, so that you can get certified and get out there and teach!

1. Educate yourself on requirements to teach in different countries.

When it comes to qualifications to teach English abroad, there isn’t one single formula for every country. In fact, requirements vary quite a bit from one region to the next! For example, in the first place I taught, Costa Rica, online TEFL certification was accepted by my school, and teachers didn’t necessarily need to have bachelor’s degrees. However, when I applied for jobs in Morocco, both were required. Use this chart to get an idea of what is needed where you plan to teach: Jobs at a Glance.

2. Decide between online and onsite TEFL training.

This was an easy one for me, because I knew I wanted hands-on training and teaching practice in my course, so I took an onsite TEFL course (which just means it was in the classroom, not online). This option costs more than an online course (the tuition is usually about $2,000), and the 4-week, full-time schedule doesn’t always work for busy people. Is online or onsite training right for you? Here’s my advice.

  • Definitely invest in a full-time onsite course if you a.) would like to get some teaching experience before going abroad b.) plan to teach somewhere where onsite training is preferred or c.) would like more support throughout the process of getting trained and getting a job.

  • Consider a less expensive, flexible online course if you a.) have teaching experience already b.) are planning to teach where online training is widely accepted or c.) are comfortable with a more independent training and  job search experience.

3. Take a course of at least 100 hours.

Whether you choose an online or onsite TEFL course, I recommend you take a training of at least 100 hours. Many TEFL training centers, including Bridge, offer TEFL courses of a range of hours, and you may be wondering what the difference is between a course of 40 hours and a course of 120 hours. Should you go for the minimum if it’s “all the same certificate” at the end? Definitely not. The 40 hour TEFL courses are introductory and are not adequate to teach abroad in most countries (China is one notable exception!). The international standard as far as the training hours required by schools is 100. So, if you see a job that asks for “TEFL certification,” what they usually mean is “of 100+ hours.”

4. Don’t cut corners on your TEFL training.

You might be tempted to buy your TEFL course on one of those online coupon sites where you can find discounts that seem too good to be true. I would advise against that. Instead, take a comprehensive, fully accredited TEFL course that teaches you how to lesson plan, refreshes your English grammar (what’s a gerund, again?) and offers tutor feedback on your work. Believe me, when you’re standing in front of your first classroom of students, you’ll be glad you did!

5.  Get some objective feedback on different courses.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I am going to make a big purchase, I read online customer reviews of the product first.  You can do this for TEFL, too! I recommend reading course reviews written by actual TEFL students on a site like, which is basically Yelp for TEFL courses. You can see what students have to say about various courses before you sign up.

I hope my tips will help you navigate the sometimes confusing waters of TEFL certification. If you still need help, contact one of our advisors anytime. We’ve taught abroad ourselves, and we would love to share what we’ve learned along the way!