TESOL Certification: The Complete Guide

If you are striving to teach English, domestically or abroad, you have certainly encountered the TESOL certification in some way or another. A cornerstone for teaching English to ESL students, TESOL is an accredited certificate that prepares you for the job. 

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This guide is going to lead you through key aspects of the TESOL process, answering your questions along the way. It will cover what TESOL is, what it is for, how you can use it, what career opportunities it unlocks, and more. Let’s begin with a simple question.

TESOL Certification: Teach English to Anyone

What is TESOL?

TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.It is a certification that you will need if you want to work in English language teaching schools abroad or in online courses.

TESOL training covers a broad range of English skills as well. This means that language learners who have no English knowledge at all and students that can read, write, and speak in English are covered by TESOL’s broad terminology. As long as English is not their primary language.

 This brings us to TESOL certification. This is simply a certification issued by a school or institute that confirms a student has studied English teaching concepts and demonstrated them to the institute’s satisfaction.


What is TESOL Certification Good For?

A TESOL certification is required by most English teaching schools because they want to make sure that you are prepared and trained to Teach English to Speakers of Other Languages.

 It is a pliable certification that increases the chances of getting an English teaching position. 

Since TESOL covers such a broad range of potential students, the job opportunities unlocked by a TESOL certification are quite numerous. Just a few examples would include; teaching online, teaching abroad, teaching young children, teenagers, adults, business professionals, beginners, advanced students, and so much more!

If you are looking for a job in the ESL (English as a Second Language) market, including if you are looking to teach English abroad, then a TESOL certification is a valuable tool in your arsenal. 

 

TEFL, TESOL: What’s the Difference?

 Let’s start with the acronyms for both credentials.

TESOL - Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

TEFL - Teaching English as a Foreign Language

Now what does that mean? Almost nothing.

In the past, there have been some differences between TESOL and TEFL, but those differences are fading away as employers are accepting both credentials.

TEFL used to be a credential that was focused on teaching English in countries where English is not the native language. This causes the credential to be “region locked.”

However, studies show that many native English speaking countries also have a need for ESL teachers. For example, in the United States 1 in 5 kids speak a language other than English at home and the rate with adults is 1 in 4.

ESL teachers are in high demand now more than ever. Due to the increase in demand, and with help from globalization, employers have begun to treat the TESOL and TEFL credentials equally. And both take around one to three months to complete.


The Cost of TESOL

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How much does it cost to get a Tesol certificate?

There is no doubt that you are going to see a massive difference in price when you are searching for your TESOL course, be it self-paced or class-taught.

The prices range for a variety of reasons but I would argue that it’s not the price that is important, but what is included. Keep in mind that price does play a role when it becomes a “too good to be true” scenario.

If you see a TESOL course priced at $20 or even free, I would recommend that you question everything about it.

Here are some questions that you should be asking about every TESOL program.

  1. Is the course accredited?

  2. Who is the course accredited by and are they an independent party?

  3. What is included in the course?

    * Tutor support?

    * Reading materials?

    * The certification at the end?

  4. Does my certificate get shipped to me?

If not, how much does it cost?

 

The last question about shipping is important. There are some TESOL courses out there that will offer the course cheaply and expect a large shipping cost to be paid if you want your physical certificate.

One of the TESOL providers that offers all these services and is frequently on sale is UNI-Prep’s 120 Hour TESOL course.

The service of shipping has become crucial since many employers are asking for physical copies or even notarized copies of TESOL certificates for the purposes of processing visas.


Is a Tesol certificate worth it?

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Yes.

If you have the ambition to become an ESL teacher, a TESOL certificate program will only help you to achieve those goals. A few hours of training can go a long way.

It also does not matter if you are planning on teaching English online or in-class, a TESOL certificate is requested by the vast majority of ESL employers.


Can you get TESOL & TEFL certified for free?

Yes, but there are strings attached. The old saying still holds true, there ain't no such thing as a free lunch. 

Free TESOL certifications are offered by ESL companies and they will look for a return on their investment. This means that there will be restrictions and you will have to accept certain terms that you might not be comfortable with.

Some common restrictions might include; passing a background check, having an up to date password from the US, UK, Ireland, Australia, S. Africa, or New Zealand, and having earned a bachelor’s degree.

The restrictions above might differ a little, but one commitment that you can expect is a minimum contractual obligation to the company. This can range from a 6-month to a one-year contract. Oftentimes, the salary negotiation on these contracts are virtually non-existent.


TESOL vs. TEFL

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What's the difference between Tesol and Tefl?

Let’s start with the acronyms for both credentials.

TESOL - Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

TEFL - Teaching English as a Foreign Language

In the past, there have been some differences between TESOL and TEFL, but those differences are fading away as employers are accepting both credentials.

TEFL used to be a credential that was focused on teaching English in countries where English is not the native language. This causes the credential to be “region locked.”

However, studies show that many native English speaking countries also have a need for ESL teachers. For example, in the United States 1 in 5 kids speak a language other than English at home and the rate with adults is 1 in 4.

ESL teachers are in high demand now more than ever. Due to the increase in demand, and with help from globalization, employers have begun to treat the TESOL and TEFL credentials equally.


Which one is better; TEFL or TESOL?

Neither TESOL nor TEFL is “better” than the other. In fact, they are regarded as identical certifications by the vast majority of the ESL job market.

Even though both certifications are very similar, there is one past difference that should be mentioned. 

TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) is designated for teaching English in a non-English speaking country, like China, Japan, Russia, Turkey, etc. 

TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language) is designation for teaching English to non-native English speakers in a country where English is the primary language. Such as the United States, UK, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

However, those distinctions almost never matter today.


TESOL Careers

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Does TESOL help to get a good career?

This question appears often from our readers, but the proper question would be, “Is teaching English a good career?” The answer here is yes.

If you like to interact with people, teaching someone a new and useful skill, developing a lesson plan, and being creative with your job, then an ESL career would be a perfect fit.

There are also many different opportunities available to graduates of TESOL certificate programs, as TESOL is very flexible for a variety of teaching styles. There has been a big shift into teaching online, but teaching in-class has remained popular and more people are going back to in-class teaching.

Apart from teaching location, there is also a variety of students available as well. An ESL teacher can choose to teach children, teenagers, adults, business professionals, absolute beginners, and everything in between.

There is certainly no shortage of choices when it comes to English teaching jobs.


Can I make money teaching English online?

Teaching English online is a good way to make some income while interacting with students from all over the world. And if you have a TESOL certification, you become a more valuable teaching resource.

The earning potential will depend on the quality of your credentials and experience, just like any other job out there. Employers will be looking at things like the amount of TESOL hours on your certification, highest degree completed, current citizenship, and previous teaching experience.

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When it comes to the TESOL certification hours, 250 hours is as high as you would need to go. Anything more than 250 hours is excessive in the current ESL job market, though with each hour, TESOL training makes you a better teacher. The highest degree completed is referring to high school diploma, bachelors, masters, etc. Some employers will want a bachelors degree in any field, while others will accept a high school diploma.

Then we have current citizenship. You might be wondering why your current citizenship matters. The reason is because employers use your citizenship to determine if you are a native English speaker.

If you are a citizen of the USA, UK, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, then you are considered a native English speaker. This might not be the most accurate, or even fair, way of determining who is a native speaker, but that is currently how it is done by the vast majority of employers.

Remember that the employer will have the final say when approving candidates, so it’s best to refer to their job posts or contact them directly for their requirements.


Are tesol teachers in demand?


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Yes, an absolute yes.

English teachers are in high demand all over the world. The demand has shifted more towards online learning but the demand for teachers is still strong.

There is no sign that the demand for English teachers is going to decline any time soon. Since English has solidified itself as “the language of business,” there is demand in every non English speaking country for an English teacher.

There is also a revolving door when it comes to ESL teachers. The amount of teachers that make a long-term career out of teaching English online or abroad are few. For the most part, English teachers that work abroad are earning an income while experiencing a culture and travelling.

Commonly speaking, an English teacher will work abroad for about 1 - 3 years before returning home. This means that English teaching schools always have openings coming up.


Comparing TESOL Certificates


Which online tesol certification is the best?

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The best TESOL Certifications come from institutes that are accredited, trusted, known to deliver, and recommended. Having a history as an institute also goes a long way as well. Employers become more familiar and look for specific institutes that have a good track record.

A good place to start your search for a TESOL institute is GoAbroad and GoOverseas. They are an unbiased source of information and their reviews come from past graduates.

It is also a good idea to contact the institutes you are interested in and start asking questions about what is offered within the cost of the course. 

Here are some questions that you should be asking about every TESOL program.

  1. Is the course accredited?

  2. Who is the course accredited by and are they an independent party?

  3. What is included in the course?

    *Tutor support?

    *Reading materials?

    *The certification at the end?

  4. Does my certificate get shipped to me?

If not, how much does it cost?

 

Places like UNI-Prep Institute fit all of the criteria above and their 120 Hour course is only $195 as of the writing of this article.

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