Do I need a TEFL or TESOL qualification?

By Katie Baxter
Guest blogger from

If you’ve been hanging out in online TEFL forums, you’ve probably wandered across a conversation about whether you really need a TEFL  qualification. It’s a natural enough question; after all, you may well be planning a career in teaching because you can’t afford to travel without working. And the truth is, in a couple of countries you can secure a teaching position without a TEFL qualification. The question is – do you really want to?

It pays to be prepared

You can always throw yourself in at the deep end. You know, just start teaching without any preparation and see how well you do. But that’s a pretty scary thought isn’t it? Without TEFL or TESOL training you won’t know if what you’re doing is right. And just imagine walking into a classroom full of students without knowing what to do – it’s a bit like those nightmares where you turn up at school naked.

Some teachers just see it as a really steep learning curve. But remember, you won’t have anyone to shadow and it’s difficult to learn from the other teachers if you can’t watch them in action. You’ll certainly learn from your mistakes, but that takes time and you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it.

Perhaps more importantly, starting teaching without TEFL or TESOL training really isn’t very fair on your class. Your class deserves the best teaching they can have and if you aren’t prepared, if you don’t know what to expect, they simply won’t get it. Even if you’re planning to travel to a country that doesn’t demand a TEFL or TESOL qualification you should seriously consider getting one. If not for your benefit, then for the benefit of your students.

Improve your job prospects

Many reputable language schools simply won’t employ you without a TEFL qualification. This may mean that you have to accept a job from a less reliable institution – something we really wouldn’t recommend. In more developed countries, finding work without a TEFL certificate can be extremely difficult and you’ll probably have to look while in-country, as opposed to organising your position before you travel.

A TEFL course ticks a necessary box. So you should get more opportunities to convince schools to hire you. The training will be invaluable when you’re doing telephone interviews, because you’ll know exactly what to do. So even if a TEFL or TESOL course might not be essential, it is important.

The huge demand for teachers means that language schools in less developed countries will accept English teachers without TEFL or TESOL qualifications. Conditions in these schools can be less appealing than in more developed countries, so teachers usually choose these jobs because they want to give something back. This is ultimately easier to do if you have a TEFL qualification because you’ll be able to give your students the education they deserve.

What’s more, a TEFL  course will make you stand out from the crowd. Language schools might not ask for them, but that doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate them. So if you have a TEFL qualification and the other applicants don’t, you’ll have a better chance of getting the job. Hurrah!

Make life a little easier

If you want to make things a little easier on yourself, a TEFL or TESOL qualification is the place to start, and then you can build on your training if you decide to make a career out of it (plenty of people do!). And the time and money will be worth it in the end. Not only will you be well prepared, but you might even be able to get a better paid job in your dream destination.


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