How to Get Started in TEFL

How to Get Started in TEFL

Bored with your current job?
Feel like you are spinning your wheels?
Or perhaps you are thinking of a career change.
TEFL/TESOL could be the answer...

Wouldn't it be great to pull up a chair at a cafe somewhere in the world and enjoy the surroundings of a new and exciting location? Or watch the sun set on a beautiful beach as you prepare to go out into the city for dinner? Well, thousands of new TEFL/TESOL teachers do this every year. And there is no reason why you can't be next. 

So if you are bored, tired or just want a change, there are 3 steps to making the change come true for you.

Step 1 

Find a map of the world. Now think about where you might like to live. Remember, it doesn't have to be forever. You could move from one country to the next with the right qualification. Perhaps it is a destination you have always wanted to go to, or a country you used to visit on holiday, maybe that lovely Greek island you went to years ago...

Yes, that's the view I visualised when I set off on my first journey. However, I ended up in Mexico City, which wasn't quite the same. Could be I boarded the wrong flight and fell asleep, something similar to this poor Japanese traveller, who wanted to catch a flight to Turkey but was put on a train to Torquay after asking directions at Paddington.

But I enjoyed the Mexican experience and it was my first step working around the world.

Once you have a place in mind, you have something to focus on and this will help you as you begin to make your plans. But how to you get from where you are today to your dream destination? And how will you manage to make ends meet when you get there? Well, this is where the TEFL or TESOL course comes in.

Step 2

Choosing the right TEFL/TESOL course and setting your budget.  Now TEFL courses come in all shapes and sizes (and cost from a few £££ to over £1000, depending on what you choose).  The course you decide upon should be a good fit for your ideal destination. There is no point doing something quickly and cheaply if you get there only to find you can't get work when you get to your chosen country. Similarly, spending lots of your hard earned cash on an expensive course may be a bad investment, particularly if you are only thinking of staying a short while.

As a general rule, if you are volunteering in continents such as Africa, Asia or South America, you should be able to get by with a short weekend or 3 day TEFL course. You can do these up and down the UK. It is a good way to dip your toe in the EFL water, so to speak, get a paper qualification, and then off you go. Prices start at £224. You'll also get to share in some classroom experiences with other trainees in an exciting classroom environment, with some classroom teaching practice as well.

Alternatively, if you are heading for a more established destination, such as Western Europe, Japan or other countries with a more mainstream TEFL industry, you are likely to want a little more. An online course, providing it is accredited by an independent professsional body, can help you get to where you want to go. These start at 70 hours and are customisable, so you can add specialisms such as teaching English for business, to young learners or even online). These courses go more into theory and methodology, as well as grammar, so you'll be more confident when you stand up in front of the class for the very first time. These are very flexible and fit around your schedule.

Of course, online and distance based courses work really well if you want to take time over your studies and go at your own pace. If you work best in a group situation, you might want to consider a 4 week CELTA course, which will give you the theory and methodology, along with 6-8 hours teaching practice in front of 'live' TEFL students, rather than the peer teaching you get on the weekend programmes. This was the traditional way of getting started and provides a more thorough introduction than the Weekend TEFL. Good for those who like working intensively. Budget for spending up to £900 on a CELTA course. If you'd like more information on CELTA or online programmes you'll find this popular blog about online TEFL vs CELTA helpful.

We have listed the  top 43 TEFL/TESOL destinations destinations with recommendations for what course works best for different countries. It also pays to watch out for some countries, like Japan, Korea and increasingly Thailand, who require their TEFL/TESOL teachers to have a degree.

Step 3

Making the move and finding work. This is the big jump. You can put a pin in your map, and buy your TEFL/TESOL course from the seat you are sitting in, all in the next five minutes. But actually packing up and getting on the plane is the final step. Don't be dissuaded - you have come this far already. Now is the chance of a lifetime to get that job and realise your dream.

But how to find work? Well, there are lots of jobs out there, as many as 20,000 new TEFL positions are offered around the world each month. So if you are a new TEFL teacher there is a good chance that one of them has your name on it. Here is how to go about it.

a) finding TEFL work from the comfort of your armchair

Nowadays arranging a TEFL job starts with a google search for EFL jobs. Alternatively, a visit to one of the specific TEFL job websites may yield results. Probably the biggest is which has a wide range of positions.

b) in situ

But the fact is that many TEFL jobs simply don’t get advertised, especially in places where there are several teacher travellers passing through, dropping in CVs. Like me when I started, a number of people find work by speculative drop ins, as Jennifer Cross writes, when she outlines how she found work teaching English in Barcelona. In the more 'off the beaten track' places you will need to be persistent, so check out the advice given by James O'Connor and Shaz Rahman on teaching English in Finland.

I hope you found this helpful and like me, many years later, you can still be doing what you love, wherever you decide to travel!

If you haven’t joined our community on Facebook, you’re missing out on half the fun!  Our Facebook page is the perfect place to ask your TEFL questions and get answers directly from me. Join now here...

William Bradridge

(updated Oct 2018)


  • Author: William Bradridge
  • Date: 28/07/2010
  • Associated Links:

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