There are many factors to consider before enrolling in an English teaching certification course. Every course is different and only the candidate knows what they will use the certification for. Experienced teachers may need less intensive coursework than those who are new to the field of education. Some students can easily carve out time from their monthly routine for intensive in-class training but others don't have that luxury. Online courses are available at your convenience if scheduling is a concern. There's an investment in any training program but price points vary greatly between vendors. Specific learning styles are incorporated into some courses and others cater to the broader English teaching spectrum. Some people need live classroom based instruction with a hands on approach while others thrive in more individualized spaces that are heavy on theory. There are countless springboard courses catering to the short-term 'travel and teach' experience, and an abundance of options for those who are investing in their career. Ultimately, all certification courses prepare instructors for teaching students in the target language of English. Any course you decide to undertake should be accredited.
TEFL and TESOL courses fall into 1 of 4 categories: online, in-class, combined and on-site/in-class.
Online courses can be taken from any location with reliable internet access. Most online courses are heavy on theory and lesson planning. Information and instruction is available via your laptop or device and coursework is generally self-paced though certain projects and assignments may have deadlines. Students have the freedom to begin online courses anytime. These courses typically take several months to complete and come with a specified time limit; most programs give students 6-8 months to complete all of the course components. Because these courses are taken over a longer time span, compared to intensive in-class courses, students have more time to digest material and balance coursework with real life demands.
Financially, the majority of online courses are more budget-friendly than the in-class alternatives. Prices generally range from $400 to $800 USD (£250 to £500) but some high quality courses can exceed the $800 mark. Because travel, transportation and accommodation costs are not applicable to online courses, like they are with in-class and on-site courses, the overall cost of getting certified online is far less than the alternative course types. Good online programs will have quality resources available for their graduates including teacher networks, forums, resume advice and job assistance.
Combined courses offer the flexibility of online instruction with a live in-class component. This type of course is relatively new to the world of TEFL-TESOL certification and are increasingly popular in the 'teach and travel' space. In most cases combination courses consist of 100 to 120 hours of online instruction mixed with a 20 to 40 hour in-class teaching component. How the highly-desirable teaching practice component is delivered depends on the vendor. Some vendors have classroom-based teaching with live interaction at designated venues, typically on weekends, while others allow the student to select teaching venues within their community. The latter option is advantageous to those who are unable to travel.
Combination courses are easier to arrange than full in-class courses. Prices tend to start around $500 USD and go as high as $1500 USD (£325 - £1000). These courses are a good option for people who want some practical hands-on instruction but don't have time or funds for in-class only certification.
In-class courses have live instruction that's conducted in classroom-like settings. Level of difficultly varies from vendor to vendor, however, the majority are quite intensive and require substantial preparation from the students. In addition to daily lectures and assignments students are expected to demonstrate what they've learned by putting real concepts into action in front of their peers, instructors or sometimes real students from the local community. Many of these courses have curriculum that's comparable to a first year university course; such courses require time, energy and limited distractions.
In-class courses typically take place over a 4 week period, although some are shorter and others are longer. The average timespan of these courses is substantially less than most online courses - which generally take 3+ months to complete. This shorter certification period allows students to hit the road faster. The cost of getting certified in the classroom is also higher than the online and combination course alternatives. Prices start in the $1000 USD (£650) price range and can exceed $3000 USD (£1950) with some vendors. Note: Students also need to account for travel, transportation and accommodation expenses. These additional expenses can add up quickly if you want to get certified in a major city like New York, London or Toronto.
On-Site refers to courses that are taken within the country the student/teacher plans on working in; typically in non-native English speaking countries like Thailand or Brazil. Because it's difficult to apply for some jobs without face-to-face interviews, such is the case for many schools in Latin America, on-site graduates have a big advantage over candidates who are applying online and conducting interviews over Skype or telephone. Many on-site TEFL programs have broad connections to educational institutions within their communities' and the surrounding area, therefore, they can direct qualified graduates to schools or employers that hire native English teachers. Similarly, course instructors can introduce graduates to the expatriate teacher community. Expats who are already teaching can recommend solid educational institutions in addition to suggesting ways to start gaining private students for tutoring opportunities.
Another benefit that comes with getting certified on-site is the exposure to local culture, language and classroom expectations. Most on-site courses will require classroom teaching with real EFL students as part of the mandatory coursework. This unique component gives the student/teacher an opportunity to experience teaching culture in their country of choice before entering the job market. Some on-site programs even guarantee paid teaching jobs for their graduates.
On-site courses typically take place over a 2 to 4 week period with prices ranging from $1000 USD to $3000 USD (£650 - £1950). The cost of getting certified on-site is substantially higher than the other alternatives when airfare and accommodation expenses are factored in. Airfare alone can easily exceed $1000 if you need to cross oceans or continents to reach your destination. Some on-site programs offer accommodation and meals inclusive of the price, others offer paid accommodations while others offer housing assistance only. It's important to understand what your course fees cover before enrolling.
On-site courses require the most amount of planning; packing, travel insurance, acquiring a visa and getting vaccinated are just some of the factors people will need to consider.
There is no one size fits all answer. Once you understand what types of courses are available you need to determine what course best meets your needs based on the flexibility that you have with your schedule and obligations, your budget and your timeline for when you will be ready to leave and start teaching.
Ask yourself the following questions before committing to a course.