Monkey Abroad

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TEFL Certification

TEFL Certification Online vs. Onsite – Which is Better?


If you want to teach English as a foreign language, you’re probably considering getting a TESOL or TEFL certification. The question is, should you get certified at home or in the classroom? Both methods offer the same certification, but each provides a drastically different learning experience.

Online TEFL Certification


Cost – If you’re on a really tight budget, an online TESOL / TESOL certification is your best option. It’ll cost you somewhere between $250-$500. And since there’s no need to pay for travel and accommodation during the course, you’ll be saving a ton of money.

Convenience – If you opt to get your TEFL certification online, you can take the course on your own schedule. Not everybody has the time to devote 4 weeks to a full-time training course. Online certification is your best option if you have a busy schedule and don’t want to drop everything for a month.

No commitment – What if you come to find out you don’t enjoy teaching after completing the course? An online TEFL course will give you a chance to learn about teaching before you commit to anything big. That way, if you realize early on teaching isn’t for you, you can drop it with no big loss.


Lack of practice – You don’t get any real teaching experience with an online TEFL certification. Your first day of teaching English could be very stressful without prior teaching practice, especially if your school doesn’t provide you with lesson plans or a curriculum (like my school).

Finding a job – An online TEFL course will provide online job listings and other helpful resources, but it doesn’t guarantee you a job. Searching for work in a foreign country is difficult without prior experience abroad. If you want to work in a specific country or region, taking an onsite course in that country is your best option.


TEFL certiication

A TEFL Certification will come in handy when you’re standing in front of a classroom.

Onsite TEFL Certification


Experience – An onsite TEFL course will give you hours of actual in-class teaching practice in front of peers and students. The more exposure you have to the classroom, the more confident you’ll feel when you start teaching. An onsite course will also help develop crucial teaching skills like adaptability, improvisation and classroom management.

Course materialsIn onsite training, you’ll get to create tangible lesson plans and other teaching materials. This will give you an opportunity to start a portfolio of lesson plans and course materials that you can actually use on the job. An online course can’t offer this.

Job placement – Onsite training courses offer job placement assistance, or even a guaranteed job. I got my TESOL certification from the American TESOL Institute (ATI) with guaranteed job placement in Thailand. Job assistance is helpful, especially if you have no experience working abroad.

Networking – For me, the best part of taking a TESOL course onsite was the ability to network with like-minded people. Being in a foreign country is intimidating, especially if you travel alone. Having a network of English-speaking friends in a foreign land is comforting and it makes for a better experience abroad, in my opinion.


Cost – An onsite TEFL certification will cost you anywhere from $990 to $2,000, plus travel expenses and food. It’s expensive. If you plan to get an onsite certification, save some money first. I participated in ATI’s “Special Thai Project” – an onsite TESOL course in Thailand. The course costs $990 including accommodation. Seems reasonable, but the costs of a plane ticket, food for a month, visa expenses and vaccinations add up fast.

Job placement flexibility – An onsite TEFL course will likely provide you with a job after you complete the course. The downside to this is that you might not like where you’re placed. With ATI, the teachers who choose to leave their job placement must pay a hefty fee to keep their TESOL certification. With an online course, there’s no fear of commitment like you might experience with an onsite course.

TEFL certification

Onsite TEFL certification in Phuket. Photo courtesy of Hamilton Graziano.


If you want to get a TESOL / TEFL certification, you can’t go wrong with either the online or onsite course. Both paths will give you the tools you need to teach abroad. The most important decision you can make is the decision to get out of the house so you can teach English and travel the world!

Author: Kevin Cook

I want to inspire you to pursue your own dream of traveling and/or living overseas!


  1. Excellent article. I also wrote a short article which looks at the Online versus Onsite TEFL pros and cons:

  2. Hi Kevin,

    Thanks for the informative article. Do you think that schools abroad care if one has received the certificate thru a online program vs. an onsite. And, whether this would impact the value they place on the certificate and as a result the compensation. Appreciate your input.

    Thanks in advance,

    • Pete,

      Some schools will only accept a program if you’ve got onsite experience, but those tend to be higher end schools. Other schools will hire you without a TEFL/TESOL alltogether. At the end of the day, it’s up to you. My advice: do the TEFL course to actually learn how to teach, not just to land a job. The more practice you have before you enter the classroom, the better. Online courses just won’t cut it, in my opinion.


  3. Hi Kevin,

    Great article! I have been doing a lot of research regarding this lately. I was wondering what the deal with Bachelor degrees was? Depending on the source, I’ve read that they are an absolute necessity, completely useless, an asset, or isn’t mentioned at all… What is your opinion?


    • Freddy,

      That depends on where you want to teach. A degree will improve your salary and chances of getting hired anywhere, but it isn’t necessarily required. A degree just makes everything much, much easier for you. Even if a company or school SAYS they require a candidate with a degree, sometimes they’ll get in a pickle and they’ll need to hire a foreign teacher ASAP. Language centers in China will hire without a degree.

      Hope this helps.


  4. Before committing to taking an Online TEFL Course please get the trusted scoop on Online TEFL Courses:
    Thank you!

  5. Hello,

    I need some guidance and direction. Here is my dilemma:

    I am currently a non-traditional student obtaining a second B.A. I have 5 courses remaining to complete an English degree with a concentration in writing. My 1st B.A. Is in Spanish.

    In both degrees I did not pursue an education major or minor. After much consternation, I believe I may pursue an esl tearcher certification.

    My questions areshould I do this in a foreign country or in the USA? Will they waive the fee if i agree for a period of time? Because of my age should i just take the online course and attempt to intern at my university who has a program of esl? Also it appears if i were to teach in Massachusetts, I would not only need a teaching license but also a masters in esol efl. I THINK but am not certain.

    I am truly in a quandry.

    Best regards,

    P.s. I am first generation latin american therefore this subject is important to me.

    • Debbie,

      Teaching in the USA is far different from teaching overseas. I don’t know anything about teaching in America since I’ve never done it. There’s no shortage of professionals in America so it’ll likely be far more difficult to secure a decent teaching job in the states. Whether you want to take a TEFL course abroad or at home is entirely up to you, but you didn’t mention your age so I can’t answer any specific questions regarding that. :/


    • Debbie, look into “Alternate route” certification programs. These would allow you to get an “emergency certification” and begin teaching immediately while simultaneously completing your coursework. You can also explore avenues like “teach for america” and “teaching fellows” This was how I began to teach 5 years ago. You will need to pass your praxis exams and find a university that will sponsor your Alternate route program, but in your case, I don’t think there will be a lot of extra courses involved in picking up a US certification if you are willing to spend a couple of years working in a “high need” school.

  6. Hi Kevin!

    I’m truly in one heck of a confusing “pickle”, and emotionally/mentally worried at this specific moment in time. I received a bachelors in English Writing some years back, and now I’m looking through choosing a path towards either a TESOL or CELTA certificate. I don’t know if one really matters more than another when going to China, Korea, or Japan (or anywhere in the world for that matter).

    The cost of the TESOL program at “Canada College” costs $1,650 , and the CELTA program at “ILSC ” school costs $2,400 at the l. Both are where I’m currently living in Montreal, Quebec in Canada. Both are also recognized by TESL Canada.

    I really don’t know what to trust at this point, as schools tend to be known for their ‘business like’ mentalities, strictly saying everything is the best and wonderful about their programs, just to get more customers to purchase their certificates.

    Also to mention, I have zero teaching experience. I’ve only helped my Asian friends in the past with their pronunciation skills, which is my strongest area.

    My other goal is to focus on teaching older students, adults (Universities and/or schools similar to ‘Wall Street English’. My personality is not the type that enjoys yelling and/or disciplining children. I only want to teach students that are much more mature and want to really learn English in order to better their lives. So yes, no for small/young children, and yes to serious mature students for my future path! O:-)

    Highest Sincerity,

    Anthony A.

    P.S. – I posted the websites below for the two different schools I mentioned. If you could check them both out and advise me if they look healthy or simply sketchy, I would be incredibly grateful. Also, is there an e-mail I can reach you at, and/or a Skype perhaps? I’m very serious about following this opportunity. I trust your wisdom on this matter. O:-)

    1) ILSC school website link:

    ILSC CELTA program link:

    2) Canada College website link:

    • Anthony,

      You trust my wisdom?! …I’m a monkey!
      But really, I understand your concern. First off, the two programs you provided here are definitely legit, but for $1,650 and $2,400? That’s steep. And after that, you’ll have to pay for flight, accommodation and prepare all necessary travel documents before you can even begin to teach.

      If you do what I did, which is pay $1000 for a 3-week, on-site TESOL course in Thailand, then you get everything in one big, affordable package (TESOl course and accommodation fees included!). It was an incredible experience participating in the TESOL teacher training course overseas. The actual training was very helpful, since it’s face-to-face, in-front-of-my-peers training.

      It’s my opinion that online TESOL/TEFL courses aren’t all that effective, BUT I’m just talking out of my ass. I’ve never seen an online TESOL course, but I mean, in almost any instance, real-life beats the hell out of online interaction. But since it’s much cheaper online, I can understand the reasoning behind getting the online cert.

      I’m with you on the teaching adults part. I teach college now, and it’s the best teaching job I’ve ever had. Actually, it’s just one of the best jobs I’ve ever had, period. It’s likely that you may only be able to find opportunities with younger (high school age) children first. It was difficult for me to find an adult teaching job, even after teaching at a high school for a semester.

      You can’t go wrong either way, Anthony. Just get the TESOL and go overseas.

      Hope this helps,


      • Hello there again good “Monkey” sir,

        From what the faculty explained to me at the “ILSC” school, the CELTA is specifically designed for teaching adults, and not so much children. It’s the highest certification (Cambridge University) recognized internationally, which supposedly gives opportunity towards getting into a college/university setting. $2,400 is an insane amount though, yes.

        That sounds pretty horrible. I thought most schools take care of accommodations for incoming teachers. I keep basing teaching jobs on Korean setups, a bad habit of mine.

        That Thailand idea does sound tempting, yet I don’t know how well I would fair over there honestly.

        I agree though, logically the online TESOL option sounds like a failure in disguise. What’s the point of getting a certificate without spending time physically with the program teachers? Madness! This is Spar……nope, I won’t!

        I want to go straight into college teaching. I have “off the record” experience with teaching my Chinese and Korean friends on the side, for free of course. They needed help with strengthening their pronunciation ability at the time. I know there’s a way to get into higher level schools, somehow. When there’s a will, there’s a way. Connections and networking perhaps?

        I’ll have to do more research on what paper credentials would give me a greater chance to jump into college level, that’s the challenging step I’ll take next.



  7. Hi Kevin!

    Your blog is super fun! I was wondering what you thought of my current situation. I’m already working as an English language teaching assistant in Europe. I was really lucky in getting my job, here though. I was thinking of getting an online TEFL because it is cheaper, but do you think it’s worth it, given that I already have a year of experience as an assistant?



  8. Hi Kevin!

    I’ve been looking into ESL and getting TEFL certified for some time now, and have my sights set on either Taiwan or Thailand. You said that you paid $1000 for a 3-week onsite course in Thailand and then got a job, right? Sometimes I hear horror stories about schools that don’t pay, or aren’t what they said they’d be, and I was just wondering if you could tell me the school/location in Thailand where this worked out so well for you. Of course I will do my homework before I go anywhere, but it would be very helpful!



    • Melissa,
      It is always risk that a school might not follow through with that they say, but if you go with a TEFL training and placement program like I did, you will minimize the risk completely. Those programs only parter with legitimate schools, so that way, you know you’re in good hands. If you freelance, you might get screwed, but you can also negotiate a higher salary. It’s all up to you, depending on how risky you are. My advice for any first timer is 100% to go with a placement/training program like the American TESOL Institute. They take care of all the hard work (setting up a work visa, finding a legit school, negotiating a contract) for you.

      Best of luck!


  9. The visa laws here in China have changed recently.

    In the past all you needed to teach and get set up with a teaching visa was to be a holder of a university degree (in any subject).

    Now you must hold an internationally recognized TEFL certificate to your name and after some late nights of research I decided to settle on ITTP TEFL Online, based on reviews published on this site and also based on the experience of a teacher friend who took their course a while back.

    The ITTP All Inclusive online course helped me apply things I was doing already and expand on them – it also helped me get those elusive university jobs.

    I can’t think of any negatives about the course at all.

    I really can’t recommend this course enough and it feels extremely comforting that I know they will be there for me if I need to use their job placement services in future as they have lifetime job placement services as opposed to (what most courses have) only a one time service after course completion.

    Oh, and my tutor was super helpful too. Thank you Joe and ITTP TEFL Online!

  10. What I think…

    I have done both. It depends on the course itself not so much whether it was in-class or online. Another way online courses are better is that for some you can take it again. And that is what you need – repetition… to learn anything.

    Take it once before and again when you start so it will be in context.

    In-class or online, it’s all based on information. Yeah it’s maybe better to learn in a classroom, but what you’re probably going to get is a pseudo environment. Pretend teaching that’s probably not going to be similar to the environment that you will be teaching especially if you are teaching children in some foreign country.

    You’re first day of starting most anything is going to be stressful. 6 hours of in-classroom teaching isn’t going to make or break you as a teacher. That’s a work day in a hagwon in Korea.

    Online or in-class it is just a start, you’re not going to be set for the rest of your career as a teacher. You still will need to review, prepare and learn new things.

    Someone here asked if online courses were taken seriously.

  11. Pingback: 10 Terrific Tips for Teaching English Abroad | Two Tents Down

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