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.
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 materials – In 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.
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!