Gain a qualification by completing an internationally-recognised TEFL course and you'll get to learn new skills, discover a different culture and give others a brighter future

If you're interested in spending a gap year overseas but really need to earn some money to help fund your trip, teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) is an excellent option. Not only does it provide you with valuable teaching experience, it also has the potential to boost your communication and organisation skills, while allowing you to become self-reliant and self-sufficient.

Do I need a degree to teach English abroad?

The short answer is no. In China, South America and some parts of South East Asia, a good grasp of the English language will be enough. If you're looking at teaching English abroad without a degree, gaining a TEFL qualification or volunteering in a school is an excellent way to build up your experience.

However, TEFL is an increasingly competitive jobs market, so a degree in English, modern languages, linguistics or education may help you to secure a teaching post. In some countries, such as Japan and South Korea, you will need a degree to get your visa.

Each country has different entry requirements for its TEFL teachers, so carry out some in-depth research to discover exactly what you'll need.

Discover what to expect as an English as a foreign language teacher.

Do I need a TEFL qualification?

You don't need a TEFL qualification for all teaching jobs. You should be aware though that these jobs are usually the lowest paid and not always with the most reputable employers. Finding employment will be much easier if you do have this certification.

A TEFL qualification gives you the skills and confidence to stand up in front of a class of students and teach effectively, so it's definitely worth getting, especially if you don't already have prior experience in this area.

Which TEFL course is right for me?

Deciding which course to take will depend on whether you envisage a dedicated career in TEFL, or if you just want to use your qualification to gain experience and see the world. The most commonly accepted courses are:

  • Cambridge CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) - Part of the University of Cambridge, Cambridge Assessment English offers the trusted CELTA qualification at level 5 of the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF), enabling you to teach adults and older children. The 120-hour course is available to study full time or part time from nearly 100 approved centres across the UK. To be eligible, you'll need to be 18 or over, have reached a standard of education equivalent for entry into higher education (A-levels) and your written and spoken English will need to be at the required level. If you study the course full time, it will usually take you four to five weeks to complete, and will set you back around £1,250 (typically including the Cambridge Assessment Fee). There's also an online blended learning option, with face-to-face-teaching practice complementing the online study.
  • Trinity College London CertTESOL (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) - This is internationally recognised as an equivalent of the CELTA certificate, with almost identical entry criteria and course structure. The level 5 CertTESOL course involves a minimum of 130 hours of training. As with the CELTA qualification, the cost will vary depending on the course provider, but you can expect to pay about £1,000.
  • Online courses - Make sure it's at least 120 hours in length and includes a classroom-based teaching component of a minimum of six hours. While online courses may seem like a flexible option, it's important to note that a large proportion of employers require class-based qualifications.
  • Masters degrees - You can also choose to do a Masters degree specialising in TEFL. Many higher education institutions provide this type of course. Search for TEFL and TESOL Masters courses.

What will I learn on a TEFL course?

The course content will depend on the individual provider, but you'll usually be taught:

  • how to work out what level a student is at and the best way to approach the different levels
  • the basics of English including phonology, lexis and grammar
  • lesson planning
  • how to organise your classroom and use the board
  • how to create tests and oversee assessments
  • techniques to improve speaking, listening, reading and writing skills.

How much is a TEFL course?

As mentioned in the detail for both CELTA and CertTESOL qualifications, it's the course provider that sets the price, but they typically range between £700 and £1,400, including the examination fees.

Are my English language skills good enough?

For most courses, you only need to be a native-level speaker of English and have the enthusiasm to learn something new.

A TEFL course will teach you the basics, but if you feel that your skills might not be up to scratch then many providers offer grammar courses, covering everything from nouns to adjectives and adverbs.

Do I need to speak the local language?

No, in fact it's often preferred that you only speak English in the classroom to help the students learn. Many TEFL courses teach you techniques to overcome the language barrier including drawing pictures and using props.

Where can I find teaching English abroad jobs?

There are usually opportunities to teach English in Japan, China and other East Asian countries, the Middle East, parts of Eastern Europe and Spain, Italy and Germany.

Look for TEFL jobs and placements (and also possibly find information on courses) at:

  • Cactus TEFL
  • i-to-i - TEFL Job Search
  • Premier TEFL
  • Teach English In China
  • The China Teaching Experience
  • The Fewer things

In your search, you may come across opportunities to volunteer overseas to help support schools that can't afford to employ international teachers. You can also help to break the poverty cycle by improving other people's English skills to help them get a job in the future. There's the possibility of volunteering for two weeks or more, so it's an ideal way to see if you'd like to commit to a longer permanent teaching job overseas. Find out about volunteering opportunities abroad with Pod Volunteer.

Learn more about teaching English as a foreign language in individual countries by viewing our working abroad profiles.