If you’re looking to teach English in a different country, you have probably come across at least one site trying to sell you a TEFL certificate. If not, you will.

But, should you get one before making your move to Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, or other foreign country?

What is a TEFL Certificate?

TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. The courses involved in a TEFL program are meant to show you that while you are a native English speaker, the students you intend to teach are not. Therefore, they need to learn English in a different manner than you did.

Various TEFL Courses

Much like university degrees from around the world, not all certificate courses are created equal. There are actually quite a few options available in regards to how many hors you have to put it to where you can take classes.


An online TEFL certification course is exactly what it sounds like. You join a program, pay the tuition, and in most cases you simply work your way through a series of prerecorded video classes. They have quizzes and tests as you go along to make sure you’re keeping up with the concepts they are teaching, but these are not meant to be difficult or tricky.

If you decide to go this route, then this is a great Online TEFL course to check out.

In general, online TEFL courses don’t come with the same clout as the on-site and university programs do, but they can be useful for certain situations.

Most schools, recruiters, and other information sites will list that the minimum level of education that you must be able to show the local government you’ve acquired in order to teach English in most countries is a 4-year degree. However, an Associate degree with an approved TEFL is may be acceptable in certain situations. 

The rules are always changing though, and what exactly constitutes a valid TEFL, such as how many hours the course needs to be (I have heard 100 hours and also 120, so your guess is as good as mine), and whether or now a particular course from a particular institution is acceptable is completely unclear.

If you don’t have a Bachelor’s and want to try going the 2-year degree + TEFL route, I strongly suggest you contact the government of the country you wish to teach in to check, double check, and triple check whether or not the course you are considering is enough to satisfy their requirements.


Celta – Celta is actually an acronym for Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults. It’s not a college or university course, but it is a very highly respected certificate as it was designed and is still currently overseen by the Cambridge English Language Assessment, which is part of the University of Cambridge.

It can be taken as a full-time course or in chunks as a part-time course, but you absolutely must attend the teaching portion in person. This type of certificate comes with a lot of clout, but as you can guess, the requirement of attending can be a problem for some people.

To address that problem, certain portions of the class can be taken online over a period of ten weeks and up to a year, but you still must log six teaching hours at a CELTA certified training center.

It’s certainly a great certificate, but the time, money, and often travel that’s required tend to either fall above what someone that’s looking for a basic TEFL certification want and below what those who are looking to 4-year teaching degrees want.

Delta – Delta is short for Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, which is also a program stemming from the Cambridge English Language Assessment. The DELTA is not something for new teachers. It’s a program that has been created for improve and help teachers who have some experience already.

For new teachers or prospective teachers, this really isn’t the course for you.

Tesol – Tesol is yes another acronym. It’s short for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Unlike the other options, a TESOL certification usually means following a certain track while obtaining your Master’s Degree. It’s a serious commitment, so if your goal is to travel to Asia for a year or two, this isn’t for you.

*Note – the term TESOL can be pretty confusing. It can be used to describe both TEFL and TESL and it is sometimes used to describe what various certificate programs encompass. For our interests though, TESOL is an advanced certificate from an accredited university like this.

Should You Get a Certificate for Teaching English as a Foreign Language?

A lot of current teachers and bloggers might tell you that getting a TEFL is a waste of time and money. They say that no English language school will care whether or not you went through the effort to get a TEFL.

I can tell you for a fact that isn’t true.

One of the key factors in why I was offered a job to teach English in Japan was because I had a TEFL. And, the kicker is my TEFL wasn’t even coming from internationally recognized TEFL certificate program, but from the first buxiban I worked for, HESS.

So here are a few reasons why you might want to consider getting one as well:

  • Stand out from other applicants that don’t have one
  • Meet the minimum requirements to legally teach in certain situations if you only have an Associate’s degree
  • Build your confidence before stepping into a live teaching situation
  • Make sure you really want to commit to spending a year or more abroad
  • Learn all the EFL and ESL lingo making interviews easier

If you have never taught English as a foreign language or second language, you should seriously consider taking a course to get an online TEFL certificate instead of diving into the unknown headfirst and hoping for the best.