By John Bentley – Senior Editor at International TEFL Academy
So you’re planning on teaching English in Asia? Awesome! It will probably be one of the great decisions you make in life and you will no doubt experience a fantastic adventure of growth & discovery, with a ton of fun thrown in for good measure. As you’ve no doubt discovered, embarking on such a grand journey requires making a bunch of touch decisions and choices: China or Korea? Urban or rural? Public School or private school? What do you value in terms of location, salary, benefits, weather & social life?
Certainly one of the most important questions you will encounter: Do I need get a TEFL certification? Check out various forums and websites and you will encounter all sorts of answers, and there will be folks maintaining that hey, there are plenty of schools out there that will hire you without a TEFL certification, so don’t bother. But the bottom line is that if you want to put yourself in the best position to get a great job and make the most of your experience abroad, you need to get TEFL certified, and here are 4 major reasons why.
1. Get the Skills You Need to Succeed as a Professional English Teacher
Let’s say you get on a plane tomorrow and jet off to Shanghai or Seoul to teach English without getting TEFL certified. Will you be prepared to teach 4-6 classes a day with 10-20 students each (or even more)? Would you have the skills to manage a classroom, explain the intricacies of English grammar, or even to communicate with your students who speak little or no English? What about lesson planning? In short, do you actually believe that you possess the skills to provide your students with a quality educational experience that will enable them to reach their goal of learning English? And do you believe that students have the right to receive instruction from a trained, qualified teacher?
A quality TEFL certification will provide you with training in all of the major facets of teaching English as a foreign language, including: teaching methodology & practices; classroom management; teaching the ins-and-outs of English grammar; cultural sensitivity training; lesson planning; error correction; use of audio-visual tools; and basic skills that will enable you to communicate with your students despite the language barrier.
Practicum: Any professional-level TEFL certification class will also incorporate a practicum (live practice teaching with actual ESL students) of 6-20 hours. This will provide you with valuable hands-on experience in a live classroom environment and will help you gain confidence and build your skills. Many employers in Asia and elsewhere only recognize TEFL classes that include a practicum.
Teaching will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life if you gain the basic skills you need to actually function as a professional English teacher. One of the great aspects of teaching English abroad is that you don’t need to invest years of your life and tens of thousands of dollars in a fancy degree to do it.
Taking a quality TEFL class will provide you with the skills and qualifications you need to both get a great job and to succeed in the classroom. The vast majority of folks who teach abroad enjoy a great experience, but one of the primary reasons why some quit their jobs and return home early is because they feel overwhelmed and under-prepared for the job – don’t let this happen to you!
2. TEFL Certification Will Qualify You for More Jobs, Better Jobs & Higher Paying Jobs
If you were the owner of a language school in Shanghai, Seoul or Buenos Aires would you feel comfortable hiring an untrained teacher with no experience to teach classes to your paying customers? Suppose you are a student – or the parent of a student – would you want to pay your hard-earned money to take classes from a teacher with no training or experience? Probably not.
The bottom line is that both schools and students want trained teachers with professional level skills as a teacher. As a result, the vast majority of English teaching jobs in Asia and around the world require a TEFL certification, including many major teaching programs and international schools typically require a certification (unless you have prior teaching credentials). Even those schools that don’t technically require a TEFL certification are far more likely to hire a job applicant who holds a high level TEFL certification than one who doesn’t.
It is also worth noting that TEFL certified job applicants will typically qualify for positions are better schools with higher corporate standards that often offer the best pay, benefits and professional environment. Meanwhile, those schools that make a practice of hiring anybody who speaks English regardless of whether they receive training, are typically those schools with the lowest professional standards, which are often cheap when it comes to salaries and benefits. These are often the lowest quality schools that also care less about their students, as well as their teachers.
What if I am a certified teacher – do I still need a TEFL certification? Any prior teaching experience (especially at the professional level) or education degree that you possess will give you a leg up both in getting great jobs and with your comfort level in the classroom. That said, unless you have a degree specifically in the field of teaching English as a foreign language, it is still recommend that you get TEFL certified for two main reasons:
- Most employers still require a TEFL certification as a matter of policy. It is the qualification with which they are most familiar and most comfortable.
- Like most fields teaching English as a foreign language requires a specific skill set and knowledge base as well as teaching practices and methodologies. Teaching English grammar to Chinese businessmen or Korean school children is a totally different animal than teaching high school physics or 5th grade social studies and getting TEFL certified will give you the skills you need to succeed in your new environment abroad.
For more on this topic, check out this article!
3. Getting TEFL Certified Will Assist You Immensely in the Interview Process
This may fall under the umbrella of the previous point, but it’s important to note that getting TEFL certified will typically prove to be very useful during the interview process for teaching English in Asia. Many schools will task you straight how you might handle a hypothetical classroom situation. They may ask you about teaching methodology and in some cases you may be asked to provide sample lesson plans. In almost every interview you will be asked about experience, and while you don’t have to have prior professional teaching experience, a professional-level TEFL certification will include practicum (live practice teaching) that will at least give you some live classroom experience and experience to draw on should it come up in an interview.
4. Job Search Guidance & Alumni Support
Any high quality TEFL certification organization should provide free, lifetime job search guidance to all students and graduates to assist them with gaining employment teaching English abroad and/or teaching English online (which is a great way to gain experience and make money even before you head abroad, or to supplement your income once you arrive abroad). A great organization like Adventure Teaching may provide you with the guidance and assistance you need to get a great job teaching English in South Korea or China. However, there are 80 countries around the world where you may want to teach English abroad at some point and you will want and need resources and guidance to figure out matters like hiring seasons, interview procedures, visas, hiring requirements and more. Getting a job in a place like Spain, Costa Rica or Czech Republic will all entail much different processes than getting a job in South Korea or China.
At International TEFL Academy, all of our students and graduates enjoy lifetime access to comprehensive job placement assistance that includes personal assistance from expert advisors; access to hundreds of pages of job boards, school listings, & resume templates; 500-page job search guidance manual; live & recorded webinars; and how-to-get-a-job guides for dozens of individual countries. In addition, our students are able to network and connect with 25,000 alumni in 80 countries through exclusive channels on social media, and connect with other folks like themselves at exclusive meet-ups and share their stories in articles, videos and across ITA’s social media channels. Access to these kinds of resources can make all the difference when it comes to realizing your potential for having a great experience teaching English abroad.
So What Kind of TEFL Certification Do You Need?
Deciding to get TEFL certified is one decision – deciding what TEFL class to take from which school is another. The key is to understand that not all TEFL classes are the same and there are internationally recognized standards that you should look for when looking at your options. Here are the basics:
- At least 100 hours of coursework (equivalent to a full-time 4-week intensive in-person class or a part-time equivalent online);
- At least 6-20 hours of practicum (live practice teaching and observation with actual non-native English speaker and NOT role-playing with fellow TEFL classmates);
- An accredited curriculum from a recognized, independent organization within the field;
- Instruction provided by a qualified instructor(who has an equivalent to a Master Degree in TESOL or related field);
- Yes, you can take a legitimate professional-level TEFL online that is the equivalent of a top-level in-person class;
- As mentioned, it is also recommended that you take your TEFL certification course from an organization that provides comprehensive job search guidance.
Luckily, Adventure Teaching and International TEFL Academy have teamed up to provide you with a great option to take ITA’s 170-Hour Online TEFL Class, which is widely regarded as the top class in the field. Taught by experienced university professors (all of whom have taught English abroad themselves), the class includes a 20 practicum and 150 hours of coursework (both well exceeding international standards). It is highly interactive with live webinars and scores of videos, and it designed to accommodate those who are working or going to school full-time.
To learn more about the course and how to register, please check out this link and fill out the form.