If you want to teach English abroad, here’s what you need to know

If you want to teach English abroad, here’s what you need to know

How to qualify

There are basically two “tracks” to qualify as an English as a Foreign Language Teaching (ELT) professional. One is the Certification track, which requires you to study and pass a series of certificate programs alongside observed and critiqued teaching. There are three levels to this track, I have all three. Each of the “levels” is higher and more difficult than the previous one. The CELTA or TEFL certificates are the first and lowest levels of this route. The following is an INSET or a practicing CELTA that is often done in conjunction with your employment in a language school or institute. It could also be a Business English Teaching Certification often called “Cert. TBE”. Finally, there is the Trinity College Bachelor’s Diploma (LTCL Diploma in TESOL) or DELTA for those who aspire to the highest levels of English language teaching knowledge and application, and are also a bit suicidal. CELTA is an acronym for Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults. TEFL is an acronym for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. TESOL is an acronym for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Get used to the jargon, you’re going to need it.

The academic path

The second way is academic. That is, the person earns a degree related to teaching or language / linguistics, then progresses to a master’s or master’s degree, and perhaps finally to a doctorate or other terminal studies degree. This track can be done with little and sometimes no actual classroom teaching. This used to be favored, but is now in further decline due to its impracticality in North America and Europe. You could have an advanced teaching degree without viable teaching and classroom management skills, see? So now it is very difficult to get a teaching position without real classroom teaching experience. This is one of the reasons you should attend a TEFL program in person, intensive or not.

My strongest advice

My strongest advice is this: You MUST get a CELTA or TEFL teaching certificate. Without it, without a teaching qualification and without experience, you cannot work. An intensive CELTA program will take only about 5 full-time weeks, but will pay off in less than a semester. Look around in your state or local area, there should be a program available. Make sure you get your English language teaching certification in the US, UK or Canada etc, not in a non-English speaking country if you can help it. Some countries “disapprove” of TEFL certificates from programs in non-English speaking countries.

Do you want more sensible information?

In this article I can barely scratch the surface. You can get additional information by going to and looking there for my name, “Larry M. Lynch.” You will then be directed to my free article posts on teaching English. Finally, don’t get me wrong, I am not “attacking” any organization’s TEFL program. You just need to scrupulously check and compare what you will get and if it will be accepted where you plan to teach. With over 17 years in the field working on both sides of the interview table, I have seen too many things go wrong that could have been avoided with more careful scrutiny of TEFL training programs. Yes, most internationally certified CELTA or TEFL certification programs cost more and are much more difficult to complete successfully, but as the saying goes, you generally get what you pay for. Most good CELTA and TEFL programs also provide job placement assistance. But that’s a topic for another article. In the next article, we will briefly look at TEFL programs online. Until then.

Let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.

Good luck.

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