So you’re thinking about becoming an ESL teacher. At this point, you’re probably wondering where to start and what you’ll need. The initial process can seem fairly daunting, with job hunting, visa paperwork, and a mixture of necessary qualifications necessary for different countries. This is on top of the fact that you might not be an experienced teacher and don’t know if you can cut it in this industry.  Luckily, there are a few affordable qualifications out there, some of which you can do in a month or two.

There are several different types of ESL teacher certifications that will help you on your journey as a language educator abroad.  However, there are a few significant differences among them, which can affect where you can get a job and the level of the position that you qualify for. One of the most general and widely used certifications is called a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). A TEFL is the most basic of ESL teaching courses and is appreciated by most employers. However, earning a higher level certificate (such as an advanced TESOL) can widely broaden your employment horizons in addition to making you a better teacher.  As such, it’s important for potential TESOL students to do their research before choosing a course.

Several items should take priority when considering different companies and course types. First and foremost, you want to make sure that the institution that you choose is accredited. If this information is not stated on your certificate, many employers around the world will deem it invalid.  Because of the lack of standardization, there are a seemingly infinite number of online companies that offer sub-par TESOL courses. Anyone can make a website and claim that their course is great, but unfortunately, you can’t exactly take that at face value. It would be terrible to put in so many hours of work only to be rejected.  TESL Canada accredits courses that are open to native speakers from a variety of English-speaking countries, such as Canada, the U.S., the U.K., South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. This bodyhey accredits CELTA/Trinity equivalent 120-hour courses with an added Practicum (TESL Canada Standard 1), advanced 250-hour with Practicum ( TESL Canada Standard 2), and Master of Arts degrees in Canada (TESL Canada Standard 3). Other reputable accrediting agencies include the ACCET (Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training) and the ACTDEC (Accreditation Council for TESOL Distance Education); if an institution has their recognition, it’s a sure sign of a solid place to start. You should also find out how long the institution has existed and, likewise, how long it has held the accreditation.

A proper TESOL course will be broken down into several sections: 1) an in depth refresher on English grammar and syntax, 2) recognizing and understanding different learning styles, 3) mastering various teaching methods, 4) lesson planning, and 5) a comprehensive final exam.  Each section should include check-up assignments, quizzes, and study points for the final exam. The lesson planning stage, which I consider to be one of the most crucial parts, should explain how to create effective lessons by giving pointers and examples. You will usually be given a few topics and classroom scenarios and be asked to develop your own mock plans.  Competent TESOL tutors should grade these and make lots of remarks. Take all feedback into consideration, as I promise that it will only help you in the long-run.

Overall, the most important element here is to not be afraid to ask questions and do your research. If the company is legit, this shouldn’t be a problem. Some courses are completed solely online, while others have a physical location and require in-class instruction hours. Many employers will not accept online TESOL courses that do not include an addition practicum, so make sure to suss out which one will work with your employment goals. You should also consider the type of learner you are and whether you’d benefit from having a professional tutor teaching you or being somewhat ‘autodidactic’ with online coursework. Would you benefit from practice teaching and does your course require this? Ask for a sample course syllabus and consider the amount of study time, homework, and/or practical exams required. Think about all of these things and read up on testimonials and recommendations from previous TESOL students for the best information and pointers on specific courses.

Most (but not all) certification institutions will offer multiple TESOL courses, so your final step is to decide which one best suits your needs. Find out which certificate will take you where you want to go.