Teaching English as a Foreign Language) is about words that open up a whole wide world to you.

It’s about teaching a language. And when you get a certificate in TEFL, you can literally get a job anywhere. And quickly.

This article is for those of you thinking of getting into TEFL.

Who gets into TEFL

Most people who get into TEFL tend to be in their 20s or 30s, but there are no age limits at all.

I’ve worked with many different types of people as colleagues. Some people do TEFL for a couple years’ break. Some people get into it and choose to go on an adventure, working in different countries for a time. Some decide to settle down and end up living abroad their whole lives.

Getting qualified in TEFL

Whoever you are, and whatever your reasons, you should get qualified first.

Get a certificate in TEFL. It is also called CELTA which stands for Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults.

It’s important you get a certificate that will be recognised.

You can’t go wrong with a training centre recognised by a big fish like the University of Cambridge. Here is a link to start your search;


A full-time TEFL, or CELTA course will last one month at the training centre you choose. There’s no final exam. It’s continuous assessment.

Such courses are offered all year round. Expect to pay about £1500.  

You don’t need any teaching experience to enrol.

You don’t need a degree, though it helps. And if you do have a degree, it can be in anything. It doesn’t have to be in foreign languages.

You are trained to know how to teach only in English in class. Even with beginners. It’s frowned upon to speak to the students in their own language during lessons.

The advantages of a full-time TEFL course are that it’s;

  • Enjoyable – you’re with trainees like you on your course.
  • Practical – you get real teaching experience.
  • Comprehensive – you learn many aspects of language teaching in a short, intensive, period.
  • You are very likely, (if not guaranteed) to get a job in a private language school after qualifying.

You can get a certificate online too. Make sure it’s recognised and serves your purpose. Online courses are much cheaper than full-time courses.

However, keep in mind teaching is a ‘people’ job. On a full-time course you will meet teacher trainers, fellow teacher trainees, and most importantly, foreign students. You will miss out on this aspect online.

My full-time TEFL/CELTA course is typical

I did my full-time course in April 1992 at International House, Hastings because it had a very good reputation.

And got the RSA Certificate in the Teaching of English as a Foreign Language to Adults, recognised by Cambridge University. It ticked all the boxes listed above.

When I started the course, I had no teaching experience. I couldn’t explain English grammar. And I’d never spoken in front of a group of people.

All that changed in a matter of weeks!

Be prepared for a pretty intensive month. It’s full on.

It’s full-on fun too. I met so many people from all over the world.

Lesson observations

The most useful, and most stressful, part of the full-time course is ‘observation’ lessons.

These are when your tutor sits in on a class that you are teaching. And then gives you feedback on your strengths. And weaknesses to work at. It’s nerve-wracking. You’re under the microscope.

After my first observation lesson, my tutor commented on various parts of the lesson, and pointed out one major thing to work on; TTT (teacher talking time). i.e. cut it down. The objective is to get your students talking. Teachers should never talk too much.

My next observations went much better. You learn a lot from observations. I went minimalistic with teaching talking time, for example.

Course content

Like any industry, teaching has been changed by internet. But the content for TEFL/CELTA courses is still very much the same as it was in the 90s.

Today, you’ll be graded on much the same as I was more than twenty-five years ago. For example;

  • Planning coherent lessons
  • Awareness of language terms and concepts
  • Identifying, selecting and adapting appropriate aids and materials
  • Establishing rapport and creating a motivating classroom atmosphere
  • Willingness to benefit from feedback from course trainers, colleagues and students

Getting work after the course

Getting your TEFL certificate is like when you get your driving licence.

You’ve had all the right techniques drummed into you, but you still lack ‘road sense.’

You’re going to spend the next year in your first teaching job learning a hell of a lot.

But you gain in confidence.

I spent the summer of ’92 in Hastings having got a job at a private school.

Meanwhile, I was sending out applications to private schools in Italy.

I got a job at the British Institutes in Monza. And started their academic year in September 1992.

That first year at Monza was brilliant because the school I worked for was extremely well-organised and up on training. So, lesson observations continued. Only once a term though.

When you apply for jobs at private schools, wherever it is, apply to those with a good reputation. It’s important you work for someone that is going to help you develop as a teacher.

For a first job teaching in Italy, pay averages €1300 a month. You can expect to teach 20-25 hours a week. And you’ll have lessons scattered over the week. Almost certainly you’ll be working late; 8.30-10 p.m. Adults finish work at 8p.m so private schools offer that as a popular slot. You’ll probably be sent out to do lessons in companies too. Teaching kids is getting to be a big market.

Other countries such as Saudi Arabia or China offer higher salaries.

Check List for considering a job in TEFL;

  • All ages start in TEFL
  • Work may be a temporary break or turn into a permanent career.
  • No teaching experience is necessary
  • You don’t have to have a degree. Though preferable.
  • Do a recognised certificate in TEFL (I recommend full-time course.)
  • Be prepared for an intensive month on full-time course.
  • Online courses are cheaper. Make sure the course is recognised. Or serves your purpose if not.
  • Choose a reputable private school to work for. Helps your career.

If you’re looking for a change of scenery, the world of TEFL really is your oyster.

I recommend it even if just for a year or two. You won’t forget the experience.

Published by John Di Girolamo

I have been teaching English as a foreign language since 1992. I started the Diploma in Copwriting with the College of Media in Publishing in September 2018 and passed it with merit in October 2019. My aim is to get into copywriting and add that string to my bow of work experience.

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