The pros and cons of TEFL certification

Jeremy Cong on 31 May 2017
Teacher giving a class

Thinking about doing a TEFL qualification? Read this helpful guide before you do.

Unsure of what you want to do once uni finishes? Many graduates have the same problem and some turn to TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) for their chance to travel the world and work at the same time. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though, and the TEFL life can be a challenging one for many fresh-faced graduates. We’ve boiled it down for you for those considering TEFL after uni into some simple pros and cons to digest.


Getting a TEFL qualification is generally accessible to all graduates

The minimum requirements for applying for a TEFL course often require you to be educated to a degree level and to be a fluent English speaker. So the good news for most graduates is that you’re eligible without having to lift a finger.

Be warned though: not all TEFL courses are equal in terms of pricing and teaching quality.

The lower-end courses which last a month or so and are dirt cheap aren’t likely to prepare you fully for the challenge of teaching full-time, whilst the most prestigious type of TEFL qualification - The CELTA - can cost up to the hefty sum of £1,500; but it's a qualification that all schools recognise and has a weight over others. (Click here to see more info on the different types of TEFL courses)

It allows you to travel and work in places around the world

For many graduates, a TEFL job provides them with the opportunity to venture and live in far-flung places across the world that wouldn’t ordinarily be possible. Have a fascination with the far-east and its culture? Or do you love to be surrounded by exotic scenery that wouldn’t be out of place on a postcard? A TEFL job allows you to do just that.

A fulfilling and rewarding career

Teaching English can be an extremely rewarding career if you’re someone who loves to see first-hand the difference you’re making in someone’s life. Watching the progress of your students as they start to grasp English is genuinely life-changing for them as it can provide them with the ability to have better economic and job prospects. You, as the teacher, played a massive role in that and the satisfaction that comes from that is often mentioned by TEFL teachers as one of the big pros of their job.


It’s not going to make you rich

We’re not gonna lie, TEFL isn’t a particularly lucrative career choice. So if you thought you were going to be rollin’ in the dolla’ and living life in some paradise abroad, think again. Many TEFL salaries across the globe often pay at the bottom end of the scale, with many teachers just managing to get by.

There are exceptions to the rule of course, and in places like South Korea and the Middle East, TEFL teachers can make an extremely comfortable lifestyle (potentially taking home up to $2000-2500 dollars a month) as well as having their accommodation and flights paid for. Naturally, these places are extremely competitive, so don’t hold your breath for these. Many TEFL teachers are often employed on a part-time contract and hold down several teaching jobs just to make ends meet.

Learning to teach is no walk in the park

Learning to TEFL effectively and well is no easy feat, and can often be a time-consuming process. As the teacher, you’ll have to plan lessons, teach, monitor progress, and keep tailoring the lessons based on the needs of the students. Trying to ‘wing it’ is an unadvisable approach. Not only will the quality of your lessons most likely plummet, but you will likely be found out sooner rather than later. Students will voice their disillusionment at the standard of the teaching available, and the school could then sack you and your reputation suffers.

Schools can operate like the wild West

Another thing you’ll have to consider is the reputation and dealings of the school. The internet is rife with horror stories of schools ripping off TEFL teachers, never paying salaries on time, and generally taking advantage of teachers. It is advisable that you do as much research as possible into the school in question and make sure you’re asking the right questions: How do you pay your salary? What are my teaching hours like? How will I be contracted? Knowing your rights as a teacher and knowing how to present your wants and needs will help you weed out sketchy schools that treat teachers poorly and helps you avoid a situation where you’re being exploited.

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Jeremy Cong
Jeremy Cong on 31 May 2017