Is Online TEFL Certification Worth It?


I’ve answered this question on more than one occasion, so I figured I’d give it a proper write up. The answer is always the same – “maybe.” Online TEFL certifications are fine in some circumstances.

Should I Take Online TEFL Certificatiion

Online vs. Classroom TEFL Certification

Perhaps you’ve been volunteering for the last year or so as an ESL teacher. ESL outreach programs are prevalent in many areas to meet the needs of refugees and immigrants that want or need to learn English.

Following this volunteer experience you decide that you would like to do some traveling and teach ESL abroad. The problem is that you’re not TEFL certified. In this instance, an online TEFL certification might be fine. You have hands-on experience, a proven track record of success (hopefully) and now you just need to have some tangible credentials. Five hundred dollars later you receive your course materials and you’re on your way.

Another instance where an online certification might suit you well is if you’ve already been offered a job – pending certification. So you’ve interviewed with a school, they like your background in liberal arts and your outgoing personality. They feel that you’d be a great fit for the open position, but they require TEFL certification.


In this instance online certifications allow you to work at your own pace – it could take you 2 day, 2 weeks, 2 years. You have the freedom to move as quickly as you can complete the coursework, have it checked and move on to the following assignments.

In most other cases I would strongly encourage classroom based TEFL certification. You are not going to learn the intricacies of teaching a classroom full of students by studying any amount of material. Click here to see the components of a 120-hour classroom based TEFL certification.

Quality classroom based TEFL certifications go to great lengths to ensure that each one of their teachers are involved in and exposed to live teaching. I mean, it’s their reputation on the line if you turn out to be a terrible teacher.

Another great thing about taking a classroom based TEFL certification course is being in-country. Most people will decide where they would like to teach following their certification and then choose a TEFL course in that region.

Thailand is densely populated with TEFL certification courses for exactly this reason – people want to teach and live here. During your classes you will learn about the student-teacher interactions as well as the unique cultural norms and mores’.

Just as important as the cultural education, you will become networked with other ESL teachers in the area. These relationships are worth their weight in gold – just wait until you start teaching, you’ll see what I mean. These are the people who have walked the road before you and have kernels of teaching wisdom. They’re also there to commiserate with you following a tough day or celebrate following an amazing one.

To sum it up, Online TEFL certifications can be a decent option if you’re pressed for time or if you already have the experience and skills and just need a piece of paper to substantiate them. In every other circumstance a classroom certification trumps its online counterpart every time.

If you’re serious about teaching English and want to be a good ESL teacher, there’s no substitute for classroom-based learning. Believe me, the time and money investment will pay for itself very quickly.

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