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Online TEFL Courses - A review of Internet-based teaching certificates

Updated on July 10, 2009

The Internet is awash with online TEFL courses for prospective and current English teachers. Are these sensible options at any stage of a teachers’ career? Tthis article should help potential applicants to these courses consider their options.

First Choice: Take the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA)

Online options should really only be pursued when there are no alternatives. Observed practice is the best way to improve your teaching, so if you can afford to take a one-month CELTA course before you begin teaching, then do so. If not, then work for a couple of years and then consider it again. The other option is the Trinity CertTESOL, which is validated by Trinity College, London, and also widely recognized and well regarded. The earlier you take one of these courses the better, as some employers – for example the British Council – hire for desirable jobs based on “post-qualification experience.” In other words, if you worked in English teaching for five years then undertook a recognized course before working for another year, you would not qualify for a job which required what they consider “two years’ teaching experience.”

Online initial TEFL training

However, for many people, taking a month out and spending upwards of $2000 is not an option, which leads to the consideration of online alternatives. There are two ways to assess any online TEFL course. First, will I learn anything useful? If you struggle to learn from books and prefer to study more interactively, then an online initial teacher training course might be a good way to learn the basics in a relatively painless way. Second, how will this be seen by employers? The answer to this question is less encouraging. In reality, they are not likely to take any online initial training seriously, and over-egging its value could even hurt your application.

For this reason, prospective applicants need to consider their reasons carefully. If, for example, you are planning to work as a volunteer teacher and have neither the time nor money to embark on a CELTA, then why not consider a cheap online course purely to develop your skills and knowledge? If you’re looking to compete with other graduates for teaching posts in desirable areas and think an online course will help you, then you are probably mistaken. Just to illustrate, after about two seconds of searching jobs at, I was able to find this

Applicants with only weekend TEFL courses or online courses will not be considered.

Nevertheless, online options are cheap. LinguaEdge, for example, offers a 50 hour online course for $150. i-toi, a rival company, offers 40 hour courses for $168. They’re not only reasonably priced, but allow you to carry on working as you undertake them in your spare time. Most organizations boast some kind of professional accreditation from a body like the International TESOL Accrediting Authority. However, do not expect this to carry any weight with employers. With all due respect to the work of these private authorities, they simply do not have enough brand recognition among employers in this chaotic and globally scattered industry. Everybody, by contrast, has heard of the CELTA and its awarding body – the University of Cambridge.

An online Masters degree

An online Masters degree is the big exception to the above rule. However, these usually require that you have been teaching English for a minimum of two years, and often that you already possess a a CELTA or Trinity qualification. Those considering this option should shop around internationally, considering only recognized universities with well-regarded education faculties. Consider taking advantage of favorable international exchange rates while searching. For example, English teachers in Japan would do well to study online at a British university because of the strong yen and near-collapse of sterling. A British Masters degree will probably cost between 3500 and 4500 pounds over three years. In 2007 that was around 875000 yen. Now it's closer to 550,000. There are sure to be other examples; keep an eye on the exchange rates at when you make your choice.

All distance learning courses suffer with high drop-out rates, so only the highly motivated should apply. One of the most important aspects of the university for you will be its electronic resources. Check out the library page of the institution’s website and browse its electronic resources catalog. If there are not literally thousands of journals available electronically, plus e-books and electronic newspaper archives then think again. Also, be sure to double-check that, as a part-time distance-learning student, you will have access to every online resource that a regular student has.

A Masters degree may help you make the step into university teaching, which for many is the ultimate goal. This qualification is, however, only likely to be taken seriously alongside extensive teaching experience. If, without experience, you can exaggerate, blag or even lie your way onto an online Masters course, you’re unlikely to be able to do the same to get a decent job!

Final thoughts on online TEFL training

In conclusion, there may be people out there who can benefit from online initial or continuing TEFL training courses. Do not expect too much from an online entry-level training course, however. While it may be useful and interesting in itself, the only online option likely to boost your career is a Masters degree. If you study at an accredited university then your MEd or MA certificate will not say “online” anywhere on it, and “a degree is a degree is a degree”, as someone probably says. Do what you can to get a CELTA or Trinity certificate as soon as possible, in order to give your English teaching career a solid foundation.


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    • profile image

      Lucy 3 years ago

      On this very helpful page there is a link to a recommended online TEFL school:

      Seems though that Onsite residential schools spend quite a portion of their time trying to throw dirt at online courses.

      It's a cut throat business as far as I can gather.

    • profile image

      Lucy 3 years ago

      A serious word of warning about an onsite residential TEFL course school in Prague:


    • profile image

      sara 3 years ago

      Second language is an important aspect for any person to improve job career significantly.

    • profile image

      Lindsay 4 years ago

      Online TEFL Courses: get the trusted scoop on Online TEFL Courses!

    • profile image

      Tony Parsons 4 years ago

      I wanted to pass on the following article which discusses the hot topic of online TEFL versus residential:

    • profile image

      Winslow 4 years ago

      Suggest you guys take a look at this...

      The word is out. Hopefully the victims can now be minimized.

    • profile image

      Beacon 5 years ago

      Thanks Johan - you beat me to the fire alarm. I agree that is a high-priced but very believable fraud with all the bells and whistles to lure plenty of gullible and naïve newbie and wannabe overseas teachers. The link you provided is very well documented and if you dig past pages 2 & 3 of Google, the truth about these vultures is available.

    • profile image

      Johan 5 years ago

      Teacchers Beware!!! is not to be trusted. Why? This link tells the whole story but for starters they lie about their "Paid Internships" (They are really full time jobsbut since they take half of the salary as an undisclosed placement fee they have to call them "internships"). They also delete anyone from their forum who challenges any false statements they make like "If you want to teach in China you must have a TEFL certificate" This is 100% false. They also deleted veryimportant staistics about China that are not favorable for teachers, andthey hide the fact that more than half of all teachers in China get scammed and leaveafter their first year of teaching there! Very unethical people in my opinion.

    • Kyle Quandel profile image

      Kyle Quandel 5 years ago from NYC

      Very useful - thank you for sharing this!! Great hub

    • profile image

      eslinsider 5 years ago

      CELTA, DELTA and TRINITY TESOL are the more reputable courses, yet they are not for everyone. They also don't guarantee a job "anywhere". Many people say CELTA this CELTA that, it's good and more reputable than other TEFL//TESOL courses, but it's not a ticket to teach anywhere.

      Here's a community supported online TEFL course. Some employers won't accept online courses, some don't care and at many in Eastern Asia you don't need one period.

    • Adams-ebooks profile image

      Adam Finan 5 years ago from Worldwide

      Good Hub!

      I have been putting off doing the i-to-i online combined course for a while as i feel like if i go to Thailand or China to teach i would benefit more from an intensive course when i land more than a do as you please online course.. I doubt its ability to have you ready with a 20 hr weekend course!

    • profile image

      TEFL Jobs 6 years ago

      I agree with Brett, good impartial advice. CELTA and Trinity TESOL are the way to go.

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 6 years ago from Thailand

      A good hub with honest advice. I liked the fact that you say it as it is, rather than trying to sell online courses. You can certainly find work via either route, but an accredited course like CELTA or a MA in Teaching will take you to the higher paid positions.

    • profile image

      Ted Tucker 7 years ago

      Another good online course where you can combine observed teaching practice with an inexpensive online course is:

    • profile image

      Josh 7 years ago

      Excellent hub!

      You didn't mention thoguh combined courses - offering online tuition combined with onsite practice.

      I took my combined course with ITTP and didn't have any issues finding work after the course.

      Their website info:

    • Neil Ashworth profile image

      George Poe 8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Nice hub. Some good information here. Thanks for the info..