Getting into TEFL

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Getting into TEFL - teaching English as a foreign language

Imagine a flexible teaching career where you could work in the UK or all over the world. Imagine a teaching career where the initial training takes weeks, where any degree subject is welcome and where you'll teach enthusiastic, motivated students of all ages every day

Once you've chosen the right English language teaching qualification, you could be in your first paid teaching role in as little as one month. There is currently high demand for newly-qualified TEFL teachers in the UK, with part-time, full-time, seasonal and flexible teaching roles available.

English language teaching goes by a variety of names and acronyms including: 

  • ELT - English Language Teaching
  • TEFL - Teaching English as a Foreign Language
  • EFL - English as a Foreign Language
  • ESOL - English for Speakers of Other Languages
  • EAL - English as an Additional Language

Where can I teach English? 

If you want to live abroad, working as an English language teacher is a great way to earn while you experience life in another country. 

There are also many job opportunities for newly-qualified teachers in the UK. Language schools exist in all of the UK's major cities, and in towns, coastal and rural locations across the country.

Thousands of students from around the world come to the UK to study English each year.

As a teacher in the UK, you might teach groups of teenagers on summer holiday courses, young adults improving their English for university or careers, or professionals who need to speak to their international customers.

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Why train to be a TEFL teacher? 

There are great reasons to train as an English language teacher: 

  • Job satisfaction: you are helping people to follow their dreams when you support them to learn or improve their English
  • Travel opportunities: experience living abroad while you teach English
  • Transferable skills: you'll gain speaking confidence, leadership skills and an ability to communicate clearly and effectively with people from all over the world.
  • Flexible roles: there are many part-time, seasonal, or flexible teaching roles available in the UK, perfect for people who have other career or personal commitments 
  • Career progression: many people join the ELT industry as teachers before moving into other roles in the sector, including management and marketing. 
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Work opportunities in the UK for TEFL teachers

Pre-Covid, the UK had one of the world's biggest English language teaching industries, attracting 550,000 students from all over the world every year.  

There are ELT centres all over the UK. Teaching is usually face-to-face, but many centres also offer online classes.  

The busiest time for schools in the UK is the summer, when lots of junior students come to attend summer courses. Some schools run as summer centres only and provide residential accommodation for students and teachers too. Other schools offer work for teachers year-round. 

The UK is well-known for the quality of its English language teaching, and having well-qualified teachers is an important part of that.  

English UK is the trade association for ELT centres and all members are accredited by the British Council. To work at a British Council accredited centre, teachers need to have a recognised qualification such as the Cambridge CELTA or Trinity CertTESOL. In addition, some roles may require prior teaching experience.

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Choose the right TEFL qualification

It's important to research English teaching qualifications before choosing the one for you. TEFL qualifications can differ hugely in terms of how much you'll learn, how you'll be assessed and how much teaching practice you'll gain during the course. 

For that reason, some English language teaching centres will only hire teachers with the most robust entry-level qualifications. The most commonly accepted qualifications are the Cambridge CELTA and Trinity CertTESOL.  

These courses are more expensive than some of the short, online options available, but they are more comprehensive and will open up more job opportunities in the UK and abroad.  

It's important to know that British Council accredited schools in the UK can usually only hire teachers with a qualification that meets certain criteriaThe CELTA and CertTESOL are both accepted. For other courses, check the course has: 

  • at least 100 hours of input

  • at least 6 hours of supervised and assessed teaching practice 

  • external validation by a recognised exam board that is independent of the course provided, or run by a university or a college/institute of higher/further education. 

Teachers with significant teaching experience or a university-level TEFL certificate can also apply for teaching roles at British Council accredited centres in the UK, depending on the school's recruitment policy.

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Why choose the CELTA or CertTESOL? 

CELTA and CertTESOL are the most comprehensive entry-level TEFL qualifications available. Both are suitable for teachers with no experience 

  • CELTA Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from Cambridge English 

  • CertTESOL - The Trinity Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages 

CELTA and CertTESOL courses last four weeks when taken full-time. They teach you the methodology and give you classroom practice which will prepare you for your first teaching role. Full-time, part-time, face-to-face blended and online courses are available, depending on the course provider.  

Teachers with these qualifications will be able to apply for a role at any ELT centre in the UK. And when working in other countries where job competition is higher, you'll find teaching work more easily. Not to mention you'll have gained the skills and experience to start teaching with confidence.

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Are there any course requirements?

To join a CELTA or CertTESOL course: 

  • You need to be at least 18 years old 

  • You will also need to have qualifications equivalent to those required to get into university in your own country (eg. A levels in the UK) 

  • Candidates whose second language is English will need to show their English is good enough to teach at a range of levels (CEFR level high C1 or above)

  • You are likely to be interviewed by the course provider before being accepted

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Find a TEFL training course

Visit the course provider websites to see the full lists of centres running their courses: 

What career progression is there for TEFL teachers? 

There are plenty of working opportunities both in the UK and abroad for TEFL teachers: many people choose to work in the UK during the busy summer period and teach in other countries at other times of the year. 

Once you've taught for a while you could consider specialising, for instance in Business English, or moving into a management role in a school. Directors of Studies (DoSes) or academic managers are much in demand and focus more on managing, observing and supporting teachers and developing curriculum and new courses than being in the classroom. Some teachers also move into ELT marketing roles, which can also be a rewarding career with lots of travel opportunities 

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