Getting into TEFL

Thinking of teaching English as a foreign language?

Congratulations - you may be about to take your first steps into a brilliant career which could give you the opportunity to work all over the world.

Do spend a little time on research before signing up for a teacher training course: having the wrong qualification can seriously damage your career prospects, preventing you finding employment in good schools or ruling you out for promotion.

English UK exists to support language teaching centres, agents and students, as well as providing specialist courses and training days for experienced teachers and managers. 

Below you'll find some basic information about ELT and links to other websites that will help you start your new career. Good luck!

Finding the right qualifications

When choosing an initial ELT qualification course, make sure:

  • It is externally validated 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.
  • It has at least 100 hours of input.
  • It has at least 6 hours supervised and assessed teaching practice.

Good UK teaching centres will not normally accept teachers with qualifications which don't meet these criteria.

More useful information on choosing the best course is available from the British Council and Quality in TESOL Education (QuiTE), an organisation supported by leading organisations in ELT, including English UK.

What levels of course are there?

The initial teacher training course is at Certificate level. Teachers with experience, usually at least two years, can improve their qualifications with a Diploma or Masters degree. Sometimes these cover specialist areas such as business English or school management.

Am I qualified to join an ELT course?

To join an entry level Certificate programme you need to be at least 18, though many providers have a minimum age of 20 or 21. You will also need to have qualifications equivalent to those required to get into university in your own country. You are likely to be interviewed by the course provider before they decide whether to accept you for training.

What Certificate courses are available, and how long do they take?

The Cambridge ESOL Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) and the Trinity College London Certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language to Speakers of Other Languages (CertTESOL) are the most widely accepted entry-level qualifications for ELT teachers. Courses usually last four weeks.

Finding a course

Visit the websites of Cambridge English Language Assessment and Trinity College London to see the full lists of centres running their certificate courses.

Or use the English UK course finder to discover member centres running teacher training courses. Search for course type 'Examination preparation courses' and then from the 'option' box select the relevant exam.

Higher level qualifications

Diplomas and Master's Degrees are for more experienced English language teachers. The leading diplomas are Cambridge ESOL's Diploma in ELT (DELTA) and Trinity College's Licentiate Diploma in TESOL (LTCL Diploma). A relevant Master's Degree or Diploma are normally required for jobs in academic management.

English UK also manages two specialised qualifications for teachers:

Working in the UK

Looking for the English UK or British Council logos on a school website will help you find work with better conditions, pay, and career development.

This is because these centres are accredited by Accreditation UK, run by the British Council and English UK, which means they are regularly inspected for all aspects of management and teaching. However, in order to teach at an Accreditation UK scheme member you will usually need to have at least an initial and recognised TEFL qualification.

There are more than 500 centres approved by the Accreditation UK logo, including all English UK members.

Further information on English language teaching as a career is available from the British Council.