Pros and Cons of Taking Your TEFL Certification Course Online vs. Abroad

So, you know you want to teach English abroad, and you’ve done the preliminary research and realized that being TEFL certified will put you above other applicants who aren’t…which brought you to this question: where do I take my TEFL certification course? There are two options: you can complete the TEFL certification online in your home country, or you can complete it abroad in a specific country—one you know you’re interested in, or one you want to learn more about.

Here’s a list of pros and cons to help your weigh options, getting you closer to choosing the best type of TEFL course for you!

Pros of Online TEFL Certification Courses

tefl certification course online

1. You can stay exactly where you are

The beauty of taking an online TEFL certification course in your home country is that you can fit it into the life you already lead. Are you a student? Are you working full time? Either of these lifestyles have a little room for a part-time commitment such as this online course, which is typically 10-15 hours per week. You can work it at your own pace—enjoy the flexibility!

2. It’s perfect if you don’t know where you want to teach yet

If you’re like many and have the burning desire to teach English abroad, but have yet to decide on where, taking an online TEFL course while you conduct your regular life schedule gives you the opportunity to learn where it is you like and where it is you don’t like (both are equally important). You haven’t gone anywhere and made a big commitment yet—only to your studies and career goals. Take a look at teaching programs in Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, or Europe and figure out what suits you.

3. Cost is lower

Because you haven’t paid to relocate (plane tickets, housing, etc.), the cost of living by taking an online TEFL course at home will most likely be cheaper than going overseas. If your budget is at the forefront of your mind when making this decision, consider how much you can learn and gain by staying put for a while by taking time to develop your next move.

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Cons of TEFL Certification Course Online

1. No culture

This may seem obvious, but it’s worth noting: cultural immersion is crucial to understanding how a culture functions. If you’re the type of person who likes to feel fully prepared for new life change, then an online program probably isn’t for you because you won’t experience a culture firsthand. See the pros of earning your TEFL certification course onsite (below), in the country you’ve been dying to become a part of!

2. No networking

Networking isn’t synonymous with job placement, let’s be clear. Building a rolodex of contacts is difficult to do in front of your computer, but not impossible. What you’re missing here is the chance to connect with instructors, other instructors in training, agencies, etc. in person, where they are a lot more likely to remember you.

3. Little Face-to-face with students and instructors

You should be choosing a course with an in-person observation session, but most of an online program is just that—online. If the social aspect of teaching English abroad is what excites you the most, online may not be the way to go for you.

Pros of Onsite TEFL Certification Courses Abroad

tefl certification course
Graduating from the Thailand TEFL Course!

1. You’re already there—congratulations!

When you consider job hunting in the country of your choice (which you can totally do while you’re taking the course with job search guidance!), think of how much easier it is to pop by an agency and conduct an interview in person, rather than trying to schedule something long-distance. The immediacy of this advantage can only improve your chances of getting your dream job as an English teacher abroad.

2. Hands-on teaching preference

You should ask yourself, how do you learn best? Eventually you will be consumed with how best to teach your students, but first consider yourself: how do you best learn a new topic? Are you hands-on? Does reading on your own hinder you from absorbing the material? If the answers to these questions are yes, then an onsite TEFL certification course is right for you. Don’t try and change the way you learn to appease convenience—taking a leap and doing something the hard way is sometimes more rewarding!

3. Ta-da! You are TEFL certified in less time!

One of the biggest differences between online TEFL certification courses and onsite ones (aside from cost), is the amount of time it takes to complete each. It’s possible to complete an onsite course abroad in as little as four weeks! When compared to 11-13 weeks (or longer, for those who give you a lax schedule) for an online course, you see how much it varies. Going after a program overseas allows you to be fully immersed, focused on your studies, and to finish sooner. But remember: onsite abroad is an intense commitment, much like taking on a full-time job.

Cons of Onsite TEFL Certification Courses Abroad

differences to expect when teaching english abroad
Teachers in our Prague TEFL Course

1. What if you don’t like it there as much as you thought you would?

So now you’ve gotten a certification in a country that no longer interests you to apply for work in. This may make it challenging to get a job in different country (or region), when your course was designed to teach a particular group of students. But there is always a silver lining: it is just as important to find out what you don’t like as it is to find out what you do like. Plus, if your course is internationally recognized, the skills and confidence you’ll gain make it easy to transition to another country, and this way you get two for one! 

2. What if my course is missing a key component I didn’t realize before?

There are many components to a course that you should look into as much as you can before deciding on paying for it. Things like if it is internationally accredited, if it requires a teaching practicum (hint: it should), who your instructors are, or if there are hidden costs (and so much more!). When you commit to a program online abroad, you may not receive all of this information up front, or may not hear back answers to your questions before you proceed.

3. Timelines are crucial, meaning you have less freedom

One of the beauties of completing a certification online is that you can begin whenever. But if you want to enter a program abroad, you need to consider program start dates as well as hiring timelines. You’re being placed on someone else’s schedule, and that might sound undesirable to you.

Still unsure about the best path for you? Contact us! We’d be happy to discuss your options in terms of the certification programs we offer.

Compare 60 of the best places tot each English abroad for salary, cost of living, requirements & more.

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Words by Jayla Rae Ardelean.