English is the language of the global business world, which means demand for English teachers is high while requirements to teach remain relatively low, especially so abroad and even more so online.
In recent years, scores of online certification companies have sprouted up to train soon-to-be English teachers, offering credentials in what’s called Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) or Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). For our purposes, they’re interchangeable.
“This is a very, very rapidly growing industry,” said Jessie Smith, a former English teacher in South Korea and Vietnam who now works at the International TEFL Academy. “The demand can’t really be put into words.”
Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) online is a welcomed side gig for many. Teachers get to set their own schedules, connect with students around the world and rake in between $15 and $25 an hour teaching premade lessons.
Not bad for a part-time, entry-level position.
But before you sign up — and pay — to obtain TEFL certification online, here’s what you need to know.
What to Consider Before Getting a TEFL Certification Online
You might be ready to start shopping for TEFL providers, but do this first: Determine your goals as an ESL teacher.
“You owe it to your students to be a good teacher, to be a trained teacher,” Smith said. “You need to be prepared professionally, mentally.”
Why Do You Want to Teach ESL?
Do a quick pulse check. Ask yourself what you plan to accomplish as an ESL teacher. Do you want a career change? A lucrative side gig? To travel and work in other countries?
Your answer will determine what type of TEFL certification you’re going to need.
For career changes, proper education is always a good idea. Colleges and universities are big providers of TEFL certifications, and some degrees even include them. If you don’t have a degree in TEFL, the University of Cambridge and Trinity College provide the most comprehensive certifications — referred to as the CELTA and the Trinity, respectively. These programs are only offered in-person.
(Full disclosure: I earned a CELTA before teaching English abroad. It was the most intense program I’ve ever experienced.)
But if you’re eyeing a temporary side gig, you may not want to shell out the money for an expensive, in-person certification to teach ESL online. Almost all accredited TEFL certifications will require an in-person component, usually a 20-hour teaching practicum at a local language center or school. However, as members of ESL advice forums will tell you, most online employers don’t check or require accredited certifications with in-person practicums (for now).
Lastly, one of the most effective ways to earn money while traveling is by teaching English abroad. Requirements vary by country, though it’s good to have a bachelor’s degree plus an accredited TEFL certificate with a teaching practicum. Latin American and Southeast Asian countries have laxer rules and may not require a degree or a TEFL certification.
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What Does it Take to Become TEFL-Certified?
The majority of programs simply require that applicants are 18 years old or older and have a high school diploma. Native English fluency isn’t required, as TEFL certifications are popular credentials for foreign English teachers as well. But a high level of English fluency is required to participate in top-tier programs (C1 or IELTS Band 7, for the ESL nerds).
Programs may vary slightly, but quality programs should include at least 120 hours of coursework with 20 hours dedicated to hands-on teaching to foreign-language-speaking students. These lessons should be observed by a qualified ESL professor.
CELTA and Trinity programs are graded on a pass/fail basis while some online hybrid programs may include quizzes and a passing score of 60%.
How Much Do TEFL Certifications Cost?
Depending on what program you choose and what your goals are as a teacher, costs will range widely.
A fully online TEFL certification can run for $9 on Groupon, but you should know that it’s unaccredited. Online ESL teachers tend to purchase Groupon programs simply for a certification code that they add to their job applications, which can boost hourly pay toward the $25 mark. But if you plan to teach in person or long-term, skip the bargain bin programs.
Plan to teach English in person? Get a TEFL certification with an in-person practicum to boost your confidence and gain real-world teaching experience.
The “brand name” TEFL certifications, aka the CELTA and Trinity, run between $2,000 and $3,000. These programs are internationally recognized and are more suited for career ESL teachers.
Most accredited TEFL programs are usually half that price: around $1,100.
“A true, university-level TEFL class could not possibly run under $1,000,” Smith said.
How Do You Know If a TEFL Certification Online is Legit?
Online TEFL providers are everywhere. They’re quick. They’re cheap. And most of the time, they’re unaccredited. Some companies aren’t transparent in their accreditation, which means they probably aren’t legit.
In some program listings, you’ll see the words “self-accredited,” Smith said. “Which — needless to say — means just about nothing.”
Price is another factor. The cheaper the price, the higher the chance the program is unaccredited. That doesn’t mean, however, that expensive programs are automatically legit. Shady providers can just as easily charge more money to give an air of quality.
If the program costs hundreds or thousands of dollars, confirm that it’s run by an experienced professor and that the company holds a recognized accreditation.
The most popular accrediting bodies for TEFL programs are:
Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET)
Chartered College of Teaching (formerly College of Teachers)
Training Qualifications U.K. (TQUK)
The World TEFL Accrediting Commission
Popular accredited TEFL providers include:
Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE)
International TEFL Academy
International Open Academy
University-run TEFL programs, including the CELTA and Trinity
You owe it to your students to be a good teacher, to be a trained teacher. You need to be prepared professionally.
The list is by no means exhaustive. If you stumble upon a program that you’re unsure of, search the website for an accreditation seal or license number. Still unsure? Contact the accrediting body directly to confirm that the provider is legit. If you’re only shelling out $9, you may decide it’s not worth your time. But if you come across an expensive TEFL program that isn’t mentioned above, be sure to check for accreditation.
Most accrediting bodies require TEFL providers to include a practicum to receive accreditation. One notable exception is International Open Academy’s TEFL program, which is fully online. The Penny Hoarder confirmed with [...]
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When you buy food with a swipe of a card and pay bills with a click of a button, what are your kids learning about money?
“It is getting harder and harder to teach our kids about money and finance in the digital world because there’s just not as much opportunity to interact with money,” said Liz Frazier, a New York-based financial planner and author of the upcoming book “Beyond Piggy Banks and Lemonade Stands.”
In a world of neat budgeting apps and debit cards for kids, Frazier recommends sticking with the basics — at least initially. Start kids on the three piggy bank system — one for spending, one for saving, one for sharing. Frazier uses simple clear jars so they can see their money grow.
Children also learn about money by watching their parents. While swiping a debit card at the store makes sense to you, kids don’t concretely view that transaction as spending money.
“As parents, we should try to expose [children] to real money whenever we can,” she said.
For those who don’t regularly carry around cash, this is easier said than done. Frazier recommends starting off with smaller purchases like coffee or lunch at a restaurant. Show your kids the bill, help them count out money for payment and ask them to check if they received the correct change.
When you aren’t using physical money — like when you use a debit card for groceries or a check for a school fundraiser — treat those moments as opportunities to advance the money conversation.
“Start explaining the differences between what payment method you’re using — the debit card, credit card and cash — as you’re using it,” Frazier said. “They’re not going to totally understand everything in the beginning, but you just want to get them comfortable with the product.”
Once you feel your child has an understanding of money basics and has had plenty of interaction with physical cash, opening a bank account for your kid can serve as a good transition to working with online tools and digital transactions.
Fight the temptation to start an online account from the convenience of home. Visiting a brick-and-mortar bank or credit union is a better learning experience, Frazier said.
“Go to the bank together and have the banker explain to your child that you’re opening up an account,” she said. “At this point you can get a debit card and start using it together at the store or getting out money at the ATM. You can also look at the statements every month, or every week if you want to, and walk through what money you put in [and] what you took out.”
Opening a savings account is a good opportunity to introduce your kids to the concept of interest — how their money increases when they let their savings sit.
When introducing your kids to money management apps, Frazier recommends including them in the research to find one that is established, secure and engaging.
Conversations about money lessons for kids should stay positive and focus on useful information. If money stresses you out, do your best not to convey that to your children. Instead focus on the lessons you’ve learned from your financial mistakes. And don’t forget to tell your kids about your success and what goals you have.
It’s Never Too Late to Provide Money Lessons for Kids
Speaking of financial mistakes, Frazier said exposing your kids to money at an early age allows them to make mistakes when they’re young enough that the consequences aren’t so weighty.
Maybe they spend all their money on a trendy gadget that turns out to be a dud, or they give in to an impulse purchase that sets them back from saving for something they really want. The fallback from those choices isn’t as devastating as not having any savings when an emergency pops up as an adult.
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If you’ve missed out on teaching your kids about money in kindergarten and now they’re in their teenage years, it isn’t too late to start having personal finance discussions. As a financial planner, Frazier sees the negative consequences that come from people not being taught about money.
The Penny Hoarder conducted a financial literacy survey in March and found that adults who didn’t grow up learning about money made less income and had less savings than those who were exposed to financial literacy growing up.
Teaching your kids about money is the best gift you can give your children, Frazier said.
“They are going to learn it one way or the other so you want them to learn it the right way,” she said.
Give your children experiences with tangible money.
Include your kids in conversations about financial decisions.
Open a bank account for your kids to transition them to the world of digital finance.
Share your personal lessons, successes and goals with your children.
Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She already talks to her 4-year-old about money.
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