Do you want to study a TEFL / TESOL course online? Earn a TEFL / TESOL online certification to teach English online or teach and travel the world? If so, you’re in the right place.
With online courses starting from ≈$200 to over $20,000, it can be overwhelming! After 10+ years of teaching and having completed multiple courses/certifications myself; I’ll guide you through everything that you need to know.
You can compare them side-by-side and select the best one for you. Plus, you’ll learn what you’ll be able to teach at each level once you graduate – including TEFL, CELTA, Certificate IV, DELTA, Diploma and Higher Education qualifications.
DISCLAIMER: We use affiliate links and may receive a small fee for your referral (at no extra cost to you). Please see our Disclaimer. Prices are correct at date of publishing and are in Australia dollars (AUD) unless otherwise stated.
(Updated: November 2023).
Why I wrote this post…
A small group had gathered together on Zoom to discuss the first assessment for our post-graduate TESOL studies. Most of the group were experienced teachers and found the work challenging but exciting. Suddenly, mid-conversation, one of the students burst into tears. “I have no idea what I’m doing and I’ve just realised that I won’t get an opportunity to learn how to be a teacher…”
Later, I found out that she hadn’t done a lot of research and had started the course thinking that it would be like a ‘hands on’ Certificate IV or CELTA course; not realising that university courses are often far more theoretical. She left the course a few days later. This post is here so that you don’t spend thousands of dollars on something that isn’t right for you.
What is a TEFL / TESOL course?
Essentially, a TEFL / TESOL course/certification/qualification provides the fundamentals of how to teach or tutor one or more students from a non-English speaking background to improve their language skills, including grammar and pronunciation.
TEFL / TESOL courses take from 120 hours to 2 years to complete but can be done in as little as three weeks.
The main topics you’ll cover in the introductory courses (120 hour TEFL/Certificate IV in TESOL/CELTA) are:
- English grammar – think verbs, adjectives and nouns etc;
- Teaching basics such as: how to plan and deliver a lesson, manage students and conduct activities, games etc;
- Observation of a classroom and/or practice teaching (teaching classes to your fellow students or with real ESL learners).
The students may be located online or in-person, but the focus of this post is courses that can be completed 100% online.
The more advanced courses (Diploma or higher) will cover topics such as linguistics, English education within specific contexts and/or for developing skills required in managing other teachers.
Quickly, what do all these acronyms mean?
* TESOL – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
* (T)ESL – (Teaching) English as a Second Language
* (T)EFL – (Teaching) English as a Foreign Language
While there are technical differences, they are generally interchangeable.
TESOL is more commonly used in Australasia and TEFL internationally. CELTA/DELTA are equivalent qualifications provided by Cambridge Assessment English (UK) that is widely recognised in the English speaking world.
TESOL in Australia and New Zealand refers to both the general “field in which teachers provide English language instruction to people living in an English speaking country” and the online courses and certifications discussed in this post.
The course is what you’ll be studying and the certificate/certification/qualification is what you’ll receive once you graduate.
Should I study a TEFL / TESOL course or certification online?
This post is focused on courses that are offered 100% online – but – if you thrive in an environment with other people and think a face-to-face course would be better, many of the following courses have hybrid (online + in-person) versions.
Are online TESOL courses valid?
Yes, an accredited online TEFL / TESOL certification is equally valid to one completed offline. The main difference is that the teaching practice occurs online instead of in-person. If you plan on teaching online, there is a distinct benefit to this, as you’ll be more prepared for your first online class. Online courses are more convenient and can be done from the comfort of home.
What is 'teaching practice' and do I need it?
Many TEFL / TESOL courses provide an opportunity to practice teaching to a class to your fellow teachers or real students. See if your course offers teaching practice (also called a ‘practicum’) below. This is usually via video call and you are often provided feedback on how you went. If given the option, we recommend that go with any practice teaching opportunities, especially if you don’t have any previous tutoring, mentoring or coaching experience. If you’ve never taught before, this experience is invaluable.
It’s important to note that many post-graduate online TESOL courses/certifications/qualifications DO NOT come with the required teaching practice required to teach in Australia, according to NEAS guidelines. If you want to teach in Australia, make sure you confirm that the included teaching practice meets any requirements beforehand (more below).
What are my TEFL / TESOL course options?
TEFL, Certificate IV, CELTA, DELTA and Diploma
A 120 hour TEFL is a short course [O] designed to give you an introduction to the field. It isn’t as involved as the higher-level courses, but is inexpensive and can be completed in as little as three weeks! Best for roles online or overseas (but it is best to check the requirements of the role before you apply). You can also purchase additional extras and upgrades for more in-depth learning.
If you are uncertain about teaching English and you want to “wet your feet”, a course like a 120 hour TEFL [O] from Premier TEFL (Ireland) will be a great introduction for roughly the price of one single unit of Certificate IV. There are no Australasian providers currently running this course, but we recommend Premier TEFL as their practice teaching sessions are conveniently held on Saturday and Sunday evenings (AEST). Use the code [TEO.AU] for an extra 15% off at checkout! Check out their course here.
ASQA is the regulatory body that ensures quality for all accredited courses and the process to have a course accredited in Australia is extremely rigorous. Organisations must be registered to deliver these courses and are regularly audited to ensure consistent and relevant content.
The next step up is a Certificate IV in TESOL [AC] – an Australasian certification (AQF Level 4) – and the CELTA [O] certificate (UK). There is some debate on which is better, but a Certificate IV in TESOL is best if you might want to teach in Australasia in the future, as it is accredited by an Australian authority. If you plan on teaching online or abroad, both are sufficient.
TESOL is usually undertaken over a longer period, providing time in between ‘learning’ for further reading, research and putting into practice what has been learnt. The CELTA is about twice the price, so you are somewhat paying for the CELTA ‘brand’, it isn’t Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) accredited and has slightly higher entry requirements; you must apply and be approved to take the course. CELTA is also often undertaken as an ‘intensive’ course crammed into a shorter period.
So while the 120 hour TEFL [O] covers the basics, a Certificate IV in TESOL [AC] from TESOL Australia – for example – includes topics such as how to assess language learning and how to help learners to improve their pronunciation, speech and grammar.
If you want to study with an accredited Australian provider, TESOL Australia currently offer the lowest cost Certificate IV in TESOL [AC] in Australia. They can also arrange “6 hours of teaching practice with 8 or more ESL learners”, or “mentoring and supervising by a fully qualified ESL teacher and TESOL Assessor with ESL students and virtual classroom set up provided” – perfect for new or beginner online English teachers. Check out their course here.
Low-medium cost TEFL / TESOL online courses + certifications:
All prices are Australian Dollars (AUD), correct at the publishing date. Tables best viewed with a computer, not mobile. #Code: FREECIV21
Graduate Certificate, Diploma, Master's (and even a PhD)
The next step up is a Diploma in TESOL [AC]. If you want additional practice teaching and more in-depth learning opportunities, this is a good choice. A DELTA [O] has stricter entry requirements than the lower-level courses, so double check your eligibility.
Basically, each course is a step above the previous one, adding more in-depth study and potential for research.
Postgraduate TESOL courses can be from 1-4 semesters (~6 months to two years) and can cost easily cost $20,000+. As I mentioned earlier, a number of my fellow students dropped out after a few weeks once they realised that the course was more academic than practical. Postgraduate study is often very theoretical. TESOL can also come under a number of post-graduate degrees in Education, Adult Education, Teaching and Applied Linguistics. Each has a slightly different focus so it’s best to check them out carefully and ask questions of your provider on whether this is the best option for your particular career plans.
If you want to teach in a Primary or Secondary classroom in Australia/New Zealand, you’ll need a Bachelor of Education (TESOL) or a Bachelor’s degree + selected postgraduate TESOL qualification. Check with the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) or Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand. All Bachelor of Education courses (and Higher Education courses leading to Australian teacher registration) require in-person teaching practice, so I won’t be covering them in detail here
Medium-high cost TEFL / TESOL online courses + certifications:
These courses are for those who are more serious about TESOL as a career. There are a number of university course providers and they vary in price. This is just an example of a few providers for comparison purposes.
Some other universities providing the Graduate Certificate level courses (and higher) completely online include:
University of Canberra
Charles Sturt University
Edith Cowan University
Massey University (NZ)
University of New England
Southern Cross University
University of Woolongong
What can I use my TEFL/TESOL online certification to teach?
Other certifications that you have (in addition to your TESOL/TEFL certification) will affect what you can or cannot teach once you have graduated, as well the level of certification you decide to do. If you are also a qualified Primary or Secondary teacher, you will have the most opportunities, for example. Other qualifications in Education will also be beneficial, such as a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. This is a general guide:
If you want to teach in Australia in a company/institute, university or government program, it’s best to check with your course provider that it meets NEAS requirements. Their site gives detailed information about course requirements, but you’ll usually need a Bachelor’s degree + a TESOL qualification with approved teaching practice.
The TESOL association in your state/country can also give you more information about state requirements: QATESOL, ATESOL NSW, VicTESOL, ATESOL NT, WATESOL, TasTESOL, SATESOL or TESOLANZ (New Zealand). University courses don’t always lead to national or state teaching registration either, so if you are considering teaching TESOL (EAL/D) in the primary or high school classroom, please confirm this with your university beforehand.
If you want to teach ONLINE at an overseas company/institute/university to students located abroad, you’ll need to confirm individual requirements, as they vary widely – but generally – a certification like a 120 hour TEFL [O] is usually sufficient for online positions, especially entry-level ones. A course like the Certificate IV in TESOL [AC], CELTA [O] may help you secure a higher rate, and would likely be the minimum required for formal in-person teaching.
The demand for online English teachers is growing. If you’re interested in teaching English online, read our ULTIMATE TEACH ENGLISH ONLINE GUIDE or check out our list of the top 50 highest paying online English teaching jobs.
If you want to teach privately/independently/freelance to students located in Australia and/or overseas, all courses will suffice (120 hour TEFL, Cert IV, CELTA, DELTA, Diploma or HigherEd) and your choice comes down to your existing experience, budget and how seriously you are considering a TESOL career. Success as an independent teacher is equally about good teaching and strong business, sales and marketing skills. I offer coaching to support those who want to start their own business, having done so for the last decade. Please get in touch if you’re interested.
If you want to teach overseas in person or teach online from inside another country (yes, that’s a thing) – I recommend researching the country, looking at some job ads, joining groups of expat English teachers and asking about what qualifications are expected in that particular country. It varies so much from country to country and job to job! For many places, a 120 hour TEFL [O] certificate will be accepted, while others require a Master’s degree.
The higher the education/economic levels in that country, the higher the requirements will be for teachers. In developing nations, you might find a job without a lick of experience or anything more than a 120 hour TEFL [O] certification. In other English speaking countries, The Middle East and much of Europe (for example), a Bachelor’s degree + AC/post-graduate qualifications will likely be the minimum. Again, it varies so much that it’s difficult to give a simple answer, so please do your research.
Which online TESOL / TEFL course should I study?
As you’ve seen, there are quite a few options and the right one will be based on your circumstances and what you want to do with English language teaching in the future. Here are a few things to consider before signing up:
- If you want a low-cost, quick, entry-level course, consider a 120 hour TEFL [O] course;
- If you want a mid-range priced course with some practice teaching, consider a Certificate IV in TESOL [AC] or CELTA [O];
- If you want more practice teaching and more in-depth knowledge, a Diploma in TESOL [AC] might be for you.
- If you want to move into higher-level ESL teaching/coordination, consider a Diploma in TESOL [AC] or DELTA [O].
- Postgraduate study [AC] might be best if you are serious about a long-term TESOL career, academia or a leadership position.
I hope this helped clarify the different TEFL / TESOL courses and certificates available to you. Having been in the field now for over ten years, I cannot recommend a good certification enough – especially as a new or beginner teacher. Teaching fundamentals and the foundations of the English language are more complicated than they first seem.
A good TEFL / TESOL course will set you up for success from day one and you’ll be confident and prepared for what your students throw at you. For experienced teachers, higher level study can be an amazing challenge, propel you to greater heights in your career and offer opportunities to do important research.
So what are you waiting for? Go out there and do a TEFL / TESOL course online. You’re able to study an online course that might open up a work from home opportunity, a new career or the ability to travel the world.
Kate (GradCertEd TESOL) studied a TESOL certificate in 2010 and has been teaching English ever since. Tutoring ‘freelance’ for many years before starting an independent teaching business, she began Teach English Online to support Australians and New Zealanders to do the same. Just starting out, want to apply to one of the 300+ global companies or build your own small independent teaching business? She can help.