Published 19th July 2019
They say that life is what you make it, and doing a TEFL course is no different. How quickly you can get certified is up to you! Just as we cannot definitively tell you how much you can earn teaching English abroad, so we cannot tell you how quickly you can become TEFL certified and begin teaching English abroad.
It’s not because we don’t want to let you in on our secrets, but rather because it totally depends on circumstances. Just as your salary will depend on where you are teaching, and possibly also your qualifications and experience, so the amount of time it’ll take you to get TEFL certified depends on you.
Let’s look at your different options.
How long is a 120-hour course?
This is actually not a trick question. A TEFL course may or may not take you 120 hours. Even if it says 120 hours on the tin it doesn’t always mean that’s what’s inside.
A 120-hour course is the most common TEFL course. It’s not the shortest TEFL course you can take but we don’t recommend doing a course that is shorter than 120 hours because that will hurt your chances of finding a job – which kinda defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?
A full-time in-class 120 hour TEFL certificate cannot take you longer or shorter than 120 hours. You attend classes and do teaching practicals and it all adds up to 120 hours. In this case the 120 hours will take place over four weeks.
However, there is the option of doing a part-time 120 hour TEFL course. You will still be attending classes and doing teaching practicals, but the 120 hours will be spread over a number of weeknights or weekends. While it is still only 120 hours of classroom time, it may take you a few months to complete.
How long is an online TEFL course?
If you decide to go the online TEFL course route (and why shouldn’t you?) then it really does depend on you. You could choose to go the chilled route and do an hour a day (because life), in which case it should take you three months, or take time out and do it as close to full-time as possible, in which case it should take you about a month.
Of course, with online TEFL courses you might find yourself taking longer or shorter than 120 hours, depending on whether you find the content of the course challenging or not, and how much extra reading you do.
Remember that not all TEFL courses are created equal. You want to be mindful of which course you choose so that you can be sure you are getting the most bang for your buck. If you finish your 120 hour course in a weekend you won’t feel very confident applying for jobs, let alone stepping into a classroom.
Can I do more than 120 hours?
A number of online TEFL courses offer more than 120 hours. This is usually in the form of additional modules you can take. While not strictly necessary, many wannabe TEFL teachers feel that doing these modules will give them more confidence in the classroom. These modules can include teaching Young Learners, teaching Business English or Advanced Grammar. Considering the TEFL course is a general, broad course, doing any extra modules won’t hurt your CV.
Now that you have your TEFL, now what?
But these 120 hours are just for getting your TEFL certificate. In order to begin teaching English abroad there are a few more hoops to jump through. Like finding a job! Once again, finding a job can take a day or a year. It all depends on how hard you are looking, how many applications you send out and how long the interview process is. Sometimes it can be a whirlwind process of a week or so, but it’s more likely to take a few weeks from application to interview to job offer.
Then when you have a job offer you need to deal with paperwork. Visa, travel insurance, criminal check, certifying degrees – this can all take a couple of weeks. Then there are the life issues you need to deal with – saving money to buy flights and for start-up costs, giving notice for your rent or finding new tenants, packing.
If you want to put a final number on it, all in all the process from starting a TEFL course to your first day of school will probably take about six months up to a year. That may sound like a long time but when you consider how long it would usually take to get certified in any other job and pack up your life and emigrate, then six months isn’t actually a long time. Especially if you start today!