Which teaching certificate should I get?

Almost every online school has either a firm requirement or a strong recommendation for a “120+ hour” TESOL, TEFL, or CELTA certificate with a certificate number. There are plenty to choose from and we’ve researched this quite thoroughly, so allow us to narrow it down to 2 choices for you. If you’re new to teaching, we’d suggest that you start with Option A, get some teaching experience, and then consider a more substantial course in the future.

Option A: The quick & easy International Open Academy 120 hour TESOL certificate ($19, 3-5 hours)

Despite having “120 hour” in the name, this course takes most people about 3-5 hours to complete it. It also costs only $19. It will fulfill the teaching certificate requirement for every online school we know of, as well as most offline schools.

A few notes about this course:

  • You might be shown a price of €19 or £19, but when it’s time to check out & pay, the total will be $19 USD worth of whatever currency you’re paying with.
  • If, for whatever reason, you prefer a TEFL, this one also costs $19 and takes about 3-5 hours to finish. TESOL and TEFL are equal qualifications and they both qualify you for every online school we’re aware of.
  • The quizzes at the end of the modules can be tricky, as some of the questions focus on minor details. You may find it useful to copy & paste the module content into something like MS Word, Google Docs, or OneNote, in order to turn the quizzes into open-book quizzes. You need at least a score of 55% to pass the course.
  • When you finish the course, There is no extra cost for getting your certificate. Go to the main menu of the TESOL course, and click the link on the left that says Certificate (PDF).
  • Some people have different views about this course, because it only takes about 3-5 hours and costs $19. Our objective with this program is to help you maximize your chances of success, while streamlining the whole process. We don’t believe in cutting corners, but we do believe there are better ways to learn teaching skills than with an online certification course. A longer, more expensive certification course would not have been ideal for us. We would have been better off investing that time into gaining real teaching experience, even in a volunteer setting. We also believe that any kind of course for learning teaching skills is more effective after you have some experience already, because it’s relatable. If you feel that you need to take a more substantial certification course, you are welcome to do so. Please note that it won’t qualify you for any additional online schools, and you need to make sure you’ll receive a certificate with a certificate number when you’re finished with it. Additionally, if you don’t have teaching experience yet and want to go this route, we’d encourage you to complete this course, gain some teaching experience, and then gradually complete the longer course while you continue to teach.

Option B: The substantial TEFLPros 120 Hour Digital TEFL Course ($349, ~120 hours)

Those of you with plans to do a significant amount of teaching in your life might consider a more meaningful form of training. I would say this option is more suitable to people who’d like to teach in a traditional classroom setting, either now or in the future.

Please take your time with this decision, because it’s a big investment. Not with the $349, but with your time.

Check out this page to read some reviews about this course.

The challenge of doing your own research

In general, doing your own research is a great way to learn about various topics and make good choices. Choosing an online school to apply to is, for the most part, an exception.

If doing your own research was a viable option, this coaching program would have never been built. Doing your own research will give you some general sense of the industry and some basic info about a few well-known schools, but it can’t be relied upon when deciding which school to apply to.

The vocal minority
Every online school has some number of unsatisfied teachers who vent their frustrations online. Every online school also has, in much greater numbers, satisfied teachers who have no inclination to post anything. There are some legitimate complaints out there, but the frequency of negative and positive comments online doesn’t reflect reality.

Additionally, it’s worth stating that your value to the company you work for is strongly defined by your ability to retain students. This is what generates profits for the company in the long-term. Do all teachers retain students effectively? Of course not. Will some of those who have trouble with this feel frustrated and inclined to vent online? Absolutely. Will some prospective teachers who submit an application unsuccessfully feel frustrated and inclined to vent online? Absolutely, even if they don’t meet the minimum requirements of the school.

So, over all, take these reviews and posts with a big grain of salt, and recognize that the data doesn’t represent the real picture

Biased recommendations
Everyone is acting in their own best interests here, and that adds to the challenge of doing your own research. If someone writes a positive review for the online school they work for, with a referral link included, while having little or no experience with other schools, is that information usable? Absolutely not. Their knowledge base is incomplete, which is a deal breaker on its own, and they also have an incentive to praise their own school.

Online content with incorrect information
I’ve researched over 50 online schools and I can tell you from experience that the information out there is very scattered and frequently flat-out wrong. You could look at multiple websites, including the online school’s official site, and still end up with incomplete and conflicting information.

I’ve put a great deal of time into building complete sets of information for every online school I research. This includes personal teaching experience and direct conversations with the online school staff members. 

Qualified, accurate information about which online school to choose requires 2 fundamental things

  • The person sharing the information needs to have an abundance of knowledge about a wide variety of online schools.
  • The person sharing the information needs to understand and personally attend to the individual teacher’s unique set of qualifications and preferences.

How do I ace my interview & demo class?

Our step-by-step guides for the schools will contain the specific details for that school, but here is some general info:

Invest your time
Be willing to invest your time into preparing. Think for a moment about how important it is to you to be hired as an online teacher. How many hours would you be willing to spend to get approved rather than rejected? Probably more hours than it actually requires. Let your preparation reflect how important this teaching position is to you.

Spread your preparation out over a few days
That university style cramming session right beforehand doesn’t work and it’s not fun either. This is something called “masked practice”, where the brain feels like it knows the info, but in reality it doesn’t. Do a handful of shorter preparation sessions over a few days so that you can become truly prepared.

Use your webcam on your PC/laptop or your phone’s video camera and record yourself doing the interview & demo class. After you stop the recording, put yourself into the shoes of the staff member who will watch this and judge your performance. If anything needs to be improved, it should be pretty clear.

Things to do during the interview & demo class (and things to practice)

  • Be yourself, but an enthusiastic & high-energy version of yourself. Have a coffee beforehand if it helps.
  • Smile
  • Show energy and enthusiasm
  • Speak slowly during your demo class if your imaginary student is a kid, since their English level is lower.
  • Minimize your incidental language. “Today’s lesson is going to be about ___ and we’re going to start with an exercise where we ___” Don’t do that. It’s confusing to the student and totally counter-productive.
  • Use TPR (total physical response) during your demo class. That is essentially a type of body language for teaching, which enhances the learning process for young students. Watch this to learn more:

Anything else?
Your accent will dramatically affect your chances of getting hired. This is especially true for non-natives. I conduct the interviews myself for one of the online schools I’m partnered with, and the most common reason candidates fail their interviews is their accent.

One more thing – This might sound a little “out there” but bear with me for a moment. A daily meditation practice works wonders for interviewing, for teaching, and for many other areas of a person’s life. It will help you stay focused and present. You will genuinely enjoy teaching more, and your students will enjoy your lessons more. The difference between 0 minutes of meditation a day and 5-10 minutes of meditation a day is truly remarkable.