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TEFL: an introduction

One of the most common reasons for moving abroad is to work as an English language teacher. You can find schools teaching English in almost any country, and many of them employ native English speakers to do the work.

There are thousands of English teachers in every corner of the world and still many jobs available for newcomers without experience. For the teacher it not only offers a fantastic opportunity to live and work in another country and experience their culture, but also a lot in terms of job satisfaction. When you see a class go from speaking and understanding nothing in English whatsoever to having conversations and discussions with you, it’s a great feeling.

This three-part article introduces the subject and will give you a good idea of the opportunities out there as well as what you need to get started in the TEFL industry.

Before beginning

Before beginning, just a quick word on acronyms you’ll find here which are common in the TEFL industry.

TEFL is a commonly used acronym for Teaching English as a Foreign Language, i.e. teaching English to people whose mother tongue isn’t English. You’ll also see TESL – Teaching English as a Second Language – and TESOL – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

However for all intents and purposes these three can be considered the same. They all mean standing in front of a class of students teaching them how to speak English!


Although each country has its own specific requirements for English teachers, generally speaking the first thing you’ll need is a degree, which is a legal requirement for a work permit in most countries.

The degree can be in almost any subject although when you apply for the job you may find that some schools prefer English or language-related degrees. (If you don’t have a degree, however, you can still find work teaching without one; see here for more on this.)

The next thing you’ll need is a TEFL Certificate. This is awarded after a short course which teaches you the basics of how to teach English, classroom management, lesson planning, and so on. The ICAL TEFL Certificate is offered online, which means you can learn at your own pace and take the course from anywhere in the world – at US$ 265 it is also ideal for people on a budget.

Part Two: Choosing a country

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