Do I need a TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA?

The Best ESL Certifications for 2023

If you want to teach online, you might wonder, “What certification is needed to become an English teacher?” Answer: a TEFL is probably enough.

Do you need certification?

First, make sure you even need a certification. In 2023, some ESL companies require certification, but others don’t.

If you want to widen the pool of companies that will hire you, then getting a TEFL is a great good idea. Just remember, you might not have to get one.

Check with the companies you are applying to and find out their requirements.

You can search for companies that don’t require any certification by using this chart.

What is the Best ESL Certification to Become an English Teacher? For a beginning, TEFL online teacher, a 120-hour TESOL, TEFL, TESL, or CELTA certificate* is absolutely sufficient.

For most companies hiring online teachers, a 120-hour TEFL certificate is absolutely sufficient.

Types of Certifications to Teach English

There are many E.S.L certification programs to choose from.

The certification course you choose will depend on who you want to teach. Also, of course, it depends on what you can afford.

Broadly speaking, there are three types of people looking to get an online ESL teacher certification:

You can never understand one language until you understand at least two.

Geoffrey Willans

Beginner Teacher: Certification

This is you: “I am taking my first baby steps into the world of E.S.L teaching and I am broke.”

For a beginning, TEFL online teacher, a 120-hour TEFL, TESL, or CELTA certificate* is absolutely sufficient. It will get you hired and get you started on the ground floor.

Best and Cheapest TEFL

The cheapest and easiest way to get your TEFL is to sign up for Full Circle.

  • TEFL Full Circle 160-hour course (with young learners certificate). It costs about $200 in 2023. Sometimes, Groupon has discounts for it. As of now, in August 2023, they have a 10% discount through their website, too. Sign up with Groupon and it will be $30

That’s because they offer an online course that fulfills the minimum requirements of most employers for online English teachers. Most companies accept a 120-hour course.

The TEFL Full Circle course will fulfill these requirements and get you started teaching English online immediately.

Is TEFL Full Circle Legit?

Yes. TEFL Full Circle is legit. Many online schools and companies will accept it. In fact, this online course will fulfill the certification requirement for most online ESL teacher employer requirements. The course is rigorous but you can follow your own pace.

The bottom line is this: if you are new to teaching English and you just want to try it out, then don’t spend a lot of money on an online certification course. Find out the bare minimum that is necessary for the company you want to work for. How many hours do they require for your certificate? It is probably 120 or 160 hours. If so, you are set to go.

Experienced Teacher: Certification

Next, I suggest a CELTA or more if you are an experienced teacher.

This is you: “I have my PhD in linguistics, MA in E.S.L, BA in English and ten years or more of classroom experience. How do I demonstrate to employers that I can transition to online teaching?”

Still, you might not even need an online certificate at all

Again, if you can demonstrate years of classroom experience, some companies will hire you as long as you pass the demo class.

In the demo class, you will demonstrate whether or not you are able to successfully translate your classroom teaching techniques into an equally dynamic, engaging, video screen. A lot of smiles, props, modeling, and fantastic Total Physical Response (not to be confused with the aforementioned modeling) will wow your interviewer and get you the gig.

How to get a Master in teaching English.

This is you: “I have my 160-hour TEFL certificate and years of experience teaching adults or kids online, but how can I command more pay?”

Focusing precisely on the employer or student base you want is the best way to know if a MA in TESOL is worth it for you. If you want a job in higher education (at the college or university level), then an in-person, expensive, 2-year minimum MA program is necessary. This is the minimum graduate degree level certification that you will require. Likewise, if you are sure English teaching is a life-long career for you, as opposed to a transitional job or a part-time job, then pursuing graduate school is the best option.

There are many online MA courses that you can take. The previously linked site lists a few common ones. Research your local state college and graduate programs to see if they offer some distance courses. In the COVID-19 era, there may be more online options.

If you want to level up your online teaching, then the next step is a graduate degree. Usually, these programs require in-person classroom components, but some accept distant learners. Expect to pay anything from $5000-$20,000 or more, as this is a fully fleshed-out graduate program.

If you want to learn more about certifications, you can read these related posts I wrote.

Ingrid Maria Pimsner, MA, BA, TEFL
Ingrid Maria Pimsner, MA, BA, TEFL

Ingrid Maria Pimsner has been teaching for over a decade in various universities, nonprofits, and private academies. She has taught English as a Second Language for Lutheran Children & Family Service, Nationalities Service Center, Lernstudio Barbarossa Berlin-Tegel, and more. In addition to her Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Certification, she holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a MA from Maryland Institute College of Art.