120 Hour TEFL Certification Beginners Guide

Way back in 2011 I got a TEFL certificate in Chaing Mai Thailand. They offer the certificate as part of a job placement program. I had no intentions of living in Thailand but once I went I loved it and wanted to stay.

That simple decision has led me on a path of adventure, travel and entreprenurship. It’s also future proofed me for the various inevitable changes that happen in ESL. What at one time was a suggestion eventually becomes a legal requirement.

This is the case with TEFL / TESOL certification for online teaching with companies like VIPKID, Magic Ears, SayABC and GoGo Kid.

A TEFL certificate was easily one of the best investments I’ve made. It has allowed me to travel, made me a better teacher and now allows me to teach English online without worry of any ever changing Chinese regulations.

If you’re needing a TEFL certificate, this ultimate guide will cover everything you need to know.

TEFL Meaning

First, what does TEFL mean exactly? A TEFL is the abreviation for “teach English as a Foreign language” certificate. This certificate should be accredited by and educational body in Europe or the United States. TEFL certificates can be for varrying hours – 90, 120 or 150 hours.

Here at TeachandGo.co we suggest getting a 120 hour course. This is the standard requirement any school abroad will have upon employment as well as what is expected to meet the new Chinese regulations for online teachers.


TEFL and TESOL are simply competing certificate programs. TESOL stands for “teach English to speakers of other languages.” In hiring practice, schools and online teaching companies are not particular if you have one or the other.

So long as you have a 120 hour certificate to teach English that is what is required.

If you’re curious about the technical difference between the two this what they are in practice:


The TEFL certificate is designed for teaching English as a foreign language in other countries. So if you’re an English teacher in Japan for example, the native language is Japanese while English is a foreign language.


The TESOL certificate is designed to teach English to people who don’t speak English as a native language. Ideally, this is more aimed at immigrants and foreign nationals on a long term vsa from non-native English speaking country.

How to Get a TEFL Certificate

To get a TEFL certificate takes a bit of time and money. There are three main ways to obtain a TEFL certificate. You can now do an online course, an in-house course in your home country like Canada or America or you can do a program abroad:

  • Get Your TEFL Online
  • Do a TEFL course in your home country
  • Complete a TEFL program abroad

Get a TEFL Online

The online option is the cheapest option and is perfect for teachers who have famlies, careers and are already teaching English online but just need to get a TEFL certificate so they can meet various legal requirements.

An online TEFL give you exactly the same certificate at the end of the program as doing a program in person but at a fraction of the cost. The downside is that doing the course online you lose out on interacting with other learners.

I found actually being in a class and doing mock lesson while in Chaing Mai to be very valuable in preparing me for teaching English as a second language (ESL). But again, it depends on your situation.

If you simply need a certificate for online teaching the online option is the cheapest, quickest and best.

Do a TEFL course in your home country

The worst option generally speaking. The price of a TEFL course in your home country costs the same as doing it abroad but without the job placement help. If you’re wanting to teach English abroad but have no experience teaching or traveling these sorts of courses help you get setup in a foreign country with ease.

But if you do it in person in your home country you simply miss out on all the aspects that make a TEFL course abroad so fun and helpful. Being around other travelers, in a new country and new culture and you get a job lined up for you so you can get setup in the country.

Complete a TEFL program abroad

The best option if you’re wanting to teach abroad for the first time. These course are fun, located somewhere interesting, you get job placement and you learn how to be an effective ESL teacher.

Lastly, these programs are also accredited. Again, if you just need a certificate for online teaching then do the online option. But if you’ve been wanting to teach English abroad it’s a great idea to get a TEFL certificate through a program run in a foreign country.

These programs offer both job placement and they help you get setup in a foreign country.

How long does a TEFL certification take

If you do an intensive program abroad where you meet 5 days a week you can complete a TEFL certification program in as little as 3 weeks.

For most online TEFL programs and programs in your home country expect a 120 hours TEFL certification program to take 6 weeks.

This is a certification process so do expect a small time commitment in order to learn how to be an ESL teacher.

TEFL Certification Requirements

TEFL certification courses do have a few minimum requirements you must meet in order to complete the course.

First you must be at least 18 years old with a high school diploma or equivalent. If you happen to be a non native English speaker you must have a language proficency level of B1 according to the Common European Framework.

120 Hour vs 150 Hour TEFL Course

TEFL courses come in 100 hour, 120 hour and 150 hour programs. The standard is 120 hours. This is what is expected for online teaching companies as well as schools abroad. Most ESL teachers have a 120 TEFL certificate as it’s the standard laid out in the ESL industry.

If you decided to go the 150 hour route that of course is a more compehensive course but don’t register for a 100 hour course as you don’t want to take the time to obtain a certificate that potentially not be valid to meet the legal requirements for being an ESL teacher.

TEFL Accreditation explained

The goal of a any TEFL program is to in part help you be a better teacher but to also give you actual accreditation so you can meet the various legal standards foreign countries set for ESL teachers.

For TEFL certificates their are a few recognized accrediting bodies for TEFL certification courses:

  • Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET) 
  • British Government RQF Level 5 (OFQUAL)

ACCET – The standard for global TEFL certification programs

Programs outside the United Kingdom should be ACCET certified. ACCET was founded in 1974 and is recognized by the United States department of Education as a “reliable authority” in the area of teaching English as a foreign language.


The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation is the UK’s governing body that recognizes the legitimicy of a TEFL course. You want your course to be either recognized by ACCET or OFQUAL as these two governing bodies have the highest standards.

Other TEFL Accreditation providers

In practice most employers are not concerned with the accrediting body behind your TEFL course. But if you’re going to be spending the money and time to get a TEFL certificate you might as well get a certificate that is recognized by the United States or the United Kingdom.

Best TEFL Certification

At TeachandGo.co we’ve partnered with two TEFL providers. One is ACCET certified the other is certified by OFQUAL. The two providers are:

  • International TEFL Academy
  • Bridge Education

International TEFL Academy

International TEFL Academy is an organization that specializes in running TEFL programs all over the world. From beautiful Chaing Mai Thailand to courses in Europe or South America.

If you’ve been looking to do a TEFL course that includes job placement this is the best company to go with.

Based out of Chicago, they only hire people who have actual ESL experience and once a year the whole company takes off to travel.

In addition, International TEFL Academy provides the support and training you need to be successful as an ESL instructor. So if you’re looking to simply do a high quality, certified online course or you’re in the mood for an adventure.

International TEFL Academy is an excellent choice. Get free information here.

Bridge.edu – ACCET Certified

Bridge.edu is another excellent provider of TEFL certification. While not as popular at International TEFL Academy we particularly liked their 120 hour online class option as this is an ideal option for online teachers who are simply looking to get a TEFL certificate to stay compliant with online teaching.

To get started, simply visit this link, click “enroll now” and you complete the checkout process. You’ll then have access to their online TEFL course.

Is a TEFL Worth It?

A TEFL is worth getting. When I first jumped into the ESL industry back in 2011 a TEFL was a good idea but not required. Over time however, regulations become more strict and more is required of potential ESL teachers.

20 years ago you could get away with just being an American and that was enough to get you a job teaching English. Then it changed to needing a degree, then needing a some sort of teaching certification.

Getting a TEFL with International TEFL Academy or Bridge is a good idea because it future proofs you against ever growing industry changes. ITA is also an amazing option if you want to get started teaching and traveling.