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Is a TEFL/TESOL certificate absolutely, positively necessary to get a teaching job abroad? Well, yes and no; read on to find out more.
If you've been hanging around in online TEFL forums, you've probably wandered across a conversation about whether you really need a TEFL or TESOL qualification. It's a natural enough question: after all, you may well be planning a stint teaching abroad because you can't afford to travel without working. And the truth is, in most countries you can secure a teaching position without a TEFL qualification. The question is - do you really want to?
You can always throw yourself in at the deep end. You know, just start teaching without any preparation and see how well you do. But that's a pretty scary thought isn't it? Without a TEFL course or TESOL training how will you know if what you're doing is right? And just imagine walking into a classroom full of students and having nothing to say - it'd be like that nightmare where you turn up at school naked!
Some hopeful teachers just dismiss it as a really (REALLY) steep learning curve. But remember, you won't have anyone to shadow and it's difficult to learn from the other teachers if you can't watch them in action. You'll certainly learn from your mistakes, but how many will you have to make to equal 120 hours of focused TEFL training?
Perhaps more importantly, starting to teach without TEFL or TESOL training really isn't fair on your class. They deserve the best teaching possible and if you aren't prepared, if you don't know what to expect, they simply won't get it. Even if you're planning to travel to a country that doesn't demand a TEFL or TESOL qualification, you should seriously consider getting one.
Many reputable language schools simply won't employ you without a TEFL of TESOL qualification. This may mean that you have to accept a job from a less reliable institution - something we really wouldn't recommend. In more developed countries, finding TEFL jobs without a qualification can be extremely difficult and you'll probably spend weeks searching for work once you've arrived, with no chance of organising your position before you travel.
A TEFL course ticks important boxes. You'll get more opportunities to convince schools to hire you and you'll know exactly what to do during telephone interviews. So even though a TEFL or TESOL course isn't essential, it is important.
What's more, a TEFL or TESOL course will make you stand out from the crowd. Language schools might not ask for them, but you can bet that applicants with a TEFL qualification go in one pile, while those without go in another.
If you want to make things a little easier on yourself, a TEFL or TESOL qualification is the place to start. You don't have to take a full-time 4 week course; a 20 hour weekend course or a 100 hour online course may be enough. And the time and money will be worth it in the end. Not only will you be well prepared, you'll probably be able to get a better paid job, too.