Thursday, October 11, 2007

To TEFL or not to TEFL? (Part I)

Right, so I think I'll start by answering the question that many people have asked me in the past: Is it worth getting a TEFL certificate?

There's no clear-cut answer on this, as a lot of it depends on your personality and teaching experience. It also depends on your financial situation. Over the next few posts, I'll talk about some of the factors to consider when deciding whether to do a TEFL course.

To start off, think about what country you want to teach in. There are a lot of countries that are so desperate for English teachers that they will take you without a TEFL certificate (especially if you have a university degree or higher). To get an idea of the requirements for different countries, take a look at Web sites likes (where you can search by country) or Browse through the ads for the country or countries that interest you, and you'll be able to see which are more demanding.

That being said, remember that a lot of times academies put certain requirements in their ads either in the hope of attracting the most highly-qualified teachers or to appear to be meeting certain requirements (e.g., in Spain, a lot of schools claim they will only hire EU citizens, but it's just a scam so they don't get in trouble with the authorities -- more on that later).

In Spain, there is still a lot of demand for English teachers, especially outside of the bigger cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, Valencia, and Bilbao. If you don't mind living in a pueblo in the middle of Andalusia, you can probably get an English teaching job without having your TEFL certificate. Even in Madrid, you can find work without it, though the conditions might not be as great (I'll get to this later as well). So a TEFL certificate is not 100% necessary, but it might be your ticket to a higher paying job. In addition, most TEFL training schools will give you some sort of job placement help, whether it's direct placement in their network of schools or a list of schools that have previously hired graduates of that TEFL program.

In fact, the job placement help might be the most useful part of a TEFL program. I would have been twiddling my thumbs for a good five months after my TEFL course had it not been for some connections from the school that landed me a summer camp job and some substitution classes to keep me busy until the end of the school year.

So, first thing to consider: Is a TEFL certificate a pre-requisite for getting a job in Japan / China / Thailand / Saudi Arabia / Brazil / Czech Republic / or wherever it is you want to teach? If it is absolutely necessary, and you are dead set on that country, then it's a no-brainer -- the only thing to worry about then is which school to use. If it's not necessary, you need to decide whether it's worth the investment, because these courses can be pretty pricey. More on that next time.

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