Note: We are informed by Chinese ESL companies. Starting March 2019, all teachers require a teaching certificate (TEFL/TESOL/CELTA/Licensed Teacher) to be hired by Chinese ESL companies, including both Online teaching and Teach Abroad in China. It’s a new legal requirement by the Chinese government. 

One of the questions that we get asked a lot is do I need a certificate to teach online? The short answer is yes, but probably not for the reason you are thinking. The reason why, in our opinion, is that if you have the right program it will make you a better teacher. Of course, it also helps as well when you’re applying if you have a teaching certificate.

That being said, there are multiple types of certification that you can get for online and offline teaching. The certificate that we will cover today is the Teaching English as a Foreign Language(TEFL) certificate which can be obtained online with little difficulty. Do not confuse this with the TOEFL test which students take in order to get a job or get into a university.

Showing employers that you have taken the effort to get a TEFL will put you in a better position. If you already have a degree in teaching English then, of course, this does not apply. If you have taught English overseas without a TEFL it is still a good recommendation that you obtain one for teaching in the online world. Again, it shows that you put forth the effort, and with the right program, you will become a better teacher.

Types of TEFL and ESL Teaching Programs

There are TEFL courses that are either done in class, online, and ones that are a hybrid of both. Depending on your ultimate goal, either teaching ESL online, teaching abroad or having a career teaching ESL.

In-classroom or hands-on courses are often offered by accredited universities or sophisticated organizations that have courses designed for licensed teachers who are pursuing their career in full-time English teaching.

For teaching ESL online or teaching abroad, university TESOL (not TEFL) courses might be an overkill and significantly more expensive, ex. US$100 vs $1500+, which is intend for ones devote to ESL teaching career and profession in classroom setting. There are some very reputable online TEFL certification courses out there would satisfy both the online teaching and teaching abroad requirements and land you a great job. Some offer in-classroom training as well, which is especially crucial for ones who are interested in teaching abroad.

Here’re some reputable online TEFL programs: Bridge TEFL OnlineInternational TEFL AcademyInternational TEFL and TESOL Training (ITTT)myTEFLand

TESOL is short for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. TESOL courses are often designed geared toward academia or full-time in classroom ESL teachers. Universities usually advertise their program as TESOL instead of TEFL.

Other terms

  • ESL – English as a Second Language.
  • TESL – Teaching English as a Second Language. Where English is being taught to non-native English speakers in a country where English is the native language.

Online vs. In-Class vs. Hybrid TEFL Certification

Taking TEFL Certification Course Online

If you are only looking for an online teaching job, then a TEFL certificate that you get through a reputable online course should be good enough to get a job. We cannot emphasize enough though that you should pick and take a program that you think will make you a better teacher.

Note: TEFL or equivalent certificate is required in March 2019 to be hired as an Online ESL teacher and to teach English in China.

Yes, if you get a dirt cheap online certificate (aka a $20 for a 120+ hrs TEFL certificate on Groupon), which you can get still get an online teaching job in many countries. However, if you’re looking for a job in countries like South Korea, Japan, the Middle East, and China then you will need to look into something more sophisticated and ones offer in-class training.

In-class TEFL certification

In-class TEFL certification is ideally for ones that wish to learn the principles and methodologies of ESL teaching in depth and to gain hands-on teaching experience in a real-world teaching environment with real students. Many programs offer in-class TEFL training, some offer partial online course blend with around 20-40 hours of in classroom practices. Some offer intensive 3-5 week long in the full classroom training experience either within your home country or designated countries.

The program we recommend for ones who are interested teaching English overseas is typically 120+ hours combine with In-class courses, which tends to be a bit more expensive than the full online-learning option but are generally more highly valued by employers or sometimes a pre-requisite.

Go with a more expensive ($900-1200) and reputable online TEFL certificate if you want to get into better local teaching jobs in the higher-paying countries. It is fairly easy for recruiters to look up the website of the company where you were certified and then match that up with the price you paid. That can happen as well with the online schools, but many of them are not as concerned. They can also see if the school and course are certified as well.

How Many Hours of TEFL Program Should I Obtain?

It is our recommendation that you take a 120+ hour course at the very least. If you’re intending to teach abroad, a 120+ hour program with in-class training is highly preferred by many companies or requirement in China. If you can take a 160-hour course you will be better off as a teacher and it will increase your chances of getting a job online or in an in-person school later on. As stated above though, make sure that you’re getting it from a reputable school.

TEFL Accreditation

Take the time to find out if the school where you’re getting your certificate is itself certified. What you want to look for is to see if they are accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET) or other programs such as the Training Qualifications UK (TQUK). The ACCET organization is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, and because of that, you will find them to be better recognized by the schools that you’re applying to. This is an example of what you should be looking for on the school’s website:

Accredited TEFL Certifcation Online Course   Training Qualifications UK TEFL Certified

TEFL Certificate for Different Types of ESL Teaching Employers 

Online ESL Schools

English language schools are usually private companies that provide after school ESL learning programs for students of all ages and English language ability levels. This is the most flexible option for teachers who are looking for a part-time teaching job without leaving the home country. The downside is the time zone differences depending on where you and the students located. This is typically the loosest in English teaching requirements, some can even teach without TEFL certificate. However, if you’re interested in teaching students in China. Starting March 2019, you’ll be required to obtain a TEFL to be hired by Chinese companies legally. Nonetheless, TEFL will boost your opportunities of being hired greatly especially if you don’t have prior teaching experience.

Local English Language Schools/Companies

Similar to online English language schools, they are usually private companies that provide after school or summer ESL learning programs to students of all ages and English language ability levels. However, you’ll need to prepare to travel to the foreign country and expect to stay there at least a year on a typical employment working contract. Private language schools usually offer a more enticing salary than regular schools, but you’ll be expected to work hard on the after school hours, nights, and weekends when children are off the school and adults off the work. A formal form of teaching certificate is often required, whether TEFL, TESOL, CELTA, or teacher license for VISA reason.

Local Public/Private Schools

Public schools are formal educational institutions that authorized and follow government educational guideline, which are typical elementary, middle, high schools, etc. The majority of the English curriculum is taught by local teachers, however, many schools are revolutionizing the idea of bringing teachers from native English speaking countries to teach the local students, which is common in the place like Hong Kong. Public schools have higher expectations and often more strict requirements than language schools. A formal form of teaching certificate is often required, whether TEFL, TESOL, CELTA, or teacher license for both VISA and pre-requisite of a government associated teaching job.


Universities that offer language courses also frequently employ native English speaker teachers. Working conditions and hours are typically good with reasonable salaries. Higher education often has higher expectation academic qualification. However, it’s a great opportunity for you if you’re a graduate student or a recent graduate of the university.

Which Online TEFL Provider to Choose From?

Here are highlights for the Online TEFL certification programs with accreditation and 100+ training hours. 

The Cost of TEFL Certificates

Groupon can be too cheap to be true. So we did some digging and survey the teachers currently in our FB groups, Online ESL Teaching Jobs and Online ESL Reviews. Groupon like 160-hour course by TEFL Full Circle cost $39 and received the greatest compliments and landed many teachers jobs, on the other hand, International Open Academy is only $5 but not so great in providing useful info. Groupon ones are usually sufficient for Online English teaching in China and likely elsewhere as well, and it’s a small investment $39 compares to many fully equipped TEFL courses out there costing US$500 or even 1000+ with university stamp on it. However, if you want concrete knowledge in ESL teaching, teaching abroad or involve in the teaching career of English as a second language, then you would need to look into more structured and sophisticated programs (NOT Groupon ones), even the ones include in-classroom training. The following Groupon TEFL certificate programs are good for Online Teaching, but NOT necessarily good for Teach Abroad.

Groupon TEFL Deals

TEFL Full Circle (US$39)

One thing that you should look into is if there is an additional module for online teaching. We see many of the teachers recommending this one here There is a Groupon coupon here for $39. You should be fine with the Full Circle one, as many teachers in our community confirmed the validity of this particular program to find Online teaching jobs.
  • I did a 150hours one and it worked for me
  • I did it in the spring and vipkid accepted it
  • I finished Full Circle, it’s a decent course, 99% of the employers don’t care where you got it anyway.
  • I did Full Circle for £49 on Groupon. It was fine. I found the staff very helpful and quick to respond.
  • if it is just for teaching online yes. they are legitimate, but get the one from Full Circle. I heard that one is a good one
  • That’s a good plan. Don’t listen to the naysayers. For teaching online the Grouponcourses will be a good place to start and you can get some good foundational information from them if you apply yourself and do some research of your own to reinforce the principles. I did the IOA TESOL course and the 160-hour TEFL Full Circle course both on Groupon and I currently have 3 online ESL jobs using those credentials. I would have LOVED to have taken a University TEFL course or an on-site course, but life and other responsibilities dictated that I had to take the least expensive and quickest route. Will those certs allow you to teach in a brick and mortar school? Absolutely not… but they will help you keep your head above water and help you gain some experience. Once you get your foot in the door with online teaching and get some money saved up, you can invest in something more reputable. Good luck and best wishes!
  • I bought a 160 hour TEFL course for $40 on Groupon called TEFL Full Circle. I just skipped to all the quizzes and guessed and got a passing score on most of them the first try. Then you do a lesson plan assignment, then a writing assignment. That’ll get you a 120-hour certificate and then you can do the 40 hours TEFL to young learners quizzes and get that one as well. Only down side in my experience with them is that they said to give them 10 days to grade the assignments, and you can’t download the certificates (or buy a hard copy) until then. Overall though any TEFL that is online is not very worthwhile, so don’t pay more than you have to.
  • There is a Reddit thread on it as well with a lot of positive comments

International Open Academy ($5)

TESOL course, notice that IOA doesn’t list the total hours, typically you’re better off taking a course with 120+ hours.

  • I did the very TESOL that you’re looking at last October, for a stupid $8! I also investigated Groupon because I just couldn’t believe that this could be the real deal. I figured if it’s a scam, then at least I wasn’t out a bunch of money. I searched for info about IOA but if I remember correctly, I didn’t find anything. But everyone I spoke with who has experience with Groupon said it’s a legit thing, so I took the course. As Adam said, the course was pretty awful. I got the PDF certificate immediately, then some days later requested the original, and paid the $20. After exchanging several emails with the company, and waiting a month for it to come, they said they’d send another one. I didn’t send any money for this second one, and they didn’t say I’d need to send more. That was in November of 2017 and I still don’t have the original and have quit hoping. Of course, I was leery the whole time, but everything really seemed legit. And of course, because I believed that Groupon is honest (and still believe), I held out hope. There’s an article, either on this group or on its sister group, that discusses accreditation for these courses. The organization that IOA says accredits their courses isn’t mentioned in the article, and to be fair, it only mentions 2 organizations. What did I get out of this? A PDF that I still use in my applications for online jobs. I’m in Vietnam, where the more reputable companies require (in accord with gov’t regulations) that the candidate teacher provides the original teaching certificate, which I can’t do. I’ve got years of experience, and I am not really interested in using it to apply for B&M schools, so, for me, in a way, the whole deal was worth it. :)
  • It seems it’s the real deal. Probably not as high-value like some other TEFL programs, but it should do the job.
  • I did it and if you actually want to learn something, I wouldn’t recommend it. I didn’t find it useful at all.
  • I have done this one, it works and everything. There are no videos, just documents. It definitely does not take 120 hours tho, I did it in a couple days
  • I definitely will be getting another one though, not enough information but it’s a good intro

Learn TEFL ($39)

An Accredited 150-Hour TEFL Certification Course.

  • I bought a Groupon for a 150-hour TEFL certification course from it cost $39. I won’t pretend like it was the best class I’ve ever taken, but my certificate seems to be sufficient for finding a job in China, Korea, and southeast Asia at least. I’ve gotten tons of interview requests and two job offers in one week. I think I’m going to accept the position in hong kong. I’d be working in a private language center teaching kids ages kindergarten – 18 years old in groups of less than 4 students.
  • I’ve done an online course it’s very valuable I put the hard work & recently passed it!

Global Language Training ($39)

Online 150-Hour Master Fully-Accredited TEFL/TESOL Course

===== The end of Groupon deals =====

The following TEFL certificate programs are Good for both Online Teaching and Teach Abroad

International TEFL Academy

  • Good certificate for Teach Abroad 
  • Certifying over 3,500 English educators in over 25 locations around the world and online.
  • Offer Online TEFL courses and additional 6~20 hrs of Onsite classroom practice. Course registration
  • Internationally accredited by several respected organizations.
  • Courses are all taught by experienced university instructors.
  • A small class size per instructor and interactive curriculum ensures that all online TEFL candidates receive nothing but the finest instruction.
  • Career guidance and placement assistance for online certification holders.
  • Request free brochure


  • Enrollment in a myTEFL course also gives back to a good cause. With every new participant, a donation is made to several causes, such as buying livestock for a rural community or sponsoring a child’s education.
  • Offer Online and Onsite classroom TEFL Courses
  • Length: Short Courses (40-100 hours) and Standard (120-140 hours)
  • Accreditation: Online TEFL and TESOL Standards Agency (OTTSA)
  • Accreditation: International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL)

International TEFL and TESOL Training (ITTT)

  • Good certificate for Teach Abroad 
  • Choose to add on tutor support to enhance your course feedback and interaction
  • Offer both Online and onsite in-class courses.
  • In-class at over 30 locations worldwide.
  • ITTT Online courses range from introductory, full 120-hour TEFL courses, advanced Diploma course to specialized certificates in teaching young learners and business English.
  • ITTT accreditation from the Online TESOL and TEFL Standards Agency.
  • Discount: Save 25% on ITTT TEFL/TESOL Certification Course

Bridge TEFL

  • Good certificate for Teach Abroad 
  • Certify over 3,000 graduates each year
  • Nearly 30 years of experience in TEFL
  • Online TEFL Certification
  • Onsite classroom TEFL Certification: Bridge 4-week, full-time TEFL course that gives trainees the chance to teach real EFL students from partnered centers worldwide.
  • Accreditation: accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET) since 1998.
  • If you have the money to invest you should look for an International Diploma in English Language Teaching(IDELT) certification. There is one offered by Bridge TEFL that is an intense 12-week online course that will result in a 150 hour TEFL certification. If you want to expand your education further they have various 40-hour specialized certificates that can be added as well. These include:
    • Teaching English Online
    • Teaching Business English
    • Teaching English to Young Learners
    • Designing Custom Courses
    • Teaching English Grammar
    • Guided Teaching Practicum
  • You can find the complete list here.

Premier TEFL

  • All course options are well over 100 hours.
  • Full-time job, internship, or short-term teaching experiences.
  • Combine online course with additional onsite, location-specific development to specialize toward your target region.
  • Accreditation: Training center with TQUK




Hopefully, this article gave you enough information to decide on what route you would like to go to cert your TEFL certification. Getting a more advanced certificate such as a CELTA will improve your teaching abilities and greatly improve your ability to get a job. As written this article, you can take reputable online TEFL certification courses that will improve your chances of getting a job while showing you how to be a better teacher.