The 5 Best Online TEFL Courses for ANY Job & Budget

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For many sectors of the ESL job market, TEFL certification is a must-have in a job candidate.

The sheer volume of online TEFL courses offered online in 2020, though, can be overwhelming – with so many options, how can you choose the right one?

Social distancing a la COVID-19 has dramatically (and possibly permanently) shifted the predominate TEFL course model online as companies adapt to the changing climate.

If you feel overwhelmed in terms of wading through your options to find the ideal online course to suit your needs, consider our 5 favorite online TEFL courses that we’ve handpicked for this article.

The Best Online TEFL Courses

Best All-AROUND

ITTT Online, Classroom, CELTA, Trinity Courses

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Best for ONLINE teachers

Magic Ears 120 Advanced Online TESOL

Most comprehensive

International TEFL Academy 170hr TEFL

Most reputable

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Teach Away 100, 120, 150hr Courses

Best Budget

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International Open Academy 120hr Certificate

International TEFL and TESOL Training (ITTT) – Best All-Around

4.5 of 5 stars

ITTT is the reliable standard of online TEFL courses and has been since 1998, when the TEFL industry was still in its infancy. ITTT was the first major TEFL instruction group to make the shift online.

If you pay close attention to the TEFL industry, you will notice that new ITTT courses (which relentlessly pop up online) often appear suspiciously similar in format, structure, and curriculum to ITTT’s.

As they say, imitation is the highest form of flattery. If you want a bread-and-butter TEFL course with a well-developed all-around curriculum that is built on years of fine-tuning, ITTT is your go-to option.

ITTT’s 120-hour online program is currently offered at $239. More intensive courses with longer time commitments and options for tutor support are available at higher price points. Also, keep an eye out for somewhat frequent discounts and promotions from ITTT.

ITTT Online TEFL course pros:

  • All ITTT staff – from course instructors all the way down to the administration staff that books courses – have lived and taught English abroad.
  • High cost-to-benefit ratio (“bang for your buck”).
  • Easy payment options (via credit/debit card, PayPal, Western Union, WeChat and bank transfer).
  • Constant customer support (not to be confused with tutoring services) for technical and administrative issues available through social media channels.
  • ITTT certification is recognized globally (a “household name” in ESL circles).

ITTT Online TEFL Course Cons:

  • No job guarantee.
  • Frequent reports from former students of long waits to receive their physical TEFL certificate in the mail (although the company does provide a timely digital copy upon course completion).

Magic Ears – Best for Online Teachers

4 of 5 stars

Magic Ears is one of the upstart TEFL providers we are most excited about. Lots of companies have moved into the digital ESL space since teaching English as a foreign language ballooned into a multi-billion-dollar global industry, but Magic Ears is the cream of the crop.

In particular, the Chinese demand (fueled by a growing Chinese middle class) for native-speaking online English teachers has exploded in recent years. If you’ve been on ESL job boards lately, you’ve probably seen a sea of ads for online gigs teaching English to young Chinese learners.

Accordingly, Magic Ears wisely decided to target the Chinese market from its inception in 2017.

The Magic Ears’ business model is somewhat unique in that it provides ESL instruction to English learners as well as proper accreditation to teachers who take the company’s 120-Hour Advanced TESOL Course.

*Side note: Don’t get caught up in the TESOL/TEFL confusion – the two terms are interchangeable and essentially mean the same thing.

Although the company stresses that completing its TEFL course does not guarantee a job with Magic Ears, many (if not the majority) of Magic Ears TEFL course graduates go on to teach with the company.

Teaching English online effectively and enjoyably presents a unique set of challenges – one that Magic Ears understands well. The contents of its TEFL course truly prepares incoming teachers to thrive in their digital work environments.

At just $20, Magic Ears’ 120-hour online TEFL course is also notably more affordable than nearly any other online TEFL course worth its salt.

Magic Ears Online TEFL Course Pros:

  • A gateway to landing high-paying online ESL employment with Magic Ears (at rates of $20+/hour).
  • Option for a full refund (available up to 15 days following enrollment if no more than 20% of the course has been completed).
  • Curriculum developed specifically for teaching English online.
  • Free training videos and other features.

Magic Ears Online TEFL Course Cons:

  • Less name recognition compared to other TEFL certifications.
  • No external professional network to access after course completion.  

International TEFL Academy – Most Comprehensive

4.5 of 5 stars

The International TEFL Academy (ITA) offers a robust, sweeping curriculum that delves into every major aspect of online English instruction to non-native speakers.

As it reminds visitors to its site prominently, two of the most authoritative nomad/expat lifestyle publishers – GoAbroad.com and GoOverseas.com – have endorsed the ITA’s 170-hour Online TEFL Certification Course and the company itself.

One of the standout features of ITA’s program is its high-value job assistance available to all the teachers who graduate from its course. ITA has arguably the best-established network of ESL teachers, hiring officials, and institutions across the globe.

You may already have an online English teaching job in your sights; if so, you may not benefit as much from such a professional network. However, if you are still on the hunt for the perfect job, ITA’s networking possibilities for its TEFL course graduates can be a powerful tool.

Students can also add “Specialty Courses” to augment the regular curriculum after they finish the standard course. These courses are “Teaching English Online,” “Business English” and “Teaching English to Young Learners.” They cost a bit extra, but can provide targeted, practical insights that may help when you transition into the online teaching profession.

With a $1,399 price tag, though, you’ll pay a premium for all the nifty features of the 170-hour course.

International TEFL Academy Online TEFL Course pros:

  • Endorsed by both GoOverseas.com and GoAbroad.com.
  • Highly reviewed by previous students.
  • Advanced job placement services.
  • Free demo and teaching guide to test out.

International TEFL Academy Online TEFL Course Cons:

  • Lengthier time commitment (11 weeks) compared to other online courses.
  • Significantly more expensive than rival TEFL courses.

Teach Away – Most Reputable

3.5 of 5 stars

Next to ITTT, Teach Away is perhaps the best-known name in the TEFL world. It’s been around for a decade in a half and has become one of the most heavily-trafficked resources for reliable information on the ESL industry.

Teach Away’s two online TEFL certification courses are administered respectively by the University of Toronto Faculty of Education and the International House Berkeley.

A huge advantage of the University of Toronto TEFL programs offered by Teach Away is that the curriculum is specifically tailored to match the needs and challenges of students in countries/regions such as China and the Middle East – perfect if you already have a dream destination in mind.

International House Berkeley’s curriculum is likewise focused on the highly localized, cultural aspect of teaching English abroad in addition to the mechanics of delivering effective English instruction to non-native speakers.

In addition to its accredited TEFL courses, Teach Away also has programs to place teachers in schools that span the globe. Whether you are interested in Uzbekistan Presidential Schools or online teaching to Chinese students via digital platforms like GoGoKid, Teach Away can help connect you to the right employers after finishing your TEFL course.

Starting at $995 for the more affordable University of Toronto TEFL course, Teach Away’s courses will definitely set you back more than other options.

Teach Away’s Online TEFL Course Pros:

  • Backed by leading North American universities.
  • Geographically targeted curriculum.
  • Direct connection to schools worldwide that prefer graduates from Teach Away’s TEFL courses.
  • Stellar reviews from course graduates.

Teach Away’s Online TEFL Course Cons:

  • More expensive than similar rival TEFL courses ($995)
  • No job guarantee.

International Open Academy (IOA) – Best Budget

3.5 of 5 stars

While some of the previously explored TEFL courses are indeed attractive in terms of what they offer, they can also be quite burdensome financially. If you are on a tight budget (as most of us are), you simply don’t have a thousand dollars to invest in TEFL certification – regardless of the long-term payoffs.

If budgeting for a high-quality TEFL course is a problem, International Open Academy’s 120-hour TESOL Certification Course might be an optimal solution.

IAO’s fully decent and accredited TEFL/TESOL course costs €119 (about $150), making it one of the most affordable options among the top-tier TEFL courses that have worldwide legitimacy in the eyes of hiring managers.

IAO 120-Hour TESOL Course Pros:

  • Very affordable when compared to other online TEFL courses.
  • Staff is generally responsive and helpful for technical or administrative issues.
  • Well-structured course content that covers various topics efficiently and logically.
  • Easy-to-navigate learning platform.

IAO 120-Hour TESOL Course Cons:

  • Minimal features compared to rival TEFL courses.
  • No job guarantee.

Do you need a TEFL certification to Teach Online?

Despite what aggressive TEFL course marketers might say to the contrary, you do not necessarily need TEFL certification to find gainful online ESL employment with a top company.

There is no uniform set of requirements for these teaching positions. Instead, they vary from institution to institution – sometimes, widely.

Some online ESL platforms, for example, require teachers to have both a bachelor’s degree and a 120-hour TEFL certificate as minimum qualifications. Other online schools require one or the other.

The bottom line is that a TEFL certificate helps in the job search but it is not essential to land an online English-teaching job.

What to Consider When Buying a TEFL Course

Here are several considerations you are well-advised to factor into your ultimate online TEFL course decision.

Is this TEFL course recognized/accredited?

You absolutely must go with a TEFL course that is accredited by a legitimate and recognized organization. The list of TEFL accrediting agencies is long, but here are a few of the biggest:

Does this TEFL course include in-class observation?

Many of the more conventional in-person TEFL providers include in-class observation at the end of their courses. In these situations, you are delivering live instruction (usually in-person) to a group of real students while being monitored by an ESL professional.

At the end of the lesson, the monitor will provide practical feedback – what went wrong, what went right, etc. These features of TEFL courses are often the most valuable, as they provide real hands-on practice that can truly prepare you to perform your best in the classroom.

None of the online TEFL providers here offer in-class observation. If you feel that this type of training is vitally important for you, then you might want to consider a more traditional TEFL course.

Does this provider offer job assistance following graduation?

Assistance finding your ideal ESL job is one of the biggest perks of a high-quality TEFL package.

While most of the TEFL course providers here do offer some form of job assistance (including access to their vast networks of schools), none of them offer the kinds of guaranteed job placement often seen in more exotic (and more expensive) TEFL packages.

The reality is that — for virtually every teacher with a four-year degree who completes an accredited TEFL course – the world is full of employment possibilities. You don’t necessarily need job assistance or guaranteed placement.

What is this provider’s reputation?

TEFL courses generally end up with the reputation that they have earned. The internet is still a “Wild West” in the sense that anyone who has completed a TEFL course can share his or her experiences on any number of platforms.

Reading a healthy smattering of reviews from real-life students with no incentive to mislead readers in their feedback on a given TEFL course should be an absolutely indispensable aspect of your decision-making process.

When perusing the reviews of a TEFL course of interest, keep in mind the possibility of getting a skewed impression based on one or two reviews. Cover the waterfront of sources without relying on any single review.

The best places to find unbiased, objective reviews of TEFL courses from real former students are:

The Bottom Line on Choosing the Best Online TEFL Course

For a hassle-free experience becoming certified to teach English as a foreign language in the fastest fashion possible, the 5 TEFL providers in this article should be at the top of your list.

Ultimately, settling on your ideal online TEFL course should hinge on a few key factors:

  • How much you’re willing to spend.
  • The relative quality and accreditation statuses of the courses you are considering.
  • Which of the features described for each of the respective courses above are essential components of your ideal online TEFL training program.
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