You’ve read about teaching in Phuket and you know you need a TEFL/TESL/TESOL certificate to get a teaching job. But what is it, where do you get it, for what cost, and with what company?
What is a TEFL Certificate?
Most people teaching English in developing nations do not have teaching degrees. Instead, they take a one month course on how to teach English as a foreign language. When they graduate, they get a certificate to Teach English as a Foreign Language, usually called a TEFL Certificate. However, depending on the school, the certificate might also say:
TESOL – Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages
TESL – Teaching English as a Second Language
TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign Language
For simplicity, I am going to refer to TEFLs, TESOLs, and TESLs as TEFL. Whichever your certificate says on it, it won’t really matter. It just varies by school.
Where To Get Your TEFL
There are two methods:
- In a class somewhere: Pay more, spend 1 month learning, and get a certificate
- Online: Pay less, do it when you want, and get a certificate
Online: I believe the cheapest online options cost $600 and most cost around $900. I actually haven’t met many people who did it online, but I did meet a few and they did have jobs in Phuket.
In class: Most people opt for the in-class option. This costs more, usually around $1,000-$1,400. It also won’t come with accommodation which means you’ll have to spend a month in a class, not working but still supporting yourself.
Which? Both get you a certificate that will get you a job. Online seems like a good option but I can’t offer much data on it because few people choose it. Here are differences:
- The best schools will look at where you received your certificate. A cert from a good program will help you work at a better school which might pay more BUT better schools work you harder, so think about that one.
- Job search assistance usually comes with the in-class option. This is not job-placement, it’s just help. You can get help writing a resume that a Thai school will understand and you’ll get advice on how to handle the job hunt.
The In-Class Option
You don’t have to get your certificate in Phuket. The TEFL/TESOL/TESL certificates are international, so you can attend a class anywhere. However, Phuket is probably one of the cheapest places in the world to do it. Plenty of people show up in Phuket to take the course and then leave to teach in Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, China, etc.
I met people who had taken their course years ago in Patong and they all said there courses were average. A TEFL Campus course costs $1,300-1,500 after discounts for booking early or with a friend.
What Will I Learn?
In order to get the certificate you have to pass a test so a lot of your course will be about preparing you for that test. It does include some hard stuff you’ve likely forgotten, like phonetics and tenses like the past-perfect tense.
You probably won’t use a lot of the test-related stuff after you graduate and begin teaching. The coursework that will help you teach is the practice teaching. TEFL Campus gave us about six practice lessons. We taught classes of 5-10 adults and also observed six lessons taught by fellow trainees. You’ll get help preparing a lesson plan for each course. Lesson planning is helpful, you’ll need it later.
What Should I Learn?
There are a few things that most courses don’t include:
- The Opportunity to Practice Teaching Kids – Most practice lessons are adult classes, which isn’t as helpful if you plan to teach kids.
- Classroom management practice – Not many courses spend time teaching award reward and discipline policies.
- Stimulating Lessons / Keeping Attention – Lecturing doesn’t work with 10 year olds. You need good lessons that are fun.
- In school observation – You’ve never taught in a foreign country have you? You want to get into a school and see a good teacher teach and maybe, for comparison, a bad teacher teach!
Most TEFL programs either don’t cover the above topics or only dedicate a little bit of time on to it. Instead they concentrate on the test and teaching adults. I can confirm that Eric’s TEFL Campus in Phuket has begun including classroom management in the course.
English teaching jobs in the world are in schools or tutoring kids under age 18. Kids are kids. More than half your job will likely involve getting kids to pay attention. Training on how to do this is worth its weight in gold. My advice is, whatever school you enroll with, they just can’t give you enough training in classroom management.
- You want to be shown videos of how a good teacher controls their class.
- You want to go to be sent to a school to observe a few lessons
- You want to have 5-10 games you’ve practiced using to teach young kids
So whatever course you take, inquire about classroom management being included and choose the course that gives you the most classroom experience. Then, once you show up and are taking the course, focus your questions and requests on learning more about classroom management. I cannot oversell this point.