What’s the value of a TEFL Certificate?

It’s often easy to think that you don’t need a TEFL Certificate. One of the common tropes in the English teaching world is that you can learn teaching English through practice, and through ‘learning by doing’. Many people who have never gained a certificate stick to this line, and deny the value of a TEFL Certificate, stating that it’s of little practical value.

Of course, we disagree. Learning by doing is the major way that you perfect the craft of teaching English, without a doubt – nothing is a substitute for years of experience in this game. But completing a certificate is important because it gives you a foundation to build on, as well as some basic theories to help you ‘make sense’ of what happens in the classroom. For example, you might know that you prefer teaching vocabulary and set phrases, and find little value in teaching grammar, but you might not know that what you’re doing is technically similar to the lexical approach of English teaching.

There are further advantages, outside of giving you the basic skills and knowledge of theories in English teaching, to having a TEFL Certificate. Let’s look at some of these in more detail.

A TEFL Certificate gives you confidence in your skills

Having a TEFL Certificate means that you have a legitimate qualification and can feel a greater sense of confidence in your skills. If you don’t have a TEFL Certificate, you’ll likely feel less sure of what you’re doing in the classroom. You also may not develop the language awareness that is vital to success in teaching. Even if you’re teaching very young learners, you’ll likely be asked questions by students that can sometimes be difficult to answer, even if you do understand grammar and word classes well. Having a TEFL Certificate ensures you have the necessary language awareness to answer these questions confidently.

A TEFL Certificate makes you more employable

Of course, if you apply for a teaching English job, the first thing that an employer will look at is your English ability, your experience, and your qualifications. In fact, in many nations it’s an absolute requirement for a foreign worker teaching English to have a teaching certificate. This could mean a teaching licence, for instance qualified teacher status, or it could mean a TEFL certificate, depending on the role. One thing’s for sure, a teaching certificate can be an excellent highlight to your CV and a chance to sell your skills as an English teacher.

Speaking generally, a longer certificate will be seen as more rigorous, and will be looked upon more favorably, as will a certificate that has accreditations by a recognised awarding body or is regulated by a government educational body. It’s worth investing additional income in getting the best teaching qualification you can afford and suits your ambitions, as after all it is an investment.

A TEFL Certificate isn’t just useful for TEFL

Many people who teach English as a foreign language wish to do it for a few years for the experience before returning home and pursuing alternate careers. Some people don’t like this and are somewhat critical of this approach, but ultimately we think it’s a great thing! Teaching English allows us to understand and explore other cultures, build international friendships and relationships and foster global citizenship – what could be better! As long as teachers are qualified, professional, and responsible and act with integrity, there’s no need for all teachers to be ‘career teachers’.

So that said, if you do choose not to teach English forever, you might be hesitant to engage in a proper TEFL Certificate. The truth is that a TEFL certificate can be worth mentioning on your CV for decades to come. Teaching is a key foundational skill that applies to almost every industry: all employees require ongoing training, require professional development, and require guidance and mentoring. Having a qualification in teaching means that you have the skills required to explain, inform, and teach effectively and in a pedagogically sound way. Imagine that you return home and take a job in accounting and finance, eventually becoming a manager. Chances are you’ll need to induct new employees and train them in systems and approaches – here is where your knowledge of pedagogy can be effective.

Other transferable skills include English ability, particularly in writing, reading, and editing, communication skills and cross-cultural communication, teamwork, and other soft skills.

In short, a TEFL Certificate demonstrates that you have a number of necessary soft skills to succeed in almost any workplace, so it’s not something that you’ll use for a year or two and then never use again. This is even more grounds to invest in quality education and training.

A TEFL Certificate helps you build a professional network

Meeting other people, either on an online or in-class course, is a valuable tool, as is meeting your personal tutors. This gives you an opportunity to start building your professional network, opening you up to communities of practice, opportunities for collaboration, working partnerships, and friendship! Many people build lifelong relationships with their peers.

A TEFL Certificate provides a basis for further qualifications

For those of us who want to build a long-term career in teaching English, a TEFL Certificate is a valuable first step. If your bachelor’s degree was in an unrelated subject, for example physics or biology, but you enjoy teaching English and want to pursue it longer term, a TEFL Certificate is a useful tool for later admission into other programs. To undertake diploma-level study, like the Cambridge Delta or the DipTESOL, or to gain entry to many MA TESOL programs, you may require an initial teaching qualification.

A TEFL Certificate introduces you to potential employment

Many providers of TEFL Certificates have already built up partnerships with international recruitment agencies, as well as with language schools and educational institutions across the world. This means that on completion of your teaching certificate, you may be able to land an excellent full-time role immediately, taking out some of the legwork and offering you a smooth transition into your first teaching job.

A TEFL Certificate is fun!

Quite often, new teachers know that they can speak English correctly, know that they know what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ in terms of English writing, listening, speaking, and reading. But often, we don’t realise why. A good analogy is that of driving a car – we understand how to drive a car well, but we don’t really understand how the car works! Learning about the structure and mechanics of the language is often an enlightening and interesting experience for this reason.

So there you have it – if you’re considering getting into teaching English as a foreign language and don’t want to spend money on a TEFL Certificate, but just want to get straight into it, then you should seriously reconsider. There are many tangible benefits to gaining a real qualification that will no doubt repay themselves and then some throughout your experience teaching and when you return home (if you choose to). Not having the appropriate qualifications is disadvantaging yourself, and also disadvantaging your students.