Earning a TEFL certification in the U.S. makes for an excellent launching pad into your international quest to teach English as a foreign language. As you may know, taking a TEFL certification course in the U.S. comes with the advantage of being surrounded by native English speakers, who have likely spent their fair share of time abroad, either teaching or working. If you’re currently stationed in the good ol’ US of A, then getting TEFL-certified before buying a plane ticket for foreign soil may be the most practical and cost-effective means of getting a move-on.

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a TEFL course, so be sure to not just hop on the first TEFL train that pops up in your internet browser. There are countless organizations in the U.S. that offer a variety of different teacher training programs, both online and in cities across the nation. First, think about whether you learn better online or in person, if you prefer condensed classes over a few weeks or weekends, or want to commit to a couple of months of work around your own timetable. Additionally, your desired job and its location post-certification should also play a factor, as well as your budget. Lastly, consider what the institution has to offer, and if it includes benefits, such as required practicum hours and/or job assistance or placement.

100+ Hour TEFL Courses:

While there is no overarching institute that accredits TEFL courses, a general rule is that organizations that offer over 100 hours of training, and about 6 hours of practical experience, will hold accreditation by some reputable institution. The 100-hour courses will typically cost you around $1000 USD, but they may be mandatory for many employers abroad who don’t accept certifications from organizations that offer, say, only 40 hours of training and no practicum. If you want the best preparation for both you and your future students, it is usually recommended to choose one of these courses. The number of classroom hours that you rack up often directly corresponds to the quality of your TEFL preparation and level of certification.

4-Week TEFL Courses:

These courses are usually structured as condensed versions of the longer courses (some programs are 12-16 weeks), only at a faster pace. If you’re craving a leisurely pace, to cover the basics of teaching, this may not be your cup of tea. Although you will cover everything you would in a longer course, it's more intensive and therefore can be pretty consuming.

However, if you have the time to dedicate to a month's worth of full-time learning, or are an experienced teacher who just needs the credentials and want to get through it quick, this is an ideal option for you.

Online TEFL Courses:

Currently, one of the most popular course types, for people prepping to move abroad, is the online TEFL course. While the costs of online courses are typically about the same as in-person courses, the advantages are obvious: you can complete the class from the comfort of your own bed, and your cost of living isn’t affected. In addition, if you don’t currently live in the U.S., this allows you to take a course from one of these institutions without ever having to worry about visa requirements and flights. Also, it may very well be just the certification you need to teach English in your home country. Note that this type of learning is a lot more self-directed and may not suit all kinds of learners. That being said, it does afford a lot more freedom with regards to personal schedules.

TEFL + Teach:

While this happy coupling of an education plus job assistance can come with any of the above mentioned options, it’s important to read the fine print. Many organizations offer job assistance as part of their program costs. This means that they provide help during peak hiring times for different countries and suggest schools at which you can apply to teach, but they make no guarantees of you getting a job after completing their program. Other organizations will offer a TEFL + Teach option, and will actually help set up interviews for you (though, this sometimes comes at an additional cost).

When and Where to Look:

Luckily for you, there are TEFL courses scattered throughout the U.S., so it shouldn’t be too hard to find one relatively near your desired neck of the woods. Most of the courses are offered in major cities such as Chicago, New York, Miami, and San Diego. Each of these places have their own unique cultures and atmospheres, but may also create a bit higher cost of living than many smaller towns and cities in the U.S. Usually, these types of courses are offered year-round, but may see more traffic in the summertime, before the start of the school year. It is often best to research which program best suits you, and even sign up online, before you show up in a location. This is the best way to ensure you find the right program that’s a good fit and at a good price.


To enroll in a TEFL training program, prior teaching experience or expertise in the field is not typically required. In fact, a high school diploma or GED is often enough to qualify. For some schools or programs, being a native English speaker isn’t a prerequisite, assuming you possess fluent English skills at this point in time. Despite all this, remember that this is still a class – your TEFL course will require the academic capacity of at least about a first year college course, so be ready for it.

Post-TEFL Resources:

Before you begin the job hunt, consider exactly what type of job you’re hoping for – taking this course in the U.S. may not mean that you’ll be able to get a teaching job in the U.S. as easily as you might abroad. Teaching ESL in public schools, or similar settings, in the U.S. often requires further training, such as a teaching certificate from a college or university and/or a master’s degree. On the bright side, a TEFL certificate qualifies you to teach English at a variety of venues in almost any other country in the world.

As mentioned above, many programs that offer TEFL courses will help with job placement or improving interview skills for their TEFL students, upon completion of the course. If you had a practicum experience as part of your certification, or some additional component, such as a module about working with young children, be sure to emphasize this on an application or in an interview. There are countless job forum websites and independent organizations that act as great resources for the whole job-hunting ordeal. When picking your intended destination, consider the fact that some countries prefer to interview their candidates in person, and others are happy to hire them from afar. Also, note that the ability to make and/or save a lot of money versus breaking even varies from country to country. Lastly, all countries also have their respective visa regulations for potential teachers, so keep an eye out for restrictions.

Cost of Living:

Many onsite TEFL courses take about a month. Depending on which city suits your fancy, living expenses alone could cost you several hundred dollars for the month, depending on your standard of living and location. Oftentimes, onsite courses help set up living arrangements, or make recommendations for accommodations, but these usually contribute to costs above and beyond the advertised price of the TEFL course.

Things like food, entertainment, and transportation also have the potential to add anywhere from a very frugal $200 to $1000 USD per month, depending on your lifestyle. If you’re fortunate enough to live near one of the locations in the U.S. that offer TEFL certification, then you’ll only have to factor in the cost of daily or weekly commutes to the site. Obviously, online courses also add no additional cost of living than what you’re already accustomed to.

Why Receive a TEFL Certification in the U.S.?

If you’re in the market for a TEFL course to facilitate the start of what will undoubtedly be one of the best adventures of your life, then take some time to weigh the many benefits of a certification route based in the U.S. Many times, this cost-effective option is the best bet if you’re still calculating your next move or balancing other commitments in your life. A TEFL course in the U.S., with its plethora of programs and possibilities, might just be the best investment in your future that you could make.

Contributed by Laura Eickhoff


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