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Teaching English as Foreign Language (TEFL)

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), also known as TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) or ELT (English Language Teaching), teachers help adults and children to learn and/or improve their English language skills. Most work is overseas, providing a great opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture and lifestyle, but there is some demand for teachers in the UK.

Click on each section below for links to publications and websites that provide further information.

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Teach English as a Foreign Language 

Sophie Newell, a University of Nottingham graduate discusses teaching English as a foreign language in Shanghai with English First. 


What could I be doing?

As a TEFL teacher you'll cover the language skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. You may work in schools, specialist language schools, or further and higher education institutions.

TEFL teachers are often employed on fixed-term contracts e.g. for the academic year. You may also choose to be self-employed, or undertake freelance work as a tutor.

It’s worth considering the length of time you plan to spend working as a TEFL teacher; some individuals choose short-term work, for example as a gap year, rather than a long-term career.


What qualifications and training will I need?

As TEFL becomes increasingly graduate orientated, holding one of the following degrees may help:

  • English
  • Modern European languages
  • Linguistics

Most employers will also require a recognised TEFL qualification such as:

Certificate in English Language Teaching (CELTA), awarded by Cambridge Assessment

English Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), awarded by Trinity College

London Trinity College has a guide to Choosing your TEFL/TESOL course which you can download.

Courses are available as full- or part-time options. To gain a place on these courses you’ll need A-levels (or the equivalent) and a very high standard of English. You should also evidence your skills in preparing lesson plans, interpersonal skills, and cultural awareness.

Work experience, for example as a language tutor, can be useful, although some short-term roles are available to those with limited or no experience.


What are the short term options?

Short courses are available, lasting from a weekend to a few weeks, which are ideal for a gap year, or if you intend to teach overseas only for a short time.

Companies such as i-to-i TEFL offer online or classroom courses allowing you to study at your own pace.

For more details on the shorter course options available, visit the Prospects English as a Foreign Language Teacher profile.


What are the long term career options?

Progression in TEFL is via completing a diploma level course.

Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, Cambridge Assessment English

Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, offered by Trinity College London

Alternatively, you can go on to study at masters level, in subjects such as teaching English as a foreign language, or a PGCE.

To work in a state school or further education college in the UK, you'll usually need qualified teacher status, and further qualifications and experience to teach in universities.


Where to look for job opportunities and courses

  • The British Council - the largest single employer of qualified TEFL teachers
  • Cactus - offer a variety of international TEFL courses, often with last minute bargains. There is also a job search facility
  • ELgazette is an international newspaper for TEFL teachers and offers news, course search, events programme and TEFL jobs
  • i-to-i TEFL - an online jobs board and source of advice on getting TEFL jobs abroad
  • Guardian Jobs - advertises TEFL jobs and courses
  • - lesson plans, teacher forums and vacancies

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