The more we explore our options in the TEFL world, the more we are overwhelmed with choices. You have the freedom to teach online or abroad, from hundreds of countries to choose from and thousands of schools employing foreign teachers each year. Will you opt for sipping Sangria in Spain, or drinking coffee from the comfort of your own home? Additionally, teachers have plenty of choice when it comes to selecting courses, such as the TEFL or TESOL courses.

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But, what is the difference between these acronyms? Do the letters actually pose much significance, or are they interchangeable? Moreover, can one create more opportunities for particular teachers than the other?

What Is TEFL and TESOL?

It is unlikely that you’d be reading this article without knowing what TEFL means, however, TEFL means Teaching English as a Foreign Language. TESOL, on the other hand, is an acronym for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

What is the Difference between TEFL and TESOL?

TEFL is used as the umbrella term for the industry. It is commonly used to describe the act of teaching English to students who are not native English speakers. However, it specifically means teaching English to students where English is a foreign language, or not an official language, of the country. 

TESOL, on the other hand, means teaching English to foreign students who are in an English-speaking country. For example, if a teacher from the UK teaches Japanese students who are also in the UK.

The key difference is where the language is being taught. In TEFL, English is a foreign language to the country in which the teacher is working. In TESOL, the foreign students are in an English-speaking country learning it as a second language. Simply put, with TEFL, the teacher is abroad, but with TESOL, the student is abroad. 

While both mean slightly different things, they are often used interchangeably. Obtaining a certificate in one won’t result in the detriment of exploring the other option unless your employers are extremely selective about qualifications.

Which Option is Best for Teachers?

A TEFL or TESOL certificate may be used interchangeably for entry-level teaching jobs. Generally, most teachers obtain a 120 hour TEFL / TESOL certificate when they first initiate their teaching journey. This is usually the minimum requirement in terms of TEFL certification, and it grants teachers access to hundreds of countries to choose from. 

However, if you view TEFL as more of a career rather than a stint, then it may be worth considering the differences and specifying which path you would like to take. Should a teacher want to pursue a career in TESOL, it may be worth opting for a particular course to stand out among the TEFL graduates. 

This is because, while TEFL training and experience diversifies people’s resumes, it is the minimum requirement within the market itself. Employers probably sift through hundreds of resumes only to see the 120-hour TEFL certificate over and over again. 

If you want a job teaching English to foreign students in a native English-speaking country, it would be a good idea to obtain a TESOL certificate. It will indicate to your employer that you are serious about the position and are qualified enough to teach English as a second language within that setting. 

What are the Requirements for TEFL or TESOL Certification?

To obtain a TESOL certification, you will need to have only a few things, and that is the enthusiasm and commitment to study and teaching. While many jobs will require teachers to have a degree or be a native speaker (remember, not all of them), there are no strict requirements to obtain a TESOL certification. 

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How Expensive are TEFL and TESOL Certificates? 

TEFL and TESOL certificates will vary depending on the provider, their accreditation, and how many hours of training the course requires. With a TEFL or TESOL certificate, the price can vary from a $100 online course to a $4,000 in-class CELTA or CertTESOL program. 

But How Much Should I Spend on a TEFL or TESOL Certification? 

Teachers should assess the requirements for what they want to do. Most countries will require TEFL or TESOL certificates, whereas others might not, and the requirements will vary from employer to employer. 

While TEFL can be very affordable, it can be a good idea to upskill in order to gain new opportunities. If you are content with teaching for a semester or so, then the standard 120 certificate will suffice. There is still a range of opportunities for those with the 120-hour certificate, and even those who don’t have the certificate.

However, it might be worth investing more in your training if you’re considering working in the industry for more than a few years. While it may seem inconvenient and expensive when there is a more convenient and inexpensive option, it should be seen as an investment. 

By investing their time and money into high-quality training from an accredited provider, teachers will make themselves highly desirable for employers. In turn, teachers will have more location opportunities, higher salary potential, and an enhanced skill set. 

What are the Best Online TEFL/TESOL Certifications? 

There are many ways a TEFL graduate can upskill in the industry. While some will choose to gain more experience firsthand, others will choose to upgrade their academic skills. This can be achieved by enrolling in a Ofqual Level 5 Course or a CELTA course, for example.

Premier TEFL’s Level 5 Courses 

Ofqual Level 5 courses are a popular option for those who want to upskill without spending too much. It is affordable, convenient, and boasts of a high level according to Ofqual’s level framework. While the 120 hour TEFL is typically a level 3, these courses (equivalent to a diploma of higher education) will have teachers standing out in a saturated market. 

180-hour Level 5 Diploma 

This UK Government Regulated course offers professionally assessed modules and DELTA-qualified tutors to ensure that teachers receive training of excellent standards. Teachers will learn about the four areas of language teaching, such as reading, writing, speaking, and listening, along with specialized subjects such as Business English.

300-hour Level 5 Advanced Diploma 

This Ofqual regulated Level 5 tuition comes with an English Government qualification for those who qualify. With expert DELTA-qualified tutors guiding teachers through the intricacies of 300 hours of content ranging from Business English to coaching IELTS, teachers will initiate their TEFL journey with a plentitude of skills to showcase.

310-hour Level 5 Advanced Diploma

CELTA-level training, DELTA-qualified tutors, and live teaching practice with professionally assessed modules will ensure that teachers with this TEFL certification will find much success navigating the market. This course blends theory with practice as teachers will gain real teaching experience before they enter their new destination.


One of the most recognised TEFL courses in the world is the CELTA. CELTA is short for Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and it is recognised as Level 5 by Ofqual. 

Employers all over the world recognise CELTA as one of the most prestigious TEFL certificates one could obtain. It is regulated by Cambridge English, ensuring that teachers will receive training of an outstanding standard. However, they can be very expensive. 


Like the CELTA, the DELTA is one of the most highly recognised TEFL qualifications in the world. It stands for Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, and it stands as an Ofqual Level 7. This level is higher than that of a Bachelor’s Degree, which would seriously impress your potential employers. 

The difference between the CELTA and the DELTA is that the latter caters to those who want to secure higher positions within their schools. These positions include but aren’t limited to the head of the department, examiners, teacher trainers, curriculum developers, and so on. 

Upskilling Specifically With A TESOL Certification 

For TESOL graduates, they can follow a similar path to TEFL graduates. Rather than obtaining one certificate and remaining stagnant for their TESOL career, there is always the opportunity to upskill. 


Much like the CELTA, the CertTESOL is Level 5 according to Ofqual is regulated by Trinity College London and consists of 200 hours of study to equip teachers with the necessary skills and knowledge. It is advantageous for those who have little or no experience in the TESOL sector, and the course can be completed online or in-class, full-time or part-time, offering flexibility for teachers. 


Like the DELTA, the Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, or DipTESOL, stands at Level 7 according to Ofqual’s framework. Just like the DELTA, it is for teachers who aspire to obtain higher positions within schools such as examiners, teacher trainers, curriculum developers, director, and so on. 

TEFL acronyms and abbreviations

How Long Does It Take to Qualify TEFL or TESOL Course?

The time required to complete a course will vary due to a range of factors. These factors will vary due to the workload of the course, or whether the course is full-time, part-time, or self-paced. 

Many online TEFL and TESOL courses are self-paced, meaning that teachers are responsible for how much studying they can complete at any given time. The time it takes to complete an online self-paced 120-hour course will range from around a few weeks to a few months. This is an incredibly flexible option for those who have other studies or work commitments.

Other and higher level courses like that of the CELTA, or CeltTESOL, might require much more dedication when it comes to studying. This is because many institutions for CELTA, for example, require in-class training on a full-time or part-time basis. 

Courses that are of a higher level will require teaching practice which can only be done in class, along with additional coursework. 

How Long Does a TEFL / TESOL Certificate Last?

One of the greatest benefits of obtaining a TEFL or TESOL certificate is that they never expire. This means that once you obtain the certificate, you are a qualified TEFL / TESOL teacher for life. Hypothetically, you could become certified and wait for over a decade before you finally use your certificate. 

Make the Most of Your Time and Get TEFL Certified for Future Travel!

Now you know the similarities and differences between TEFL and TESOL, you can be on your way to starting your TEFL (or TESOL) journey. TEFL courses are incredibly flexible, as they can be done online, in-person, or self-paced, meaning that there isn’t an excuse as to why you can’t do TEFL! 

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Additionally, aspiring teachers can enrol in TEFL courses and gain a TEFL certification without needing an immediate follow-up plan. Those who become certified are certified for life. The more proactive you are and the sooner you become TEFL certified, the more time you have to plan your adventures! 

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