Should I Take a TEFL Course?

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Let’s get this out of the way first: you do not need to have a teaching certification to teach English in Korea. In fact, most foreign teachers in Korea have not completed any kind TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) certification. However, taking a TEFL course undoubtedly makes you a stronger job candidate and can be invaluable in this competitive job market. There are a few reason why you should consider taking a TEFL class:

1. Strengthen your resume. These days, employers and recruiters see thousands of applications per month. And almost all of them have the same qualifications: native English-speaker with a Bachelor’s degree. Having a TEFL certification on your resume makes you stand out from the mob, and can mean the difference between the “Call Back” folder and the recycling bin.

2. Automatically qualify for a higher salary with public schools / Negotiate a higher salary. For public school jobs, having a TEFL certificate automatically adds 100,000 won to your base salary. That’s over $1,000 USD per year! Private hakwons aren’t bound to this policy, but being certified certainly increases your bargaining power with prospective employers. Most hakwons are willing to add 100,000-200,000 per month to your salary if you negotiate for it.

3. Qualify for better jobs. With the current surplus of job applicants, some employers have started requiring a TEFL certification. And many that do not require it are nonetheless now hiring only certified teachers. This is especially common for the more prestigious hakwons of those that teach adults.

4. Arrive to Korea prepared to start your job as an ESL teacher. Your first week in Korea is bound to be a thrilling, confusing, and (at least slightly) scary experience. Most new arrivals add to that the anxiety of standing in front of a class full of children from the first time and wondering what to do with the next hour! Doing TEFL training will help you to be more relaxed and confident when you first start to teach.

Which Course Should I Take?

There is currently no single international body that accredits TEFL courses. Therefore, finding one that will be valuable and universally recognized isn’t always a matter of black and white. The main criterion to look for is that the course is 100 hours or more, as this is the cutoff point for getting a higher salary from most employers. These are the courses that are most likely to be honored by employers:

  • CELTA ($1,500-2,500 USD): Created by Cambridge University, CELTA is probably the most prestigious TEFL course, but it is also the most expensive. The full-time course takes about five weeks and focuses on teaching ESL to adults. CELTA is usually the preferred course for those hoping to make long-term career teaching ESL, or who want to teach in their home country.
  • CertTESOL ($1,000-2,000 USD): A little cheaper and shorter (four weeks full time) than CELTA, CertTESOL was designed to provide a general overview for new ESL teachers.
  • i-to-i ($200-500 USD): While i-to-i’s courses are not backed by a university, it is the biggest TEFL certifier in the world and has been around for a long time. Its courses are generally at the student’s pace and are a combination of online and offline coursework.


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