By now you probably already know what the acronym stands for, but since trying to increase the search rankings of this website, I’m going to spell it out anyways: Teaching English as a Foreign Language. TEFL’ers are those certified and Internationally recognized as being qualified to teach students whose primary language is not English. Many teaching jobs abroad require TEFL certification, which is why we spent some time last year looking into the possibility of going through the program. According to my research, basic TEFL certifications can be achieved in a 40 hour training course and cost anywhere between $180-$260. TEFL diplomas require at least 100 hours of course study, and may be purchased for around $330-$600. Given the variety of TEFL course programs out there, you may find these numbers to be fairly low. Courses may be done online, or in a classroom at select locations around the world.
As someone that was already working full time to pay off a four-year degree, the idea of spending more money on school seemed contradictory. There is no question that having a TEFL certificate affords new teaching opportunities around the world. Do an interweb search on teaching jobs abroad and, the majority of the time, you’ll find (sometimes several clicks deep) the caveat “Internationally recognized TEFL or TESOL certification required.” So the question really becomes, where do you want to go? Europe? Japan? Thailand? TEFL….. TEFL…. TEFL…. The question that kept coming back to us was, “Why Korea, of all places?” There were a few reasons of course, but the following tidbit of information from our recruiter was a major selling point: TEFL certificates are not required to teach in Korean hagwons.
The same is true for the public school system. EPIK, a government sponsored program for recruiting native English speakers to work in public schools, offers in-house new hire training and has the following basic eligibility requirements posted on their website.
1. Be a citizen of a country where English is the primary language.
2. By E2 visa law, EPIK teachers should have a citizenship from one of the following countries : Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States, South Africa.
3. Must have studied from the junior high level (7th grade) and resided for at least 10 years or more in the country where English is the primary language
4. Hold a minimum of Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university.
5. Applicants with a 2 year associate degree or have completed minimum of 2 years in university can apply to
the TaLK program.
Given the amount of people who ask me if I went through EPIK to get a job in Korea, I’d say the program is fairly popular. More important than anything else (in my opinion) is stipulation number 6 (not listed). Committing one self to a year or six months of living, eating, and breathing Asian culture could become a ball bust real quick without some degree of serious mental preparation. Some would disagree and use a water analogy to describe their prep methods. Either way, what EPIK refers to as a “willingness to adapt to Korean culture and living” is absolutely essential if only for the sake of preserving one’s own sanity while living abroad. If a TEFL certificate can give you that, it’s worth every penny.