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Is Taking a TEFL/TESOL Course Really Worth it?

Is Taking a TEFL/TESOL Course Really Worth it? | ITTT | TEFL Blog

TEFL and TESOL - these two terms are often used interchangeably; however, some areas of the world prefer to use one or the other. For example, the TEFL term is most commonly used within the UK, and the TESOL term is usually preferred in the USA. Although some countries may prefer one acronym over the other, a TEFL certification and a TESOL certification are practically the same thing, and the training programs for both are usually identical.

One way to describe the difference between these two terms is as follows:

The term TEFL refers to teaching English to non-English speakers in a country where English is not generally spoken. An example would be teaching English to Thai students in Thailand. So here, English would not be the local language.

The term TESOL refers to teaching English to non-English speakers in any country, whether or not English is generally spoken. An example would be teaching Thai students who are learning English in Australia. In this case, English is the local language.

Most employers understand that the terms are used interchangeably. Employers and recruitment services in all countries may use only one term or the other in general usage, but when it comes to describing the qualifications required for a particular job, they typically use both.

The following are examples of job text extracts from real current vacancies around the world at: (retrieved August 2023)

Australia……. Required TESOL/TEFL certified

China…………. TEFL/TESOL/CELTA certificate or 2 years of teaching experience

Indonesia……...Certified in TEFL/TESOL

Thailand……… TEFL/TESOL certificate

Vietnam……… Requirements TEFL/TESOL/CELTA Certificate

As can be seen, they all use both terms in their requirements, and this is generally the case. If you do find a job advert where only TESOL or TEFL is used, and you do not have the version being asked for, do not be put off. It is most likely that the term being used is just the preferred term in that country, and so you should still apply if they ask for TESOL, and you have TEFL, and vice versa.

TEFL and TESOL Training and Qualifications

The training and qualifications obtained for TEFL and TESOL certificate courses are usually the same. The typical requirements of employers for the job postings examples above are for a certificate completed either onsite or online, and the duration of the course should be around 120 hours.

Further training in both TEFL and TESOL is available, moving up from the certificate level to the Diploma level, then further still to the Bachelor degree, Master of Arts, and PhD. Most academic institutions tend to use the TESOL term to describe their courses above the certificate level. All institutions will see the TEFL or TESOL certificate as the same for entry into higher-level courses.

You will find some training companies offering TEFL/TESOL certification courses that allow you to choose which certification you want upon successful completion of the course. This is obviously very useful, as you will be able to research locations before you apply and then choose the best version of the certification for you.


In almost all situations, the terms TEFL and TESOL are used interchangeably. Some countries are more familiar with one term rather than the other. In recruitment circles, both terms are used and seen as equal. Higher-level studies are available in both TEFL and TESOL (though TESOL is more common), and it does not matter which introductory level you have to move into higher-level study in either TEFL or TESOL.

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