How long it takes to complete a TEFL course and actually find a job teaching English abroad will depend on a variety of different factors. The outcome will be influenced by the type of training course you sign-up for, the country you choose as your teaching destination, and how determined you are to complete your studies and start working. As a rough guide you should allow four to six months for completing the course, finding a suitable job, and for making all the necessary arrangements. However, there are certainly ways to make this quicker if you want to get cracking!
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How long will it take if I enrol on an international in-class TEFL course and then stay on to teach?
This is typically the quickest route to TEFL certification and finding a job teaching English abroad. In theory, you can sign-up for an in-class TEFL certification course in Phuket, Thailand just a few days before the course starts and complete your studies in four weeks. You could interview for jobs towards the end of the course and be working in your own classroom less than a week after the course finishes. However, while this scenario is certainly possible, it is relatively rare as there are several factors to consider.
It is recommended that you enrol on your in-class TEFL course at least three months prior to the start date as many courses can fill up well in advance. Also, making all the necessary arrangements such as booking flights and accommodation, and packing up your existing life can take time and these are not things you want to rush if it can be avoided. However, by completing an in-class course in the location where you want to work, you will certainly be in a great position to find a good job soon after the course is completed.
This approach is common for people who plan to teach English in many parts of Asia, the Middle East, and via government recruitment programs in countries such as France and Spain. Most employers in these areas will expect a TEFL course of at least 120 hours duration, so it is best to make a realistic study plan that fits around your existing commitments. For example, you might be able to comfortably study 12 hours per week over a 10 week period. You then need to consider how long the job hunting process might take. Typically, TEFL qualified teachers are able to apply, interview and accept a suitable job within just a few weeks. However, once you have accepted a job it can take anywhere from two to six months to make all the necessary arrangements, including contracts, visa applications and flight arrangements etc. On the plus side, you can start job hunting as soon as you begin the course, so the overall time frame starts from the beginning and not the end of your training.
How long will it take if I complete an online TEFL course and then travel to my destination to find a job?
This scenario is common if you plan to teach in Latin America, as well as some parts of Asia and Europe. As above, you should make a study plan that fits around your existing commitments. Once you have completed your online studies you can then head off to your chosen destination whenever you are ready. As soon as you arrive on the ground you can start the process of interviewing for teaching jobs, with the majority of people finding something suitable within two or three weeks at most. If you choose this method, you should try to time your arrival at the start of a peak hiring season to give yourself the best chance of finding a good job in the shortest space of time.
While preparing to head overseas to teach English there are a few other things that might have an impact on your timetable. You should make sure that your passport has plenty of validity well in advance as it can take up to three months to process a new one. You might also need to provide other documents in order to obtain a work permit or visa. These could include a police background check and some form of medical certificate, both of which can take time to obtain. The actual visa process can also take up to a month or more depending on the destination and your nationality. However, as long as you give yourself plenty of time and plan ahead, you should have no problem getting your teaching adventure underway on time.