Many trainees wonder if a 120-hour TEFL certificate is adequate to teach in a classroom or online when looking for a teaching position. It may not appear to be enough time to become a competent teacher, but we guarantee that it is possible.
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Most ESL employers and schools will want you to complete at least 120 hours of training before applying for their vacant jobs. Some employers may even require that you have some classroom experience alongside the 120 hours of study. There are various TEFL courses available that contain this number of study hours, as well as some level of classroom practice, making them ideal for jobs that require experience.
A 120-hour TEFL course is a training program for English speakers who want to teach English in a foreign country or online. "120 hours" means that the training should include a 120-hour combination of academic coursework (100 hours or more) and real teaching practice (at least six hours).
120-hour TEFL courses traditionally follow a four-week intense program in a traditional in-person classroom environment. However, in recent years online TEFL courses have grown in popularity, making TEFL certification more widely accessible. Part-time online TEFL courses are now common (great for individuals who are still working or studying), but intensive online TEFL classes are also still available.
Even without prior experience or training in English language education, a 120-hour TEFL certification course is commonly recognized as the worldwide standard for finding employment as a paid English teacher overseas or online.
However, a 120-hour TEFL course must meet at least the following fundamental criteria in order to get a professional level accreditation and be acknowledged in the field (including by most employers):
- Have the option of 6 to 20 hours of practical experience (live practice teaching).
- Instruction is offered by a competent instructor with substantial teaching and training experience and a university degree in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) or linguistics.
- Have accreditation from a reputable organization in the TEFL field to ensure that the course fulfills international standards and covers a broad range of topics.
It is crucial to remember that just because a company or TEFL school labels or advertises its courses as a "120-hour TEFL course" it doesn't mean they're accepted by accrediting organizations or employers.
When reviewing your options for 120-hour TEFL courses, look for the following red flags:
- No option of practical experience (live practice teaching) available. Some employers will refuse to accept or acknowledge TEFL credentials without a practicum element. Whether required or not, it is a good idea to get some real-world classroom experience before going out into the world of teaching.
- No accreditation from an independent authority in the teaching field. Most employers will not accept TEFL certifications that are not authorized by a recognized certifying authority. Lack of accreditation is generally a sign of a low-quality TEFL course.
- TEFL classes that are not taught by university-level instructors with extensive experience. We believe that if you are studying to be a professional teacher, you should also be taught by one. Many online TEFL courses, believe it or not, are not taught by qualified instructors.
Cheap TEFL courses, like anything else, are usually cheap for a reason, and you generally get what you pay for. Therefore, any cheap or free TEFL courses should be avoided. A quality TEFL course has its price because it requires competent instructors, accreditation, real-world job counseling, and the development of a professional-level curriculum. It is worth the extra money if you want professional-level training and exceptional assistance in areas like pre-enrollment guidance and job placement assistance.
A 120-hour TEFL course can be completed in two ways: full-time for four weeks (approximately eight hours per day in addition to homework and practice teaching) or online over a longer duration.
The majority of accredited 120-hour TEFL courses provided online allow you to study at your own pace. At ITTT, most of our courses can be completed within a 6-month timeframe. This is great for people with a full-time job or other commitments.
If someone claims to have completed their 120-hour TEFL course in a matter of hours, a weekend, or just a few days in an online forum, this is usually a sign that the course is not authentic.
A longer course with more hours will typically include more content, which is generally a positive thing, but the number of hours in a TEFL course is not the only element that determines its quality. If a TEFL course has more than 120 hours but does not meet accreditation requirements, it is not worth taking as you won't be able to find teaching positions without a legitimate certificate.
If you are planning on teaching English as a foreign language in the long term, or you want to specialize in a particular field of teaching (like business English or teaching English to young learners), TEFL courses with more hours can be beneficial.