How to Choose a TEFL Course: Is Online or Onsite Certification Right for Me?

By Jennifer Collis
March 17, 2016


So, you’ve decided to teach English abroad: you’ve picked the country, started learning the language, and planned exactly when you’ll make the leap. That’s great—you’re almost there! All that’s left now is choosing the right TEFL certification course.

Online courses are tempting because of the price and flexibility, but onsite (meaning classroom-based) courses (like the CELTA) seem to be required by some employers. Confused? Well, here’s a simple guide to clarify the sometimes murky waters of online vs. onsite certification. I promise that by the end of this blog, you will know which of the two is best for you.

1. Onsite TEFL certification. Onsite certification means you earn your TEFL certificate in a classroom- usually 12 students and two instructors. Though pricier than online courses, this type of certification is preferred by many employers worldwide and, in some countries, may even be required. You also have the opportunity to work with students who may have a similar background to you. Some examples of onsite certificates are the Cambridge CELTA, the Bridge IDELT, or any accredited TEFL certification which takes place 100% in the classroom, is at least 100 hours, and includes a minimum six-hour teaching practicum (with real students).

Check the statements that are true for you for each type of course, to help you decide which is right for you:


I want to be able to teach in any country worldwide, including Europe, the Middle East or North America.

I want/need some teaching practice.

I like the idea of working together as a team with other TEFL students.

I want/need to be qualified quickly– in 4 weeks.

I want more personalized job placement assistance.

2. Online TEFL certification. Online certification might include a self-paced, self-study course, or a more structured, interactive e-learning course. The schedule of such courses is often flexible and the cost is quite affordable. These programs often do not include hands-on teaching practicum. However, if you would like the chance to practice teaching before going abroad, you can always consider adding a teaching practicum to your online TEFL course.

Check the statements that are true for you:


I want to teach in Asia, Mexico, Central or South America or Eastern Europe.

I have teaching experience already and/or don’t need teaching practice.

I have a degree in education.

I can pay no more than $300-600 for my TEFL course.

I cannot attend a 4-week, full-time course.

I am comfortable using job placement resources to find my own teaching job.

Finally, whether you choose to pursue your certification online, it is crucial that your TEFL course is properly accredited. Read on to understand why. 

Where did your check marks fall? There is a TEFL certification course and teaching destination out there to fit everyone’s background, budget, and goals. Whether you choose online or onsite certification, a world of possibility awaits. Get informed, get certified, and go teach there!

Still deciding? Learn more about TEFL certification cost, and the factors to consider before choosing the right course for you.

Editor’s note: This article was previously published. All content has been reviewed and updated for the current publication.