If you have looked into teaching abroad you will know that TEFL certification is a prerequisite for working as an ESL teacher, but is it worth the money and the effort of taking the time to get one before you start applying for jobs?
As someone who was in a similar dilemma not too long ago, I'm here to explain why it's a valuable certification. One which, regardless of your age or previous experience, will make your teaching life easier, whether you're volunteering abroad, working to fund your travels, or making a permanent move into the teaching world.
For me, my TEFL certificate took me to the Dominican Republic, where I spent 5 months teaching classes of young children in a tiny community school, a year or so later I arrived in Mexico where I taught a summer course and then a year after that I took on a permanent position here in the Mexican state of Yucatan. My role involves teaching children, teenagers and adults at a variety of levels. During my first 3 years in Mexico, I was able to take on the role of academic coordinator for a year, which gave me the opportunity to learn more about the way schools work and the ESL teaching process. All these roles required a TEFL certification so for me, it was invaluable and allowed me to carefully pick and consider the type of school I wanted to work in.
Opportunities of teaching English in other countries are widespread due to the importance of the English language internationally. Teaching is great fun and teaching English in particular gives you the opportunity to see the world and earn whilst you do it! Every day is different, you can teach young learners, teenagers, adults, business English, the list goes on. There is an age group and English school to suit everyone.
Similarly, English teachers are needed globally, so have a look at a map and choose where you'd like to go; be it Asia, Latin America, Africa or Europe. Wherever you want to go and whichever culture you want to experience, there will be plenty of ESL job opportunities to pick from, just remember they will ask for your TEFL certification during the application process.
Once you are qualified, there is also a lot of space for development within your teaching career, both at home and abroad. The more you learn, the more experience you gain, the better teacher you become and this opens doors to new job roles, new prospects, increased pay and further travel if that's what you are looking for. Having a certification proves to potential employers that you are a serious employee who has prepared themselves and that you have really considered your role as an educator. The time spent completing your certification shows dedication and focus, which are both necessary qualities of a good teacher.
Don't worry, taking a TEFL preparation course and receiving a certification doesn't mean you are tied to a teaching career for life! Many people teach English during their gap years and the course prepares you for this experience. Perhaps you are taking a career break and looking for something a bit different for a short time. The course will equip you with new skills as well as refreshing longstanding ones so you feel ready to enter the classroom and get started. It goes without saying that you will have far more job choices with your course completed and the teaching practice it provides will ensure you feel more confident as a teacher, however long you choose to teach for.
Teaching is a lifelong career for some, but for many it is a job for a couple of years or so which doesn't become permanent. Regardless of whether or not you choose to teach long term, working in education provides a set of valuable transferable skills that can be used virtually anywhere. The TEFL course obviously helps you to gain better knowledge of the English language which is transferable to other careers. Additional skills learnt through teaching include managing a group of people, giving instructions, providing clear guidelines, communication, speaking and presenting in front of groups and so on and so forth, not to mention time management and preparation skills. It is undeniable that these abilities are of use in a huge range of careers from law to nursing and from social work to managing your own business.
In the case of EF you don't need to pay for your certification so this is an opportunity not to be missed. It is indisputable that TEFL is a valuable investment of time and money, not only to support you and give you a strong starting point for your EFL job abroad, but also if you choose to teach English back at home or take the career further and make it a more permanent career choice.