Jan 10

Make money teaching English as a foreign language

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Teaching English is something you can do if you’re already a native English speaker and you have a bit of training. Teaching English as a foreign language (usually known as TEFL)  is a huge growth industry with massive demand. You can do it abroad or make extra cash here in Britain.

Teaching English abroad is a popular option for twenty somethings fresh out of university but also for retired people, wanting a bit of sun and a more relaxed pace of life.

Most teachers do go abroad to teach, often as a way of experiencing a foreign country and culture. However, there are plenty of non-native speakers living in the UK who want lessons and are prepared to pay for them. That’s where you come in!

You don’t need to have a qualification to teach English to private students if you manage to get them, but if you want to teach in a college then there are industry-standard qualifications (namely the CELTA or TESOL certificates) that you will be expected to have. Many students will want to know that you are qualified.

There are different options and courses available to you and there are more and more to choose from, which can be somewhat confusing. We’re here to help you make sense of it.


What TEFL courses are available?

TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language), or often TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages), EFL or ELT are the industry jargon used for talking about this type of English language teaching.  TEFL should refer to teaching abroad and TESOL to teaching English to people already living in an English-speaking country (for example, the UK).  In practice they are used interchangeably.

Most language schools require a teacher to hold one of two recognised language teaching qualifications:

  • CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) run by Cambridge University.
  • The Trinity CertTESOL qualification run by Trinity College London.

Both courses are run in numerous locations in the UK and Europe, typically in universities, but also colleges and private language schools. You’re looking at the best part of £1,000 as a minimum to complete the course, but this could be as much as £1500. Universities tend to charge more than local colleges. Generally a full-time course will last from 4-6 weeks. Many insituations also offer the option to do the course part time: mainly during evenings and over weekends.

Will any TEFL course do?

It’s important to recognise that employers aren’t just looking for any old TEFL qualification. When prospective employers ask, ‘have you got a TEFL certificate?’ what they are usually referring to is the Trinity Certificate TESOL, the Cambridge CELTA or a certificate gained from doing a course of equivalent length and value as these two (4-6 weeks on average). It’s important to choose a course with practical teaching practice as future employers will want to know you have been observed in the classroom and have shown you can stand up in front of a class.

How do you get on the course?

As part of the application process for many of these courses, you will probably be required to attend an interview and complete a language/grammar awareness test. Cactus TEFL has a great guide detailing the entire process and what to expect.

Other language franchises (such as i-to-i) do their own training, typically in a foreign country. This can work out cheaper, but you are then tied into working at their schools and you come away with an unrecognised qualification. The training is often limited to just a few days, so this option is better suited to a ‘holiday job’.

It’s worth shopping around as you might find it more enjoyable to learn abroad. It could also end up being much cheaper as well, especially if the pound is performing well against the local currency. Some schools, for example International House, offer a CELTA or TESOL course and then the possibility of a job with them (although this is not guaranteed). You may find it easier to get a job in a specific city if you complete your training with a local school.

Another option is TEFL England, they run both local and online courses at very reasonable prices. A 130 hour course costs only £399 and, best of all, they offer a free job placement service for all students. Until January 31 they are offering 20% off all courses.

Try a free option

You can even try an online TEFL trial course for nothing – a great way of discovering whether their course is for you.

Find the best value course

If you want to compare your options across schools then check out Cactus TEFL, an advice and admissions centre with a range of partner schools to choose from. Another popular website is you can upload a CV for employers to look at and browse a wide selection of jobs both at home and abroad.

A word of warning: any four week course will be very intensive. Cactus TEFL say that anyone applying should expect something like a 9am – 5/6pm day, plus 3-4 hours of self study together with lesson planning in the evenings and work at the weekends. It’s impossible to do while working so you’ll need to clear your diary for a month if you want to enrol.

Although CELTA/CertTESOL courses are generally regarded as the best option, there are still employment options open to you if you decide not to undertake either of these. The British Council recognises qualifications which meet certain criteria: they are externally validated, contain at least six hours of assessed teaching and involve at least 100 hours of input.

However, you could still lose out to CELTA or Trinity Cert TESOL trained teachers in areas where competition for jobs is very high, or where there is an overriding preference for the Cambridge/Trinity College qualifications.

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Can an online only course teach me the skills required?

An online course could be all right for one-to-one or when working in a supportive environment, but would not prepare you enough for the typical classroom. Knowledge of the language is secondary to knowing ‘how’ to teach: many employers won’t consider your application if you’ve had no face-to-face teaching time.

If you do decide to go down the online route then there are certainly some useful books on teaching techniques you will want to read. It’s also worth brushing up on basic grammar (especially the names of different tenses which even the most basic student will want to ask you about).

It’s useful to look at some course books (which come with supportive teacher’s notes) just to see what areas of the language are typically problems for students. Headway produce a range of great study guides for students, which are worth checking out.

How much can you make?

The starting salary for a newly-qualifiedteacher is usually £10 an hour and rises with experience. Diploma qualified teachers will be paid significantly more. However, you need a minimum of two years teaching experience to be accepted onto a DipTESOL postgraduate course.  The DELTA’s entry requirements are more flexible.

Lots of teachers supplement their income by teaching privately, one-to-one. It’s possible to make it into a career, but there is constant pressure to find new students as it is unusual for a student to hang around for longer than a few months. Teachers have to be careful as they are usually contractually prevented from ‘poaching’ students from their school.

If you do work as a private tutor you can start by charging about £20 an hour, though £30+ would be reasonable for an experienced teacher. You can also charge for proof-reading essays. Try advertising in universities and local colleges to get the work.

A personal view: is TEFL for you?

Rebecca Selley, an English graduate from Devon, shares her experiences here:

“I started teaching straight after university. I decided to do a CELTA course as I was already planning to go travelling and thought it would be a good way to fund my way around.

“The course was surprisingly tough – preparations for a 10 minute teaching slot seemed to take us a good 2 nights. The idea of teaching 5 or 6 hours a day was incomprehensible. Some people transformed into natural teachers as soon as they took the board pen in their hand while, for others, the whole experience put them off teaching forever. I managed to scrape through it in one piece!

“Unfortunately all of the decent schools abroad wanted some experience so I applied to a a school in London on a fairly low wage but eventually managed, with the help of some private lessons, to save enough to go away. I was offered work in Argentina, Bolivia and Colombia but the prospect of having to hang up my backpack for less than £5 an hour was not tempting and I have yet to work abroad.

“When I got back I was lucky enough to find an employer who was happy to pay the course fees for me to do a DELTA course at university. This lead to me getting a well-paid job at a friendly and supportive school.

“This year is my 5th in the industry, and although I have decided to move on elsewhere, I think it has had an enormous impact on my life and has given me the opportunity to meet countless memorable characters. Just today in my class was a Thai grandmother, the daughter of a famous Saudi actor and a Japanese footballer.  It’s the closest experience you can get to travelling without a passport.”

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Daniel DiDio
Daniel DiDio

I have been teaching for over a year now. I have been teaching with VIPKID for the last 6 months. I love it!

online TEFL

thanks to all this information.

Sean Graham
Sean Graham

I noticed you had a comment here about online courses and are they enough. I took my online course with teachenglish., the course it self was brilliant fully supported by video. After I completed my diploma with them I got a teaching job in Bangkok Thailand a government school. Wow I was not ready to face a small class room with 60 kids in it. in thinking about it now after 6 years of successful teaching, I don’t think anything could have prepared me for that. but a little practice experience would have been nice. But I am so glad… Read more »


Hi, hope you don’t mind me saying that having a diploma in teaching English I assume you should know about punctuation, when to use lower/upper case etc. Sorry but I can’t detect that in your comment and I am not from the UK.


I have taught English in south east asia. I dont have TEFL or qualifications. The reason is I cant find a qualification that tells you what to do in a classroom full of 50 kids who just want to play around.


Very useful article. I have not had much luck in finding TEFL students privately. I charge £20-25 an hour ( I live 1hr from London)which is perhaps too much. However, private tutoring in an academic subject (particularly for A-level students) is always in demand. But it can be tough to find students believe it or not. All my local FE colleges and libraries will not allow private advertisers. I rely on the local press and advertising in supermarkets/small shops, and of course, word-of-mouth.


Thank you for the article. I gained Diploma as EFL teacher in Russia, TESOL Certificate (Trinity), taught at summer schools in England. I am 60 now, not a native speaker and it is hard to get a job and to find students. But I try every possibility, on Skype too.


Thanks Richard, another interesting article.


Nice article thanks for sharing!

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