7 Digital Steps for Getting the Ideal Online ESL Certification for Your Teaching Needs

 Want the dream job of teaching English and traveling the world?

Then again, maybe you want to help the ESL learners in your community.

Either way, an English as a Second Language teaching certificate brings you one step closer to your goal.

It used to be that if you were a native English speaker and had a pulse you could get a job teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) in Montevideo, Uruguay or Casablanca, Morocco. Increasingly, however, potential employers—both in developed and developing countries—are requiring that teachers have ESL certificates.

Similarly, if you want to teach ESL in America, you will need to be well qualified.

When it comes to ESL certification, it is a matter of being spoiled for choice. Options range from the prestigious globally recognized Certificate in English Language Teaching for Adults (CELTA)—an expensive and demanding one-month course—through to unaccredited ESL certification online.

The TEFL International Association advises that you do your homework, including checking the requirements and reputation of the institution where you intend to study ESL certification online, and so do we.

Thus, we have put together this guide to getting the right ESL certification for you.

7 Steps for Successful Online ESL Certification

While getting doing all this via the Internet might sound like an easy option, there are certain considerations to think through before you sign up.

1. Do a self-assessment

How much of a self-directed learner are you?

Online learning means you have to take total responsibility for your education. There is no set time for classes and no teacher to remind you that assignments are due. And if you don’t do the work on time and fail the class there is only one person to blame: yourself.

  • Factors to consider include the cost of tuition fees and the flexibility of the schedule. There is a multitude of considerations to make sure the program you are looking at fits with your budget and your lifestyle.
    • Is the course all online or is attendance required for tests?
    • How lenient is the schedule of the ESL certification program?
    • Do you have to pay a penalty if you don’t complete the work on time and want to extend?
  • Be sure to read the fine print. Then make a list of questions about issues you want clarified and email it to someone in administration where you want to study. Phone calls are fine, but emails give you a paper trail you can refer back to if need be.
  • Family support may be another key factor and a meeting with your nearest and dearest is a good place to start. If your partner and/or children are prepared to make sure they don’t disturb you when you are trying to work it will make studying—and getting the certificate—much easier. Constant demands will divide your energy.

2. Decide on the program

Some students may just want to go for the cheap-Charlie option. They are going to volunteer to teach ESL at the local community college and don’t want to spend a lot of time and money on certification. Instead, they just want the basic how-to information.

Others will want to make sure their piece of paper will be recognized by employers anywhere in the world. What is your agenda?

Review the options:

  • Check the top schools—including those listed by state—if you want an overview of what is offered. This may take a couple of visits to the site to avoid a case of information overload.
  • Anaheim University offers a 15-week course that you can do online. In the grander scheme of things, that doesn’t seem like forever, so check their website if you want to get the certification as soon as possible.
  • Bridge TEFL has online and classroom options for ESL accreditation. The school also offers a webinar to help you decide if it is the right choice for you.
  • Teach English Abroad offers an in-person opportunity to experience a TEFL environment (if you’re still on the fence about teaching English in the first place) as well as numerous options for online and in-person training that give you internationally-recognized certification for teaching overseas.
  • Premier TEFL also has a wide range of accredited options that include online training and a combination of online and on-the-ground overseas training. They also offer a variety of internships, scholarships and job placement options.
  • If a flexible schedule is on your must-have list, consider Drexel University. The program can be completed in six to 12 months, depending on your other time and commitment demands.
  • Some institutions offer in-house ESL online training that is not accredited through a larger governing body. The TEFL International Association—cited earlier—recommends that students check whether or not the institution is accredited.
  • myTEFL offers a professional, accredited 120-hour online course, as well as several other online and on-site options for teaching abroad. They also offer a job placement service.
  • Teaching ESL Online — This affordable online course will help you get up and running with your very own online ESL teaching business. It doesn’t offer ESL certification, but it will teach you how to build a teaching website, find students, build an online reputation and fill your schedule with teaching sessions. Once you’re certified, this should be your next educational stop. After all, the whole point of gaining your ESL teaching certification is to make a living doing what you love.
  • Some programs will train you for a specific teaching assignment or for working in a particular area. For example, SEE TEFL offers training and paid internships in Thailand. This can be a convenient option if you want to have a clear idea of what you’re training for as you’re working towards certification.

Not everyone wants ESL certification that is recognized, so be clear about what it is you want to achieve with your ESL certification. If you want to volunteer with a local organization you likely don’t need to do the CELTA or graduate from the Harvard ESL program. If you know the basics—which you can learn in about 100 hours—it will be sufficient.

Get organized

Now that you have figured out which ESL online certification programs you want, it is time to focus on how to make it a reality.

3. Set up a schedule

To be successful in an online ESL certification program, students have to make a commitment, block out required hours and stick to a timeline. It may mean getting out of bed an hour earlier to work when the house is quiet.

If you are a parent with twins under the age of 18 months and a full time job, taking on an ESL course might be better done later. Then again, if you are absolutely determined you will find a way to “make” the time.

As part of your schedule, break tasks down into small do-able chunks. Keep an eye on due dates so that assignments don’t sneak up on you. Tape a copy to the fridge and/or your office door and/or on your mobile that beeps reminders so that it is literally in your face.

4. Consider a buddy system

Some people find it easier to study if they are doing it with someone else. Do you have a friend that is interested in taking the same course? Great if you do, as you can compare notes and help each other stay focused. And sometimes it is just nice to have someone who understands what you are going through to moan to.

Check to see if the school can connect you with other ESL learners, either online or meeting personally.

5. Monitor the ESL certification process as you go

Check to see if the course provides a time frame for what you should have covered by week three of month two. If there are boxes to tick it makes it easier for you to monitor your progress. If there isn’t a clearly defined timeline, note your own due-by dates.

Build in treats. If you are sticking to the schedule and submitting the assignments on time, take yourself out for dinner or to a movie. It is important to pat yourself on the back from time to time as it will help keep you motivated.

6. Practice what you are learning in the online ESL class

Theory is wonderful, but practice is essential to test to see if what you are learning in the online program works with real students. See if you can find a part time job teaching ESL, or maybe an internship for a few hours each week.

If not, volunteer at a local immigrant center or offer your services to the people from Vietnam who moved in down the block.

7. Stay focused

It is important to keep the big picture in mind and not to get distracted by the small details. Easily said; harder to do.

Once you have committed to pursue ESL certification online, selected a program that meets your needs and enrolled it is a matter of staying on track. Everything from an outline of due dates to a buddy system will help you to stay focused.

Keep the end result—an ESL certification—clearly in mind as it will help you with the daily challenge of doing the necessary work on time.


If you feel overwhelmed with doing the course online, take a deep breath and step back for a moment to remind yourself of what certification means to you.

Happy studying!

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