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A guide to getting English certified for South Africans

Janet Madaka in Life skills 
Teacher in Class

Teacher in Class

If you’re searching for a way to gain work experience and travel the world at the same time, then teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) is worth your consideration. Combine a TEFL certification with a passion for teaching and you could be exactly what employers are looking for.

 Whether you’re looking to take your career in a completely new direction, planning to take a career break and looking to sustain yourself while travelling, or perhaps you’re a student who’s deciding how to make a gap year count – teaching English as a foreign language could be a possibility for you.

 With a continuously growing number of people seeking to learn English, there are lots of different TEFL opportunities out there. If you find yourself increasingly curious about a career in teaching, then it’s a great route to take. 

 Why you should consider TEFL

 Teaching can be a very worthwhile and rewarding career. You get to witness the impact of your efforts on students’ progress, which undoubtedly results in a real sense of pride. It can be challenging too, of course, but if you’re dedicated to success and well prepared for the job then you have the potential to be great.

 The only thing you really need to get started teaching English is a TEFL qualification, so what’s stopping you? With a TEFL qualification, you can quite literally travel all over the world and get paid for it.

 How to get TEFL certified in South Africa

 You can get TEFL qualified regardless of your location in South Africa – or the rest of the world. You can take online TEFL courses specifically adapted for online learning, so that you’re still able to qualify with the same level of expertise and knowledge as you would if you had taken a classroom-based course.

It’s recommended that you take a course consisting of at least 120 hours. It’s often a minimum requirement for employers who are looking for you to start the job equipped with all the necessary knowledge needed to get started. Keep in mind that where you get your qualification is also important. A TEFL qualification from a well-accredited provider such as will be a lot more impressive on your CV and consequently lead to better opportunities. Cheap courses that don’t require a lot of effort to complete uphold little status with employers and will often be overlooked. There are so many ways to TEFL, but as long as you’re adequately certified to teach then a number of these options are open to you.

How do I get started once I’m TEFL certified?

 TEFL teachers have a lot of options. The thought of finding work can be a bit overwhelming, as lots of options mean lots of decisions! We recommend that you first decide what kind of teaching environment you’d prefer to work in. 

 Would you like to be a classroom school teacher with a fixed weekly schedule? Or would you prefer teaching adults in a language school? Maybe you have a background in the business world and feel you’d be suited to teaching professionals Business English? Or, maybe you’d like to work quite literally whenever it suits you best, which you can do as an online English teacher.

 The above are by no means an exhaustive list of your options, but give you an insight into what you could be doing, should you do TEFL. Once you’ve settled on the kind of TEFL teacher you’d like to be, you can then prepare to find work. How you decide to teach will impact how you conduct your job search. 

What are the requirements for TEFL?

 What you need to teach English really depends on where you decide to teach. Your options could be dictated by visa requirements as well as specific employer requirements. Either way, it’s good to bear in mind how these requirements can vary. Having an idea of what to expect will help you navigate the recruitment process a little easier.

 As we’ve mentioned a few times already, you’ll need a TEFL certification from a well-accredited provider. Common requirements include a degree in any discipline (although we’ll discuss the options available to you without one), a clean criminal background check and, naturally, a strong grasp of the English language. 

 If your first language isn’t English but you speak it fluently, your employer might ask for some documentation to prove this, which could be in the form of an IELTS test certificate or TOEFL score. If your education took place in English then proof of that can also be used to evidence your proficiency in the language.

Where can I teach?

You don’t have to move away to make use of your TEFL certification. Once you’ve gained a bit of experience, teaching English at home in South Africa will be an option too. There’s also the option to teach English online. 

 Teaching English online means you can literally teach anywhere as long as you have a device with a camera and an internet connection. By working for an online teaching company, you could build your student base and level of experience. If you like to be constantly on the move, then teaching English online can be a great way to fund your travels. 

If you don’t have a degree, despite work opportunities being more limited, you don’t have to rule out a career in TEFL! Without a degree, you can teach in Cambodia, Central and South America. 

For locations that typically require a degree, including countries in Asia, if you’re open to volunteering or shorter contracts you may not necessarily need to qualify for a working visa.

You can teach in Europe without a degree but, unfortunately, finding permanent work can be difficult for non-EU citizens. However if you’re open to short-term placements as we’ve discussed, it can be possible to work around this.

 Committing to a quality TEFL course will provide you with better job prospects, as well as build your confidence to carry out your role as an English teacher well. Who knows where your TEFL job will take you first, but wherever you go, you can be sure it’s going to be an adventure!