English Teaching Certification for Top Tutoring Income!

Learn which training certifications are available, which institutions offer classroom and online courses, and how much professionals teaching English today make on average!


Online English teaching is a popular entry point into the world of working at home. There's a growing global demand for language instruction, and much of it is delivered online in one-on-one sessions. Even students enrolled in formal classes often supplement their lessons with online tutoring, thereby creating demand for native speakers who can teach English online. The market is very competitive, but you can increase the value of your services and your ability to attract and retain clients by earning a formal Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification.

English teaching certification also opens the door to offline job opportunities. There is a growing demand for TEFL professionals both overseas and in the US. There are opportunities for TEFL-certified teachers to tutor immigrant children and adults, to work with non-native speakers in the US on temporary job assignments, as well as with international students. With the influx of immigrants and refugees coming to our country, the need for people with proven TEFL skills is poised to grow. That makes TEFL certification a double bonus: you can increase your employability and income as an at-home worker, and also build experience and qualifications that can lead to a conventional career down the line. You should be clear on your career goals: there are many types of training and certifications available, and your plans will affect your choices.

Why Does Certification Matter?

In any trade, getting certified typically translates into increased pay, and TEFL positions are no different. Having a TEFL certificate shows employers and students that you are credible as an instructor and that you've taken steps to enhance your skills. English teaching certification sets you apart as a teacher who has demonstrated great ability to work with students who struggle to adopt the language. Certification increases your marketability when you hit the job market in search of TEFL work since the field can be quite competitive.

Types of Certification

The TEFL market spans a wide range of work types, from handling a classroom full of students in Korea or Japan to teaching English online or personal tutoring from your home. The range of careers has spawned an equally wide variety of certifications and training courses. The oldest and most widely respected certificates are the Cambridge English Teaching Framework CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification and Trinity Colleges TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). These certifications are oriented toward classroom work and require a minimum of 120 hours of training, including supervised classroom teaching. Intensive (full time) courses usually take four weeks to complete and cost anywhere from $1500 to $2500. Less intensive classes may be offered over a longer span of time. These courses are offered in a classroom setting, usually at colleges or community colleges: an internet search will show classes in your area. It's a substantial investment in time and money. But it you are looking for the highest level of certification, it's worth it, especially if you believe that you may at some point want to work in a classroom.

If you don't have the time or the money to enroll in a classroom course, you still have options. There is a wide variety of quality courses delivered online. These do not include supervised classroom teaching, which may place you at a disadvantage in applying for classroom work, but if you intend to teach English online, they can certainly provide a substantial boost to your credibility, employability, and earnings. The University of Toronto offers a highly regarded online program. The course is available in 100, 120, and 150-hour versions; Certification is from the University of Toronto and carries that institution's reputation with it.

There are many online TEFL courses available, not all of which are reputable. Several accreditation bodies have developed, but not all of those are credible: some schools have even gone out of their way to create their own "accreditation"! Always look up the accrediting body to see how long it has operated and what sort of reputation it has. One that has been around since 1993 is the UK-based Accreditation Council for TESOL Distance Education Courses (ACTDEC). ACTDEC accredits some online courses from schools like the UK-based Global-English.com and the US-based LinguaEdge.com. Course time and costs vary, but as an example, a 250 hour Global English course leading to the top-ranked Level 5 Advanced TESOL certificate costs 395 British Pounds (US$482).* Courses of less intensity and duration will be cheaper.

These English teaching certification programs are just some examples, and there are hundreds more available. As mentioned above, caution is required, though: as with any booming field, there are some players who are out there to take your money and give you very little in return. Do a thorough research, look for course reviews and participant testimonials, and see which schools have a track record and which do not. Be aware that discussion groups focused on classroom teaching will often disparage all online courses. That has to be taken with a grain of salt, especially if you don't intend to teach in a classroom!

How Much Can You Make?

The amount that you'll make if you become TEFL certified varies based on your previous education and experience, as well as where you work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the median hourly wage for professionals teaching English as a second language is $27.31, or $56,800 per year as of 2017.[1] The lowest paid workers in the field made from $15.05 to $19.78 per hour or $31,310 to $41,150 per year. The best-paid workers in the field made from $33.25 to $41.90 per hour or $69,170 to $87,160 per year. If you teach English online independently from home or as a freelance contractor providing TEFL services, you can potentially set your rates and determine your earnings.

Teaching is not for everyone. You will want to think carefully and try it out before committing time and money to formal training. Generalized freelance sites like UpWork and PeoplePerHour and TEFL-specific sites like Verbalplanet.com and BuddySchool.com allow you to post a teacher profile and look for tutoring jobs. With limited experience and no certification, you may have to mark your price down to attract students, but remember that you're not just there to make money. You're also trying to gain experience and get a sense of whether this is a line of work that you like well enough to invest time and effort in training. Once you are certified, you can demand a higher price as a freelancer and apply for regular work at online language schools like OpenEnglish.com or EnglishKey.com.

Do your research, train hard, and enjoy the work and the money that follow!

*Figures are current as of May 2017 but may change without notice.