TEFL vs TESOL: difference and which certification is best for teaching English?

TEFL vs TESOL: choosing the best certification for teaching English

TEFL vs TESOL: choosing the best certification for teaching English


  • Teaching qualifications
  • Methodology

Have you ever pondered the distinctions between TEFL and TESOL courses? Perhaps you've encountered these acronyms yet never fully grasped their differences. Or maybe you're on the cusp of a new career, deciding which of these courses will expedite your journey to your professional aspirations. 

Let us delve into the opportunities each path presents and determine which route aligns best with your ambitions. Stay with us as we unveil the intricacies and secrets of these two prominent fields in English language education.

What does TESOL stand for: the difference between TEFL and TESOL

TEFL, standing for "Teaching English as a Foreign Language," involves the pedagogy aimed at individuals who don’t speak English as their L1, especially in regions where English does not prevail.

This approach is widely used by tourists, students, and professionals who wish to learn English for diverse objectives such as travel, educational advancement, or career progression. 

The TEFL curriculum is designed to cover both basic and advanced elements of the English language, with a strong focus on addressing language challenges and societal distinctions.

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TESOL stands for "Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages," and is a more comprehensive term encompassing both TEFL and TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language). This discipline involves the instruction of English to individuals who are not native speakers, including those residing in countries where English is either a prevalent or official language. 

TESOL is widely employed to educate expatriates, students, and professionals who utilise English for various purposes such as work, academic pursuits, or everyday communication.

The programmes under TESOL typically incorporate diverse methodologies and strategies designed to address language obstacles and facilitate adaptation to a new linguistic environment. 

Consequently, regardless of one's geographical location or the specific objectives for learning English, TESOL offers a comprehensive framework that ensures the effective acquisition and mastery of the language.

Difference in quarry paths

TEFL is your ticket to the fascinating world of teaching English abroad. Possessing a TEFL qualification opens up a myriad of opportunities in regions where English is not the dominant language.

For example, you may find yourself instructing in private educational institutions and language academies, catering to a diverse student demographic that spans from young children to mature learners. 

Furthermore, numerous multinational corporations seek the expertise of TEFL-certified instructors to provide English language training to their workforce, presenting an excellent avenue for those inclined towards a corporate setting and aiming to assist professionals in refining their language proficiency.

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International schools across various countries frequently seek TESOL certified teachers to work with multilingual and multicultural groups of students. 

This is a fantastic way to work in prestigious educational institutions and to interact with a wide spectrum of learners from various cultural backgrounds.

In Anglophone countries, the demand for TESOL instructors to teach English to immigrants and refugees is substantial. This can be an immensely rewarding job, as you assist individuals in adapting to a new life and integrating into society.

Moreover, TESOL programs are frequently characterised by a rigorous academic orientation, opening pathways to careers within universities and research institutions.

Here, you may find yourself imparting knowledge to aspiring educators, devising innovative curricular frameworks, or delving into scholarly research on pedagogical methodologies within the domain of English language teaching.

TEFL or TESOL: Difference in quarry paths

How can one get TESOL or TEFL certification?

For those contemplating a vocation as an English language pedagogue, a fundamental step is to acquire a TEFL or TESOL certification. Firstly, you need to select an accredited TEFL or TESOL programme. 

It is essential to ensure that the programme aligns with your professional goals and requirements

Online courses are the most convenient and accessible way to obtain a TEFL or TESOL certification. Our platform, Grade University, offers a variety of up-to-date courses designed to help you become a certified and highly sought-after English language instructor, ready to work in any location worldwide.

By taking our courses, you can progress at your own pace and schedule

Our courses provide access to a knowledge base where you will find key information and useful resources available at any time. Be sure to try the free demo version of the course to ensure its effectiveness before making a purchase.

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For instance, our course "Improve Your Teacher Talk" will help you gain a deeper understanding of the importance of teacher communication and its impact on the learning process. You will learn about the common issues teachers face in conversations and how to effectively overcome them.

Another programme we are pleased to present is "ELT Upgrade: Planning and Performance". It is ideal for those who wish to refine their expertise in classroom management, lesson planning, and online teaching. 

You will acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to work effectively with EFL classes, and optimise your teaching methods to suit the specific needs of your audience and teaching conditions.

Teach with TEFL: geography

We have already established that a TEFL certification unlocks a plethora of opportunities for those pursuing a career as an English language teacher.  But in which countries is a TEFL qualification especially esteemed?


Countries such as China, Japan, South Korea, and Thailand offer numerous job openings for English language instructors. These countries often provide attractive working conditions. 

For instance, teachers in China receive generous salaries, accommodation, and flight reimbursements, whereas teachers in South Korea can anticipate strong support and an organised system that ensures a comfortable adaptation process.


In European countries like Spain, Italy, Germany, and the Czech Republic, there are abundant opportunities for teaching English as a foreign language. 

TEFL programmes are highly esteemed in educational institutions and private language schools due to their efficacy and appeal to local students.

Latin America

In Latin American countries like Mexico, Colombia, Chile, and Argentina, TEFL programmes are in high demand, especially in major cities and tourist centres.

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Countries where one can teach with TESOL

Professionals with a TESOL certification are in demand in the following countries:

USA and Canada

There exists a substantial demand for English language educators, particularly in the realm of instructing international students and migrants. 

These nations present a plethora of opportunities for TESOL-certified teachers, facilitating students' adaptation and integration into a new linguistic environment. Educators here play a pivotal role in supporting the educational and cultural needs of their learners.

United Kingdom and Ireland 

In these countries, you will be immersed in a rich Anglophone culture, which facilitates immersion in the language environment and enhances your professional skills.

Australia and New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand stand out as exemplary destinations for TESOL-certified educators seeking to advance their careers. Both nations highly value the unique contributions of such specialists, offering numerous opportunities for professional development and growth. 

By working in these countries, educators can significantly influence the linguistic and cultural advancement of their students, while also enriching themselves with new knowledge and experiences. 

In Australia and New Zealand, TESOL educators can engage in various educational initiatives and exchange programmes, which foster professional collaboration and innovation in teaching methodologies. 

Additionally, there are opportunities to organise international language camps, offering students immersive learning experiences that enhance their language proficiency and cultural awareness.

Primary focusTeaching English in countries where it is not L1Teaching English in countries where it is either a second or foreign language
Common teaching locationsAsia, South America, parts of EuropeUSA, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand
Target audienceNon-native English speakers in non-English speaking countriesNon-native English speakers in both English-speaking and non-English-speaking countries
Certification purposeTo teach English as a foreign languageTo teach English as a second or foreign language
Typical institutionsLanguage schools, universities, private courses, corporate trainingSchools, colleges, universities, international education programs


1. Which is better TEFL or TESOL?

The choice between pursuing a TEFL or TESOL certification hinges upon one's distinct professional objectives and ambitions. TEFL is particularly tailored for those who aim to deliver English language instruction in countries where English is not the predominant language

This path offers the chance to engage with a multitude of cultural backgrounds and linguistic environments. 

On the other hand, TESOL is designed for educators who intend to work in both English-speaking and non-English-speaking regions, thereby expanding the potential for professional growth and career progression. 

Each certification confers unique insights and benefits, catering to a variety of teaching contexts and addressing the demands of modern educational processes.

2. Do I need a TEFL if I have a TESOL?

If you hold a TESOL certification, acquiring a TEFL certification is typically unnecessary. 

TESOL encompasses both the teaching of English to non-native speakers and to those learning it alongside their native language, providing a broader range of knowledge and skills applicable to various educational contexts. 

However, job requirements can vary depending on the employer, so it is always prudent to verify the specific qualifications needed for any given position. 

Certain employers may have their own preferences or additional requirements, thus it is advantageous to ascertain all details in advance. By doing so, you can be thoroughly prepared for the hiring process and avoid any unforeseen obstacles.

Do I need a TEFL if I have a TESOL? - Grade-university.com

3. Is TEFL equivalent to IELTS?

TEFL constitutes a credential for instructing English, focusing on equipping educators with the necessary skills and methodologies to teach English as a foreign language.

In contrast, IELTS represents a standardised assessment designed to measure the English language proficiency of non-native speakers. 

These two serve distinctly different purposes within the realm of English language acquisition and pedagogy. 

Summing up, the acquisition of TEFL or TESOL certifications opens a multitude of opportunities in the field of global English instruction. These credentials enable aspiring educators to embark on diverse and fulfilling teaching careers worldwide.

These certifications will help you enhance your teaching skills, overcome language and cultural barriers, and turn your love for education into real accomplishments. Begin your journey in international English language teaching today and discover new horizons in education and professional career growth. 

The world of English instruction is vast and full of possibilities, waiting for dedicated educators like you to make a difference.

Article authors & editors
  • Kateryna Kuchynska

    Kateryna Kuchynska


    Teacher of General English



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