What qualifications do I need to teach English Online?

With so many people turning to online work during 2020, I want to share with you my personal experience of being an “English Teacher” and guide you with choosing the best qualification options. For those of you new to my blog, I’m Monique Sayers, I’ve been a teacher since 2010 and a TEFL teacher since 2014.

Let’s start with the basics. The requirements to teach English online or face to face differ from company to company and can include things like a TEFL or TESOL or CELTA certification, a university degree, prior teaching experience or being a native speaker. There are many different options so read on a find out more.

What do TEFL and TESOL stand for?

The acronym TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. This implies that you will be teaching English to people who don’t speak English as their first language. TESOL stands for Teaching English as a Second Language. In traditional terms this means that a student is learning English as their second spoken language. For example, an immigrant or new  comer to a country who speaks one language at home and then learns English as their second language. This could be useful in a school environment to teach English as an extended program to students as a second language. TESOL is more common in the US while TEFL is popular in Britain. For the purpose of applying to become an English Teacher for foreign students, both courses are equally recognised and in fact a lot of companies cover both as part of a certified course.

How about the TEFL/TESOL certificates?

To become a teacher of English as a Foreign Language, aka “English Teacher” or “Online Teacher” you will need a TEF/TESOL certification with a minimum of 100 hours of teaching time.  This teaching time can now be done online, not just face to face. Think of it like any internship where you need to have some experience before you can get out and teach.

Top Tips:

  • Check the certificate is internationally recognised and from an accredited institution.
  • Check that your certificate comes with a registration number, as you will need to enter this number when applying for jobs.
  • To set yourself apart from other applicants and learn the specific methodology, skills, and technology for the virtual classroom, an even better option is to study for more than 100 hours, especially if you haven’t had any classroom teaching experience. When you are applying for jobs you will be ask for teaching hours and years of experience.
  • If you haven’t had many teaching hours consider volunteering your time teaching English in a centre near you. Or even start up an English conversation club (virtual) to practise teaching speaking skills. Also tutoring, volunteering, completing teaching practicums, and mentoring can often count as teaching experience, it’s all about how you sell yourself.

Do I need a university degree?

This will depend on which company that you are applying to. Some online teacher requirements include certain types of university degrees. Most online companies that require this will only need to see proof of a bachelor’s degree, which can typically be in any field. In other words, you’re not usually required to have a degree in education, English, or a related field, and normally, a master’s degree isn’t needed.  It really depends on the licensing agreements for the country you company is based. When I was teaching for English First in Indonesia, my visa required both a degree and a TEFL certificate. I currently teach for a few different companies as well as freelance. My freelancing option was simple, they didn’t check any certificates just my CV. For companies like PalFish whom I work for, they require you to upload your TEFL certificate as part of the process, prior to an interview, however a degree is not necessary. If you would like to investigate PalFish further, please click this link.

How about a CELTA course?


The acronym CELTA stands for Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults which was created by the University of Cambridge. It’s a good option if you’re serious about ESL teaching, as it’s the next level after TEFL. CELTA is regulated at Level 5 of the Qualifications and Credit Framework for England, Wales and N. Ireland and is suitable for teachers at Foundation and Developing level on the Cambridge English Teaching Framework.


I would recommend CELTA especially if you don’t already have a degree because employers view this certificate highly. Unfortunately, it can’t replace a degree in terms of visa requirements or certain entry level requirements for English companies, but it can give you an edge over people will only a TEFL course. The reason for this is that it doesn’t matter where you do the CELTA, the qualification is the same, and will be recognised equally by employers. Whereas, TEFL courses can vary significantly and you can never be completely sure as to how worthwhile they will be. You will not require a visa to teach Online.


How long does do the courses take?

On average a course is approximately four to five weeks on a full-time level and can be taken face to face or online. CELTA focuses on equal amount of theory and practise. CELTA is a continuous assessment course and participants are assessed throughout the entire course leading to a qualification.

The TEFL and TESOL certificates can be completed in 2 days plus 100 hours of experience, it will depend on which company you choose. Some may be totally online; some may do a mixed version. It’s the fastest way to get going with teaching online if you don’t want to commit to a CELTA.

Can I teach English online if I’m not a native English speaker?

Some companies may only accept applications from native English speakers, and all employers will require you to be fluent in English. If you’re not a native English speaker, you may be required to submit proof of fluency through English language proficiency exam results or certificates. There are plenty of opportunities to teach English online that don’t require you to be a native speaker, it just depends on the employer’s requirements. For example, PalFish has a course called the “Official Philippines course” made for Philippines nationals to teach.

In summary it is possible to teach English without a certificate, but you will have many options by taking the time to learn a TEFL/TESOL or CELTA courses and are very useful as you will be learning how to teach English. This may sound easy, but there is a lot to know. Things like how to manage a class, how to use props or TPR for engagement of students, how to teach children, how to teach adults as well as how to create a great lesson plan. I will share with you in another bog my top teaching tips to guide you into being amazing English teachers for this year and beyond.

2 thoughts on “Courses”

  1. You have great points there! I was facing most of these questions before deciding to take the CELTA course.

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