Which is the best certification for teaching English as a foreign or second language abroad?

There are many qualifications for people wanting to teach English as a foreign language or English as a second language: SIT TESOL, TESOL, TEFL, CELTA, etc. However, are they really worthwhile?

It depends on where you want to go and what level you want to teach at. Here in China, there are three main options:

  1. No real qualifications. Demand for teachers here is so high that many schools will employ anybody. I even know of several non-native English speakers who work as teachers simply because they look European. If you come for these jobs, you’ll often be employed at the lower end of the market at small private schools or kindergartens. Some people I know have used “fake” or internet bought degrees to get teaching jobs at these small schools. One person I know failed to get visa documents with a TEFL certificate but did get them with a faked degree. Note that I don’t recommend this option.
  2. University Degree (any subject). This will get you legit visas and work at many schools and universities in most cities in China. Teaching certificates like the ones you mentioned are not really required. However, previous teaching experience is looked on favourably. At universities, the pay is usually based on what level of degree you have: Ordinary, Masters or Doctors.
  3. Teaching Degree and teaching experience in a school in your own country. This must be a full teaching qualification and not just a certificate. This will get you a job at an international school. These schools teach more than just English, they have places for maths, science and other subjects too. They typically pay 3 to 4 times as much as ESL positions in other schools offer.

In general, in China, little emphasis is placed on SIT TESOL, TESOL, TEFL or CELTA. It is unlikely to increase your pay significantly. Also, these certificates are not usually accepted by the government’s foreign experts offices that issue your documents required for your visa. A University Degree and previous experience are the best ways to get started in China.

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