TEFL Internships vs. TEFL Jobs: What’s the Difference

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) has become a popular career choice for individuals seeking to explore the world while making a meaningful impact on students’ lives. Whether you’re a recent graduate, a career changer, or someone looking for an adventure, TEFL offers various opportunities, including TEFL internships and jobs. In this article, we will delve into the key differences between TEFL internships and TEFL jobs, helping you decide which path suits your goals and aspirations.

TEFL Internships: An Overview

TEFL internships, often called teaching internships, are short-term teaching positions designed to provide aspiring educators with hands-on experience teaching English to non-native speakers. These internships typically last from a few weeks to several months, allowing participants to gain practical teaching experience while exploring a new culture. The primary purpose of TEFL internships is to offer training and exposure to the field of English language teaching. These programs are ideal for individuals new to teaching or those who want to enhance their teaching skills in a structured and supported environment. TEFL interns often receive mentorship and guidance from experienced educators.

Internships are Seen as Short-Term Stepping Stones

TEFL internships are typically short-term commitments, ranging from a few weeks to six months. This allows participants to explore teaching without committing to a long-term contract. The shorter duration makes TEFL internships suitable for individuals who want to gain experience while maintaining flexibility in their career plans. In most cases, TEFL internships only provide a stipend or a modest salary to cover living expenses, which is why they are only suitable for short-term work. The compensation is always much less than experienced TEFL teachers receive, so it would be hard to live for long on them. Internships primarily focus on learning and gaining experience rather than financial gain.

TEFL teacher on a bridge in Vietnam

Applying for an Internship

TEFL internships may have varying requirements, but they generally do not demand extensive teaching experience or advanced qualifications, similar to how apprenticeships work in other industries. Applicants are often expected to have a bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certification and, more often than not, be looking for their first real job, using an internship as a stepping stone. Some programs may also require candidates to be native or near-native English speakers, so if English is not your native tongue, you may need to understand standard English tests to prove your abilities. However, this might not be enough, especially if you have a heavy native accent. Some schools prefer their children to be taught by teachers who sound like native speakers rather than those who are not. 

But You Will Learn More!

One of the critical advantages of TEFL internships is the level of support and training provided. Interns typically receive orientation sessions, teaching materials, and guidance from experienced teachers. This support system helps them develop their teaching skills and adapt to the classroom environment. TEFL internship programs often provide accommodation for participants, further simplifying the logistics of living abroad and giving you ready-made friends, all of whom are in the same situation. Additionally, interns can immerse themselves in the local culture, which can be a significant draw for those seeking a cultural exchange experience.

TEFL Jobs: An Overview

TEFL jobs are long-term teaching positions in which educators are hired to teach English as a foreign language in various educational institutions, language schools, or private tutoring settings. TEFL jobs are often considered a more stable and established career path in English language teaching. The primary purpose of TEFL jobs is to provide a sustainable income and career path for English language educators. Unlike internships, TEFL jobs are typically taken on as a career choice, and many teachers pursue them as a long-term profession.

A Proper Job

TEFL jobs are long-term commitments lasting from several months to several years. Many teachers choose TEFL jobs to establish themselves professionally and live in a foreign country for an extended period. It is fair to say that applying for a TEFL job will give you more competitive salaries and benefits than internships. Experienced TEFL teachers often receive higher pay, housing allowances, and additional perks like airfare reimbursement and health insurance. Financial is a significant factor for those looking for a stable income abroad. Sometimes, they do not seem well paid, but remember to consider the cost of living in the country you are applying to. Generally, teaching wages are ‘living wages’, meaning that even if it seems lower than you are used to, your cost for rent and food will be comparatively lower, too. 

Qualification Requirements Vary

TEFL jobs usually have more stringent requirements than internships. Employers often seek candidates with a bachelor’s degree, TEFL or TESOL certification, and sometimes prior teaching experience. Native or near-native English proficiency is also typically required; this is similar to internships. If English is your second language, you may need to take internationally recognised English tests such as IELTS to prove your competency.

The Life of a Teacher Abroad

While TEFL jobs provide some support and training, they may not offer the same mentorship and guidance as internships. Teachers in long-term positions are expected to be more self-reliant and experienced in classroom management, just as you would teaching English in your home country. Teachers in TEFL jobs are often responsible for arranging their accommodation, although some employers may offer assistance or housing options. This tends to either be a room in a shared house with other teachers (if they have more than one position) or a building they own with a self-contained flat. So, be sure to clarify, as house sharing is not for everyone. Many people are happy to house share because it gives you instant connections to others in a similar situation. Cultural integration and immersion are still possible in TEFL jobs, but the level of support may vary depending on the job and location. You must brave the outside world and get involved in your new community!

voluntary thailand internship

Comparing TEFL Internships and TEFL Jobs

Now that we have explored the critical characteristics of TEFL internships and TEFL jobs, let’s compare these two paths across various aspects:

  • Duration and Commitment:

TEFL Internships: Short-term commitment (weeks to months).

TEFL Jobs: Long-term commitment (months to years).

  • Purpose

TEFL Internships: Primarily for gaining experience and exposure.

TEFL Jobs: Intended for those seeking a stable career and income.

  • Compensation

TEFL Internships: Modest stipend or salary for living expenses.

TEFL Jobs: Competitive salaries, benefits, and potential perks.

  • Qualifications and Requirements:

TEFL Internships: Basic qualifications (e.g., bachelor’s degree and TEFL certification).

TEFL Jobs: May require more extensive qualifications and prior teaching experience.

  • Support and Training:

TEFL Internships: Strong support, mentorship, and training.

TEFL Jobs: Varies by employer; often less intensive support.

  • Accommodation and Cultural Immersion:

TEFL Internships: Accommodation is typically provided, with opportunities for cultural immersion.

TEFL Jobs: Teachers may need to arrange their accommodation with varying levels of cultural integration.

Choosing Between TEFL Internships and TEFL Jobs

The choice between pursuing a TEFL internship or a TEFL job depends on your goals, circumstances, and preferences. If you see teaching English as a long-term career and are committed to building a stable life in a foreign country, TEFL jobs may be the better choice. If you prioritise gaining teaching experience and cultural exposure over a high income, a TEFL internship can provide valuable hands-on experience. Consider how long you are willing to commit to living abroad. If you prefer shorter stays, a training may be more suitable.

You are assessing your qualifications and whether you meet the requirements for TEFL jobs. You may be better suited for teaching positions with prior teaching experience and advanced capabilities. If financial stability is a priority, TEFL jobs generally offer better compensation and benefits. Think about how much support and training you need. An internship can provide the necessary guidance if you are new to teaching.

The Bottom Line on Internships v Jobs

TEFL internships and TEFL jobs each offer unique opportunities for individuals interested in teaching English as a foreign language while experiencing life in a different culture. The choice between the two depends on your personal and professional goals, as well as your current qualifications and circumstances. Whether you opt for a TEFL internship to gain experience or a TEFL job for a long-term career, both paths can be rewarding experiences that open doors to exciting opportunities worldwide.

The Importance of an Accredited TEFL Qualification.

Getting a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) accredited qualification offers several advantages and benefits. Accreditation is a process by which an external organisation reviews and validates the quality and standards of a program or institution.

Accredited TEFL programs have been evaluated and deemed to meet specific quality standards. This means you can be confident that you receive a high-quality education that aligns with industry standards. Employers worldwide recognise and trust accredited TEFL qualifications. When you apply for TEFL jobs, having an accredited certificate can enhance your credibility and make you a more attractive candidate. 

It is also essential to consider your career progression, especially if you want to use your TEFL qualifications to work abroad. Schools, language centres, and organisations widely accept accredited TEFL certificates worldwide. This global recognition means you can choose where you want to teach. In some countries, having an accredited TEFL qualification is a requirement for obtaining a work visa or residence permit. Without proper accreditation, you may encounter difficulties securing legal employment. 

Some countries or regions have specific legal requirements for English language teachers. Accredited TEFL qualifications often fulfil these requirements, ensuring that you’re teaching legally and ethically, which naturally makes you a more attractive candidate than those who do not have the same qualifications, regardless of whether you are applying for an internship or job.

The Course Content and Support Offered is Superior

TEFL programs are designed to provide comprehensive training in teaching English to non-native speakers. You’ll learn effective teaching methodologies, classroom management techniques, and lesson planning skills essential for successful teaching. Accredited programs often provide access to many teaching resources, materials, and support networks. This can be invaluable, especially if you’re a new teacher looking for guidance and help to create engaging lessons. You will also find that accredited TEFL programs focus on continuous professional development. This means you’ll receive ongoing support and opportunities for further training and specialisation throughout your teaching career.

Knowing that your TEFL qualification is accredited can boost your confidence as a teacher. Stepping up in front of your first class will be daunting, no matter where you start or how much experience you already have. Your accredited training helps you feel more prepared and competent in the classroom, which can positively impact your teaching and students’ learning experiences. 

Develop a Support System

Accredited TEFL programs often have a network of alumni and connections within the field. This can be beneficial for finding job opportunities, seeking advice, and building a professional network. Sometimes, having an accredited TEFL qualification can lead to higher-paying teaching positions. Employers may be willing to offer more competitive salaries to teachers with recognised qualifications. TEFL accreditation doesn’t just benefit your career; it can also contribute to personal growth. Living and working in a foreign country, immersed in a new culture, can be a transformative experience that broadens your horizons and enhances your life skills.

In summary, obtaining an accredited TEFL qualification is a wise choice for anyone aspiring to teach English as a foreign language. It enhances your professional prospects and ensures that you receive a high-quality education and meet the legal and visa requirements when pursuing teaching opportunities abroad. Ultimately, accreditation provides a strong foundation for a successful and rewarding career in TEFL.

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