TEFL or TESOL: Which Teaching Program Is Right for You?

By Stephanie Stevens

Are you interested in teaching English to non-native English speakers either in the United States or overseas? It’s a rewarding career choice, but there are a range of considerations to ponder before getting started that can be confusing. We’re here to help!
First, there is no “wrong answer” to which program you should take. Both Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) are high-quality programs, and either certification may be enough to land a position with an English-language school in the U.S. or abroad (it varies by employer).
Consider where you want to teach.
Is travel a big part of your life goals? Are you looking for an opportunity to immerse yourself in other cultures and meet people from around the world? TEFL programs are designed for those who want to teach English to non-native speakers outside of an English-speaking country.
Perhaps you prefer to stay local and work with those in need such as refugees and immigrants who want and/or need to learn English? TESOL programs are geared toward those who plan to teach English as a second language to people within an English-speaking country.
Be clear on your learning style.
Do you prefer an online or in-person program? The TESOL program is entirely online. The TEFL program is primarily local to San Diego with a few online course options.
Where do you want to study?
There are programs all over the country, but if you live in San Diego, plan to visit the area for up to a year, or you’re an international student studying at UC San Diego, taking UC San Diego Extension’s TEFL program is a great option. The classes are taught in-person and on campus, with a focus on practical skills and proficiency. Plus, there are specializations that can help your resume stand out.
If you’re unable to attend classes in San Diego (or you prefer an online learning format), we recommend taking a TESOL program. You can complete the entire certificate online and finish up the program with a 60-hour, hands-on practicum in your area that provides you with the opportunity to work with an experienced ESL professional in a classroom setting.
How much does it pay?
Pay varies significantly by location. Experience and level of education are taken into consideration regardless of whether you’re teaching domestically or overseas. However, the average yearly wage for instructors is $58,110 or about $4,842 per month in the United States, and the availability of benefits such as health insurance varies.

When teaching outside of the U.S., the pay ranges from a modest $400-600 per month in Peru (where the cost of living is $300-500 per month) to $3,000-5,000 per month in Dubai (where the cost of living is high, but most employers supply educators with free, fully-furnished accommodations and a return flight home).
We highly recommend you do your research so that you get both the experience and the compensation that works best for you.
Are there enough teaching positions available?
Overall, the number of English language learners in the U.S. has risen significantly – from 3.8 million in 2000 to 4.9 million as of 2016. Nevertheless, the number of teaching jobs available will vary based on where you choose to teach. For example, within the U.S., a modest 5% of New Jersey’s public school students are English language learners, where California’s percentage stands at 20.2%.
Worldwide, the number of English language learners is estimated to be an impressive 1.75 billion people, making it spoken by one out of four people across the globe. And that number is expected to continue to grow to 2 billion by 2020, which means that not only are there a number of positions open, but there are more jobs than qualified teachers to fill them.
Did you find this article helpful? Let us know in the comments.


Posted: 8/5/2019 12:58:16 PM with 4 comments
Filed under: efl, esl, teaching-english, tefl, tesol

UC San Diego Extension
Marvilynne Helm, absolutely! Please take a look at both programs and see which one is right for you.


Good luck and we hope to see you in class soon!
1/28/2020 4:29:21 PM

Marvilynne Helm
I’m 60 and retiring and planning to travel and become nomadic. I am wondering as a retired Nurse, I have no formal training in teaching (other than bedside discharge instructions and occasional lecturing in small groups). Also I haven’t any recent academic grades. Am I eligible for any of these classes?
1/28/2020 3:39:05 PM

UC San Diego Extension
You are so very welcome Demi. Please apply to one of the programs. The world is waiting for you!
8/22/2019 9:59:38 AM

Demi L Manuel
Thank you so much for this article. I am very inspired and encouraged after reading it. My goal for 2020 is to enrol in this certification course. I am 62 years old and i want spend my life on travel and teaching if given the chance to enrol the course. I spent 30 years working in government, and 12 years as a college instructor during my younger years.
Thank you.
8/21/2019 5:26:00 PM

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