A Review of the International TEFL Academy
170-hour Level 5 Online TEFL Certification
International TEFL Academy is one of the most well-known and well-respected TEFL certification providers in the ESL industry. While its courses are priced above most of its competitors, the higher price is justified, as this is truly a legitimate academy that offers authentic, well-designed, and professionally-taught TEFL certification courses. There is no doubt in our minds that anyone completing the International TEFL Academy 170-hour Level 5 TEFL Certification will be adequately prepared to teach ESL learners in various situations using the methodologies covered in the course.
About International TEFL Academy
International TEFL Academy is based in Chicago, Illinois, in the United States. They are one of the largest TEFL certification providers with over 6,000 students completing their program each year. According to International TEFL Academy, its mission statement is to:
The academy offers an online TEFL certification course, as well as hybrid and in-person TEFL certification courses in various locations around the world. In this review, we will be looking at the 170-hour Level 5 online TEFL certification, which includes 20 hours of live practicum.
International TEFL Academy has one of the largest networks of locations around the globe where you can enroll in an in-person TEFL certification course, or complete your 20-hour practicum, if you have enrolled in the online TEFL certification.
Bruce Jones, the founder of International TEFL Academy, was interviewed by the Chicago Tribune in 2019, and had this to say about the academy:
International TEFL Academy’s TEFL certifications are accredited by Training Qualifications UK (TQUK). TQUK is regulated by the Office of Qualifications and Examination Regulations (Ofqual), which is the United Kingdom’s independent governmental body tasked with regulating qualifications, exams, and tests. Though International TEFL Academy is a USA based company, it has made the decision for gaining accreditation in the UK due to the country’s well-established standards in regulating TEFL qualifications. It is among a select group of TEFL certification providers to have attained a Level 5 qualification status, which requires regularly meeting Ofqual’s stringent requirements. You can see International TEFL Academy’s (TQUK) Level 5 qualification in the Ofqual register here.
Aside from TQUK, International TEFL Academy’s courses outside of USA are accredited and recognized by different accrediting and governing bodies. This includes the International Accreditation of TESOL Qualifying Organizations (IATQuO), which has recognized partner courses in France, Czechia, and Spain.
Fort Hays University, in Kansas, has recognized International TEFL Academy’s Buenos Aires certification course, and awards graduates of the course with three credits in the university’s English as a Second Language program.
Some of the courses in Peru, Greece, Mexico, Italy, Russia, and Turkey have been accredited through the Learning Resource Network (LRN). Each of these programs also has partnerships with other organizations in the respective country.
The International TEFL Academy certification course in Chang Mai, Thailand, has been accredited by both TQUK as well as the Thai Ministry of Education.
Courses in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and Hanoi, Vietnam as well as Phnom Penh, Cambodia, have all been accredited by the Australian International College of Language.
Needless to say, International TEFL Academy has gained several highly respected accreditations for its TEFL certification courses offered in various parts of the world, as well as online.
How the International TEFL Academy 170-hour Level 5 Online TEFL Certification is Different
There are a few aspects to International TEFL Academy’s online TEFL certification that differentiate it from other online TEFL certifications, and that includes other Level 5 online TEFL certifications. Let’s have a closer look…
150 Hours of Online Instruction + 20 Hours of Live Practicum
This course is built on 150 instructional hours, delivered through an online platform. There is also a 20-hour of practicum, which must be completed on your own. You will need to complete these 20 hours of practical teaching, which you can do in a school or community center in your area, or at one of International TEFL Academy’s preferred locations around the world. Its vast network of partner schools both within as well as outside of the USA give you several options to complete the practicum component.
The reason International TEFL Academy does not arrange the practicum component for you is that people start and complete the online course on different dates and in different locations. The onus is on you to find a school or institute to complete your practicum hours, so that you can do so at a time and location that is convenient to you.
Other Level 5 online TEFL certifications we have reviewed – and even recommend – don’t include a practicum. Some include a practical teaching component in their blended learning courses, or by purchasing one as an extension course.
Unlike other online TEFL certifications, International TEFL Academy requires anyone who is interested in completing its online TEFL certification course to speak to one of its Admissions Advisors prior to commencing the course. The advisor will provide details and clarity about what to expect during the course, and how to approach your career in ESL teaching when seeking ESL job opportunities. This is International TEFL Academy’s way of ensuring people have clear and realistic expectations before, during, and after the course.
International TEFL Academy sets the bar high by offering an online course that will not only challenge you, but also help you set realistic goals, so that you can make better, more informed decisions about a career teaching English to ESL learners internationally.
Here are some of the topics you will discuss with the Admissions Advisor:
- Your citizenship, age, educational level, hiring cycles, and interviewing procedures (in-person or phone interviews)
- Hiring procedures and eligibility requirements for English teaching positions in different countries
- If you are a non-native English speaker, how to plan your ESL teaching career, and understanding which countries present the greatest opportunities for you to gain employment
It’s just our opinion, but we feel anyone considering this course will appreciate the candor that International TEFL Academy brings to the table. What’s the point of completing a TEFL course without first knowing the realities of the ESL job market? This measure International TEFL Academy has put in place is why most of its graduates come out of the course highly satisfied with their experience with the academy.
Screening for English Proficiency and Ability to Complete a University Level Course
Non-native English speakers can enroll in this course. However, if you are a non-native English speaker, you will need to demonstrate your English proficiency before being admitted into the course. To do so, you will need to complete a phone interview, and write a brief essay.
This prerequisite is International TEFL Academy’s way of ensuring your level of English proficiency is sufficient to complete the course, assignments, and practicum. Certainly, anyone contemplating a career teaching English abroad should be proficient in both spoken and written English.
International TEFL Academy also expects that anyone enrolled in this course has the ability to complete a university-level course.
Here is what International TEFL Academy says about this:
A university degree is not required to enroll in the 170-hour Level 5 online TEFL certification, but, you should recognize that this course will be challenging, and you should be prepared to find this course as challenging as a university-level course.
Other Eligibility Requirements
In addition to the above requirements, you will need to include a scanned copy of a valid photo ID such as a passport or driver’s license when you enroll in the International TEFL Academy 170-hour Level 5 Online TEFL Certification course. You must be at least 18 years old to enroll (special exceptions can be made with certain conditions met), and you must have completed a high school level diploma or GED.
Going In-Depth into the International TEFL Academy Online TEFL Certification Course
Our goal is to only recommend legitimate TEFL certifications to you. This is not an easy task, since there is no single international body governing TEFL qualifications. You can learn more about our criteria for recommending TEFL certifications here. International TEFL Academy’s 170-hour Level 5 Online Certification is as legitimate as they come, being accredited and regulated by Ofqual in the UK through the accrediting body, Training Qualifications UK (TQUK).
Reputable employers in the industry will recognize and appreciate seeing your TEFL certification coming from International TEFL Academy, which will show 150 instructional hours and 20 hours of teaching practice. Many employers, particularly those that offer the highest salaries and benefits packages, won’t accept TEFL certifications which don’t include a practicum component.
What Topics are Covered in the Course?
Here is an outline of the instructional modules covered in the online TEFL certification course:
- Pre-course Grammar Module
- The Role of the Teacher
- Creating a Student-centered Classroom
- Cultural Sensitivity
- Methods and Approaches
- Lesson Planning
- Grammar and Lexis
- Listening and Reading
- Speaking and Writing
- Visual Aids
The course covers the many facets of being an ESL teacher working in a non-English speaking country, preparing enrollees for cultural encounters, and explaining various pedagogies that can be applied in the ESL classroom. What’s important to note is that most ESL learners give a high level of importance to grammar and vocabulary. This is because, aside from improving their fluency, most ESL learners must also achieve minimum scores on standardized English proficiency tests, such as IELTS or TOEFL, or even local proficiency tests, such as the CET in China. So, ESL teachers are expected to be able to teach grammar and lexis, in addition to listening, reading, speaking, and writing, capably.
You can learn more about the course modules here.
Are there any Assignments?
This course also contains a final project, which is a thematic unit, and enrollees must complete and submit the final project to earn their TEFL certification. Here is an excerpt from the academy’s website about the final project.
As you can see, the final project is very open-ended, requiring enrollees to apply what they have learned in each module to develop lessons for an EFL class. The final project will be assessed by one of the academy’s course instructors.
You can learn more about the final project and see an example of the assignment here.
How does the Practicum work?
Unlike most other online TEFL certification courses, International TEFL Academy requires its enrollees to complete a 20-hour teaching practicum before they can earn their TEFL certifications. The practicum enables you to practice the theories and methodologies you have learned in the course by teaching ESL students in an actual ESL class. It also helps you gain experience dealing with the various challenges that come with teaching ESL learners, and develop confidence.
Here is what the academy says about the practicum:
Completing the Practicum
International TEFL Academy provides its online TEFL course enrollees instructions on how to complete the practicum, and how to log your practicum hours and experience. This information is included in the online course dashboard after logging in. The academy has also shared this detailed video publicly to help you get a better idea of what completing the practicum involves:
Finding a Practicum Location
As we mentioned earlier, you are responsible for completing the practicum on your own, and that also means finding a location to complete the practicum. The good news is that you can complete it in different ways. You can approach a school, college, community center, and other institutions that may offer ESL lessons. You can teach ESL students privately. Or, you can complete your practicum at one of the many preferred locations that International TEFL Academy has established through its global network, both in the USA as well as overseas. You can also complete the practicum online. You must complete your live practicum within 60 days of your course end date.
International TEFL Academy has published this video to help you in your process of finding a practicum location:
Who are the Course Instructors?
International TEFL Academy states that its courses are taught by university-level instructors. Referring to its instructors as Professors, each instructor’s profile is clearly visible on its website. Based on what the academy has published, its TEFL course instructors have a Masters in Education, English, Linguistics, or TESOL, or equivalent degree, or higher, in addition to several years of experience teaching English internationally.
These qualifications are important to your learning experience. Learning from instructors who have been professionally-trained to teach English, and have taught English as a foreign language internationally, you can expect to benefit from both their academic training as well as their practical experiences.
As your course project will be assessed by assigned course instructors, you will also be gaining valuable feedback about how well you have applied what you have learned through the online course, and what aspects of your lesson preparation need improvement.
How well can the Course Content be Applied in a Real ESL Classroom?
International TEFL Academy has produced a thorough online TEFL course that is designed to fully prepare you for a career in teaching ESL abroad. This course is highly relevant and practical, as is evidenced by the many graduates who sing the praises of this course and their experience completing it.
The Online TEFL certification course examines the realities of teaching English to students whose first language is not English, and the unique challenges that you will face teaching English in a foreign country. After completing the online course and practicum, you will have a very thorough understanding of what it is to experience teaching English as a foreign language, and how to approach various situations you will encounter as an English teacher working in non-English speaking country.
As mentioned, International TEFL Academy requires enrollees to have the ability to complete a university-level course in English. In the USA, this course is recognized by Fort Hays University in Kansas and graduates can earn course credits at the university. In the UK, is recognized as a Level 5 qualification, which Ofqual defines as:
- diploma of higher education (DipHE)
- foundation degree
- higher national diploma (HND)
- level 5 award
- level 5 certificate
- level 5 diploma
- level 5 NVQ
How Easy is it to Navigate through the Online Course?
This online TEFL course is delivered – and delivers – through a good balance between information and clean interface. Many online TEFL courses feel cluttered and difficult to navigate. This course is just the opposite. Everything in the course is logically arranged and clearly labeled. Ideally, you want to be able to navigate through the course efficiently, while also being to go back to review what you have previously studied, since learning a skill such as teaching ESL is not a one and done sort of thing.
Enrollees should have no difficulty moving through this online course, and that’s good, because the course content is challenging, and that’s what you want to focus on, not clicking around looking for information.
What Extension Courses does International TEFL Academy offer?
International TEFL Academy offers a few extension courses you can enroll in to gain more specialized skills as an ESL teacher. These include:
- Teaching English to Young Learners 30-Hour Specialty Class
- Teaching Business English 30-Hour Specialty Class
- Teaching English Online 30-Hour Specialty Class
As with the Online TEFL certification course, these courses are developed by university-level instructors and are delivered online. The courses are only available to current enrollees or graduates of International TEFL Academy’s TEFL certification courses, and can only be completed after you have earned your foundational TEFL certification.
Following International TEFL Academy’s course standards, these specialty courses follow a fixed schedule with set start and end dates. Thus, unlike other online TEFL courses which give you a period of time in which to complete the course, you’ll need to enroll in advance,, and start and complete the course within the scheduled timeframe.
Downsides of Taking this Course
Every course, including the best ones, have their downsides. This course is no exception. The downsides of this course are not so much about the design and delivery of the course content. Rather, the biggest downsides to this course are price, value when compared with CELTA, and flexibility in course enrollment.
Not that we feel a price tag of $1399 for a well-designed, quality TEFL course is outrageous, but as this is an online Level 5 TEFL certification, competing courses also having Level 5 qualification status come in at less than half this price. For many, this is a deal-breaker, as it is either over their budget, or pushes them to cheaper options.
There is an ongoing debate about the actual value having a TEFL certification brings, and that only compounds the price tag concerns many people will have with this course.
We do feel that people who bite the bullet and complete this course come out the better for it, and very satisfied with their investment.
We have also seen people pay $200 for an online TEFL certification and come out of it bitterly disappointed due to the shallowness of the course content, lack of task work and assessment from qualified ESL professionals, and lack of support.
So, perhaps the price tag is not so much the issue as the reputation so many TEFL courses have gained for being scam-worthy, and the numerous fake TEFL reviews don’t help much. This reputation often gets tacked on to the few reputable TEFL certification providers.
At the end of the day, if you are looking to earn a TEFL certification, the price you pay for the course won’t necessarily relate to the job opportunities you gain (unless applying to very serious employers such as international schools, universities, and high-end employers). However, if you are looking to build a serious career in TEFL, then we recommend nothing short of a Level 5 TEFL certification, or an ACCET-accredited TEFL certification. Respected employers will take your TEFL certification more seriously, and your TEFL certification will travel better than one that is not government-regulated and accredited.
International TEFL Academy Level 5 TEFL Certification or CELTA?
Some arguments abound that serious ESL teachers should fork out the extra $500 or so it costs for the CELTA. Though we don’t disagree with anyone choosing to complete a CELTA for its reputation and educational value, we don’t think is a valid argument.
Firstly, CELTA (also a Level 5 qualification) is now offered as a blended learning course, so if you choose the blended learning option to complete a CELTA, you will in effect be paying more for an online TEFL course.
Moreover, CELTA has been designed to prepare individuals to teach ESL to adult learners. The ESL market is made up of much more than adult learners, who actually represent a smaller segment.
Thirdly, CELTA is offered as a full-time or part-time course. The full-time course takes about one month to complete, which means for one month, you will only be doing the CELTA certification course. There will be little time for anything else, which means you will need to also have the time and money to support yourself financially during the time you are taking the CELTA course. If you decide to complete the CELTA part-time, you will need to allocate at least 3 – 4 months to complete it.
Again, we are not disputing the merits of CELTA in terms of the course content and delivery, but simply refuting the argument that it is better to pay a little more for the CELTA instead of the $1399 tuition cost for the International TEFL Academy online TEFL certification. Both courses provide a wealth of knowledge that can be applied in the ESL classroom.
The only reason why we would suggest the CELTA qualification over any other Level 5 TEFL qualification is if (1) your employer specifically requires you to have it, and (2) the salary and benefits package you will receive as a result of holding a CELTA qualification justifies the investment.
Most employers in the ESL industry are primarily focused on hiring candidates who:
- Can be legally employed as an ESL teacher in the country where the employer is based
- Hold a bachelor degree or higher (a masters degree is often required for more prestigious institutions)
- Hold an accredited TEFL certificate from a course which is comprised of at least 120-hours of study
- Have relevant ESL teaching experience (usually the more experience, the better)
- Present themselves professionally throughout the recruitment process
- Have no criminal record
- Are able to arrive in time for the start date of the academic semester
Some ESL employers do prefer a CELTA, but most will not expend too much energy over this particular credential.
Flexibility in Course Enrollment
One of the biggest differences in how International TEFL Academy delivers its online TEFL certification when comparing to other Level 5 TEFL certifications is that its course is offered on a schedule throughout the year. Thus, you cannot simply expect to enroll in the course, and get going right away. You should instead plan to enroll at least two weeks in advance of the course start date, as the each class is capped at 20 students, and you will need to speak to an Admissions Advisor prior to starting the course.
You will also need to factor in the time required to complete the practicum.
If you plan well-ahead, this should not really pose any challenges, but if you are on a tight timeline, this could impact your plans to start teaching English abroad or online.
Who should take this Course?
The International TEFL Academy 170-hour Level 5 Online TEFL Certification is an outstanding option for individuals who want to enroll in a well-designed and delivered online TEFL course taught by highly-qualified ESL instructors, and which includes a practical teaching component.
The price tag is going to be a turn-off for aspiring ESL teachers on a budget, who can earn a Level 5 TEFL qualification in and around the price of $500 through other online options. International TEFL Academy has positioned itself in the higher-end of the TEFL training spectrum, offering online, onsite, and blended learning courses that are highly acclaimed, and are considered among the most respected in the industry.
If you are planning to teach ESL in the Middle East, this course will also be an excellent option for you. Middle East employers tend to be more scrutinizing of one’s TEFL qualifications and are particularly interested in seeing that the course was completed with an onsite practicum.
This course was primarily designed for individuals who plan to teach English in non-English speaking countries. Although the methodologies covered in this course can also be transferred to the online classroom, we feel there are more cost-effective options for online ESL teaching. Online ESL teaching, in its current form, is freelance work that comes with no salary or benefits, so a different approach to gaining a TEFL qualification is recommended.
Instead, we highly recommend choosing this course if you are planning a mid to long-term career as an ESL teacher and aim to gain employment in countries where ESL teachers are well-compensated. Likewise, this course is ideal for career-minded ESL teachers who have plans and/or qualifications to teach in international schools or universities that will compensate for these credentials.