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Step 3: To TEFL or Not to TEFL?

Deciding whether or not to get a TEFL certification before teaching is a decision heavily dependent upon the country in which you have chosen to teach. For this reason, this section will be focused solely on my experience in Thailand.

What TEFL certification program did you do?

I signed up for a TEFL certification course in Bangkok called American TESOL Institute Special Thai Project. Despite everything I read that said it’s best to come in without a job lined up, I wanted the security of a guaranteed job, which is something the American TESOL Institute (ATI) offers. I also went with them because I have a friend who did their course and placement (it’s specifically called the Special Thai Project) about 2 years ago and she recommended it to me. Plus, they offered the cheapest rates for an in-class TEFL certification.

ATI special thai project class
Making teaching materials for class.

Did you get certified in your hometown or in Thailand?

I got certified in Thailand. If you’re going to get certified I would definitely do it in the country in which you want to teach. You will have access to way more resources plus you will get to meet people and become acclimated to the culture.

American TESOL Institute (ATI) Special Thai Project Review: How was it?

In reviewing the American TESOL Institute Special Thai Project, I must say ATI was extraordinarily frustrating to work with. They were disorganized and nearly impossible to communicate with remotely, before the start of the program.

Strangely, though, the people we met once we arrived in Thailand were really helpful. Our instructor, Whittney, was very knowledgeable and experienced and I felt like I learned a lot from the class itself. Overall, I would recommend ATI, but I would not recommend their Special Thai Project.

Practicing teaching with ATI Special Thai Project
Singing during a practice teaching session in a school in Bangkok.

Why don’t you recommend the Special Thai Project and what kind of TEFL program would you recommend?

I don’t recommend it because it ties you into a job and you have no control over what job you end up with.

I recommend striking a balance between having control and feeling secure in your investment by signing up for ATI’s in-country, in-person TEFL certification course that has job placement assistance but not a guaranteed job.

This way, you will have the option of working with a recruiter or trying on your own! Options are always good 🙂


Well first of all, you don’t technically need a TEFL certification to teach in Thailand – all you need is a Bachelor’s degree and, supposedly, to be a native English speaker (NES). I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable stepping in front of a class to teach without any fundamental teaching skills so I knew I wanted some sort of certification. You may be someone with teaching experience and you wouldn’t feel it would be that irresponsible of you to go without it, that’s fine.

But say you’re inexperienced like me and you would like to pick up a few teaching skills before heading into the classroom. Don’t get tied up in the acronyms (TEFL, CELTA, TESOL, TESL and beyond), just look for something with 120 hours and teaching practice.

You can take a TEFL certification course that is online, in-person, or a mixture. In-person is generally from $1000-2000 and online may be something like $500 but I’m not positive. While you would probably be fine with just an online certification on your resume, like I said before, I wouldn’t feel comfortable stepping in front of a class without more experience. The in-class 120-hour course usually includes some teaching practice, which I found to be the most beneficial part of the whole thing.

I felt the American TESOL Institute course did as good of job as any teacher training could have in preparing me for my teaching job.

I felt I got lucky with my teaching placement as well, but it could have easily have been a different story for me depending on where I was placed. This is why I would recommend going with the job assistance versus the guaranteed job option.

More Resources:

American TESOL Institute Special Thai Project detailed review from my coworker, Ben

“Special Thai Project” (ATI) Review from Monkey Abroad blog

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