What is a TEFL certificate, do I need this to teach in France?

You will need this to teach English at a private institution in France – but is it worth getting one?

If you want to teach English abroad, it is likely you will need a TEFL
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Teaching English is a popular job choice for many from countries such as the UK, US, and Australia when moving to or staying in a new country.

It can be a flexible and rewarding role which offers many transferable skills which could allow people to work almost anywhere in the world, without even having to be fluent in a foreign language.

It is probable that people will need to have some kind of teaching qualification to teach English anywhere in France which is not part of the state education curriculum.

In most cases, this means having a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate.

While companies nearly always require a TEFL (some will train you themselves), the state education system typically requires that would-be teachers pass state exams. Substitute teachers and classroom assistants are often exempted from this requirement.

What is a TEFL?

TEFL does not refer to a singular body or school, but is rather a catch-all name for the various English teaching courses.

The courses can be taken both online and via in-person classes, either with intensive weeks of learning or split over many months.

With hundreds of places offering TEFL qualifications it is important to research the best for you.

In some cases teaching institutions will not recognise a 'short-form' TEFL course (one under than 120 hours) or one that does not offer practice sessions.

The price can vary from around €100 to more than €2,000 for the training – courses which provide a certain level of expertise are on the more expensive end of this spectrum.

These are usually those which provide widely-recognised certifications and offer live practice sessions.

When looking for a course note that there are also scams. If the cost of a course seems too good to be true then it probably is, and will not help you obtain a job in France where the quality of teaching is high and the market competitive.

Note also there are similar courses called TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) which are similar to a TEFL, although these are more often geared towards teaching English to non-English speakers in Anglophone countries such as in the UK, US etc.

What is it like teaching with a TEFL qualification?

Finding a job with a good, well-accredited, TEFL certificate should not be too difficult, even in France where standards are high.

Many roles involve working in an academy or giving one-to-one lessons in Paris or one of the other major cities. Finding a post in a more rural area can be more challenging.

However an increasing number of classes take place online with teachers based in France who have some understanding of French language and culture.

Most professional academies teaching English in France sell blocks of lessons to companies, who offer them to their employees as part of training programmes.

Almost all of these students will be adults, often professionals in multinational companies.

As a teacher your company will usually create a schedule for you, you then attend and teach.

However you may have to create lesson plans detailing what exactly you are going to teach and how.

Another difference between teaching privately and in schools is the classroom content. Whereas English lessons in schools may incorporate a wide range of activities depending on the age group (including reading English texts), the teaching at private institutions nearly always focuses on grammatical or spoken English.

Teaching academies see high turnover, with people often using these jobs as a ‘stop-gap’ careers while living abroad and learning languages themselves.

Read more: Are there any free government-approved online French courses?

How much can you earn?

The salary of a TEFL teacher depends greatly on the type of contract, institution, and previous experience.

Many academies pay hourly, meaning that when there is less work (during August, for example, when many potential students are on holiday). January, in contrast, can be a busy month.

Some institutions pay a set monthly wage regardless of hours worked, although this may be around the French minimum wage (SMIC), unless teachers can demonstrate a lot of experience.

Generally, teachers can expect to earn anywhere between €800 and €1,500 per month after taxes, depending on how many hours are worked per week.

Teachers in a management position or with extensive experience can expect to earn more than €2,000 per month.

Some teachers can also earn more by working independently. However, this also means finding students, completing paperwork and declaring revenue, which can be a challenge for those unfamiliar with the sector or with French administration.

The majority of those teaching English as a second language privately in French fall into three categories:

  • Graduate students or young adults who have just moved to the country and use it as a stepping-stone before moving on
  • Those who want to keep themselves occupied and do not necessarily need the salary to survive, but do so to stay occupied and remain in working society
  • Those with previous experience teaching who do so as a career (these usually occupy the most prestigious private teaching slots).

Read more: Irish teacher cannot teach in French schools as failed English test

Is a CELTA different?

The CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is a type of TEFL certificate offered by Cambridge University.

Because it is offered by this institution, it is generally seen as one of the most prestigious TEFL qualifications. It is also the most widely accepted since those who take the CELTA follow the same rigid pathway and rigorous teaching practice.

CELTA courses are expensive, costing anywhere between €1,500 and €3,000.

Even those without prior teaching experience should be able to find teaching work with a CELTA. The salary on offer can also be higher; certain private schools and prestigious institutions requiring a CELTA from applicants.

Note that whilst some TEFL courses are applicable to teaching all age-ranges, the CELTA is specifically aimed at teaching adults.

If already based in France and working, English courses at the British Council can be financed by the French continuing professional development programme known as the CPF (Compte personnel de formation). You can find out more about this using the official page on the CELTA website.

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