Megan Williams
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Jul, 9

TEFL Courses. 120-Hour vs. Level 5: Hours and Levels Explained

Congratulations! You have made a wonderful decision to become an English teacher. But before you start packing your bags or choosing your fun Zoom background, you will have to get TEFL certified. Not only do you have to choose the course provider, but you also have to decide which course to take!

If you have started your research but feel overwhelmed with the terminology and types of courses that are out there, you are not alone. This article will help you understand the difference between a Level 3 (120 hour) course and a Level 5 course.  You’ll be on your way teaching in no time!

What’s in a name, that which we call a 120-hour course.

TEFL courses are measured in hours. A 120-hour course would take 120- hours to complete.  120-hours is the minimum hours required and is considered the industry standard. Avoid taking a course with fewer hours as many employers will not consider a candidate who has not met the 120-hour requirement.

The length of time to complete the course will depend on the provider and will often be indicated on their website. Unfortunately, you do not have an unlimited amount of time to complete the course, so plan your time wisely.

Course Modules

A 120-hour course will typically cover the essential skills a teacher would need to get started teaching English.


Lesson Planning

Classroom Management

Teaching Techniques

Depending on the provider you choose the course content for each module can vary. Review the provider’s module description to know what you will learn in the certification course. Contact the provider if you have specific questions regarding the course content.


This is an important criterion when choosing your 120-hour course. Is the provider accredited? Accreditation means that the provider has met internationally recognised standards for hours of coursework, teaching practice, qualifications of the tutors/instructors.  There is no universally recognised organisation that awards accreditation. Instead, there are many reputable accrediting bodies.

Just because a provider’s website has many fancy logos, does not mean it is accredited. Internationally recognised Accrediting Agencies include ACCET, QUALIFI, TQUK, IATQuO.

Being affiliated with an organisation such as or memberships to TEFL or TESOL-related organisations is not the same as being accredited. In the United States, the State boards of education do not accredit TEFL certification courses.

In the UK, The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) maintains official standards for certification to teach English in England and not the whole of the UK. QUALIFI is an accrediting body approved by Ofqual.

If you want to make sure your provider is accredited, review the website, and see if there is a link to the accrediting body.  When you visit the accrediting body’s website, you want to see how long they have been in existence and how many programs and courses they have accredited. The more years they have been in existence and the more programs and courses they have accredited, the better.

Will I get hired?

The 120-hour TEFL qualification is the minimum requirement for being considered for employment. However, your experience and your interview will ultimately determine if you are hired and how much you will make. But the good news is you are able to keep looking for TEFL jobs with your 120-hour qualification.

Level 5 means I skip levels 1-4, right?

Level 5 means that the course has been regulated by The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual).

Ofqual has a qualifications framework that consists of 9 levels. Level zero is “Entry” and the scale ends at 8. Level 8 is where the study level is PhD.

Level 5 is called this because the course has been assessed to be a level 5 in accordance with Ofqual’s qualifications framework. The level of study is comparable to an undergraduate course and is completed in 168 hours.

The course content of a Level 5 may go into more depth because the course is longer.   Level 5 would be a good choice for someone who is brand new to teaching and feels that the course content of a 120-hour program may not be enough to prepare them to teach.

Review the course content of a Level 5 provider to see what additional modules or topics are covered in their course and how long you are given to complete the course.

Will I be more marketable?

There is no solid research that backs up the claim that completing a Level 5 course will make you more marketable. The question to ask yourself is where do you plan to teach? If you plan to work in a particular country and you notice that job postings prefer a candidate to have Level 5 qualification, then pursue a Level 5 course. 


Level 5 will make you more money. Salaries in the TEFL industry are determined by experience which is gained through the number of years you spend teaching as well as whether you have a bachelor’s degree. Check out the below infographic that showcases the best destinations to teach English for those who do not have a degree. A teacher who is just starting out in the industry will make the same if they have a 120-hour or Level 5 qualification.


Anyone starting out in the world of TEFL would benefit from either a Level 5 or 120-hour course. Getting started is the first step to finding your future teaching job.  Staying competitive, marketable and earning your desired salary will come from gaining experience so teach, teach, teach!

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