Like many ESL teachers, when I started teaching English online, I struggled to find a high-paying position. I had a degree and a TEFL certificate, but something was missing - I didn't specialize in anything.
I'd been teaching English casually for about a year before I first heard about exam-prep IELTS. I decided 'what the heck' and took this online IELTS course to see if it would increase my chances of getting more students.
I updated my existing casual teaching platforms like SkimaTalk and Cambly with "IELTS Specialist" and, go figure, it worked. I started to receive more student requests than I ever had before. I also noticed my applications for TEFL jobs were getting picked up more by ESL companies, who would say they were drawn to my CV due to my IELTS experience.
IELTS opened up a lot of opportunities for me as a TEFL teacher and I'm here to share them with you.
IELTS Vs TEFL
Many people compare IELTS to TEFL. However, the two English teaching certificates are not mutually exclusive. To put it simply, having an IELTS does not mean you shouldn't get a TEFL and vice versa.
In my experience, holding both a TEFL and IELTS is a powerful combination to get hired and find students.
TEFL is a foundation and IELTS is the building block to separate you from the crowd.
10 Reasons to get IELTS Certified
1. More job opportunities & higher pay
The most obvious reason to get IELTS certified is, of course, to get more work - and it really does help. An IELTS certificate separates you from other applicants or teachers on your platform.
You start to receive niche requests as you're now a specialist in that area of ESL. Also, importantly, students will pay more for specialist teachers, so you'll make more money too!
2. Most affordable ESL certification
IELTS is one of the most affordable teaching certificates on the market.
You'll find online IELTS courses far cheaper than TEFL certificates. Premier TEFL offers an affordable - usually discounted - course. Check the price of their IELTS course here.
4. Students actively search IELTS
If you teach on ESL platforms that have a 'search for a tutor' feature, you'll get a steady stream of new students seeking IELTS prep. These students usually sign up in preparation for their IELTS exam and drop off the platforms soon after.
By including IELTS in your bio, you'll appear in more search results and ultimately gain new students to teach.
5. Boost for non-native English-speaking teachers
It's no secret non-native English speakers generally have a harder time finding work as ESL teachers. However, adding an IELTS certification to your qualifications will give you an extra boost when competing against those who speak English as their first language.
You could also argue you can empathize more with IELTS students as you know what it's like to prepare for English-speaking exams.
6. Structured classes
One thing I love about teaching IELTS classes is their structure is really easy and fun to follow. IELTS classes seem to fly by a lot faster than general English classes, which, I think, says a lot about their structure.
Generally, I focus on one area: Speaking, Writing, Listening, or Reading for each class, depending on the student's needs. However, some teachers might decide to split lessons, if there's enough time.
7. Certification doesn't expire
Unlike a lot of other certifications, once you have your IELTS qualification, you'll have it forever.
And for how affordable it is, that's a pretty good investment if you ask me.
8. Gain more confidence as a teacher
When you learn to teach IELTS, I feel you get into the head of the student and better understand their needs. When this happens, you gain more insight into what teaching methods work and why.
Of course, each student is unique, but the structures remain the same as it's an effective way to teach. You'll find you become more confident as a teacher and everything you learn via an IELTS course, you will use in other areas of ESL teaching too.
9. You can get certified online
Getting IELTS certified is pretty easy. Not only is it affordable, but you can take a 30-hour online IELTS course right from your laptop.
10. It can be extremely rewarding
Last, but definitely not least, teaching IELTS can be extremely rewarding.
In my experience, I have tended to bond more with my students who are studying for their IELTS exam. It's an incredible feeling when your student scores high on their IELTS exam after months of classes and preparation. It's a feeling that some other ESL teaching can lack, but makes IELTS all the more special.
IELTS is an affordable, but powerful way to increase your skills as an English Teacher. The simple course only takes 30 hours to complete, which is a big difference compared to a 120-hour TEFL course.
In addition, IELTS makes you stand out from the crowd and set you on a path to being a specialist ESL teacher.
IELTS courses are a bit more niche and harder to find than TEFL courses, but I recommend Premier TEFL's 30-hour IELTS course for everyone who wants to become a better ESL teacher.
Do you want to become your own boss and teach English on your own schedule?
Check out our How To Become An Independent English Teacher guide to learn how to go freelance and find your own students.