The primary reason I wanted to write this series on the American TESOL Institute is to provide a detailed account of my experience through the entire course, as well as many other 3rd party accounts as I can find. Essentially, I want to provide the kind of information I wish I had before I enrolled in the ATI course.

The gate to the office of ATI in Bangkok.

I should begin by saying; they are real and not a scam, what seems to be the primary concern of most people looking for this same info. Outside of their official site(s), it can be difficult to find valid information about ATI. This is for 2 reasons. First, they are relatively new compared to most TEFL/CELTA/TESOL programs. The other is that they spam search engines with many official sites and dozens of other places they stick their name and info.

If you have any specific questions not covered in these, please ask. I’d be happy to answer.

American TESOL Institute Series

The Good

The American TESOL Institute is what they promise in their advertisements; and they will train you and place you into a Thailand (or whatever country course you take) school.

  • The price.  Most TEFL/TESOL/CELTA programs are around $2000.  ATI is around $1000.
  • It’s in Thailand (or a different country).  Most TEFL/CELTA/TESOL classes aren’t, and you just take them near home.  And the course’s accommodation is nice.
  • The course will educate you on how to create and implement lesson plans from scratch.
  • The course provides a buffer of some experience and cultural education before being thrown directly into the Thailand educational system.
  • The TESOL certificate is a valid addition to a CV after you finish your placement.  And it can help you get jobs later.
  • The network of friends you meet while doing the course will continue to be there after the course has ended.  All will be in the same situation as you and are likely completely new to the country and ESL teaching as well.
  • School visits.  While we didn’t do it in my course because of a flood, the course generally does provide its students sample-teaching experience in a Thai classroom, something that would be extremely useful.
  • There is assistance in finding a place to live after you are placed in the job.


The Bad

The beginning is by far the most difficult part you will have with the American TESOL Institute experience, and not in the sense of “a journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.”  It is difficult because ATI makes it difficult.

  • ATI spams search engines with over 10 official websites (with inconsistent data) for the same program.  This makes it difficult to come up with any legitimate 3rd party reviews or information.
  • They create numerous one-shot blogs on WordPress and Blogger posting the same repetitive information with a link to one of their 10 pages.
  • ATI’s communication through email is not concise and often seems intentionally misleading, such as when I was told should wait to get a Non-Immigrant Visa, when I would only ever get a tourist visa.
  • They lied/bluffed in some communication, such as giving me (and others in my course) the ultimatum of paying immediately or losing the spot to someone who was waiting behind me (who did not exist).
  • ATI fabricates testimonials on their websites.  This is according to 2 coworker ATI graduates and a review by Katy of Traveler on Sabbatical
  • ATI omits telling you many of the final details upfront, such as additional costs (additional visas, visa runs) you will be required to pay, even if your school pays them to normal employees.
  • ATI omits telling you that you do not actually get your TESOL certificate upon completion of the course, a fact that they directly advertise.
  • DO NOT allow ATI to make you pay through
  • When our class was delayed because of the 2011 flood, ATI was very silent during the whole matter.  Some of the people enrolled tried to withdraw, not wanting to come into a disaster zone.  ATI denied them this option.

*See Pre-Course Post for detailed accounts of these.

As for a few less serious complaints:

  • In the online course, there is a noticeable amount of typos in the readings.
  • Some people get placements in locales they don’t like.
  • The course lesson plan assignments are very in-depth and detailed, but prepare you for classes in which you would have no other resources.
  • No follow-up communication after the placement, and we had to prompt them as to when the TESOL certificates could be picked up.
  • As Sarah pointed out, one of the ATI Special Thai Project adverts on their websites said breakfast would be provided at the JL Bangkok.  It wasn’t.

My Final Thoughts

Even after months of my own research prior to even applying, and then 3-4 months of emails back and forth with 4 representative of the American TESOL Institute, I (and others from my course) still had very little clue what we would be showing up to.  Why the beginning phases and communication are so frustrating and headache-inducing is something I still haven’t figured out.  Maybe it’s just their way of weeding out who can and can’ t take it?  My best theory.

Once there, it all begins to sort out though, and 30 minutes with the Innovative Solutions placement agent was more informative than 3 months of ATI emails.

The course has its pros and cons in practical usefulness (discussed in depth in the previous three posts), but for the cost, what it ultimately provides is worth it.  A buffer before going out into Thailand living on your own, people that you can continue to talk to, a TESOL certificate, and a job placement.  It’s only 4-5 months if you don’t like it, at which time you will certainly know enough to go find something on your own.  If you do like it, you can always re-sign where you are.  Basically (once you get past the Pre-Course stage, it’s full service (with a few bumps) to relocate to Thailand or any of ATI’s any other countries.

I would recommend it for people who, like me at the time, are completely new to staying abroad long-term.  The services will get you integrated and started into wherever you go.  Of course, some of it will be on you as well.  It’s a nice way to get this taken care of without worrying too much about every detail.

For people who have some experience in foreign teaching, or just long-term travel abroad, ATI may help you.  But, you would probably be able to do just as much on your own with just a little added effort.  And the likelihood is that you could find a job that pays more than the 30,000 baht that ATI grads start with.

Links to others’ experiences with American TESOL Institute:

Reviews of the  American TESOL Institute (ATI)
American TESOL Institute Review | From Here to There
American TESOL Institute Review (by a graduate of the program) | Traveler on Sabbatical
The Training Program | Smiles, Spice, & Everything Rice
What Did I Do? | Smiles, Spice, & Everything Rice
American TESOL Institute | XploreU Student Travel Blog
Clusterfuck to Bangkok, or My Experience with the American TESOL Institute | la vie bohémienne
ATI: Special Thai Project | All Thai’d Up
Step 3:  To TEFL or Not to TEFL? Vagabond Vo
“Special Thai Project” (ATI) Review | Monkey Abroad
A Complete, Unbiased Review of the American TESOL Institute (ATI) “Special Thai Project” | Kellan James Travel

Experiences in the American TESOL Institute (ATI) Course
I’m a teacher!??! Awesome! ATI training in Phuket | GypsyJourneys
Teaching Practice Week with “Teacher A” in the House | Travel on My Face
The Orphanage and the Juvenile Detention Center | Jaiyen
Work visa/JL Bangkok/First days of teaching | Ty Tripping
Teacher Morgan: Lesson #1 | EXPLORE. DREAM. DISCOVER.
Chaos in the Classroom | Exotic Winds and Spicy Freedom
Practice Teaching | To Ma-Thailand and Beyond

Posts while attending the American TESOL Institute (ATI) Course
First week here | Erika’s life in Thailand 🙂
Phuket aka: pooket | doubleu’s Great Adventure
Jet Lag Continues, Fish Pedicure, Training Day One | All Thai’d Up
Big girls don’t cry | back pages
The Weekend and My First Day in School | Julies Jaunts
Back in Bangkok | The Ramblings of Sarah Metz