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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

  • Pre-Thailand Chores; Informations and Vaccinations
  • Visa Run, Chicago
  • Back to Bangkok – the American TESOL Institute (ATI)
  • American TESOL Institute Review – Pre-Course Experience
  • American TESOL Institute Review – In-Course Experience
  • American TESOL Institute Review – Post-Course Experience
  • American TESOL Institute Review – Overall
  • Moving to Work in Thailand
  • First Day of School, Thailand

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


Benjamin Williams

Hi all, my name is Ben. I’m a native Michigander with a passion for human culture and new places, and more than that, new experiences. I have degrees in archaeology and writing, pursuing a career in the latter. However, I never quite lost that fascination for archaeological theory. For the past 11 years, I’ve been living and travelling between Asia, Europe, and North America, documenting ancient sites and the peoples who built them, and then adapting them into practical archaeological travel information at


  • Thank you! Your blog is exactly what I’ve been looking for – an honest review of the ATI program.

    I would love to ask you a few more specific questions. Please contact me if you get a chance.


    • Ben says:


      thanks for the comments. I’ve emailed you regarding your questions,


    • Lawrence says:

      I m looking to take this course and go to Colombia or Ecuador to teach, however in your blog you said you didn’t actually get your tesol certificate, did you ever get it, and how long after you finished the course did it take to receive it. I have found another course. Through a different school however it is more expensive.plz help from your experience

      • Ben says:

        I did get it after completing the initial placement time. The company makes more money from a commission on your salary than your enrollment fee, which is one reason why I think ATI recently lowered their enrollment fee from 1000 to 500 USD.

        They also offer you the option to pay 500 and get it at the end of the class immediately.

        I don’t know any specifics about any training classes in Latin America. The main piece of information I’ve read and been told about teaching there is that you make a basic enough salary to live on, but not much else. It can be difficult to save money for travel or anything else there.

        Let me know if I can help you out any with anything else.


  • dileggcm says:

    Great post Ben! Someone definitely needed to do this…I hope it helps other people when they make their decision. I agree with you on pretty much all of your points… although there was no flood during my time…I cringe to think how ATI handled that. I hope you blog about your teaching experience as well.


    • Ben says:

      Tina, Thank you for all of your perspective while I was scoping ATI out. I haven’t started one yet, but I’ll probably write something about the teaching experience sometime soon.

  • Steve Daily Ajarn Seven says:

    Nice post, very honest and exhaustive. I’m a TEFL trainer at a course in Thailand that gets its support and accreditation from ATI. While we enjoy our business relationship with them and trust them, we also often find ourselves frustrated by some of the things they do and the way they conduct business. However, some of the problems just come with the territory. Allow me to add some insight in the areas where you still have questions. First, the reason there’s so little information at the start, and the reason they omit information about extra fees, is because they honestly don’t know. The people in the office are not up to speed on the requirements and costs of the various countries, so they literally don’t know what to tell you. As far as teachers not getting placed where they want, that’s easy to explain. The best jobs at the best locations are taken by seasoned teachers with Master’s Degrees and years of experience teaching in that country. Newly certified TEFL teachers are on the bottom rung of the ladder. They must take what they can get, and anyone who says otherwise either doesn’t know or is lying. Finally, many of the course locations (like ours) are not affiliated with ATI outside of curriculum alignment. We have little communication with them, and as long as we keep getting good feedback from TEFLers, they don’t get very involved in what we do. TEFLers are often told things that, when relayed to us, has our mouths hanging agape. So if TEFLers wind up at a place like ours, chances are some of what ATI has told them will be inaccurate. Although having said that, you might be better off if you end up taking a class with us, as we don’t take a commission from your placement, so rather than making money, our sole motivation in placing you is your success as a teacher. We will train you, familiarize you with the culture, introduce you to helpful contacts, get you into the classroom, and equip you for teaching in any environment. We love teachers and we love what we do, and although we are linked to ATI, we are not ATI, and we’re not the only ones. There are a lot of programs like ours out there.

    I hope this information was useful. Good luck to all you prospective teachers out there.

  • Danielle says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write and post this information.

  • Steven Hung says:

    Your blog has been extremely helpful in understanding the ATI program. I was wondering if it would be possible to ask you some more pointed questions about the process of the program as I am looking to take this course. My email is

    Thanks in advance!

  • Ben says:

    Hi Steven,

    I’ve sent you an email regarding your questions.


  • Hello Ben,

    I am from India and I am also considering getting my certification from ATI. Your review has been immensely helpful. I couldn’t help but notice that your batch included only people from the Western countries. Was this purely coincidental? I ask because I want to pursue this career path and would like to know if as an Asian, I shall be put into a different batch of people seeking to get their certification. I hope you do not misunderstand my query. It’s just me trying to find out everything I can before I commit to the programme. Also, can you please get in touch with me? I would be very very grateful.

  • Kathleen Byrne says:

    Hi Ben,
    If a person were to take the online TESOL certification course in the U.S. then is it my understanding in order to receive the actual certification you have to do classroom hours with ATI’s schools internationally that they are contracted with? Sorry it is a bit unclear. I have 25 years of classroom experience and 2 grad degrees in education. Im interested in doing the certification but not sure if the obligation is beyond the online work.

    • Ben says:

      Hi Kathleen,

      Unfortuately, I don’t think I’ll be much help to you here. I’m almost certain that I’ve heard about certification programs existing entirely online, and ATI might even have some, but it’s never something I’ve researched much or know about in any great detail.

      One thing I can tell you though is that teaching credentials and experience in the U.S. and other western countries will mean a lot more than a TEFL/TESOL certification will when applying for jobs. This is particularly true if you’re looking to be a subject teacher in a specific discipline abroad instead of or in addition to teaching English. Where a TEFL certification will help you most in practice is in skills and methods for interacting beyond a language or cultural barrier, but even that is limited at best and learned more as you do it.

      Thanks for reading and good luck in your job searches!


  • Riccardo says:

    Hello ,i am riccardo and just got my certificate from ATI TESOL handed straight away THE LAST DAY OF THE COURSE! They also asked me to say anything i wanted regarding the course in front of camera (so no fake testimonials at all! ),and please update your complaint regarding payment through CC AVENUE,Totally wrong.You pay using a secure method called PAYPAL.Regarding Visas ,people should provide by themself to get info and not expect someone else to do it .Great experience 100%. Thanks ATI and trainers sangeeta,very professional!

    • Ben says:

      Hi Riccardo,

      Firstly, if you’re going to argue so strongly about the merits of the ESL training program you just finished and proclaim yourself an English teacher, you might try employing some of the basic rules of English writing. Your formatting of punctuation, capitalization, and spacing is poorly done here. Paying attention to that issue might go a long way in lending credibility to your argument. Also, I have no idea who “trainers sangeeta” is, so addressing them/him/her in a response to me is wholly pointless.

      Secondly, you obviously didn’t read much of what I wrote closely at all if you are addressing these points. I clearly point out on each section of my review that this is my own personal experience and it is clearly dated from Nov. 2011 to early 2012, the time during which I dealt with ATI. I also link to several others’ experiences so that mine need not be taken as the lone, definitive testimonial.

      Regarding your specific points:

      Receiving the certificate | Again, my own experience was exactly as I spelled out here. This was true of many who preceded me and those that came to the program afterward, who I met in Thailand.

      Testimonials | Giving the testimonials and what ATI does with them are 2 very different things. I was also given the opportunity to write a testimonial at the end of the course, which I did. However, the examples I provided of fake testimonials (including the photographic evidence) were from people I met in person or spoke with directly who said they had been misquoted, and very badly in the case of Elizabeth Bacon.

      Online Payment | This is a place where you very obviously did not read closely. I give an intensely specific account (including the actual email) of why ATI made me use CC Avenue instead of Paypal and the chaos that resulted from that. They then allowed me to use Paypal after getting me accused of credit card fraud by CC Avenue.

      Visas | Did not read what I wrote at all here, did you? I never expected ATI to provide a visa for me. What I did expect was for them to give information on the visa I needed to get after being told they would do so. Throughout months of communication, I was told by ATI to wait and I would be provided the paperwork to secure the proper employment visa. Instead, within a couple weeks before leaving, I was told to get a tourist visa instead. They intentionally mislead their applicants in that area.

      If you had a good experience with them then I’m glad for you, as it means they’ve fixed many of the things that went wrong when I, and many others whom I either met or read the reviews of, participated in the program. But no, I will not be changing my review based solely on your questionable response.

      This review is (as stated in every part) a personal account of my own experience. I’ve heard too many other stories that back up what I’ve said here as well.

      A word of advice, as your post here shows either your lack or disregard of reading ability and basic grammar of the language that you want to teach to others: you aren’t doing any favors to the program you’re trying to defend or yourself by ignoring these points and will likely do harm to the students if you don’t take it seriously.

      Anyone is, however, free to read your take on the program here as well.


  • Kellen says:

    Hey Ben,

    Thanks for including the link to my review!


    • Ben says:

      Of course. Thanks for the recent update on the program. I try to keep this reference s up to date as I can. If you know of any other recent reviews that I missed, please let me know.

      And enjoy your time in Thailand!


  • Hoa says:

    HI Ben,

    Thank you for the informative and detailed review of your experience with ATI. It was extremely helpful as I recenlty decided to take part in TEFL Couse in Thailand. 🙂

  • Josh says:

    Hi Ben,

    Thanks for the good work. I have your blog very helpful. I am Josh from Kenya, presently teaching computer science in one of the international schools in Portugal. I hold a B.Sc and MSc in Computer science and I have been teaching for 8 years now.

    However, I like to relocate to Canada in 2 years from now and to continue teaching there, and from information I have gathered, to teach in Canada and even the US, you need to be a certified teacher in the province or state you want to practice as a teacher. To get certified you will need your degrees (a Masters an advantage) in the area you teach and also a teaching certification.

    This lead me to search for Teaching certification programme or course that can be done online, and taking into consideration the financial implications involved. I filter through the net till I stumbled onto ATI’s website, and a particular course “Pre and Primary Teacher Training course”, it comes in Diploma and Post Graduate Diploma. I asked for the course content and I found it very standard and helpful, as well the cost affordable over a duration of 8 months for Diploma and 15 months for Post Graduate Diploma, plus it is totally online with teaching practice an option, if I so want.

    Now, my concern is its credibility and recognition internationally and in Canada especially. I have as well gone through the provincial website for Teacher certificate in Canada, and found there is provision for Teachers with teaching qualification acquired outside Canada and that they will be reviewed along side the educational qualification (Degrees) and experience to make their final decision of eligibility and certifying teachers.

    Please Ben, I have searched for reviews online on ATI till I found your blog. Do you think its a wise and profitable move, taking the ATI course and more importantly, do you think it will be recognized and accepted for Teaching certification in Canada?

    I look forward to reading from you and thanking you in advance.


    • Ben says:

      Hi Josh, thanks for writing. Unfortunately, the extent of my knowledge on ATI is in their TESOL course abroad. I don’t have any useful information for you on their other sorts of certification programs or what is legally required to teach in Canada.

      Good luck to you!

  • Josh says:

    Thanks Ben, for your time and sincere response. I appreciate.

  • Prima Alonzo says:

    Super helpful review. I’ve been debating doing the Special Thai Project with ATI after I saw it in a blog post by Kate from the States who went through and totally encourages people to go through the program, but didn’t include a real thorough review of it all. I guess it’s definitely a trade-off for the expense.
    I noticed you mentioned other programs hosted by ATI, and that’s actually why I’m writing this message. As you alluded to in your article, ATI isn’t exactly apt in designing their online image. I’ve been having difficulty finding other country-based ATI programs besides the Bangkok project. (Which I didn’t even find through their main website, may I add!) I was hoping if you know of any other country-immersion programs they offer, if you could share that with me?
    Anyways, thanks for the great review! Definitely helps with my decision of whether to go for it or not — mainly the part about being a good option as a first time experience for those living abroad long-term!

  • Peter Okeefe says:

    Thanks for your review of ATI. It certainly helps to hear of your experience with them. It was both informative and entertaining to read all of the comments generated by the review.


  • Alankeshwari says:

    Is there any difference in terms of value between online and in class program and location of program?? And are the recruiters bias with native speakers for recruitment???

    • Ben says:

      I don’t believe so, as both provide a certificate. However, a degree in English education or even a high IELTS or TOEFL score will be more advantageous to you if you are a non-native English speaker.

What are your thoughts?

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