Once you’ve decided that you want to teach English abroad, the next big decision is choosing which qualification is best for you. Most decent teaching jobs require a qualification of some kind, but with so many different qualifications available (like CELTA, TESL, TEFL and TESOL) how do you know which one is right for you? In this article, we’ll explore the differences between these certificates, and how to choose which one will best equip you for your future English teaching career.
Why Are There So Many Types of Teaching Qualifications?
As these qualifications are all geared towards the same sorts of jobs, you might assume that they’d be pretty much the same. However, while these certificates all propel you in the same direction, it’s vital that you pick the right one to end up where you want to be.
Some qualifications are more suited to certain jobs than others. For example, do you want to end up teaching English to adults or children? CELTA courses are much more focussed on adult learners, with additional study units available if you’d like to work with children. On the other hand, a TEFL course will likely suggest lots of games and tips for working with children. Also, where in the world do you want to end up? If you’re planning to teach in Asia, a TEFL course will be fine. However, if you want to teach somewhere in western Europe, a CELTA would be a much better choice for you.
CELTA – Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults
If you plan on making a life-long career out of teaching, this is the qualification for you. It is one of the most widely recognised and respected qualifications in the business, and at schools which are BC accredited (endorsed by the British Council), you can’t work there without one.
CELTA – Pros
- Widely recognised and guaranteed to impress employers
- Quality is assured: the CELTA is a standard course so it will be the same no matter who runs the course
CELTA – Cons
- The CELTA is expensive, with prices varying depending on whether you do an intensive or long-term course
- Not the best option if you want to work mainly with children – you’d need to do a YL (Young Learner) extension after the main course
- Restrictions – you can’t take a CELTA if you are under 18, and if you don’t speak English as a first language you will have to prove your ability is at a native level
TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign Language
This is probably the most popular type of teaching qualification, and the acronym ‘TEFL’ is used to describe the business itself as well as this specific certificate – schools advertising for a ‘TEFL Teacher’ aren’t necessarily looking for someone with this exact qualification. Courses can be classroom based or online, but be wary of courses which have no classroom time at all – less time you spend in an actual classroom, the less respected your certificate will be.
TEFL – Pros
- Cost – these qualifications are cheap and you can often find cut-price deals from major providers. Purely online courses are the cheapest, but anything below 100 hours of online study isn’t worth doing
- TEFL courses run all the time, so great if you need to get qualified quickly
TEFL – Cons
- This varies between courses and also between prospective schools. For example, a Japanese eikaiwa language school would be happy enough with a 100-hour online course, whereas an International School in Germany would be unimpressed even by a 140-hour online course
- Always check out the course provider carefully, and be wary of schemes which guarantee you a job at the end. Also, look out for course providers which offer a job finding service at a cost – agency fees are paid by the school, not the teacher
TESL – Teaching English as a Second Language
Very similar to a TEFL qualification, this course is more applicable to teachers who plan to teach in their home country. For example, rather than moving from the UK to teach English in China, you would be staying in the UK and teaching English to foreigners who live there.
TESL – Pros
- A better choice for people wanting to teach English in their own home country
- Can sometimes help teachers to get jobs in non-TEFL environments, such as teaching support roles in public schools
TESL – Cons
- Less widely available than TEFL courses
- If you later decide to move abroad to teach, a TESL certificate might open fewer doors for you
TESOL – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
Like a midpoint between both the TEFL and TESL qualifications, a TESOL is a good choice if you don’t know whether you’ll be teaching English abroad or at home. There is also a qualification called a Trinity TESOL which is roughly equivalent to a CELTA qualification.
TESOL – Pros
- Opens more doors and doesn’t limit you to teaching only abroad or at home
- A cheap option
TESOL – Cons
- Less specific than TEFL or TESL certificates – topics will be studied in less depth and won’t give you such a firm grounding
- A newer type of course so not as well known and not so highly regarded
There are lots of things to consider when picking a TEFL course. The main things to remember are to check that the course provider is trustworthy, and to make sure you are picking a course which is right for your future career – just because a CELTA is the most expensive and best-respected course, that doesn’t always mean it will be the best for you. It doesn’t mean it’s the wrong choice, either.
About the Author
Celia Jenkins is CELTA-certified EFL teacher and freelance writer who specialises in travel and education articles. She currently lives in Japan.
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