TEFL vs CELTA vs TESOL?
Having the opportunity to live and travel anywhere in the world is amazing, and becoming a TEFL teacher gives you that freedom. Unfortunately, the TEFL world can be confusing at times and the hundreds of TEFL certificates available are no exception.
Starting out, one of the most important thing for aspiring teachers is to figure out what TEFL course will be most helpful in becoming a great teacher and getting a great job. Before you take your first step, here are a few things to consider:
TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. There are many TEFL certificates from many providers. These vary widely in cost and quality and you should research carefully before choosing one.
CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is a type of TEFL certificate that was originally designed by International House in 1962, then given to Cambridge University to moderate/manage in 1988.
TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is another umbrella term exactly like TEFL, just used in certain countries such as Australia. TESOL also encompasses many different certificates from many different providers.
The difficulty and confusion with TEFL/TESOL is that there are so many different certificates, courses, and providers that it can be challenging to ensure the one you choose is of a good quality. Some courses will be online only, some will be in-person only, and some will be a blended option. There are part-time and full-time, 20 hours all the way to 160+ hour courses completed in 1 week up to 20+ weeks.
Recognition is important
Employers also know how many different types of courses there are and if they have multiple candidates, most will choose the one with a TEFL/TESOL certificate that they recognize. Two of the most recognized globally are the Cambridge CELTA (which is a TEFL certificate) and the SIT TESOL certificates. The reason both these certificates are recognized worldwide is that the Cambridge Assessment English for the CELTA and SIT TESOL are leaders in the teacher training industry.
Schools also feel they can trust these two courses because they both have a significant practical component – students will teach 6 hours of real lessons and get feedback and support on each. Many courses have no teaching component, and practice makes perfect.
Importantly, every single Cambridge CELTA and SIT TESOL course is moderated by external Cambridge or SIT assessors. A Cambridge assessor attends every single CELTA course near the end of the 4 weeks (or 10 weeks if part-time) and interviews the trainees and the trainers.
The Cambridge CELTA and SIT TESOL are the most respected and recognized TEFL (or TESOL) certificates around the world because employers and schools know that these graduates took a course that is, by design, high quality and externally moderated.
What country will you teach in?
If you opt for a certificate from a less well-known provider, you run the risk that it won’t be sufficient for a job in many countries. Often times these teachers are forced into doing a better course later.
This isn’t to say that there are no other quality TEFL certificates outside of the CELTA and SIT TESOL, but these two are by far the most recognized worldwide. Simply put, the Cambridge CELTA and SIT TESOL are the only TEFL/TESOL certificates that can get you an English teaching job anywhere.
We wrote an article on why Thailand is a great location to do your TEFL course, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other great places too. A few things to consider when choosing where to do the course:
- Cost of Living – On a month long course living expenses can add up quickly. Food, rent, and the course costs will vary widely between countries. The CELTA for example, can range from USD $1,600 to more than $4,500 depending on where you take it.
- Quality of Life – This will also vary widely and depend on how much you spend and where you go. $500 in London won’t get you as far as $500 somewhere else.
- Where you want to work after the course.
- As mentioned below, the quality of the centre and trainers.
The most important consideration when choosing a TEFL certificate type is which one will allow you to become a great teacher and get a quality job. In many countries, Thailand included, there is a huge range in the quality of teaching jobs available.
Some schools have better pay, better support from management, better materials, and classes with 8-16 students. On the flip side many schools are so bad that teachers don’t even finish their first year’s contract – poor management, no resources, classes of 35-50+ students, and student levels of A1 to B2+ in a single class.
Similar to other occupations, the best English teaching jobs will go to the most qualified. As we train over 600 teachers on the Cambridge CELTA every year, we have heard a lot of success stories but also some horror stories.
Some centres promise job placement to anyone who graduates their course. Although this may seem like a positive, we strongly recommend against this. The reason being that the type of schools graduates are placed into are normally quite poor. Any school that will accept a new teacher without the application process / interview are not schools you want to work in; most likely these schools have a high turnover rate for teachers due to a bad working environment and poor support. We hear countless horror stories from teachers so keep this in mind when choosing a school.
There are a lot of really good teacher training centres in the world and there are a lot of bad ones. If you go to a regular TEFL centre the quality may be great, horrible, or somewhere in between. When you go to a CELTA or SIT TESOL centre, you can guarantee that they are licensed and regularly moderated through Cambridge University or School of International Training Vermont and will be, at the very minimum, a good centre with a well-designed course.
If you choose a different certificate, it is more important that you do your research!
A common misconception is that the CELTA is not useful for teaching Young Learners. It is true that the course was originally designed to focus on teaching English as a foreign language to adults. However, most of the principles are directly transferable to teaching young learners, especially teenagers. For this reason, most TEFL jobs for young learners still require the CELTA or SIT TESOL.
There is no equivalent entry level TEFL certificate that focuses purely on Young Learners. Those that claim to be better for teaching young learners are not as well regarded by employers and will hinder your ability to compete in the jobs market. Better employers will give you on the job training to deal with issues such as discipline and classroom management which can be more difficult with young learners compared to adults.
How we organize Young Learner training
At IH Bangkok and Chiang Mai, to help teachers prepare for teaching young learners, we offer a free 2-day (optional) Introduction to Teaching Young Learners course as part of our CELTA package.
Teachers who already have some experience may desire to take a more extensive course that develops their skills specifically with regard to Young Learners, for example how to focus less on grammar and develop more engaging games and activities. We also have the International House Certificate in Teaching Young Learners and Teens which is a 2-week course with observed teaching practice at different age groups. This course is best taken after the CELTA though, and after some experience teaching young learners.
On many less reputed TEFL/TESOL courses you can attend a course and incredibly, be a trainer on the same course just a few months later. However, that is certainly not true for the courses with a good reputation like the Cambridge CELTA. Typically, before becoming a CELTA trainer, one will have:
- A university degree
- A good grade on the CELTA
- Excellent grades on the Cambridge Delta modules 1, 2 and 3
- Many years post CELTA teaching experience
- Several years teacher training experience working with teachers at senior teacher and DoS level positions
- Experience giving trainer led teacher training workshops and conferences
At that point, a Cambridge CELTA centre looking to train a trainer for the CELTA can select a potential candidate. These CELTA trainer trainees… are trained… over several courses and will need to seek approval from Cambridge Assessment English before being able to do so.
You should think about the kind of job you want to get after completing your TEFL certificate and what the specific job requirements are. Most TEFL jobs will put CELTA or SIT TESOL at the top of the list of required qualifications but you should also do your own research about what qualifications are required for the career path you are looking for.
We understand that there are many options for a TEFL certificate and IH Bangkok / IH Chiang Mai might not be possible for you. We strive to provide the best experience and training possible with the CELTA at our two centres and with over 6,000 successful CELTA graduates we have a good idea of what works.
Do your own research!
We always recommend that you do your own research. There are many centres in the world and you should feel comfortable with whatever centre you end up choosing.
IH Bangkok and IH Chiang Mai
The thing that makes IH Bangkok and IH Chiang Mai different to many other Cambridge teacher training centres is that CELTA training is our specialization:
- We train more CELTA candidates than anywhere else in the world.
- Unlike most centres we have a permanent, full-time team dedicated to the CELTA. This means we look into improving every single course we do with a sense of familiarity. Most centres only run a couple courses per year with freelance trainers.
- As we provide full-time positions for our CELTA trainers, we get to pick the best trainers available as most prefer full-time employment vs. unreliable freelance positions.