CELTA, TEFL, or TESOL?
If you want a career that allows you to live and travel anywhere in the world, becoming a TEFL teacher might be the profession for you. The TEFL world can be confusing at times and the myriad TEFL certificates available are no exception.
An important thing for aspiring teachers is to figure out what TEFL course will help them most to become a great teacher and get a great job. Before you take your first step, here are a few things to consider:
CELTA, TEFL, TESOL – What’s the Difference?
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.
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 with TEFL 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.
In general, we recommend staying away from online-only courses for many reasons: no practical teaching component, employers’ poor opinion of online-only certificates, and the general overall quality of these courses.
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 Trinity TESOL certificates. The reason both these certificates are recognized worldwide is that the Cambridge Assessment English for the CELTA and Trinity 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. Online-only courses have no teaching component, and practice makes perfect.
Importantly, every single Cambridge CELTA and Trinity TESOL course is moderated by external Cambridge or Trinity assessors. A Cambridge assessor flies out to every single CELTA course near the end of the 4 weeks and interviews trainees and trainers.
The Cambridge CELTA and Trinity 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.
If you opt for an online certificate or one 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 Trinity TESOL, but these two are by far the most recognized worldwide. Simply put, the Cambridge CELTA and Trinity 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.
Post-Course Job Search
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 one class.
Similar to other occupations, the best English teaching jobs will go to the most qualified. As we train over 550 teachers in the Cambridge CELTA every year, we have heard a lot of success stories but also some horror stories.
Graduates from CELTA courses at International House always go to the top of my candidate list as the trainers there do a great job providing the skills and knowledge that are essential for quality ESL teaching. Wall Street English Thailand has many IH CELTA grads in its teaching and management teams and if people want to work with WSE but lack a ESL course qualification, I always recommend the IH CELTA course
- Stuart Clarke – Teacher Recruitment Specialist, Wall Street English Thailand
Post-Course Job Placement?
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 one would want to work in; most likely schools with a high turnover rate for teachers due to a bad working environment and poor support.
Quality of the Course and Centre
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 Trinity TESOL centre, you can guarantee that they are licensed through Cambridge or Trinity College and will be, at the very minimum, a good centre with a well-designed course.
If you choose a different certificate, make sure to do your research!
Is CELTA Suitable for Teaching Young Learners?
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, many 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 Trinity 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.
At IH Bangkok, to help new teachers prepare for teaching young learners, we offer a free 2-day Introduction to Teaching Young Learners course as part of our CELTA package for 2019.
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. This is why International House has developed the IHCYLT, 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.
Quality of the Trainers and Training
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 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 over several courses 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 at the top of the list of required qualifications but you should 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 3,000 successful CELTA graduates we have a good idea of what works. Even if you choose somewhere else, we hope you don’t waste your time, effort and money on a low-quality TEFL/TESOL course.
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.
However, the thing that makes IH Bangkok and IH Chiang Mai different to many other Cambridge Assessment teacher training centres is that CELTA training is our specialization:
- Unlike many 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. freelance positions.
- We train more CELTA candidates than anywhere else.