In my previous post about jobs and visas I’ve briefly mentioned how TEFL certificates are required by some governments. Here I’ll go over what they are, the different kinds, and how to decide which one is best for you.
In general TEFL, TESOL, and CELTA are all basic Teaching English as a Second Language certificates or credentials. They are considered to be an introductory course to teaching and teaching methodology. Generally the certificates are geared towards teaching adults. They give a basic tutorial on how to teach and lesson plan. While not nearly as comprehensive as an actual teaching license they are still quite helpful for those getting started.
TEFL Certificate refers to any certificate that identifies itself as a TEFL course. There is no overall governing body for TEFL which makes finding a good course difficult. However, some courses claim to be ‘accredited.’ That’s good right, sounds similar to an accredited University? The fly in the ointment is these accrediting bodies are themselves private institutions. While a course accredited by TESL Canada may be of higher quality there is no reason to take their word over another group like Accreditat, a different accrediting body.
Frankly, most schools are not going to care or ask about your TEFL besides asking if you want one. Because of this many prospective teachers find the cheapest course they can on Groupon or another website and use it to fulfill the Visa requirement. There are exceptions to the overall Wild Westness of certificates.
The CELTA and TESOL are the two most widely recognized TEFL certificates and some schools will want, pay more, or be more likely to interview you if you have one. The CELTA, Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, is run by the University of Cambridge. Due to being run by a well-known and respected University and having consistent coursework and rigorous quality control CELTA is well regarded and well known amongst the TEFL community. To lend further credence the British Council recognizes the CELTA as legitimate initial teaching qualification. TESOL or Trinity CertTESOL is much the same as the CELTA. It is run by Trinity College London. For all the reasons CELTA is respected the TESOL is also respected as a legitimate qualification.
These certificates cost money to take. The CELTA and TESOL can cost from $2000 tp $4000 total depending on where you take it, while a ‘Groupon cert’ can cost less than a $100. Which one should you take? If your plan is to teach for only a year or two for fun take a Groupon certificate to fulfill any Visa requirements. If you wish to make a career out of TEFL or really want to work at a higher end school take the CELTA or TESOL. You can always take the cheap cert first and then do the CELTA or TESOL later. I recommend the CELTA or TESOL over a different expensive course due to the name recognition. It will help with future job applications since it is more widely recognized.
When looking for a cheap TEFL certificate make sure that the course marks itself as having 120 hours of work. Many countries require that the certificate be 120 hours or more. Very rarely do the cheap online courses actually require that much effort however. Lastly, if you decide to take an expensive course through your University or other reputable organization make sure it has a practicum included. Another part of what makes the CELTA and TESOL well regarded is the actual in class teaching component. Being able to say your course had a practicum well help your resume and interviews.
Personally, I didn’t take any certificate before teaching in Korea because it wasn’t required for my job or visa. After my contract in Korea I took the CELTA in Thailand so I could pursue a University job in China. The cost was about $2000 for the course and accommodations. Location changes the cost a lot for the CELTA. I recommend looking into many locations if you decide to take the course. I used my return flight at the end of my contract in Korea to get to Thailand for free, take the course, and then travel in Thailand for a month. The course and vacation together were much cheaper than if I took the CELTA in America.
The CELTA has two options part-time or full-time. The part-time option takes three months to complete, while the full-time takes one month. I choose full-time so I could quickly start looking for another job before the next school year started. If you already are working it would be worth looking into the part-time course. The full-time course will take most of your time while taking it. You will go to class Monday to Friday for eight hours a day. Each week will have one homework assignment and you will teach two times each week. That means after class you will need to lesson plan. While busy the work load is manageable, just don’t fall behind.
I found lesson planning to take the most time ( CELTA lesson planning forms attached below). The CELTA has very prescriptive requirements with what they want in a lesson and to pass you have to follow your tutor’s directions exactly. The lesson planning worksheet is lengthy, especially if you include material preparation the day of your teaching. The assignments are the same. However, as long as you listen to your tutor’s instructions you will pass. 95% of all students pass the CELTA. Just try not to stress out to much about it. My very first lesson was garbage. I had to teach grammar and made blatantly obvious errors. However, I owned up to it and kept the lesson going. Afterwards, I fixed my mistakes and didn’t make them again. I listened to my tutor, improved, and I did pass after a long month.
Hopefully this post has helped inform about TEFL certificates and whether you should get one, until next time.