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TEFL vs. CELTA: What’s the difference?

What is the difference between TEFL and CELTA?

If you’re interested in gaining some English language teaching experience, it’s a good idea to participate in a program that awards you a teaching certificate. A certificate basically gives you the credentials or qualifications to be able to teach. Many schools or businesses will look for such qualifications as a way of filtering down the candidates for a position as well as confirming that you have been properly trained.

Caveat Emptor (Buyer beware!)…Not all English language teaching certificate programs are created equal.

If you started exploring your options, it’s likely that you’ve seen such acronyms as TEFL, TESOL, TESL and CELTA. This can get quite confusing. In fact, many people use these terms interchangeably and understandably so.  While each certificate has a similar goal, to qualify you to teach English, there are some differences in terms of the accrediting body, price, requirements to participate, structure and program length. These differences combined with what you want to achieve with the certificate should all play a role in helping you decide which program is best for you.

What do these acronyms mean?

TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign Language

TESOL – Teaching English to Speakers of Others Languages

TESL – Teaching English as a Second Language

CELTA – Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

The differences between TEFL, TESOL and TESL are so subtle that the terms are used interchangeably.

Summary of the teaching certificate options

TEFL, TESOL and TESL

  • Price:  $250 – $2,000+ (more cost effective than CELTA)
  • Course Length: Varies
  • Requirements: 18+ years old
  • Structure: Theory with some practice
  • Teaching Venue: In person usually. However, an online option does exist.
  • Accrediting Institution: Varies. Some do not have an accrediting institution. Others may be the College of Teachers or ACCREDITAT.

CELTA

  • Price:  $2,500+ (generally more expensive than the other options)
  • Course Length: Varies
  • Requirements: 18+ years old
  • Structure: Theory with some practice
  • Teaching Venue: In person usually. However, an online option does exist.
  • Accrediting Institution: Cambridge University

Which Program is Best for Me?

As I mentioned before, the program you choose will depend on several factors including price, program length, accrediting institution, prerequisites, and course structure. In terms of employment opportunities, many schools worldwide are quick to recognize the quality of a CELTA certificate as it is backed by Cambridge University, has stricter requirements in terms of English language ability, offers a standard format with clear learning objectives, and provides a standard approach to training its program participants. That being said, any of these programs provide exposure to the world of teaching which is not only a gratifying experience, but it also helps you valuable skills such as organization, leadership and public speaking.

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