Fact-checking: Level 5 TEFL Courses

Fact-checking: Level 5 TEFL Courses

With so many TEFL providers and different types of courses out there choosing the right one for you can feel like you're in a bit of a minefield at times.

One of the most common questions we’re asked is about the difference between a Level 5 TEFL course and a 120-hour course. With a lot of misleading and confusing information out there we thought it was time to do a bit of fact-checking and take an honest look at some of the claims about these courses.

Is a Level 5 course really equivalent to a CELTA or Trinity CertTESOL qualification? Is it a better option than a 120-hour TEFL course? Can you use it to teach in the UK? We answer all these questions and more, so keep reading!

What is a Level 5 TEFL qualification?

A Level 5 TEFL qualification is one that has been assessed by an external body to be a level 5 qualification according to Ofqual’s qualification framework.

Ofqual is a non-ministerial government department, which regulates qualifications and exams in England. An Ofqual-regulated Level 5 course will have gone through strict quality control by an external body that is officially recognised by Ofqual as an awarding organisation to ensure that the course is of the high standard required.

Some less scrupulous course providers attach ‘Level 5’ to the name of their courses but they haven’t actually been externally accredited by a recognised Ofqual awarding organisation. In cases like these, ‘Level 5’ is being used misleadingly to sell courses by suggesting a level of regulation that does not exist. We’re always telling prospective students about the importance of checking out a provider’s accreditation because, unfortunately, in the TEFL industry sometimes things aren’t always what they seem.

Arrows pointing in different directions

Is a Level 5 qualification equivalent to the CELTA or Trinity CertTESOL?

According to Ofqual, a Level 5 TEFL qualification and the CELTA and Trinity CertTESOL are assessed to be the same level of difficulty. They are all level 5 qualifications, so, in the eyes of Ofqual, they are equivalent.

But do employers regard the qualifications to be equivalent? The honest answer is this: if an employer specifically asks for a CELTA/Trinity CertTESOL then it’s highly unlikely they will accept a Level 5 qualification instead.

How the courses are delivered is very different. Both the CELTA and Trinity CertTESOL courses are typically completed as an intensive classroom-based course held over a month. They both include 6 hours of observed teaching practice and focus on teaching adult learners. A Level 5 TEFL qualification is largely completed online and covers teaching a range of learners.

This means that while the qualifications are the same level they aren’t really equivalent because the way they are taught and their focuses are very different.

Should I do the CELTA or Trinity CertTESOL instead?

At this point you might be thinking that a Level 5 qualification isn’t worth the time and you should do a CELTA or Trinity CertTESOL instead. Not the case!

Only a minority of employers ask for a CELTA qualification, and those that do typically also require teachers to have several years of teaching experience.

It would be a mistake to think that because the CELTA is long-established, highly regarded, and comes with a much higher price tag that it would open doors to better paid positions. Truthfully, the opportunities for an inexperienced teacher with a CELTA qualification vs. one with a TEFL qualification are very similar. This is because in the TEFL industry salaries are usually determined by experience.

If you take a look at some of the biggest TEFL jobs boards you’ll find that the vast majority of entry-level positions require teachers to have recognised English teaching qualification, with both TEFL and CELTA ticking that box.

To summarise : if an employer stipulates that a CELTA qualification is a requirement it’s unlikely they’ll accept a different qualification. But, in the grand scheme of things, the number of employers with such a requirement are a small minority, with most happy to accept a TEFL qualification from an accredited course provider.

A woman in a pink t-shirt studying on her laptop

Can I use a Level 5 TEFL qualification to teach in the UK?

You can, but in order to find permanent work in the UK it’s going to be difficult with just a Level 5 qualification on its own.

Teaching English in the UK - or any English-speaking country - can be difficult due to how competitive the market is. With such a big pool to select from, employers can afford to be selective and tend to recruit teachers who have come back from teaching abroad and have several years of teaching experience under their belt. Entry-level positions are few and far between.

The exception to this is summer schools. Roughly half a million people come to the UK to study English every year, and summer schools are popular with younger students. While this can be a great way to get started teaching English, it’s unlikely to lead to a more permanent position in the near future.

Experience is by far the most important factor when it comes to teaching English in the UK. Our recommendation is to get your TEFL qualification, find teaching work abroad to build up your skills and experience, and then you’ll be in a position to compete for jobs in the UK when you return.

Should I do a Level 5 or 120-hour TEFL course?

The truth is that the opportunities with both are pretty much the same. Most employers worldwide require teachers to have a 120-hour TEFL qualification, so a TEFL course with at least these hours and a Level 5 TEFL course (which usually consists of at least 200 hours) meet this requirement.

So, why would someone opt for a Level 5 course over a 120-hour course? With more hours, a Level 5 course goes into more depth, which means it can be a better option for those completely new to teaching who might not be feeling very confident.

Our Level 5 course includes a 19-hour module titled The Principles of Teaching English as a Foreign Language Course, which delves into the history of the English language and its evolution. And the methodology section of the course goes into greater detail, including a module focused on how to use resources effectively. If you feel you would benefit from more comprehensive training, then the Level 5 course is what we would suggest.

If your goal is to teach English in the UK then a Level 5 qualification may help to give you a slight edge over someone with a 120-hour qualification. But in terms of finding work abroad or online your employment prospects and earning potential will be the same with both.

Interested in finding out more about our courses? Head over to our courses page to see our full range. 

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