Is a Level 5 TEFL course equivalent to a CELTA?

Is a Level 5 TEFL course equivalent to a CELTA? What exactly is a Level 5 course? And what is a CELTA?

If you’re unsure about the answers to any of these questions then you’re in the right place. We’re going to answer them all and help guide you towards choosing the course that’s right for you.

What is a Level 5 TEFL course?

A Level 5 TEFL course is a course that has been regulated by an Ofqual-awarding body and assessed to be a level 5 on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF). Got it? Maybe not, so let’s break it down.

Ofqual (The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) is a non-ministerial English government department that regulates qualifications. If you go through the English schooling system then exams such as the GCSEs and A-levels are all regulated by Ofqual, but they also regulate a wide range of other qualifications.

Ofqual doesn’t actually regulate specific courses directly, instead they regulate Awarding Organisations who then regulate qualifications in accordance with Ofqual’s guidelines. There are more than 200 of these Awarding Organisations and our Level 5 TEFL course is regulated by TQUK.

The RQF comprises of 9 levels of ascending difficulty, ranging from Entry Level to Level 8, an example of which is a PhD. So, a level 5 qualification sits somewhere in the middle of the framework and is equivalent to a foundation degree in terms of difficulty.

Level 5 TEFL courses typically involve self-paced online study, which can be combined with a short classroom course depending on the course provider. It’s an entry-level qualification for teaching English language learners, so you don’t need any prior qualifications or experience in teaching.  

A woman with short hair and glasses sitting in front of an iMac computer

What is a CELTA course?

The CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is an established and highly-regarded teaching qualification. The course typically involves a month of full-time classroom-based study, which is focused on teaching adult learners only, and costs around £1,200. To do a CELTA you need to find an approved centre, of which there are more than 300 worldwide.

It’s a good investment for those who intend on pursuing a long-term career in teaching, which is why it’s common to see teachers do a CELTA after teaching for a few years with a TEFL qualification. For those testing the waters or just looking to experience working abroad for a few years the cost might be difficult to justify.

For a long time, the CELTA was one of just a handful of good-quality courses on the market for teaching English abroad, and was sought after by employers worldwide. It still maintains a good reputation with employers across the globe, but as online learning has come a long way in the last decade, online TEFL courses from properly accredited providers are now widely accepted.

A CELTA course is also an Ofqual-regulated level 5 course, and this is why you’ll come across claims that a Level 5 TEFL course is equivalent to or the same as the CELTA. But is this correct?

Why a Level 5 TEFL course and the CELTA are not the same

It’s important to understand that a Level 5 TEFL course and the CELTA are not equivalent qualifications. If you’ve been doing your research you’ve probably come across the claim that they are, so you might be a little surprised to read that this isn’t the case.

Yes, a Level 5 TEFL course and CELTA are both level 5 qualifications, but that only means they’re the same level of difficulty, not that the qualifications are interchangeable. The method of delivery and content of the two qualifications is actually very different.

To say that the two are equivalent implies that were an employer to specifically ask for a CELTA they would also accept a Level 5 TEFL course, which usually isn’t the case. We’ve yet to come across an advert for a teaching job that asks for a CELTA or a Level 5 – in fact, employers almost never specifically ask for a Level 5, the requirement is typically for a TEFL course consisting of at least 120 hours of study. See our post explaining TEFL hours and levels for more information.

A blonde haired female teacher high fiving a student

Should you do a TEFL or a CELTA course?

Choosing the right course can feel a bit complicated. With so many different types of courses and providers out there it’s normal to feel a bit lost. What’s right for you can depend on your aims, your circumstances, and your previous experience and qualifications.

You should do a CELTA if…

  • You want training that is 100% classroom-based
  • You’re as certain as you can be that teaching English is the career for you
  • You’re already TEFL qualified and have been teaching for a few years and want the CELTA in order to open up more opportunities

You should do a TEFL course if…

  • You’re new to teaching and want to see if it’s right for you
  • You’re only looking to teach abroad for a year or two
  • You’re aiming to teach English online to make some extra income
  • You need a flexible course that can be completed in your own time

Of course, there can be practical considerations as well, such as cost and location. CELTA courses are considerably more expensive than a TEFL course, and if you’re studying in person then you need to either live close to a CELTA centre or be able to move near one for the month of study.

Hopefully, you now have a bit more understanding about the differences between Level 5 TEFL courses and the CELTA and why they’re not equivalent qualifications. We’re always here to assist with choosing the right course for you, so reach out on live chat, email advice@tefl.org, or give us a call on 01349 800 600 to speak to an experienced TEFL adviser!

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