TEFL diplomas vs. certificates

TEFL diplomas vs. certificates

When it comes to getting the “right” TEFL qualification, we’ve found that our students and the TEFL-curious alike have similar questions. These questions include: what do I need to teach abroad or online? Will I stand out if I have a TEFL diploma, as opposed to a 120-hour certificate? Which modules matter, and what will employers be most impressed with?

All good and relevant questions. There are so many acronyms, types of qualifications and differences between providers, from the subtle to the obvious. This blog has always been about shattering myths and answering questions, so it’s time for us to step in and answer one of the biggest questions out there: do I need a TEFL diploma or a certificate?

Let’s get into it!

What is a TEFL diploma?

So, first of all: what is a TEFL diploma?

To be a diploma, a course has to have been accredited by an Ofqual-awarding body. What does that mean? Ofqual is a regulatory body that’s part of the UK Government and deems qualifications to be at different levels. For example, a Grade D, E or F at GCSE level is a Level 1 qualification, while a doctorate is Level 8. A TEFL diploma is typically a Level 5 qualification, which puts it in very high esteem.

A TEFL diploma involves more comprehensive training than a TEFL certificate, which we’ll describe in more detail shortly. That entails more hours of study, and modules you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see in a TEFL qualification programme . In short, it’s a TEFL qualification, with a lot extra; extra time, extra study, extra topics, extra materials.

If a TEFL course provider is offering a “diploma” without mention of a regulatory accreditation body, make sure to avoid it. 

Interviewers discussing a qualification

What about DELTA and DipTESOL?

Now, amongst diplomas, there are some key differences. You may have heard of the likes of DELTA and DipTESOL , two big names in the TEFL world. DELTA (Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and DipTESOL (Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) were founded by the University of Cambridge and Trinity College London, and have historically been in-person, intense diploma courses. It’s no longer the case that they’re purely in the classroom, with hybrid or fully online options available. 

These courses tend to last longer, and are intensive, meaning that you can’t study in your own time, but to a set schedule. The DipTESOL and DELTA are qualifications for teachers who’ve already gained experience and are looking to do further training. To take a DELTA, you need to have at least one year’s experience of teaching, English proficiency rated CEFR level C1 or above and have a degree. For DipTESOL, you need a degree, two years’ experience, CEFR level C1 or above, and either a CELTA or Trinity CertTESOL are desired.

What is a TEFL certificate?

A TEFL certificate - at least, a good one! - should arm you with everything you need to teach English as a foreign language. The industry standard is 120 hours of study, meaning you’ll need a TEFL certificate with 120 hours of training attached to land jobs anywhere in the world.

A high-quality TEFL certificate is helmed by who have experience in the industry, will be from a highly-accredited institution, and will provide you with all the necessary materials you’ll need to learn all about teaching English as a foreign language. By the end, you should have total confidence in your abilities, with a sound theoretical and practice knowledge of teaching English.

There are other types of TEFL certificates too. Advanced TEFL qualifications are excellent additions to your CV, with specific topics on offer for advanced study. If you’re taking an advanced TEFL certificate from an accredited institution, such as business English, or teaching young learners, these certificates can make the difference when applying for jobs in international schools, private schools and universities, for example.

Accreditation matters

We keep mentioning accreditation, and that’s for good reason. Accreditation is vital. Though the TEFL market opening up has meant millions of new, talented teachers joining the workforce, it has also created opportunities for scam artists. Broadly speaking, you can tell a legitimate course provider from a scam by checking the accreditation. Does the course provider have accreditation? Is it legitimate, and recognised? Or, does it sound made up and unofficial? These are the key things to check before you commit to a course.

A man writing on a notepad next to a laptop

Should I do a diploma or TEFL certificate?

“So what does this mean for me, then?”, we hear you ask. It’s an entirely fair question and one that many of our students ask before launching into their chosen TEFL qualification. Truthfully, the answer is a personal one: both are great options, but depending on your circumstances, one might be better suited for you than the other.

It might be better to do a 120-hour over a Level 5 if you have a minimum of a BA degree in any discipline. A degree and 120 hours of accredited TEFL study will definitely result in work. If you have some previous teaching experience, and you’re a native English speaker with a passport from the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa, 120 hours is probably best, especially if you’re seeking work in a country with high demand for English teachers.

On the other hand, we’d recommend a Level 5 over a 120-hour if you do not have a degree, and have no previous teaching experience. The extra study and the Ofqual level mean that a Level 5 diploma will be more beneficial to you than a 120-hour course. If English isn’t your first language or you don’t have a passport from one of the 7 countries listed above, a diploma makes more sense. This is particularly true if you’re aiming to work in a country with a competitive jobs market, or you’re looking to teach online. 

Additionally, confidence is a big part of it. If you feel you’d be more assured with a Level 5 diploma then it’s the best option.

Still a little unsure? Take our ‘What TEFL course is right for you?’ quiz to find the right answer.

What TEFL qualifications do employers want?

Here we come to the crux of it all: what do employers actually look for?

The ‘a’ word is once again vital here: accreditation. Before we even talk about the kind of TEFL qualification that’ll get you work, the study you’ve done needs to have been from a legitimate, accredited course provider. It’s the first thing that (good) employers look for.

With that said, it’s important to state that 120 hours of TEFL training is the industry standard. In many places, a degree and 120 hours of TEFL certification will do the trick (especially where visa regulations are stricter), and in other places, the TEFL certification alone will see you happily employed. 

A Level 5 diploma might open even more doors, however. Simply put, if there’s a straight shoot-out between two ideal candidates, and the only difference between them is that one has done 120 hours, and the other has completed a Level 5 diploma, the latter might win out.

Why is that? It’s really simple: the Level 5 diploma is just that bit more in-depth, as you’d expect from a qualification with a longer duration of study.

We can’t stress enough, though; both will get you the start you need in the exciting world of TEFL!


Is the CELTA a diploma? 

No, the CELTA is a certificate qualification, and not a diploma or equivalent.

Is a 120-hour TEFL certificate enough to get a job? 

In a great number of countries, and online, an 120-hour TEFL certificate is enough to get a quality TEFL job. However, countries with stricter visa requirements will likely demand a degree.

How much is a TEFL diploma? 

A high-quality TEFL diploma ought to cost in the region of £500-£700/$630-$880.

Want to talk to someone about the best TEFL course option for you? Get in touch via live chat, email , or by giving us a ring on +44 (0) 1349 800 600 / +353 19 011 793

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