TEFL diplomas vs. certificates

Are you confused about TEFL diplomas and certificates? What’s the difference? Which one should you do? 

Don’t worry, we’re here to break it down for you and help you understand exactly what diplomas and certificates are, and how these terms are used in the TEFL industry. 

What is a TEFL diploma? 

A TEFL diploma is a postgraduate-level qualification for experienced teachers. The two most recognised diplomas are the Cambridge DELTA and the Trinity DipTESOL, which are both Level 7 qualifications according to the Ofqual register. 

You’ll need an initial TEFL qualification and at least two years of teaching experience. For the Trinity DipTESOL you must also have an undergraduate degree. 

While many people TEFL for a short period of time as a means to travel or to casually teach online, there are a number of career paths within the industry. For experienced teachers aiming to progress up the TEFL career ladder, a diploma is often a must. 

A man writing on a notepad next to a laptop

What is a TEFL certificate? 

A TEFL certificate is an entry-level teaching qualification. Certificate courses don’t require you to have any previous qualifications or experience and will cover everything you need to know to start teaching for the very first time. 

TEFL certificates are completed through TEFL course providers (like us)! However, there’s no single governing body that regulates the industry, which means there are a lot of poor-quality courses and cowboy operations out there. When choosing a TEFL course it’s crucial to ensure that it’s properly accredited by reputable and established bodies, and that it has a strong international reputation. It can feel like a bit of a minefield, which is why we’ve put together some helpful information about how to choose the best TEFL course

How to tell the difference between a diploma and a certificate 

Telling the difference between the two is actually very easy! If you don’t need any prior teaching experience to register on a course then it’s a certificate, not a diploma. Real diploma courses won’t accept inexperienced teachers. 

But if that’s the case, why are there certificate-level courses out there titled as ‘diplomas’. TEFL.net offers this as an explanation:

… some other organisations use “diploma” in other ways, usually for a qualification that is higher than their minimum course… This kind of qualification… is more commonly known as a TEFL certificate, and calling this a diploma is usually a sign of low academic standards and/or over-the-top marketing.

Simply put, it’s all about marketing and creating the impression of prestige. That’s not to say these courses are scams (although be wary of unaccredited budget course providers), but it’s very important to be aware that they are not recognised in the industry as a diploma.

Employers in the TEFL industry recognise a diploma as one thing: an advanced, postgraduate-level qualification. If you say you have a TEFL diploma they’ll expect it to be a DELTA or Trinity DipTESOL, not a TEFL certificate. 

Interviewers discussing a qualification

Should I do a diploma or certificate TEFL course? 

That’s an easy question to answer. If you don’t have any experience teaching English then you should do a certificate course. Diploma courses, such as the DELTA and Trinity DipTESOL, won’t accept you onto the course unless you already have teaching experience. 

For qualified and experienced TEFL teachers aiming to advance in the industry, a diploma is an important step. Having a TEFL diploma will open up more opportunities and increase your earning potential. 

What TEFL qualification do employers want? 

For entry-level TEFL jobs, most employers ask for a 120-hour TEFL qualification. While there can be some benefit to doing more hours – particularly if you don’t have a degree or aren’t a native English speaker – there’s no need to go overboard. 

Doing hundreds and hundreds of hours of TEFL training at certificate level simply isn’t necessary. These courses are not a fasttrack to anything. They won’t get you a higher paid job – salaries in the TEFL industry are determined by experience – and they won’t open up any more opportunities than a 120-hour certificate would. Any TEFL course provider claiming otherwise is being misleading. 

Take it from us – The TEFL Org is owned and run by experienced TEFL teachers and we work closely with employers around the world. We know exactly what employers look for, which is quality over quantity. We’ve never come across one that specifically asks for more than 120 hours. And that’s why we’re focused on maintaining and developing our high quality 120-hour and Level 5 courses rather than adding on unnecessary hours to create an illusion of value.

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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