TEFL vs CELTA: what course should you choose?

TEFL vs CELTA: what are the differences and which one should you choose? If your goal is to teach English as a foreign language then you obviously want to make sure you do a course that’s going to help you do just that. But it can be hard to decide, especially since there’s a lot of confusing and misleading information out there about both types of courses. 

That’s why we’ve put together this article, which breaks down the key differences between CELTA and TEFL courses. By the end, you should have an understanding of what course is most suitable for you. 

Are TEFL and CELTA the same? 

While there are some similarities between the two, TEFL and CELTA courses are not the same. Both are entry-level qualifications for teaching English as a foreign language, but they’re very different in how they’re delivered, as well as the course content. 

What is TEFL? 

TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. It’s often used interchangeably with TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and you can think of it like an umbrella term for all courses focused on training someone how to teach English to language learners. 

Not all TEFL courses are equal, which is really important to understand when choosing a course. There are lots of different TEFL course providers and with no over-arching accrediting body just about anyone can set up and sell a TEFL course. The only worthwhile TEFL course is one that is accredited by respected bodies and has a strong reputation internationally. 

What is CELTA? 

CELTA stands for Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. It’s a specific type of TEFL course created by Cambridge Assessment English and focuses on teaching adults. The course is usually completed in person over the course of a month. In the past, the CELTA was one of the only quality TEFL courses on the market and so it holds a good reputation worldwide. However, online learning has come a long way and it’s no longer the only course sought after by employers. 

Only approved CELTA centres are able to run CELTA courses. There are over 2,800 in 130 countries, so to find your nearest one just Google!

What are the main differences between TEFL and CELTA? 

While both courses will train you how to teach English as a foreign language, there are some significant differences between the two. The main ones are:

  • Cost
  • Delivery
  • Course content 
  • The age of learners
  • Method of study

We’ll go into detail about each of these throughout this article. 

TEFL vs. CELTA: how much do they cost? 

One of the most significant differences between TEFL and CELTA courses is cost. 

A good-quality TEFL qualification will usually cost between £180 – £400 ($240 – $550). Be wary of courses a lot cheaper than this as they often aren’t accredited and may not be recognised by employers. There are lots of budget TEFL course providers out there offering extremely cheap courses, but these are unlikely to prepare you properly for teaching English and often involve a lot of hidden fees. 

CELTA courses, on the other hand, cost substantially more at around £1,250 – £2,000 ($1,500 – $2,600), depending on the centre. In fact, if you complete the CELTA as most people do – full time over the course of a month – there are other significant costs involved, such as loss of earnings and, potentially, accommodation. 

How long does it take to complete a TEFL or CELTA course? 

The CELTA course is typically held over 4 weeks and involves a total of 120 hours of classroom study. It’s an intensive, full-time course and so you can get your qualification in just a month – but you will need to clear your schedule to do this. Centres will usually run one or two courses a year. 

A TEFL course can be completed entirely online and most of the more established providers also offer short classroom courses as well. You can study when it suits you and work through the course at your own pace. The CELTA set the standard in terms of the number of hours for a course, so you should ensure your TEFL course involves at least 120 hours of study. But there’s no need to do a course that involves hundreds and hundreds of hours of material. A TEFL course anywhere between the 120 to 200 hour range is all anyone would need. 

Is a TEFL course equivalent to a CELTA? 

This is a common claim made by TEFL course providers and it’s ultimately a misleading one. While a Level 5 TEFL course and the CELTA are both regulated by Ofqual and have been assessed to be level 5 courses according to their qualifications framework, this doesn’t make them the same. Yes, they’re of an equivalent level, but they’re delivered in completely different ways. 

For example, The British Council only employs experienced teachers with a CELTA or Trinity CertTESOL qualification. If a Level 5 TEFL course was truly equivalent then they would accept one instead of a CELTA, which is not the case. 

That’s not to say a Level 5 course isn’t worthwhile, and it’s important to bear in mind that just a small minority of employers will only accept a CELTA qualification. The most suitable course for you will depend on a number of factors, so keep reading to find out more! 

Which is better? TEFL or CELTA? 

Whether a TEFL or CELTA course is the best course for you will depend on a few things. 

If you want the option of teaching learners of all ages, including children and teenagers, then a TEFL course would be a better option as the CELTA only focuses on adult learners. Cambridge Assessment English used to offer a Young Learners add-on to the CELTA for around £900 ($1,200), but this was discontinued in 2016. 

You also need to consider how both courses are delivered and what would suit you best. If you want 100% in person classroom study then go with the CELTA. If you want to study online at your own pace then you should go for a TEFL course. 

And finally, your budget might dictate what course you choose. The CELTA is expensive and as it’s normally held full-time over a month it means you can’t work alongside it. A TEFL course is certainly a much more affordable option for most. 

The important thing to remember is that whatever course you choose (as long as the TEFL course is properly accredited!), you’ll be prepared and qualified to start teaching English for the first time.

Will you earn more money with a CELTA? 

Starting salaries for TEFL vs CELTA qualified teachers are the same. In the TEFL industry it’s experience that determines salaries, so if you’re just starting out then it’s not going to make a difference whether you have a TEFL or CELTA qualification. The same is true of 120-hour vs Level 5 courses – just because a course has more hours of training doesn’t mean you’ll earn more as a newbie teacher. Unfortunately, that’s just not how the TEFL industry works. 

Are there more opportunities with a CELTA?

The teaching English industry has evolved a lot over the past 20 years, and while once upon a time the CELTA was one of the only quality courses on the market, that’s not the case anymore. Only a very small minority of employers specifically require a CELTA and these are not entry-level positions, you’ll also need a couple of years of teaching experience under your belt. 

It’s also important to note that some countries require teachers to have a degree for visa reasons. Doing a CELTA course doesn’t get around this – you would still need a degree. If you don’t have a degree we have some more information about teaching abroad without one here.  

A little bit of mythbusting

To round off this article, let’s take a look at some of the common myths about TEFL vs CELTA courses. 

The claim: online TEFL courses aren’t accepted by employers. The verdict: total fiction! The online training industry has come a long way and most employers accept online TEFL qualifications provided it’s from an accredited provider. 

The claim: a course must include a practicum to be accepted by employers. The verdict: fiction again! A course does not need to include a practicum, this is a bit of a marketing tactic courses that include a practicum use. How do we know this is false? The TEFL Org has trained over 140,000 teachers since 2008 and despite our courses not including a practicum our graduates have no problem finding work!

The claim: doing a CELTA makes you a better teacher. The verdict: largely false. There are good and bad teachers everywhere, just because they completed a 4-week classroom course doesn’t make them a better teacher. With CELTA courses you can either score an A, a B, pass or a fail. Is a teacher with an A better than a teacher that has a B? Yes, they were able to get a better grade in their teaching practice and essays but that doesn’t necessarily make them a better teacher. For more information about CELTA courses visit Cambridge Assessment English. And for TEFL courses take our quick quiz, which will tell you what course is most suitable for you in just a couple of minutes.

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