Which course: TEFL or CELTA?

When you consider starting your career in the EFL industry, you want to know that you will find the teaching opportunity you’ve dreamed of. You may have heard of both TEFL and CELTA, and it can be quite difficult to decide which course option to choose, as both are entry-level EFL teaching qualifications. It may be that you prefer in-class training, or that you have never done any online study before. It’s a bit of a minefield when you start out and don’t know how to navigate, especially when you’re being bamboozled by all the different acronyms banded about.

If you thought 20 hours over one weekend was intense, how about a 4-week in-class course? Normally running Monday to Friday, you have classes with other trainees in the morning, teaching practices in the afternoon and then homework, either writing essays or lesson planning for the next day. From the blogs that I have read online, you’re recommended not to have any other commitments – family, work, a social life, etc.

The costs involved

When researching EFL teaching qualifications it was a bit of a shock to see the variation in pricing with TEFL courses, CELTA courses and other four-week classroom-based courses.

So yes, it is about three to four times the cost of a TEFL course but those are just the course fees. What about not working for a month, paying your rent/mortgage, or if your nearest CELTA course is more than three hours away, the cost of a short-term let – all these expenses mount up. Also, the choice of dates – for example, the centres that offer CELTA training in Scotland only offer the full-time course once a year and the part-time option once a year.

Application process – questions and interview

I had been working as an English Language Assistant for about a year before I thought of taking an EFL teaching course. I felt the application process for a CELTA course was a bit out of my depth already even though I had had some basic teaching EFL experience. Application questions covered your common application form questions but also asked specific questions on teaching and English grammar, which is why I was signing up for the course in the first place! I understand that you need to research and study topics but I thought that would be left until I was on the course and not before since it’s aimed at first-time teachers.

Aren’t there more opportunities with a CELTA course?

Nor really, as you’re still not guaranteed work after completion. Some schools look for applicants to have two years’ post qualification teaching experience. And you still can’t work in countries like China or South Korea if you don’t have a university degree.

Some think a CELTA will provide you with higher pay, but this isn’t always true. Payscales are most often based on how experienced you are as a teacher and not what qualifications you have done.

There’s also the fact that CETLA is not suitable if you want to teach children as it is geared towards adults (which is what the A in CELTA stands for.  You can purchase an TKT: Young Learners extension for £900.

Does CELTA make you a better teacher?

No. 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 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 does that make them a better teacher?

Location

CELTA course abroad? Again, this was one of the ideas I was researching but again cost factored into the equation. The costs of the course were as high as previously mentioned plus flights on top of that too. And I would be stuck in the classroom for most of the time, so if I had to stare at four walls for most of the day, why do it in an exotic location when I can just do that here in the UK?

And just like a marathon, not everyone makes it to the finish line

If you do some research online, the dropout rates for students are quite high considering how much they have spent. Some only survive the first week or two. And for those who make it to the end, you are still not guaranteed to pass the course.

Don’t get me wrong, I think CELTA is a great course and probably something I would do if I knew I definitely wanted to make a career out of teaching English as a foreign language.

I wasn’t sure teaching was going to be for me. I wanted to try it out before I spent that amount of money so a combined TEFL course was the natural option to get started – it gave me some teaching practice but also an online course that was self-paced and had support from an online TEFL tutor. I’d really recommend it as at least a first step into EFL teaching, as it is usually enough for many of the jobs you’ll be interested in applying for.

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