TEFL/TESOL v.s. CELTA – What’s the Difference?

Within your very first steps into the world of English teaching, you’ll encounter an array of strange and confusing acronyms. TEFL, TESOL, TESL, and CELTA are just a few examples of such acronyms. The most popular are TEFL/TESOL (Teaching English as a Foreign Langauge/Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults).



The differences between TEFL, TESOL, TESL, and pretty much any acronym except CELTA, are very minimal. They are all used as general umbrella terms for the teaching English abroad industry. So, for simplicity’s sake, everything but CELTA will be referred to as TEFL/TESOL as it’s between these two where there’s an actual difference.

As explained, TEFL/TESOL is just a term and doesn’t apply to any particular course, certificate, qualification, nor organization. A ‘TEFL Certificate’ is just a way to show that you have completed some sort of training in the field of English teaching. Just having a TEFL certificate doesn’t mean you’ll have gone through any worthwhile amount of training, however, nor does it necessarily guarantee an immediate job. Anyone can say they’ve got a TEFL qualification – it’s only worth anything if the organization you acquired it from are accredited and recognized, such as TEFL Org.

Similarly, a TEFL/TESOL certificate with TEFL Org will qualify you to deliver lessons to learners of all ages and levels of ability. No matter if you see a role for teaching Business English to adult learners or complete elementary level lessons to children – you will be qualified for both!


The process to gain a TEFL/TESOL certificate can vary wildly, with required hours and methods of completion differing between and within businesses. For example, some of our courses are totally online while others combine aspects of classroom training and online. This is an advantage as it means you can be flexible with where and how you want to earn your certificate. If you prefer to work at home, then an online course could be perfect for you.  Alternatively, if you prefer the discipline provided by classroom settings then you can choose from a number of venues provided by companies across the country.

Check out our own course locations across the US!


There’s no set standard as to how a TEFL course should be run which is why accreditation is so important: it shows external, relevant bodies approve of the content within a course as well as how an organization conducts itself. Always try to find out whether the TEFL company you plan to complete a course with can claim some accreditation before following through – here’s our own, if you were wondering.


What is CELTA?

Now, onto CELTA. As the full name suggests, The Certificate in English Langauge Teaching to Adults is, in fact, a specific type of course. The course is accredited and affiliated by the University of Cambridge and is the four-week classroom course that you may hear some employers referring to.

Pros and Cons

To achieve a CELTA, you must attend a teaching class, full-time, for 4 weeks straight. The benefit of going for this course is that you know exactly what to expect and it will contained 6 hours of assessed teaching practice. The disadvantages are the time it takes, the costs (ranging from $1,000 to $1,500), and the fact it focuses solely on teaching adults which can be restrictive.  Also, a CELTA doesn’t actually guarantee you a job – it just makes you eligible for a small percentage of additional schools.

Is it worth it?

Generally,  TEFL/TESOL and CELTA are held in virtually the same regard. The main distinguishing feature being that the CELTA qualification contains 6 hours of assessed teaching which is required for working at British Council schools. Although it opens up these opportunities, they represent such a small percentage of the schools out there that it doesn’t really balance out the increase in cost! Similarly, the CELTA certificate is solely for teaching adults which means you can make yourself less competitive than those with a TEFL/TESOL certificate if you apply for a role teaching children.

The only way to make yourself more competitive in the eyes of the employer – or to apply for roles in a higher salary bracket and with more responsibility – is to complete the DELTA course. This diploma course is also Cambridge accredited and is a fantastic option if you were looking to become a Director of Studies or a senior teacher at a school. However, you can only complete a DELTA course after having taught for at least 2 years and you need to be in full-time employment when you apply as well.

This almost negates the need for a CELTA and, having trained over 60,000 students to date with over 80% of those finding work within just 3 months of completing their course, a TEFL/TESOL certificate with TEFL Org will set you in great stead for securing a job!

Interested in doing a TEFL course? As the most highly accredited TEFL provider in the UK, you can be sure that same quality will be delivered in the US. Have a look at our wide selection of courses here.

Good luck!