TEFL Qualifications

The variety of TEFL certificates and qualifications available leaves some people feeling disoriented about which qualification(s) they should get. Partly that decision still depends upon where you want to work and your intentions within TEFL. This page, and the links contained within, have been written to help you make sense of the options that are available to you.

Broadly speaking, TEFL qualifications fall into four categories, as shown in the table below:

Type Description Assessed Teaching Component Available Online Cost
Entry
A very basic TEFL certificate which doesn't meet the requirements of a TEFL-I course.
Generally not
Yes
Cheap - may range from £20-£500
TEFL-I
More commonly referred to as CELTA-equivalent, this strata consists of the CELTA, Trinity CertTESOL and other certifications which meet similar standards.
Yes - at least 6 hours
Yes (this mode of delivery became available due to Covid-19)
More expensive - around £1100-£2000
TEFL-Q
Sometimes referred to as Delta-equivalent, this strata includes Delta and the Trinity DipTESOL.
Yes
Apart from teaching practice
Yet more expensive - around £2000-£3000
MA/MSc (or higher)
This strata contains masters degrees (and doctoral degrees) in TEFL/TESOL, as well as Linguistics and English or related disciplines.
Generally not, though may demand on course
Yes
Most expensive - at least £3000 per year

Entry Certificates

Entry TEFL certificates vary widely in their length, cost and, most importantly, quality. It is not difficult to find companies who offer such certificates; you simply need to type “TEFL certificate” into Google.

Often these companies publish claims that their certificates are “accredited and globally recognised”. In many cases this is not actually untrue; however, it may not be true in quite the way you are expecting. Firstly, some of these providers are known to hiring managers, but not for the reasons you would like them to be. Secondly, they are usually “accredited” by a private company and not by any public sector body.

These TEFL certificates are globally recognised as an inferior award to a CELTA or equivalent qualifications. In addition to the lack of meaningful accreditation, other reasons for this are that these courses often do not include any assessed teaching practice, and since there do not appear to be clear standards in terms of who the instructors are.

In some cases these courses use teaching the other participants on the course as a substitute for real teaching practice. This is clearly inferior, since the other participants will not present the challenges that a class of real students does.

Nevertheless, while you may sense my derision towards such courses, these courses have found a place in the market. Since the next strata of qualification costs noticeably more, teachers consider these as a cheaper option. I would therefore agree that this may be an option for those people who may not be able to justify the cost of a TEFL-I certificate. In particular, this would include:

  • Career changers who are nearing retirement;
  • Backpacking students who are going to teach for a few months at most;
  • Volunteers, who can’t be expected to pay for expensive courses.

    Be Aware

    However, while this award may suit the above categories, you should note that it:

    • will limit the countries (largely to China and east Asia) and even the companies you may work for;
    • will likely mean the ‘better’ jobs are off-limits as these companies are able to demand better qualifications;
    • may not be accepted at all if obtained online;
    • might not adequately prepare you for classroom situations;
    • may mean your colleagues see your qualification as inferior.

    TEFL-I/CELTA-equivalent

    TEFL-I (the ‘I’ stands for ‘initiated’) qualifications are becoming the de facto standard as entry qualifications to work in language schools. That said, there are many countries where these awards are not necessary, and as students and teachers move online, the CELTA (or equivalent) does not seem to have the same weight in this space. However, this may be changing as CELTAs have been running online as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Note that these certificates are entry-level. You don’t need to do any other certificate before attempting one of these awards.

    This strata is largely defined by their comparison to the CELTA, so I will discuss this award first.

    The Cambridge CELTA is offered by Cambridge ESOL which is part of Cambridge University. It runs in many countries around the world in authorised centres. Typically a CELTA lasts four weeks full-time, although part-time, blended and online options exist. Participants attend no less than 120 contact hours with tutors who are themselves TEFL-Q qualified.

    CELTA participants are assessed based on their performance during 6 hours of assessed teaching practice, and in four written assignments. At the end of the course, CELTA graduates receive a grade of pass, pass B or pass A depending on their performance.

    Although some people fail CELTA, the pass rate is high. Mainly people fail when they drop out or stop doing assignments. Generally, providers vet participants before the course begins, and therefore the centre are certain that the majority will pass.

    The CELTA is the most widely recognised certificate for TEFL. This has several benefits, including:

    • Not having to prove your certificate is CELTA-equivalent;
    • Some employers will automatically invite CELTA graduates to interview;
    • A higher salary in some schools.

    While the CELTA is considered by many to be the gold standard of initial TEFL certifications, it has not been without its criticisms. In particular, some people criticise CELTA for being “too Cambridge” and allowing Cambridge ESOL to have a stranglehold on the market. For this reason, I will consider some of the other equivalents within this strata.

    Trinity CertTESOL

    The main competitor to CELTA is the Trinity CertTESOL, offered by Trinity College London. The CertTESOL runs through approved centres around the globe (like the CELTA, although in fewer locations). Participants attend 130 hours which includes 6 hours of assessed teaching practice.

    Just as with the CELTA, Trinity tutors are  TEFL-Q qualified and have substantial experience of teacher training.

    The main disadvantages of Trinity compared to the CELTA are that fewer people are familiar with it, and that it runs in fewer countries. On the other hand, supporting this qualification helps to maintain competition between these two.

    Other TEFL-I Qualifications

    Far less is known about other TEFL-I certificates, and generally if you get one, it is up to you to prove to your employers that it is equivalent. To be equivalent it typically needs to have:

    • 120 contact hours with TEFL-Q qualified tutors;
    • 6 hours of assessed teaching practice;
    • External moderation;
    • Accreditation by a public sector body.

    Currently, I am not aware of any certificate that routinely passes these requirements. If you know such an award, please inform me so that I can include it here.

    Find Out More

    Click on the links to find out more:

    TEFL-Q

    The TEFL-Q strata consists of two qualifications: the Delta and the DipTESOL. To sit either of these you should have completed a TEFL-I qualification and have a minimum of two years of teaching experience (more is generally advised).

    Although generally not a requirement for teaching jobs anywhere, having one of these diplomas does carry several benefits, including:

    • likely to be interviewed above other candidates without TEFL-Q;
    • higher pay in some companies;
    • may be considered for management/teacher training roles,
    • can become a CELTA/Trinity CertTESOL trainer;
    • credits for up to one third of a masters’ degree in TESOL/applied linguistics (depends on the university).

    The better known of these two diplomas is the Cambridge Delta, which I will deal with first.

    The Cambridge Delta is named after its sibling (CELTA), which is why it is not all capitalised – it is not an acronym. As with the CELTA, courses are run in many countries around the world by TEFL-Q qualified tutors who have considerable teaching and teacher training experience.

    The three modules of Delta can be done as an integrated course, or as separate modules. The modules do not need to be done with the same provider and may be done in any order (though module 1 is usually preferred before the others). As an integrated course, Delta takes around 9 months. If done modularly, there is no time limit to completing Delta.

    For the first module, participants sit an exam consisting of two papers which test their knowledge of such areas as teaching terminology, language awareness, teaching theories, approaches and techniques. Although not necessarily required, it is recommended for candidates to take a preparation course which can be done online. The exam itself takes place in July and December in major cities around the world.

    The second module generally requires the candidate’s presence as this part contains assessed teaching practice. It also contains a large number of input sessions and some assignments, making this part feel like a more demanding CELTA.

    The final module requires the candidate to write a 4,500 word assignment including a course plan for a particular teaching specialism. Alternatively candidates can focus on a management specialism. As with the first module, there is not necessarily a requirement for candidates to take a course, although Cambridge recommends it.

    Just like the CELTA, some people have criticised Delta for being “too Cambridge.” Therefore, some teachers like to take the Trinity option if they did the CELTA to provide some balance. This option is described next.

    Trinity DipTESOL

    The DipTESOL is Trinity’s answer to the Delta. It is run in fewer countries though does have some approved centres in Western Europe, East and South Asia and Argentina.

    The DipTESOL is similar to the Delta in structure in that it includes an exam, assessed teaching practice and a written portfolio. Aside from the exam, the other units are taken together and the candidate has three years to complete all the parts including re-submitting any parts that fail. The assessed teaching practice requires attendance at a face to face course with a minimum of 40 hours.

    Find Out More

    Click on the links to find out more:

    MAs and Higher

    Although many teachers stop at a diploma, some go on to get a masters’ degree or higher. Some may skip the diploma and go straight for a masters’ degree. In most cases a masters’ degree does not provide any significant advantage. However, it may help to:

    • gain work in management, materials development or teacher training;
    • get work in competitive regions such as the gulf states in the middle-east or Singapore.

    I would advise any teacher who is planning to do a masters’ in either TESOL/TEFL or applied linguistics to get a diploma first as this will likely count towards it, and also give you both awards. An MA or MSc may not be considered as favourably as the Delta or DipTESOL because these don’t necessarily require assessed teaching.

    Other Qualifications

    I have deliberately left out several other qualifications and categories as they don’t fit into the main categories. I have included them here for completeness.

    PGCEs/Teaching Degrees

    These are generally not considered sufficient on their own in TEFL, despite the fact that they are longer and typically mean that the teacher knows a lot more about pedagogy and maintaining order in a classroom. The main concern is that although you can obviously manage a classroom, your knowledge of teaching languages is not necessarily demonstrated. Further, schools may question the quality of education if you gained your degree in a non-Western country.

    If you have one, it is worth mentioning as it will only strengthen your employment prospects. It isn’t really worth doing a PGCE to get into TEFL though – you’d be better off going into international schools as these pay more.

    Young Learner Certificates

    Most TEFL certificates focus on teaching adults, although most teaching jobs nowadays involve some amount of teaching kids. You may at some point consider therefore getting a young learner certificate.

    Cambridge used to do an extension to the CELTA, but now offer the CELT-P and CELT-S programmes instead. Presently, Cambridge offers these programmes to organisations who have 100 or more candidates to train. As such it may be difficult to get on one of these courses.

    Trinity offers the TYLEC as an extension to the Trinity CertTESOL, although CELTA graduates can also take it. There are a large number of TYLEC approved centres in Europe, the Middle East, South and East Asia and a few centres in North and South America.

    Find Out More

    Click on the links to find out more:

    Categories: Qualifications

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