Are you dreaming of an exciting new career? Something that lets you work with people from all over the world? Perhaps you have a passion for languages? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s likely you’ve considered becoming a TEFL teacher. Naturally the first step is to get qualified, but even the most cursory of google searches reveals a plethora of courses to choose from.
If you read our recent blog post, you’ll know that acronyms abound in the world of English teaching. One of the first you’re likely to encounter is TEFL. Standing for Teaching English as a Foreign Language, it refers to our industry in general. Confusingly though, many course providers offer what they call ‘a TEFL’, ‘a TEFL certificate’, or something of the like.
You might also have come across the acronym CELTA. This is a specific example of a TEFL certification which has accreditation from the University of Cambridge. Making your choice between CELTA and the other TEFL qualifications on offer can be overwhelming. You don’t want to spend too much, but you do want to be employable. Quality training is important, but how much teaching practice do you need? In the following paragraphs, we will explore some of the key considerations, and help you get started on this fantastic new journey.
So, TEFL vs. CELTA – what is the difference?
Observed Teaching Practice
Surely it’s a given that your training will include some hands-on teaching practice? In fact, many TEFL courses include no practical teaching element at all. Others have trainees role play teaching a lesson among themselves, all without ever meeting a real student. Naturally this does not properly prepare the would-be teacher, who may well struggle when confronted with actual English learners for the first time. What’s more, most employers don’t accept courses lacking an observed teaching element.
When researching TEFL courses, check the qualifications of the tutors. If the provider does not indicate these on their website, this is a sign that they may not have the relevant experience and certification. Tutors should have DELTA, DipTESOL or a Masters in TESOL. This shows you that they have all the necessary experience to start you on the right path. A common complaint from TEFL graduates is that tutors were unable to provide sufficient support. It can be frustrating to feel that your tutor doesn’t have the expertise to help you on your journey, so do your research.
Accreditation means that a professional body oversees the provider. This ensures consistency and quality of training. Some TEFL providers appear to be accredited, but when you take a closer look you’ll see that things aren’t as they seem. Make sure you research the body providing the accreditation. Some provide a certificate then have no further involvement. Sometimes providers create an accrediting body and then accredit themselves. This defeats the point of professional oversight, and again the course may leave you feeling unprepared for your new career.
Some online teaching companies will accept a TEFL qualification, and may provide this at low or no cost. Beware though, if you wish to leave the company and explore other opportunities, you might well find that other organisations won’t accept the qualification you’ve achieved.
Think as well about where you’d like to work. Ready for an exciting new life in China? Generic TEFL certificates won’t suffice for visa purposes. Hoping to work at a reputable European language school? Only CELTA or equivalent will do. Job advertisements will clearly state what type of qualification applicants need, and you’ll often notice that the best paying and most prestigious schools will only accept candidates with a Cambridge CELTA or equivalent.
Duration and Cost
Some TEFL courses last as little as a weekend. Surprisingly, it’s often possible to complete assignments asynchronously. This means trainees work independently with little or no guidance from professional tutors. Again, be realistic about your goals. Can you really become a confident, qualified English teacher in 20 or 30 hours? The answer is surely no. The CELTA, by contrast, provides at least 120 hours of tuition. The same applies to the cost. Prices for some TEFL courses can be as low as €50, but what does that say about the quality on offer? A majority of employers around the world will require 120 hours of live instruction and teaching, and it’s well worth investing in a course that provides this.
Quality and Accreditation
The Cambridge CELTA is one of the two TEFL qualifications endorsed by the British Council as an acceptable teaching qualification that meets their standards and requirements. It is independently moderated by Cambridge Assessment English representatives. What does this mean? Well, you can be sure that the quality of the training you’ll receive meets the highest of standards – wherever in the world you do your course. As a result, over the years, the Cambridge stamp of approval has come to be recognised and respected by TEFL employers everywhere.
About 75% of TEFL employers around the world require CELTA (or its Trinity equivalent, the CertTESOL). Employment rates post-graduation are typically very good. 90% of Oxford TEFL graduates find work within a month, for example, and this is as high as 95% for those aiming to work in Asia.
You’re also likely to earn a better salary with CELTA. However enthusiastic you are about helping students on their language learning journey, you will naturally need to make ends meet at the same time. It’s hard to enjoy the fun and sun of your new home if you’re concerned about your finances. Similarly, if you accept an online teaching position with poor remuneration, you’ll surely find yourself teaching more hours than you can really manage. That’s another reason why you should make sure the course you choose will provide you with fairly-paid job opportunities on graduation.
If navigating this world sounds scary, it’s sensible to choose a provider which offers a dedicated Careers Service. This should provide you with jobs to apply for, help you perfect your TEFL CV, provide interview training and more. Again, look into exactly what the service includes. Some providers may offer an – often outdated – list of potential employers without any hands-on or personalised support. The ideal is to go with a provider which has a dedicated Careers Advisor. This will mean that you have a point of contact for everything job-related. Another aspect to consider is how long you’ll have access to the service. Oxford TEFL’s, for instance, is lifelong but others may provide support for as little as six months.
The average cost of a CELTA course is around €1500. This may seem expensive in comparison to some other TEFL courses, but the benefits speak for themselves. Firstly, don’t forget too that you will receive at least 120 hours of tuition. If you’re serious about earning your living as an English teacher, you’ll be looking for a qualification which provides you with the training, teaching practice and support you need. This is what the Cambridge CELTA course is designed to do.
If you’re worried about the initial outlay, good CELTA providers will have the option to pay in instalments. With Oxford TEFL’s 14-week Part-Time 100% Online CELTA course for example, you can choose to make monthly payments while completing the course. ‘You get what you pay for’ goes the old adage, and if the world of TEFL qualifications, this certainly is true.
What to look out for
In summary then, here are some aspects to consider when deciding which TEFL course is right for you:
Accreditation – is the course overseen by a recognised professional body?
Observed teaching practice – will you teach real students during the course, and be given feedback by qualified tutors?
Support – are tutors on-hand to answer questions and give advice?
Recognition – will potential employers accept this qualification, and can it be used for visa applications in your country of choice?
Extras – does the course include pre-course materials, a Careers Service or other features which will help you make a success of it?
Some final thoughts
Now more than ever, we find that budding English teachers are doing their research to make sure they invest in the course that’s right for them. This is surely a good thing, but don’t be overwhelmed by the choice of courses on offer. Remember that with a little research, you’ll be able to find the qualification that best suits your needs and avoid wasting money on a course that doesn’t have good prospects. So, what are you waiting for?! Hit the keyboard and start looking into the TEFL or CELTA course that will work for you!
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