As an experienced Celta tutor I'm often asked what the difference is between Celta and TEFL.
The first thing to know is that these are both INITIAL teacher training qualifications. They are designed for people who have never taught before, although actually, a lot of people take them when they DO have some experience. Neither of them will make you a fully qualified teacher, ready for anything – they’re the first step on your teaching road…
The main difference is that Celta is one particular qualification from Cambridge assessment. The acronym used to stand for the certificate in English language teaching to adults and the acronym has stayed the same but actually the title of it now is the certificate in teaching English to speakers of other languages. It’s a level 5 qualification, which means that it’s on the same level of study as the second year of an undergraduate degree and you an take it all over the world in many different centres, but it’s always accredited by Cambridge and you’ll get the same certificate from any registered centre. It’s 120 hours long, often taken over 4 weeks and you’ll teach real adult learners, usually in groups of about 6-12 students.
TEFL on the other hand, isn’t one qualification – it stands for teaching English as a foreign language and it refers to a whole raft of different qualifications from many different providers, some of which of course are more reputable than others. A lot of these are just online courses - this is better than no training and they might have a lot of useful information but there’s no substitute for actually DOING something. It’s like learning to swim without getting in the pool. Some TEFL courses are face to face (often over a weekend, for example) and they might include some peer teaching practice (where you practice teaching with other people on the course). In some cases, there’s teaching practice with real learners, but that’s more unusual. They’re usually be the better ones.
So – coming back to CELTA or a TEFL certificate, of the two of these things, Celta has the higher standing. It's really well recognised by employers globally , in fact 3/4 of job adverts for English language teachers ask for it - although that research was done by Cambridge I have to say! So a CELTA certificate will get you a job, and most reputable schools, that will give you more support as a teacher, look for people who have one. Why?
- it's a standard product and an employer knows what they're getting- every course has an external assessor- it’s very well controlled, but the main thing is that..
- it includes six hours observed and assessed teaching practise. This means you’ll usually have taught 8 or 9 lessons and watched other people on the course teach their lessons, too- you’ll have seen and talked about a lot of English teaching! The course is very practical, and the emphasis is on learning by experience.
Just as an aside, you might also have heard of the Trinity Cert TESOL. This is a very similar course to CELTA and has the same standing- it’s just accredited by Trinity, not Cambridge. There are some small differences between the Cert TESOL and CELTA, but they’re both 120 hour courses, with 6 hours of teaching practice and employers would usually view them as equivalent. They’re a standard product.
TEFL courses on the other hand, are much more variable. They WILL give you a taster of what English teaching is like though and they're usually much cheaper than Celta. If you're not sure you want to dive into the ocean of CELTA , then dipping your toe into a short TEFL course might be a good idea.
Are there any disadvantages of CELTA? It’s more expensive than a TEFL course, and it’s very hard work (can be quite stressful) but it’s a great learning experience and the vast majority of people who take it find it incredibly rewarding. As a tutor, I love teaching on it, because you see so much progress in people in a short space of time. If you want to know more about Celta and how to apply for it, there's a free resource on my site to give you more information.
So, I hope that you’re a little bit wiser, now and good luck with whatever you decide to do.