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How to Choose Between CELTA and TEFL


The list goes on and one; the Teaching English as a Foreign Language industry is full of acronyms, some are more obvious that others. The first two you are likely to need to fully understand as you move into a career as an English Teacher are TEFL and CELTA.  These will come up as you research different training courses designed to help you to become a teacher.


So what do they all stand for?

TEFL - Teaching English as a Foreign Language

CELTA - Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults

DELTA - Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults

TESOL - Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

EFL - English as a Foreign Language

ESL - English as a Second Language


And what does that mean for you?

TEFL, EFL, ESL and TESOL, although different, are often used interchangeably to talk about teaching English to people who speak another language.  

CELTA and DELTA are the specific names for certifications in English language teaching, accredited by Cambridge University.  The CELTA is for new teachers to learn the basics. The DELTA is for experienced teachers to further develop their skills.  These courses are delivered by training centres and schools worldwide, all of whom must meet strict standards put in place by Cambridge University. This is often considered the most prestigious of all the TEFL programmes.

The CELTA not the only worthwhile TEFL certification. Other programs provide equivalent standards, some offer even more in terms of standards and job opportunities after the course, The main difference is that the quality of the course you’re paying for is pretty much guaranteed, with a CELTA as providers are accredited by Cambridge University. You will need to do a bit more research to make sure a TEFL program is offering what you’re looking for, especially if it is with an organisation you haven't heard of.


So how do I choose a course?

You should consider:

  • Cost and value - TEFL course can cost less than £100 and CELTA courses can cost up to £3000. The price is usually related to how well respected the course provider and the qualification is. Companies hiring teachers recognize the CELTA, know exactly what the course involves and have a better idea of what kind of teachers they will be hiring. Consider the type of teaching job you want and what they typically ask for in terms of qualifications. 
  • Location - going somewhere nice to study seems like a great idea, but you won't have much time to see an area around the course if it is a full-time one. Consider the cost of living in the location, the travel time from your accommodation and the type of students the provider usually has. These students will be the ones you learn to teach on.
  • Delivery - online, face-to-face or a bit of both? Courses that are fully online are less likely to be viewed well by potential employers as they do not usually include assessed teaching time, they only contain theory.
  • Class time - the amount of time that you are taught during the course. This is 120 hours for the CELTA as a minimum.
  • Teaching time - the amount of time that you are the teacher, working with real EFL students. this is 6 hours for the CELTA as a minimum. 
  • Length of the course - typically the CELTA is delivered over 4 weeks full-time and longer part-time.
  • Qualification at the end - is it accredited and recognized  where you want to teach?
  • Intensity - the full-time, 4 week CELTA is a tough and intense course. You won't have time do much other than the course and your assignments. If you need to be able to work, care for family etc. as well you might want to consider part-time options.

I personally chose the CELTA and later the DELTA. This was in part as I lived close to a provider of both and in part because of the reputation of the course. This was before online teaching had really taken off though and I certainly do no need a CELTA for my current freelance teaching. The CELTA did lead to me getting better, longer term contracts in the UK, but it is not as necessary as it once was.


If you are thinking about becoming an online or freelance teacher our ebook is a good place to start;  Getting Started in Online and Freelance Teaching Ebook


Written by Claire Collis, Founder and Managing Director of The ELT Skills Academy

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