The ABC of ELT

What exactly is a CELTA or TESOL course?

A fairly essential element for someone who wants to become a new teacher is a pre-service qualification. These vary greatly from taking 3 years to only a weekend. However, they are not all of equal value.

[Please note. Some jobs do NOT ask for any form of qualification (other than being a native speaker) in my opinion it is best to avoid these jobs as they are sometimes scams or from less reputable organisations. click here to read more. In addition, this is more common in Asia, Central and northern America, where as in Europe, South America and the British Commonwealth it is near impossible to find ANY job without some form of qualification.] For more information about why you should do a Qualification course click here. 
Bellow is a summary of some different types of qualifications, what is different between them and my own personal recommendation. I hope they help you decided which course to take.


The CELTA (which stands for Cambridge Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) has, for a long time, been the default certificate for a new teacher. It is a month long intensive course where there are input sessions (learning about teaching methodology and techniques) and teaching practice with feedback as well as several assignments to complete, which deal with various aspects of teaching and language. Teaching starts very soon into the course so teachers hit the ground running so to speak.
Before enrolling, most centres ask people to take a basic English exam that also tests such factors as knowledge of grammar and ability to explain what a word means. These are only the start and don’t look to make sure you know all the correct answers but just that you have some ability.
Some centres offer part time courses which last three months instead of one. There are also now some online versions of the CELTA as well.
The CELTA is associated with Cambridge University who vallidate the certificates.
(The DELTA is the Diploma in English Language teaching to Adults and can only be taken when you have at least 2 years of teaching experience after passing an initial training course)

Trinity Certificate in TESOL 

The rival to the crown of CELTA is the Trinity Certificate in TESOL which is validated by Trinity college London (as opposed to Cambridge university above). Again usually a full time course for 4 to 6 weeks though it can also be taken part time.
The CertTESOL is very similar to the CELTA in that it also includes written assignments and teaching practice. In addition to be able to take the CertTESOL course you need to be able to enter higher education in your own country.
It is open to both Native and Non-Native speakers.

IH teaching English certificate

The International House certificate in Teaching English is an entry level certificate that includes input sessions where teachers learn about teaching techniques, the English language and classroom management. In addition, there are written assignments (to test knowledge of teaching input) and 6 hours of teaching practice where you are observed by both your supervisor and fellow teachers. It is very similar to both the CELTA and CertTESOL. it is also fairly widely recognised (as is the International House brand) though perhaps not as much as the CELTA or CertTESOL. It is accredited by International House world organisation and there are options for blended learning (where input is delivered online but teaching practices must still be done in person.)


This is a very new certificate and as such, at the time of writing, is not widely known or recognised by other teachers (and might well be worth avoiding just for that fact). On the surface it appears that the course content is at the same level of the three other certificates above which delivers its material offering online and blended studying options. There are some issues though.
Not all the courses are the same.
Although EDI accredit all the courses some are fast tracked, others have no teaching practice (particularly online courses) and some are merely tasters. It’s important to be careful and not sign up for a course that looks cheap, takes very little time but will provide you with no benefits in the long run.
As such, I would give preference to other certificates. Obviously if you have no other choice than a qualification is better than none, but if people don’t know that it is real or question whether you did the full course it will cause you trouble in getting a job.

Ba/Ma in TEFL

There are, of course, Bachelor degrees and Masters in TEFL/TESOL which provide a lot more input than a four week course and last a lot longer too (Three or One yea(s) respectively). The only criticism labelled at some (not all) of these courses is that they don’t have enough practical elements within their syllabus. You may well learn all about different methodologies, conduct research into teaching practices and develop a really great knowledge of all things TEFL and yet come out having barely taught a class yourself. As I say this isn’t every course and some do combine both elements brilliantly.
Having such a high qualification can also restrict teachers from certain posts by being “over qualified” and many schools still want some experience as well (for higher posts such as senior teachers and Directors of Study).
Some places expect a lower (more practically assessed) qualification in addition to a Ba or Ma and as such it is probably worth following the most common path of teacher and completing your initial training

So which should I choose?

Obviously, there are cases where it may be better to go for one rather than another (such as the school you want to work for really value one qualification over another) However, as a general rule I advise going for the CELTA.Although there are criticisms  from some teachers as to how up to date the teaching methodology is, Almost every teacher has heard of it. As such, it carries more widespread value.
I hope this helps you to make your decision over what course you should take. If you find a course that I haven’t mentioned contact me with the details and I’ll give you more information about it.

About Chris Wilson

I'm an English Language teacher based in Krakow, Poland. I enjoy writing, using technology and playing the Ukulele.

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