The first step on an English teaching career is to learn some acronyms!
The words ‘TEFL’, ‘TESOL’ and ‘TESL’ are all used to describe courses available in order to train you to teach English to non-native speakers. While they are generally similar, they differ in who they are aimed at:
Teaching English as a Foreign Language (aimed at people who wish to teach English abroad)
Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
Teaching English as a Second Language (aimed at people who wish to teach domestically)
A Cambridge CELTA qualification is a TEFL/TESOL course which is based around teaching adults and is accredited by Cambridge University English. It might be easier to think of CELTA as a brand of TEFL/TESOL course.
- CELTA: Certificate in English Language Teaching for Adults.
The Cambridge CELTA is generally regarded as the ‘gold standard’ qualification for entry-level English teachers. The key quality indicators for the CELTA qualification are:
- 120 hours of tuition
- Supervised face to face prac teaching during the course
- Auditing of your course and instructors by Cambridge
The key difference between CELTA and other TEFL qualifications is that the quality standards of a CELTA course are rigidly maintained, whereas a generic TEFL qualification offers absolutely no guarantee of quality or consistency – it may be a perfectly reasonable course, or it may simply be a certificate printed from a website. Either way, there is no way for a potential employer to keep track of the literally thousands of ‘qualifications’ out there.
For teachers who may be considering a career working in Australia, the choice is fairly simple. To work in an accredited school, you will need a Cambridge CELTA, a Trinity Cert TEFL or a Certificate IV in TESOL. Due to government accreditation requirements, schools will generally not be able to employ you if you hold any other kind of TEFL qualification, much to the heartbreak of many applicants who have not done their research!
For teaching overseas, it’s important to check visa requirements as well as the expectations of potential employers. In many countries, generic TEFL qualifications are not accepted for visa purposes, while the response of employers will vary widely. As a basic rule, CELTA is recognised by everyone, Trinity Cert TEFL is generally respected, Australian vocational qualifications such as the Certificate IV TESOL are hit-and-miss, while a generic TEFL certificate is a complete gamble.
Put simply, the CELTA is a qualification that is recognised all over the world, and is universally regarded as a high quality language teaching qualification.