CELTA vs TEFL: What’s the difference and which is better?

CELTA, TEFL, TESOL, TESL… The number of acronyms associated with teaching English as a foreign language can be truly overwhelming. So it's no wonder that people are often confused by which course to pick. But even though it might seem difficult to understand, knowing the difference between courses, and choosing the right course for you, can actually make a huge difference to your career as an English language teacher.


What’s the difference?

The acronyms 'TEFL', 'TESOL' and 'TESL' are all used to describe the courses you take in order to teach English to non-native speakers. While they are generally similar, they differ in who they are aimed at:

  • TEFL: Teaching English as a Foreign Language (aimed at people who wish to teach English abroad)
  • TESOL: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
  • TESL: Teaching English as a Second Language (aimed at people who wish to teach domestically)

A CELTA, on the other hand, is actually a type of TEFL/TESOL course which is based around teaching adults and is accredited by Cambridge English. It might be easier to think of CELTA as a brand of TEFL/TESOL course. 

  • CELTA: Certificate in English Language Teaching for Adults.

Is a CELTA better than a TEFL?

While it's difficult to say whether any particular TEFL course is better than another, it's important to note that any school which offers a CELTA course has to comply with the standards put forward by Cambridge English. This means that they are often regulated to a higher standard than other TEFL courses. You’ll also find that, as all CELTA teacher trainers have to be certified by Cambridge, the quality of teaching you experience may be better. For this reason, some of the more prestigious language schools may cite the CELTA as a specific requirement for teaching with them. On occasion, some schools might even offer higher rates of pay for CELTA-qualified teachers. 

Another important point to consider is that on a CELTA course, you’ll always have the opportunity to practise your teaching on real English language learners, something which provides you with important experience for your teaching career. Before you decide on an English teaching qualification, always check that there's first-hand teaching experience built into your course programme.

Which takes longer? CELTA or TEFL?

You’d normally expect a CELTA course to last four to five weeks, however, if you choose to do your course part-time CELTA classes it may last up to 11 weeks. The length of TEFL programmes, on the other hand, can vary greatly, with some lasting a weekend or just a few days. No matter what type of course you choose, it’s important that your course includes over 100 hours of classroom experience, as this is the standard requirement for working at schools that are accredited.

A CELTA course will normally include 120 hours of teaching as well as six hours of assessed teaching practice which is supervised by your course tutor. At British Study Centres, your CELTA course will also include six hours of observing other experienced teachers.

Which takes more commitment?

For most people, the CELTA course is quite a big commitment. A full-time course will normally mean around six hours a day of study plus all the extra time you’ll need to put in at home. That’s why many people prefer to study for their CELTA part-time or online. With British Study Centres, you can even opt to do a fast-track online CELTA which allows you to become CELTA qualified completely online in just four short weeks.

TEFL courses, on the other hand, may require a bit less of your time, with many of them taking place over a weekend. However, depending on your level of teaching experience, you might find that a two-day course isn't long enough to give you the skills you need to teach English effectively to non-native speakers. 

Which is more expensive?

Although CELTA is often pricier than other kinds of TEFL course, the guarantee of expert support and quality teaching means that they end up worth the extra money.

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