Many people new to the business of Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) are confronted with this question when they decide to get in-classroom training before they start teaching.
So, what is the difference between the two training courses?
Like the old saw about apples and oranges, they are really just different kinds of fruit. All quality in-classroom TEFL training programs will impart teaching methodology, grammar, observed teaching practice (OTP) and peer demonstrations, no matter which kind of course you pick.
A good program will also teach the trainees about the special problems that local EFL students have—which is why I always encourage people to take their in-classroom training course in the same country they’d like to get their first teaching job in.
These programs are typically intensive, and trainees learn A TON over only a few weeks. So, if you’re signing up for one of these courses, don’t be heartbroken if you spend more time studying than partying.
The main difference between CELTA and TEFL Certification programs is that CELTA is a franchised business (McDonald’s fast food and 7-11 convenience stores are other famous examples of world-wide franchises) and thus the course content will be standardized wherever you take it. Because of the franchise, CELTA-issuing schools pay royalties for every teacher they train. These royalties usually translate into a significantly higher price tag for the course.
Another difference is that CELTA aims toward teaching English to adults—that’s what the “A” in CELTA stands for—and so if you want to work mainly with kids, you might look for a TEFL Certification program that also trains up teachers of young learners. Most TEFL Cert programs will offer many different kinds of practice to their trainees—including both kids and adults. Even if your primary goal is not teaching children, many teachers end up teaching children at some point in their careers – even if only for a few classes, so this is something to consider.
As in many industries, you’ll find some people who think the way they trained is the best way—and in this bickering about who’s the top dog, CELTA often comes off as the elite choice. However, you’ll also come across people who cheer for the TEFL course they went to—just as they might have loyalty to their local university, high school or sports team. People sometimes want to feel that their program or school is BETTER than any other one, because that’s the one into which they have invested their time and money.
That said, here’s another thing to think about carefully. If you are set on teaching in Europe, a CELTA is often preferred may sometimes be thought of as the only “valid” training program for teachers of EFL. However, this might also be because the school or training center you want to work for is also a CELTA franchise. So, they might want to you to pay them for training before they give you a job. It is not unusual for franchise schools of any brand to prefer people who took their course.
But, what if you don’t have a CELTA and you really want to work for a CELTA-issuing franchise? Even if you only have a TEFL Certificate, you can urge them to let you do a demonstration lesson. This will show you if they are interested in the SKILLS you have as a teacher, or if they only want you to have their expensive piece of paper.
In my experience, you don’t often find TEFL Cert schools who refuse teachers who had other kinds of training. Usually when you apply they will accept your TEFL Cert no matter where you got it—as long as it meets the internationally accepted standards.
TED’s Tips™ #1: You should probably take the CELTA if you want to teach in Europe. But if you want to go elsewhere, odds are your employer won’t care which kind of teaching certificate you have.
TED’s Tips™ #2: For whichever program you decide, try to interview the main teacher-trainer at the school you want to attend. Feel out whether or not they are PASSIONATE about teaching. If they aren’t, that might be a sign you don’t want to go there! But if they do sound like they truly love EFL teaching, then they might just be the best teacher-trainer and have the best course for you.