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Certifiably Different?  Not Really.

TEFL Certification or CELTA?

Check out our TEFL Certification Course.

Many people new to the business of Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) are confronted with this question when they decide to get some 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 TEFL training programs will impart roughly similar teaching methodology, grammar, pronunciation, offer observed teaching practice (OTP) and quite a bit more, no matter what kind of course you pick.

Both kinds of programs are typically intensive, and trainees/students learn A LOT over the time of the course. So, if you’re signing up for one of these courses, don’t be heartbroken if you spend more time studying than partying.  What you will learn will be very worth the time and effort you spend.

The main difference between CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) and TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) 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 large royalties for every teacher they train. These royalties translate into a significantly higher price tag for the course. Often as much as US$1000 or more higher.

Another difference is that CELTA aims toward teaching English to adults—that’s what the “A” in CELTA stands for (but this is changing), 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 (TEFL Educator does!).

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 sometimes 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 sometimes preferred. 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? If you have a TEFL certificate, you simply ask 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 purchase their expensive piece of paper.

In my experience, it would be rare find a school who refuses teachers who have 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.

You’ll find employers in Asia, the biggest jobs market for TEFL, rarely know brand differences and don’t really care. They are happy if you made the effort to get some training. This is also true for most of the world.

Tip #1: You should probably consider the CELTA if you want to teach in Europe and the high price is not an issue. But if you want to go elsewhere, and/or price is important, then odds are your employer won’t care which kind of teaching certificate you have, nor should you.

Tip #2: For ANY program you decide, try to interview or at least ask a few questions of the main teacher-trainer for the course you want to take. 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.  It is quite useful to leave your training inspired by your new skills and the new possibilities in your life.

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