If you’ve decided to take the leap and give TEFL a try, one of the first things you’ll encounter is the TEFL certificate.
What is a TEFL certificate anyway?
In the most basic terms, it’s a document saying you completed some kind of training – which could be online, in-person with teaching practice, or a semester-long class or more within a university program – in teaching English as a foreign language. If a school or employer is strict about requiring a TEFL certificate, this very often refers to a course with at least 100 hours of instruction and 6 or more of real teaching practice.
Why should you get one?
For your students (so they get a teacher with at least a basic qualification)
For yourself (being at least somewhat prepared for a job makes it that much more enjoyable to do. A TEFL certificate will often help you find a better job or school)
For the law (in some countries you need a TEFL certificate to get a work permit, or just to be competitive with other applicants)
But is it enough?
Why shouldn’t you get one?
Some jobs don’t require it. Some people already have teaching experience and feel ready to try out a new teaching context. My opinion is that for a number of reasons, including many that are hard to quantify, the initial outlay of money and time pays off for you in the long term. Have a look at The Pain in Spain blog for the financial side of why a TEFL course may not pay off – (and also my take on it).
How do you choose the right TEFL certificate?
It’s useful to consider:
- The nature of the course and whether it meets the likely requirement where you’d like to work. Does it include teaching practice with real students? Will the techniques you learn be applicable to the environment you will teach in?
- The location. It’s often a networking or timing advantage to be in the city or country where you would like to work(See TEFL Course: at home or abroad?). In my opinion, this advantage can offset a slightly lower priced class elsewhere.
- The timing.
When you finish the course, will it be hiring season? Are there enough jobs that it won’t matter that it may not be hiring season? Is it a full-time or part-time TEFL course?
What’s included in the package. The possibility to arrange housing for the duration of your course will probably save you a lot of hassle and stress. If you want job placement assistance, find out what your school offers and what specifically is involved.
Some of the most well-known courses:
The CELTA – Certificate of English Language Teaching for Adults
This course is one of the best known and is standardized and recognized by Cambridge Univeristy. Read an interview with Hilal, a recent CELTA course graduate in Istanbul.
Sample costs as of January 2008:
Madrid – about €1300- 1450, add on about €400 for one month of accommodation
Ho Chi Minh City – $1250-1500, accommodation estimated from $165-400 per month
The Trinity Cert TESOL
Often seen as one of the main alternatives to the CELTA (or vice versa). Read about Kate’s experience with the Trinity Cert TESOL in the UK.
Sample costs as of January 2008:
Rome – about €1500, not including accommodation
Bali – $1800, accommodation approximately $50-100 for one month
Other on-site courses with teaching practice
There are many different providers. Some may not be standardized like the CELTA or Trinity Cert TESOL, but many people quite reasonably make the point that the content is similar and there are a wide variety of useful approaches to teacher training. See Kineta’s experience with a TEFL course in Wisconsin for one example. You can book TEFL courses at BootsN’All, the host of this here TEFL Logue, and also through TEFL International, Language Corps / SIT and local providers such as Teachers International Latin America, to name a few.
I believe it’s very rare to find someone impartial who has equal information on all the possibilities. I have a CELTA, and I try not to, um, measure my worth as a person by how others see that certificate, so here’s my take on the pros and cons of the CELTA and other TEFL certificates
Oxford Courses offer weekend seminars which do not include real teaching practice. The Peace Corps has its own training which you can read about in Peace Corps TEFL Training in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, and download the Peace Corps materials from TEFL Daddy.
Learning comes in different packages and online TEFL training can be valuable too; some jobs don’t require a TEFL certificate at all, so anything you do is, practically speaking, above and beyond. However, be wary of spending money on an online course with the mistaken belief that it will meet an employer’s request for a TEFL certificate. Often it will not.
Two of the most common are a Master’s Degree in a variety of fields (TESOL, Applied Linguistics, Educational Psychology) and the DELTA. Some frame these as “competitor” or even “rival” qualifications, and others say you can’t even compare them.
What to look out for
If you are booking a course online or paying fees, use the same caution you would with any large purchase and don’t let the fact that it can be categorized as education lull you into a false sense of security. Most providers are not bad guys and will not cheat you by stealing your money and not providing a course. But keep in mind the possibility that – even in an officially non-profit context – their goal is usually to get you to pay for and take the course. Do your own research by checking various sources to ensure that that course will get you what you want. While a TEFL course may not require a BA, know that many employers and work regulations do. What obligations do TEFL course providers have? Can you trust online reviews? Decide for yourself and let me know what you think by leaving a comment on one of the posts above.
Some offer it, some don’t, and there is a difference between job placement and a job guarantee. If they offer job placement, find out what that entails and what is in writing. If there is a guarantee, examine that as well. It might sound counterintuitive, but responsible job placement is probably a lot better for the teacher in the long run than a job guarantee. My opinion is that with a little initiative and research, you can usually find your own job, and have the added advantage of actually choosing it yourself. I would not personally recommend choosing one course over another or pay more specifically for job placement. There are risks that come with finding your own job, but it’s my opinion that generally speaking, having job placement assistance does not necessarily reduce those risks. Done in a responsible way it is of course useful, but figuring out before you pay which are the good ones and which are not is no easy task.