TEFL vs CELTA | Which is the Best Course for You?

TEFL vs CELTA! When planning to teach English abroad, you must have the right qualifications to be able to bag your dream job. Whether you’re planning to find a job in Vietnam or jet off elsewhere, it’s important to first make sure you have a TEFL or CELTA certificate under your belt. But how do you choose which one? Is one better than the other? What are the benefits and downsides of each? We know the different TEFL certificates can be a confusing thing, so in this post we have 2 people discuss their experiences and set the difference straight for you. So, pull up a chair and get stuck in. By the end, hopefully, you have a clearer idea of which course is best for you.

Jake with his primary school class in Hanoi

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TEFL vs CELTA – What do they stand for?

First, let’s clear up the acronyms!

TEFL = Teaching English as a Foreign Language

CELTA = Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults

Whilst on the surface of the acronyms alone, it may seem that it is better to take a TEFL course as it would be suitable for all ages, compared to the CELTA which specifies for adults. However, there is much more to these two courses. Let’s delve into each one separately; TEFL vs CELTA. First up, let’s explain how TEFL courses work.

Different types of TEFL courses

When searching for a TEFL course, you will quickly realise that there are tons of different types of courses out there:

  • 100% online courses (120 – 180 hours)
  • Online course with 20 hours of classroom teaching practice and assessment
  • 100% in-classroom training
  • Internships that can last a couple of months to half a year
Interviewing for jobs in Vietnam whilst holidaying in Belgrade, Serbia

120-180 hour online TEFL courses

What is an online TEFL course?

You will take these types of courses online only. You can log in from your laptop anywhere in the world, by a beach, in the mountains, or in the comfort of your own home. All you need is wifi!

How long does it take to complete an online TEFL course?

There are online courses that offer 80 – 180 hours of training. However, 120 hours is the least that you should do, as this is the minimum that is required by most schools. The number of hours you sign up to do is not necessarily how long the course will take, but is more of a guideline. The difference between the 120-hour courses compared to the 160 or 180-hour courses is that the ones with more hours offer additional lessons, such as young learners or teaching business students. These extra modules are optional and are not often required by schools, but they may help you understand the learner better.

How much does an online TEFL course cost?

The cost of a TEFL course varies depending on the company you choose. Whilst it may be tempting to open Groupon and grab yourself a bargain, you need to ensure that the course is accredited and that you can send your certificate to your embassy for notarization. You will need your certificate notarized to be able to apply for work permits and visas. Expect to pay between $200 – 400 for a legit course without the practical part. For a course that offers direct classroom experience, expect to pay around $1,200.

What will I learn in the online TEFL course?

The online courses cover the fundamentals and basic rules of the English language. They also touch on teaching methods, lesson planning, classroom management, and activities and games that you can use in the classroom.

What assessments are there?

There is a multiple-choice test that tests your knowledge and understanding of what was covered in the course. To pass you will need to achieve a specific percentage. You will also need to do a sample lesson plan that will be marked by an examiner who will provide feedback. After you have passed both components you will receive your TEFL certificate.

What are the benefits of an online TEFL course?

The biggest benefit of the online TEFL course is that it is the cheapest option and the minimum requirement to teach abroad. Another major benefit of this course is that you can take it from anywhere in the world at any time. As it is online, you can work through it at your own pace, without any time constraints. You can also do as much or as little as you like each time you log on. Arrived home from a long day at work and just want to curl up and watch TV? No problem, no need to do your TEFL today. Feeling energetic and got a spare 20 mins on your lunch break? Log on and get to work. It is entirely up to you!

Relaxing on a hammock in Koh Tao, Thailand

What are the downsides of an online TEFL course?

The online course is not fully comprehensive and may not be particularly helpful to new teachers. If you have never stepped foot into a classroom before, it can be quite daunting, and the online TEFL course will do you no favours in that regard.

Who is the online TEFL course recommended for?

This course is great for those that already have some teaching experience, or for those who are completely new to the TEFL world and just want to see what TEFL is about before making a bigger commitment to the more expensive courses.

In-classroom TEFL courses & internships

What is a TEFL internship?

In-classroom TEFL courses are courses where you will solely learn in the classroom and have assessed observations in a real-life teaching environment. You can find in-classroom courses that last for around a month, or you could find shorter in-classroom courses that have an internship at the end (you are guaranteed a job and pay). In this section, we have Nicole, a Vietnam expat telling us about her TEFL internship experience.

See also  Types of TEFL Jobs In Vietnam | Everything You Need to Know

How did you find the TEFL internship?

Originally, I’d found the internship through the STA travel brochures I’d been scouring for inspiration for months during university. I could have bought the programme through STA but came to realise it would be more cost-effective to cut out the middle man and go through one of the TEFL companies online that run the programme and provide all the in-country support and training (I went with ELC).

Once arriving in Hanoi for the orientation week, I was given my preference and placed in Hanoi with BME (Binh Minh Education) alongside 70 other interns. I had considered Ha Long Bay for the scenic views but being a city girl, knew I’d be more comfortable in Hanoi.

How much does an internship cost?

The internship cost me £900 ($1,200) in 2017. The price varied with friends though, ranging from £700-£1000, depending on when the package was bought, and which company fellow interns went through. This cost covers; the 120 hours of TEFL online training, an orientation week, a work permit, 5 months of accommodation and taxi service to schools while teaching in Northern Vietnam.

Vietnam mountains with friends - Photo by Nicole Copestake

The cost does not, however, cover the legalisation of documents, the single-entry visa, the police report check, the flight to Vietnam, insurance and medical check on arrival. These were unexpected costs I didn’t consider.

How long does an internship last?

The paid internship lasts 4.5 months, starting in January or August and comes with a completion bonus at the end of the school term. I opted for January, so I could spend Christmas at home first. If the language company feels you have done well, job opportunities with much higher pay are offered after completion.

Which country did you choose to do an internship in and why?

There are many paid teaching internships to choose from, but I opted for Vietnam because I had always been fascinated by the culture and history and had heard so many great things from friends who had travelled there.

What is the process of the internship?

The wheels of the internship start rolling as soon as you buy the programme. Once you are TEFL qualified, ELC guides you through each step, in terms of visas, document legalisation, work permits, and location preferences. A few weeks before flight departure you’ll find out where and which English company you’ll be placed with. The internship, in a nutshell, is a gateway to gaining valuable teaching experience, to be used for future international teaching jobs if that’s the path you choose. It is true, Hanoi is one of the easiest places to find teaching jobs, but many centres and especially international schools prefer teachers with more experience. This internship will place you in the public school sector and despite being classed as an intern, schools will automatically assume you to be an experienced teacher so learning on the job fast is a must. Work times are varied between interns, but everyone must make up 20 hours of contact teaching between Monday to Friday.

One of Nicole's TEFL classes in Vietnam - Photo by Nicole Copestake

What did you learn from the internship?

The most important thing the internship taught me was what I wanted from my life. Teaching wasn’t the career path I originally wanted to do. I’d had it planned that I would do my 4.5 months, travel, get it all out of my system and continue my career in the Fashion industry back in London. Over a year later, how wrong I was. Living in Vietnam for those 5 months made me realise I didn’t see my future in the UK. I love teaching children out here and teaching has allowed me to come out of my shell and be the most confident person I can be with fewer inhibitions about looking silly, while I spend most of my days singing and dancing for grade 1’s. Something no one could imagine me doing a few years ago.

What support and training do you get from the internship?

I-to-I supported us through the online TEFL stage. After that, ELC took charge and prepared us each step of the way and even created a collaborative Facebook group to meet fellow interns and discuss issues. Throughout the internship, we received support from ELC in the form of the lovely Tu based in Vietnam. She supported us in terms of accommodation complaints, medical help and any assistance we needed whilst on the internship.

We were given one orientation week to attend teacher training sessions, socialise and get to grips with the city of Hanoi.

We also received support from BME in terms of school materials, classes, wages, and occasional training.

Nicole with her students - Photo by Nicole Copestake

What are the advantages of an internship?

The advantages are that you get to immerse yourself in another country for a relatively short period whilst teaching and being paid $700 a month and a $700 bonus on completion. You also have the moral support of over 70 other interns who you meet at orientation week as opposed to coming out here solo. The whole experience is very reminiscent of the first year of university in terms of the social atmosphere. It can feel awkward at first but in my experience, everyone was very supportive of each other and extremely social, because as individuals we were all in the same boat.

In terms of teaching, it’s a great way to introduce yourself to the field. I had no teaching experience beforehand and would never have considered teaching long-term if it wasn’t for doing the internship. It’s not easy, it does throw you into the deep end but once you get over that first hurdle of confidence the rewards are amazing.

Throughout the whole preparation process, you are spoon-fed each step you need to take. As I’ve come to realise over the years, every life decision comes with a lot of admin work and going through this internship programme took the added stress out of finding a job and accommodation.

Nicole's friendship group in Vietnam - Photo by Nicole Copeskate

What are the disadvantages of the internship?

Regarding the cost of the internship, I feel there were a lot of hidden costs that weren’t made clear when originally signing on to the programme. There was also a lot of confusion between the two language companies running the programme simultaneously, ELC and BME. Lots of disparity between the accommodations people received, with some houses being infested with rats and mould while other people’s houses had en-suites and balconies.

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In terms of training, as said before, we were thrown into the deep end. Some interns had teaching experience but many like myself didn’t and expected a little more training, but as I’ve come to realise most of my greatest opportunities have been in the deep end. Those sink-or-swim moments.

It is very possible to organise all the preparation yourself and move to Vietnam immediately finding yourself a well-paid teaching job. The pros of this approach are that you get to choose your accommodation, be paid a much higher amount than an intern and be pickier with contracts etc.

Nicole's accommodation in Vietnam - Photo by Nicole Copestake

Who would you recommend an internship for?

I would recommend the internship to anyone like myself who at the time didn’t feel comfortable travelling alone but desperately wanted the experience of living and working abroad and meeting like-minded people.

CELTA courses

What is a CELTA course?

A CELTA course is recognized by Cambridge and is a highly intensive course. Here we have John Mark, a Vietnam expat based in Saigon telling us about his CELTA experience.

How long does it take to complete a CELTA?

When I took the CELTA, it was over a month (four weeks) and required the availability of a full-time schedule (8 hours/day, weekdays), with plenty of “homework” assignments to keep me occupied over the weekends. There is another option that spreads the course out over three months. If you can afford to set aside the time to finish in 1 month I’d highly recommend it, as the build-up to assessments can be quite stressful.

How much does a CELTA cost?

I took the CELTA in San Francisco through an organization called Teaching House (before moving abroad) and it cost $2,400, which is expensive, but the quality of the program was excellent. However, it can be obtained for less than half the price (or sometimes completely paid for) by obtaining it through a language centre that offers the program. ILA in Vietnam, for example, offers the course to new teachers before hiring them full-time at a greatly reduced cost. So, when it comes to TEFL vs CELTA, TEFL is certainly cheaper!

Is it all classroom based? Can I do a CELTA certification online?

The CELTA is all classroom-based and cannot be completed even partially online.

What assessments are there?

There is a total of 6 hours of assessed teaching, starting with short 20-minute lessons until your final assessment which is 60 minutes.

What did you learn on the CELTA course & what are the benefits?

I learned a tremendous amount of useful information throughout my CELTA training, including classroom management techniques, effective teaching strategies, and even what to expect when teaching abroad in different parts of the world.

What are the downsides of a CELTA course?

The downside of getting a CELTA is that, depending on where you teach, it may not provide a significant advantage or any advantage at all over other job applicants who have a TEFL or TESOL certificate.

Katie with her grade 7 class in Ho Chi Minh City

Who would you recommend the CELTA course for?

I would recommend the CELTA course only for teachers who are career-oriented and serious about teaching long-term. I truly felt that my experience and the knowledge I gained were well worth the cost and the time it took to complete, even though I haven’t seen the financial benefit of doing so (in 3 years of teaching I have yet to find myself in a position of getting paid more or being considered more seriously for a job because of my CELTA). So, in short, if you’re teaching to travel, don’t make such a huge investment. If you’re travelling to teach, the CELTA will equip and prepare you thoroughly for the start of your teaching career.

Questions to think about to help you decide TEFL vs CELTA

Do you have previous teaching experience? – You will probably just need to take an online TEFL course. After all, the experience is worth way more than a piece of paper.

Are you teaching just to travel? – Maybe consider the in-classroom TEFL course. This offers you the chance to experience a new country, earn a qualification, and is great for starting.

Are you set on making teaching English a career? – CELTA is probably your best option.

Are you aspiring to be an English teacher but lacking classroom confidence? The in-classroom TEFL course could be an option for you.

Are you serious about the English language and want to know more about the technicalities? CELTA will cover this.

Do you have a small budget but feel confident standing in front of a class, and are happy to sort out everything yourself? The online TEFL course could be for you.

These are just a few things you may want to consider before splashing out on any of the courses. We hope this post on TEFL vs CELTA, together with the insights of people who have taken the courses, will help you decide which one is for you. Either way, there is no right or wrong answer. Neither of the courses is better than the other. Each of them offers its own fantastic benefits. It totally depends on you, your preferences, and your overall goals.

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TEFL vs CELTA | Which is the Best Course for You?

Meet the contributors

Nicole - Guest blogger

Nicole Copestake: An English teacher, events speaker and travel blogger based in Hanoi. Sunseeker and the go-to girl for coffee and skincare.

John Mark - Guest blogger

John Mark: My name is John Mark Harrell, originally from San Francisco, USA and currently based in Ho Chi Minh City. I’m a freelance writer, English teacher, and event organizer. My happy place is on the sidewalk, sitting on a plastic stool far too small to support my weight, slurping down a bowl of delicious noodles and sipping on a cool glass of trà đá.

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