Published 12th September 2019

There are a few bones of contention in the English language teaching field that seem like they will forever remain contested. People from all over the world, with all different kinds of experiences, just don’t seem to agree on a few things when it comes to teaching English as a Foreign Language. The one is whether or not it’s better to have a native English teacher. (Spoiler alert: it’s not). Another is which is the best teaching method. (It doesn’t really matter which you use, as long as it’s effective). And the last one is one which we’ll unpack today: What is the Difference between a TEFL and a CELTA? 

The answer, as you’ll see, actually depends on another question: what’s the difference between a TEFL and a CELTA?

Essentially they are both qualifications to teach English as a Foreign Language, but there are a few differences. These are the factors we need to consider when comparing the two courses: cost, length, content, accreditation and reputation.

Cost: How much does it cost?

This is certainly not the most important aspect of a teaching course, but it needs to be taken into account. We just want to point out one thing: more expensive does not always mean better quality. A CELTA course is much more expensive than any TEFL course. Many people believe this means that the CELTA is a better qualification. It does not. The quality of a qualification is more about the content and the execution of the course than its price tag.

Length: How much time do I need?

A CELTA course will always be 4-weeks full-time (or 8 to 12 weeks part-time) study, face-to-face in a classroom. It is a 120-hour course with six hours of teaching practice. There is a blended learning CELTA course which includes online learning and practical teaching. 

A TEFL, on the other hand, can take many forms. It can be a 4-week full-time course, just like a CELTA course. A TEFL can also be done part-time, online or a blend of both online and face-to-face. It can be 120 hours or 150 hours or even 180 or 300 hours, but these are often TEFL courses with additional modules added on. 

The bottom line for a TEFL qualification is 120 hours. If you see a course for 20 hours, don’t pay it any attention – you can imagine that it is not going to do much for your confidence let alone your CV.

What is the Difference between a TEFL and a CELTA?

Content: What’s included on the course?

A good teaching qualification will introduce you to the most common teaching methods and techniques and teach you the different theories of learning and teaching. It will provide you with tips for lesson planning, classroom management and dealing with discipline. It will help you refresh your English language knowledge and show you how to teach vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and the four skills, to someone who doesn’t speak the language. 

Essentially, a TEFL course and a CELTA course should cover the same things. But this is where it can get slightly complicated.

The content of a CELTA course will be identical no matter where in the world you take the course. The only difference will be in how your tutors carry out the course content, but the assessments are all externally assessed. All your course materials are stipulated by Cambridge English Assessment and your tutors are Cambridge-trained, which means they are on the same page whether they are in Bangkok or Bolivia.

On the other hand, no two TEFL courses are the same. In theory they should cover the same as a CELTA course but they may or may not. There are more TEFL providers all over the world than you can shake a stick at and you can be guaranteed that each one is different. 

But this is not necessarily a problem. All you need to do is ask for a course outline of the TEFL course and this will tell you everything you need to know. If there is no mention of methodology or pronunciation or classroom management, then this should raise a few red flags.

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