MA TESOL vs TESOL Certificate

by Annet Dragavon
(Palo Alto, CA US)

Question - I am 52, and am gearing up for a "2nd career" as an ESL teacher. I've been tutoring ESL in a classroom setting and tutoring individuals for a year. I have a BA, and professional experience in business marketing. My husband and I are planning to move to Peru within 5 years; he to retire from high tech, and myself to teach English, preferably to adults either privately or at through a well-respected school. Eventually, I want to open a language school in a rural area, to teach locals for free and help the community in various ways.


My question is: I've been accepted to, and am slated to start, an MA TESOL program at SFSU (State University of California, San Francisco), this fall, a 2+ year graduate program. Aside from being personally enriching, how important is a Master's Degree in securing a good ESL job in Cusco or Arequipa? (We do not want to live in Lima.)

There are many TESOL Certificate programs in the SF area, including a grad Certificate through the University of California and San Francisco University.

I'd be interested in hearing your perspective on the value of a master's degree vs a certificate for securing a good job with a private school or university. Would the CELTA be more/just as desirable to employers as the other two?

Also, can your steer me toward schools that offer teaching ESL to adults?

Thanks so much for any thoughts, advice. -- Annet


Answer - With the experience and qualifications you already have - one year ESL tutoring, and a BA - you are already well qualified enough to take many of the ESL jobs available in Peru. In fact, this would be enough to teach in many other parts of South America, and Asia too.

However, any type of TEFL certification will help you find better quality, and more enjoyable teaching work, and will also give you ideas for improving your teaching. This is especially important if you want to open your own language school, where you will have to train new teachers in the future.

Whether it's better to take an MA TESOL or a TEFL certificate depends on what you want to do. I've taken both, and they are quite different. You only really need an MA TESOL if you want to work at university level. If not, then a TEFL certificate is more than enough. Some language schools, but not all, prefer the practicality of a CELTA (or equivalent) course.

TEFL certificates - or TESOL certificates, the content is the same - are usually very practical courses, which are designed to help you get through the class. They teach you how to teach and will usually show you lots of ESL activities that you can use in the classroom. If you go for a TEFL certificate, then you would be much better off taking course with face to face teaching, and a practical teaching practice component. Many employers dislike the online TEFL certificates.

MA TESOL courses are more theoretical, although most will also look at classroom activities. They usually lack practical classroom experience, which is the most common criticism of them. I really enjoyed taking my MEd TESOL, but I had already been teaching for decades and didn't need the practical teaching experience.

You distinguish between TEFL certificates and CELTA. Remember that a CELTA is just one type of TEFL certificate. This article explains the differences between different types of certificates. Actually, apart from the CELTA, there are 2 other respected certificate level qualifications.

I interviewed Sharon de Hinjosa, an experienced teacher and writer on teaching English in Peru here. You may also like to read her article on teaching in Latin America She might be able to recommend specific schools.

Good luck on your 2nd career, and 3rd career, if you open your own language school. One of the best things about having your own language school is the freedom it gives you to develop your own teaching program and help the students in the best way you can.

Mark

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