TESOL Certificates

by Mark Horridge

Question: What are the different types of certificates you can get for teaching English?

Answer: There are so many different TEFL certificates on offer. They include weekend introductory courses, one month intensive courses and online TEFL certificates.

Introductory courses - which are usually held over a weekend - are not recognized by employers. If they are well run, they may offer a new teacher some opportunities to test whether they feel teaching English is right for them. They will also teach you some techniques, but what can be learnt over 2 days is, of course, very limited.

One month TEFL certificates are probably the most common. My article The TEFL Certificate covers this in more detail. The top three are the CELTA, the Trinity CertTESOL, and the lesser known SIT TESOL Certificate. For teaching English in Europe the first two are the best.

These three TESOL certificates are widely accepted by employers around the world because they are externally validated, 120-130 contact hours, and include 6-8 hours of observed teaching practice. They are also the most expensive types of TESOL certificate. Incidentally, it makes no difference whether the certificates are labelled TEFL or TESOL. The meaning is the same.

How useful are they? If you wish to teach English Europe - especially in the west - then they are demanded by (almost) all employers. A few teachers do teach without any certificate, but they are often forced to work for lower wages with some of the worse language schools. In the Middle East TEFL certificates are not enough. You need a TEFL diploma or an MA TESOL

In the rest of Asia certificates are seldom asked for - see teaching English overseas for specific country requirements (there are differences), although there is a trend for more schools to, at least, list them as being desirable.

Apart from the top three TESOL certificates, there are hundreds of companies offering certificate courses. How good they are depends on how good the company is that is offering the course. The best thing is to ask around on one of the bigger ESL forums. Look for courses with an observed teaching component.

Online TEFL certificates are also quite common. At the moment, many employers in Europe look down on them because they lack the observed teaching component of the big three TESOL certificates. This will probably change when the CELTA is offered with an online option. They may help you learn something about teaching, and may help you when teaching English in Asia or South America. Again, how good they are depends on how good the company is offering the course. You need to do you own research.

So that's it. You have the choice of an introductory course, a one month TEFL certificate (either one of the big three, or one of the cheaper options), or an online TEFL certificate (which would not be recognized in Europe).

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