Everything you need to know about TEFL, TESOL, TESL and CELTA

What do you need to teach English online?

The international job market for teaching English abroad has never been stronger. New job opportunities are popping up on a daily basis. With so many options for teaching jobs in the global English as a Second Language (ESL) industry and with so many variables – different countries, different schools and learning centres and different minimum requirements for different levels of education – you need to be clear on what you’re looking for and how you’re going to get there.

Being certified to teach English online is not as simple as sticking your hand up and saying “pick me!”. There can often be some red tape and pretty rigid requirements for it. And the rules and regulations are not one-size-fits-all either.

Generally, having a teaching degree or a bachelor's degree will increase your job prospects, but with world-wide teacher shortages and the movement to more online teaching courses, there are a number of alternative teaching certifications, like TEFL, that are easy and relatively inexpensive to access. In some cases, there are even teacher management companies that will let you earn while you learn, so you can do your course and start teaching in tandem.

Teaching English online considerations

Your considerations should include:

  • Analysing your current qualifications. Are you already a qualified teacher, do you have a bachelor's degree, are you currently doing a TEFL course or studying towards teaching English as a foreign language? 

  • Online tech savvy-ness. Do you want to teach online or in person? And if its online do you have the necessary equipment, fibre-access and “classroom” environment and surroundings to teach from?

  • Would you prefer to teach kids or adults?

    Based on answers to the above, you can then pursue the ESL certification most apt for your requirements.

What is the difference between TEFL, TESOL, TESL and CELTA

There are 4 main certifications to choose from for teaching English online:

 TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language)

If your goal is to teach English abroad in a non-native English speaking country, then alongside your Bachelor's degree, the TEFL certification is the one to go for.

TEFL is globally accepted for teaching English to students whose first language is not English, and is the most widely recognized certification at the moment. But make sure that it is accredited!

Keep in mind that there are different types of TEFL certifications, such as a 60-hour TEFL and a 120-hour TEFL, and your prospective employer might require a minimum number of course hours. So don’t just go for the quickest, cheapest option as this might not meet hiring and quality requirements.

TEFL teaching is one of the fastest growing education industries around the world. 

The Really Great Teacher Company offers an accredited TEFL 120-Hour course.

TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)

TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. TESOL includes teaching English as a foreign language (for example, in China) as well as teaching English as a second language (TESL), which is then in a country where the primary language is English. 

So technically, the difference between TESOL and TEFL, is that TEFL refers to teaching English to non-native English speakers in countries where English is not the first language. TESOL, on the other hand, covers all forms of teaching English to non-native English speakers – including to non-native English speakers in countries where English is the first language.

TESOL and TEFL certifications as terms are widely used interchangeably, so either a TEFL or TESOL certificate will meet certification requirements for jobs teaching English.

The most common way to get your TESOL certification is to enrol online.  Courses range in subject quality and completion commitment hours (from 40, 60, 100, 120 to 150 hours) and usually provide the flexibility to complete coursework when it’s convenient for you. The length of the TESOL course you choose to do depends on a variety of factors, eg tutor interaction and the level of the course.  Most companies looking to hire online English teachers expect a 120 hour course certificate minimum.

TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language)

This certification is primarily geared towards those who want to teach English to non-native speakers living in native English-speaking countries. So, if your goal is to (only) teach English in a country where English is the primary language, then TESL could work for you.

TESL teachers predominantly work teaching English to immigrants – like TESOL teachers – or teaching to people living in a country where many languages are used, and English is one of the main ones. 

While all three of the above certifications will qualify you to teach English, you need to keep your desired teaching location in mind when selecting the course that’s right for you.

If you would like to teach domestically within English speaking countries, choose a TESL or TESOL course. If you want to teach abroad, choose a TEFL certificate for its global compatibility, recognition and continued success rate among teachers looking to teach overseas.

CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults)

Also known as the Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, CELTA is similar to an intensive TEFL course but is overseen and designed by Cambridge University. 

The CELTA certificate is considered a prestigious one. Only approved CELTA institutions may deliver CELTA courses. It has a good reputation worldwide for its quality but is typically more expensive than a standard TEFL course.

Most CELTA courses require students to attend the full-time, month-long course, which means six-hour days and a heavy homework load, including lesson planning for your practicum and four written assignments. So a commitment to a CELTA qualification program is a full-time commitment for a full month period. 

5 key considerations when choosing your certification provider

So now that you’ve decided what certification you’d like to pursue, it’s time to choose your certification provider! 

What to look out for:

1. Are they accredited?

Ensure that the certification is accredited by a globally recognised, independent accreditation authority. This is essentially a stamp of quality, and your prospective employer can feel confident that your course has been independently reviewed and meets a high standard.

There is no single global accrediting body for TEFL courses. Some of the more well-known and reputable accrediting bodies include:

2. Length of course

Course lengths can vary from 20-hour weekend programs to 4-weeks of full-time training or training stretched out over several months.

Typically, the English online teaching qualification courses tend to range between 100 and 120 hours in total, with six to eight hours of observed and graded teaching practice.

Keep in mind that most online teaching companies require a TEFL certification that is 120 hours or more. This is generally considered the minimum level TEFL by the majority of prospective employers.

3. Course support

Do you have a dedicated tutor with timeous feedback parameters in place so you can keep progressing without being hindered by tardy response times? 

Not having regular feedback and support on your modules as you progress through your course can be hugely frustrating. It can also lead to course drop-outs with little or no recourse on the fees paid for the certification upfront.

4. Course costs and payment terms

Prices for these certifications vary dependent on provider, length of course and qualification gravitas.  In general TEFL, TESOL and TESL courses online range from around USD150 to as much as USD1,500.  

Add in a tutor and the average 120-hour course falls in the middle range of this.  At around USD300 - USD600.

CELTA courses are the priciest and most coveted.  A CELTA certification can cost anywhere from USD1,500 to USD2,700, depending on the provider.

"Prices vary depending on some key factors, but expect to pay about $200 for a very minimal online certification and closer to $400-$500 USD for an online certification of enough hours (at least 120) to qualify for most TEFL/TESOL jobs. If you opt for university-level online training or an on-site TEFL/TESOL course, the price, as you might expect, is higher – usually between $1,000 to $2,500 USD." Bridge University  

5. Other factors

Are payment structures in place to assist you to finance and support your course investment?

Are there any special introductory offers that could help you manage the course payment requirements? Almost all courses will require some form of financial commitment upfront for you to get started.

The robustness of the certification (will you confidently be able to teach online on completion?)

Is their certification recognized world-wide?

And can they help get you interview-ready and direct you on potential job opportunities available?

Qualified, so what now?

You've committed to yourself by now completing your certification.  Now it's time to get a job teaching English online.

At The Really Great Teacher Company we want to help you get the job you deserve once you’re qualified. See here for current potential job opportunities and tips on nailing your online teacher interview 

Best of luck!