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

Many people thinking about teaching abroad or teaching English in China quickly find the value in getting a TEFL. Once you start researching, you find that there are a lot of different certificates. Here we’ll go through them all and tell you what the difference is and what the best certificate is to teach English in China.

First of all, it is not a requirement to get a teaching certificate or a TEFL to teach in China. However, you may want it for a couple of reasons:

  1. If you don’t have two years of relevant teaching experience, you will need a teaching certificate or TEFL to offset this.
  2. To increase your chances of getting a better paying job.
  3. To improve your academic knowledge of teaching strategies for basic language learners.

That being said, let’s go through the different certificates:

  1. Teaching licence or teaching certificate: this is obviously the best option to get. This is usually a one-year in-class program provided by a university. You will be the most prepared to teach, however, it doesn’t always focus on individuals with basic language skills.
  2. TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language): this is by far the most common certificate. It’s not linked to any accredited body and the term is usually used to talk about all ESL/EFL teaching certificates. You can do this course online or in person, over three months or over a weekend. It’s a great introduction to teaching ESL students and the certificate we see most often with our teachers.
  3. TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages): This is more commonly used outside of the United states, but is just another name for a TEFL certificate.
  4. TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language): this is similar to a TEFL, however it focuses on students who are already in an English speaking country and learning English for the first time. So the teaching strategies are a bit different, but it is still a commonly accepted diploma abroad.
  5. CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults): This certificate is a TEFL released by the University of Cambridge. The University of Cambridge is one of the top organisations leading the way in terms of English language learning and testing. We prefer candidates with a CELTA certificate.

A big difference between these certificates is the provider. When finding an organisation, make sure to check for the following:

  1. The organisation is accredited and recognised by as many other organisations as possible.
  2. They offer a certificate of at least 120 hours.
  3. They have a mix of theory and practice.
  4. Their teachers are experienced and have the appropriate credentials.
  5. There is an opportunity to lesson plan.
  6. There is a practicum (teaching in a classroom).
  7. The organisation has a job bank to help you find a job in your desired location.

Other than those requirements to teach English in China, look at your situation and see what is most beneficial and feasible for you.

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