What TESOL, TEFL and CELTA English teacher certifications are the best?

More and more employers are looking for ways to confirm that the people they are recruiting are prepared to teach their classrooms. Certification helps to do this. English teaching acronyms like TESOL, TEFL, TESL, and CELTA can be intimidating when you first start considering teaching abroad.  Well, first of all, TESOL/TEFL/TESL are generally interchangeable. They are all ESL certifications that can come in different lengths such as 50, 100, 120 hour courses. Most schools require 120-hours so don’t waste your time and money on a course that’s too short for the job you want.

  • TESOL – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
  • TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign Language
  • TESL – Teaching English as a Second Language

CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), is similar to the certifications above in that it equips an individual with some of the essential understanding of grammar and teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). The curriculum and standards for the CELTA are uniform worldwide so some employers prefer it but you must take at least part of it in person. CELTA certification is not available entirely online and it is expensive so budget in advance.

In addition, there is the ultimate certificate, a public school teaching certificate from your home country. This is what’s required to teach in the public school system in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, etc.  In other words, you’re an employable teacher back in your home country. The most impressive and thorough certification is almost always the teaching certificate from your home country. In America, teachers need to take a university preparatory course that meets the educational requirements of the Department of Education of a particular state.  Plus, after those courses and doing 12 weeks of supervised student teaching, each prospective teacher must take and pass 3 exams to obtain their teaching license.

You also have the choice of earning your certification online or in a classroom. The classroom certification can be done in your country or sometimes in the foreign country such as the 7-day TEFL in China course regulated by the SAFEA (State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs) of the Chinese government. Online certification courses are sometimes disregarded by some of the larger employers in the Middle East, but there are thousands of employers in China, Japan, South Korea and other countries that do accept online certifications. As someone who has taken and taught both online and in-person TESOL / TEFL courses, I recommend taking an in-person course if you can afford the time and money they require but in reality, most people don’t have the time or money.

The quality of courses varies greatly because there is no central organization that must approve TEFL / TESOL courses. Anyone can create a TEFL / TESOL course and issue certificates so make sure to review the curriculum of a certification program before you shell out money for it. Also,  you can get a free TEFL certification if your employer or recruiter pays for it for you. In China, employers Disney English, I2, and English First often cover the cost of the 7-day TEFL in China course for you. Alternatively, if you use a recruiter such as EnglishTeacherChina.com, they provide free TEFL / TESOL certification through the 120-hour online course by eTeachAbroad.com.

The bottom line is that almost all overseas English language teacher jobs require some type of certification, so certification will help you in your search for employment and will also improve your teaching and confidence.