As an EFL teacher, you must have both a BA/BSc (in any subject) and a TEFL/TESOL certificate of some kind.  It is possible to earn this certificate online or at a weekend short-course.  But neither of these options will give you enough hands-on experience (i.e. in a real classroom).  I think that the best option is to go back to university.  It is possible to study for an MA in TEFL/TESOL.  This option is, however, aimed at teachers who already have experience.  New teachers should consider the CELTA course, instead.

What is CELTA?

Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) both refer to the profession of teaching English overseas.  A TEFL/TESOL practitioner is called an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teacher.  An EFL teacher must hold a TEFL/TESOL certificate, but there are several options available.  The best option is the Certificate in English Language Teaching for Adults (CELTA).  It is the Cambridge-approved qualification that is recognized around the world.  With a CELTA, you can teach students of any ages (despite the name).

NB: CELTA is a Level-5 qualification, making it equivalent to the 2nd-year of a BA/BSc program.

Who is CELTA aimed at?

Some overseas students have to take CELTA as a requirement of their degree course.  But your other CELTA classmates will have a range of ages, backgrounds and skillsets.  You must hold a bachelor’s degree but there are no additional entrance requirements.  Some students choose to take CELTA at the start of their TEFL careers; others choose to get some work experience first.  It really doesn’t matter.  Peer feedback is a very important part of the course; even students without experience are encouraged to give constructive criticism to their more experienced classmates.

What is the structure of CELTA?

I enrolled on a full-time, intensive CELTA course that lasted for a month.  I had two tutors: one worked full-time at the university and the other was brought in for purposes of moderation and accountability.  I attended interactive seminars in the mornings and I took part in teaching practice and observations in the afternoons.  I had about 10 classmates and we formed two groups for the purposes of teaching practice.  Each group taught short sessions on rotation to the foreign students who happened to be studying in other departments at the university.  When we were not teaching, we were observing and discussing our classmates’ performance.

What is the course content?

The assigned textbook for my CELTA course was Learning Teaching by Jim Scrivener.  My tutors stayed fairly close to the content and organization of the textbook, although they found interesting ways to deliver the content.  The CELTA course will show you how to teach various aspects of English grammar and pronunciation.  My tutors showed us how best to structure our classes and how to make use of classroom resources.  They also showed us how to teach practical reading and listening skills to our students.

How are you assessed for CELTA?

Your final mark will depend on (i) written assignments and (ii) teaching practice.  First, you will complete several short assignments at regular intervals throughout the course.  These assignments are based on the interactive seminars that you attend in the mornings.  They encourage you to reflect on important issues in EFL teaching as well as on your personal development as a teacher.

Second, you take part in practice teaching sessions throughout the course.  As the course progresses, these practice sessions get longer (20, 40 and finally 60 minutes).  You will be encouraged throughout the course to comment and give constructive criticism to your classmates.  This feedback is very important because your tutors will be looking for clear signs of progress from start to finish.  In a sense, then, CELTA adopts a form of continuous assessment.


I loved my CELTA course for two reasons.  First, the working environment was fantastic.  I had an opportunity to work with a small group of like-minded people in an environment of cooperation and peer feedback.  Second, I learned more practical information on my month-long CELTA course than I did on my entire three-year bachelor’s degree.  It is the best certificate of its kind and, although not cheap, it’s a fraction of the cost of a degree.


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