So, you're thinking of getting a CELTA certification so that you can teach English as a second or foreign language. Good news – the CELTA is one of the most widely recognised certificates available. So it will open doors for you whether you want to teach English online or abroad.
But what does the CELTA actually involve? What do all those letters stand for? Is this the right English teaching certification for you? You'll get the answers to all these questions and more in this post.
The CELTA certification involves quite a significant investment of time and money. So it's important to know if it will indeed allow you to get the English teaching job of your dreams. Let's jump in and find out!
If you want to become a qualified online language teacher and earn a living from home, I recommend checking out CeOLT (Certificate of Online Language Teaching).
What Is The CELTA Certification?
The acronym CELTA stands for Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. And it's a qualification for teaching English as a foreign language. You can take the CELTA even if you have no teaching experience as it’s an introductory course.
The CELTA is described as the “gold standard” of English teaching certifications due to its wide recognition across the world and the fact that many employers require it, around three quarters in fact.
It’s awarded by Cambridge English Language Assessment, part of the University of Cambridge and regulated by Ofqual, the government office that regulates qualifications in England.
The CELTA includes 6 hours of observed and assessed teaching practice. So you’ll be giving lessons to groups of learners and observing your peers on the course as they deliver lessons. You’ll also observe qualified and experienced teachers.
The course also includes four written assignments (750 to 1000 words), lesson planning, homework tasks and self-reflection. You’ll learn about classroom management, language analysis and awareness, language skills and developing professionalism.
You’ll be learning in small groups, no more than 6 trainees for one trainer. So you’ll get lots of support and feedback. But be aware, this is an intensive course, with 120 hours of tuition and over 80 hours of preparation and self-study time. Get ready for a busy month and expect a steep learning curve.
How Do I Get A CELTA Certification?
Meet The Minimum Requirements
First you’ll need to meet the minimum requirements to get onto the course which means you’ll need to:
- be at least 18 years old (although it’s recommended that you should be at least 20)
- be educated to high school level or to A-level standard or equivalent
- have a minimum C1 level on the CEFR if English is not your native language
If you only have a high school education or equivalent, be aware that not having a degree can be a barrier to employment. Equally, non-native speakers will have a hard time working in certain parts of the world due to visa requirements.
But no need to panic. You can still teach English online without a degree and you can teach English as a non-native speaker.
Find A Training Centre
Next you’ll have to find an authorised training centre where you can take your course. This shouldn’t be too tricky as there are over 350 of them throughout the world. If you want to teach offline in a particular country, then it can be a smart move to do your CELTA in that country.
By the way, despite what some people might say, they didn’t get their CELTA at Cambridge university. Nothing is stopping someone with a degree from Cambridge doing a CELTA, but they're two different things!
The CELTA is simply awarded by Cambridge English Language Assessment, just as the similar Trinity Cert TESOL is accredited by Trinity. That said, as you'll see if you browse the list of training centres, some CELTA training centres are the language centres of universities.
Apply For The Course
You’ll also need to apply to the course and get accepted. If your initial written application is successful, the training centre will send you a language awareness task to complete. If you get through that, they’ll invite you to an interview. And if you pass that, then you’ll get a place on the course.
Can I Do The CELTA Certification Online?
Yes! If you’re interested in teaching English online, you can also do an online version of the CELTA. You can even mix online and face to face study. You’ll also find a part-time version of the CELTA available. Otherwise, full-time you’ll need 4 weeks to complete this 120-hour course.
How Much Does The CELTA Certification Cost?
In addition to being an intensive course with a decent time investment, the CELTA also requires quite a large financial commitment.
Depending on where you do your CELTA (which is a potential way to reduce the cost), prices range from as low as the €900 – €1000 range in Africa and Latin America to as high as €2000 and beyond in Asia, the Middle East and North America. The average is around €1500.
The good news is that CELTA is a standardised course thanks to external moderation, so where you take it doesn't matter. And it can often be more useful to you to take it in the country where you want to teach. That way, you can start looking for jobs straight away.
If you’re planning to teach English full-time, either at home or abroad, you’ll be able to make back your investment relatively quickly once you get your first teaching post.
Universities that offer the CELTA as a 4-week intensive course may also offer reduced course fees to current students or staff.
But, if teaching English is a side gig for you or a part-time option, and particularly if you’re teaching online for companies where pay tends to be low, the investment might not be worth it. In that case, no worries, you can find other options out there.
Should I Do A TEFL/TESOL, CELTA or CeOLT Certification?
It depends on your specific situation and your plans for the future.
- Do you want to teach English full-time or part-time?
- Is it just a side gig for you?
- Do you want to teach online or offline?
- Do you want to teach abroad?
- Do you want to build your lifestyle around your very own online teaching business?
Firstly, let’s just sort out this alphabet soup of acronyms so we know what we’re talking about:
- TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language
- TESOL stands for teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
- CeOLT stands for Certificate of Online Language Teaching
Neither TEFL nor TESOL are a particular certification per se, like the CELTA, unless you’re talking about the Trinity TESOL (an equivalent to the CELTA). So “a TEFL” could be anything from a weekend course to a 120-hour course similar to the CELTA, with those all-important observed teaching practice hours. “The TEFL” is not a thing.
CeOLT, on the other hand, is a fully-fledged certification programme just like CELTA, but with a few crucial differences:
- CeOLT is specifically designed to prepare you for teaching online in the modern world
- It offers greater flexibility than CELTA and is more adaptable to your schedule
- CeOLT includes a unique “business component” that no other online teaching certification offers. This component is 40 hours long and build on top of the 120 hours of teacher training also included in the programme
Most employers are looking for a CELTA or its equivalent meaning an initial teacher training qualification with at least 100 hours of instruction plus those 6 hours of observed and assessed teaching practice with accreditation from a recognised exam body or university.
CeOLT and CELTA are the main two qualifications which meet this requirement.
So let’s get back to the question – what should you pick?
The CELTA and CeOLT programmes require a larger investment of time, money and energy to complete than a TEFL course.
If you're serious about teaching online and want to build a business or career in language teaching, these courses are definitely worth it. CeOLT is my top recommendation.
But what about other situations or goals – let's take a look at some other scenarios…
You're Not Planning To Teach Full Time
If teaching English is not a full-time career move for you, then you can consider other options. For instance, if you’re planning to teach online as a side gig, you can consider lighter options as online schools tend to have different requirements.
For instance, you don’t need a degree or teaching certificate to teach on iTalki unless you want to be a professional teacher rather than a community tutor (and therefore earn a bit more).
Short TEFL courses with no teaching practice can also be useful if you’re curious about teaching English as a foreign language and want to find out more. But nothing beats teaching real people and getting assessed on it – this is where you find out if you’re cut out for teaching.
CELTA and CeOLT better prepare you to teach in the real world with real students because they give you assessed teaching practice during the programme.
What Type Of Teaching Do You Want To Do? And With Which Employer?
The CELTA also doesn’t prepare you for every type of teaching job or situation. You can’t learn all the ins and outs of every single type of teaching in a 4-week course! For instance, the CELTA won’t prepare you for teaching children, unless you take the young learners extension.
In some parts of the world, teaching abroad means teaching children or teenagers, not adults! That said, I taught children for a short time after completing my CELTA, and with the qualification and a couple of years of teaching experience under my belt, and I managed to figure it out.
This same applies to business English teaching – the CELTA doesn’t prepare or qualify you to offer this type of teaching. Although frankly, many teachers will find themselves having to teach business English anyway, and muddle through.
Of course, all this will also depend on your employer or any visa requirements too. By way of example, here are the initial EFL qualification requirements from International House, a well-known and long-established teaching school chain.
Online Teaching: CELTA's Biggest Weakness
Perhaps, most importantly of all, CELTA is not especially well geared to online teaching. Even in the online version of the CELTA, the course material is pretty much the same as the in-person course but thought online. It isn't truly adapted to the online teaching world.
Most of the teaching practice on the CELTA is done with group classes, but in the real world most online language teachers spent 95% of their time teaching one-to-one. This is quite a different dynamic and CELTA doesn't really adequately prepare you to handle it confidently.
If you want to teach online, rather than in person, CeOLT does a much better job of preparing you. It includes just as much live teaching practice as CELTA, but all of this practice is done in 1-to-1 sessions that simulate the exact kinds of lessons you'll be teaching after you've qualified.
CeOLT also includes technical training so you're confident using online teaching tools like Zoom, and it includes a “business component” that shows you how to market yourself and find paying students online.
Be Prepared To Learn The Ropes Anyway
Many people also start teaching without a qualification and then do a CELTA later. This baptism of fire route can be useful. And you’ll probably get more out of your CELTA and get a better grade if you have already taught. But, to be honest, it’s always useful to have some training.
Ultimately, this is about your students – they deserve someone who has a basic understanding of how languages are learned, and the role of the teacher in supporting this process. Also, it’s not fun to do a job where you have no idea of what you’re doing! And your students will spot if you’re out of your depth.
Some employers will train you in their method too. For example, if you get a job with Berlitz, a well-known language school chain, you’ll complete an 8-day course in their method.
Ultimately, the CELTA is a rigorous course, but the real learning starts when you put the course material into action in front of real classes. The CELTA, just like any other introductory course, is merely a starting point.
Prepare For A Lifetime Of Learning
Becoming an ESL teacher, whether online or offline, at home or abroad is a rewarding career move. Thanks to your job, you'll be able to change people's lives: helping them move abroad, advance in their career, and connect with people anywhere by learning the global lingua franca.
No matter which initial ESL training course you take, whether it's the CELTA certification or another qualification, know that this is just the beginning. As you teach and gain experience, you'll be constantly reflecting on what you do and learning and growing as you go.
Your students will let you know how your teaching is working for them. And no matter how perfectly prepared your lessons, you'll need to be prepared to make changes moment to moment, depending on how your learners are reacting.
A CELTA, as intense as it is, can be an excellent foundation for your ESL teaching career. And it certainly opens the most doors in the teaching world.
But CELTA does have its limitation too, especially if you're mostly interested in teaching online or starting your own teaching business, rather than working an employer.
For that reason, when serious prospective language teachers ask me which qualification to take, I recommend CeOLT as the best option, ahead of CELTA.
Thanks to this article, you now have a better insight into whether or not CELTA it's the right teaching certification for you. Best of luck with your teaching adventure!