Are TEFL, TESOL, and CELTA Certificates Worth it?

Are you considering whether to take a TEFL, TESOL or CELTA course? Are you wondering whether doing so is worth the expense? Are they required? It all depends. It depends on you, the school, and where you might teach.

Is it financially worth it?

Most people only teach abroad for a year or so. Most people who teach abroad are not wealthy. They are often college graduates with little extra cash. So why spend thousands of dollars on a certificate when you are only planning on teaching abroad for a year or so? Depending on where you teach this could be a sizable amount of money that you could save in a year. 

Most college graduates are trying to get out of debt and not take on more. Online courses are the most inexpensive. You can take a look at some prices here.

Is it worth your time?

Only you can answer that question. Online courses are the most flexible. In-class courses can last anywhere from a weekend to about 4 weeks or so.

Is it going to help get you a better job?

It might and it might not. It depends on the school. It certainly doesn't hurt and it can be used as a bargaining point especially if you have no experience.

Are TEFL, TESOL and CELTA courses required?

It depends, but in Eastern Asia it's not usually required by the government. Individual schools can make there own requirements or have preferences though. You can learn more about the requirements and qualifications to teach abroad here.

Is CELTA worth it?

CELTA is like the Ivy league of TESOL and TEFL courses. It focus's on teaching adults. Most jobs in Eastern Asia are for teaching children. Like Ivy league schools can CELTA breeds snobbery. You will read opinions around the web such as, "...nothing compares to a CELTA and everything else is a scam or worthless." Which is basically the equivalent of saying that if you can't get into Stanford, Harvard, Dartmouth, etc. then you shouldn't bother going to college.

If you are reading this article then I probably wouldn't recommend taking it. Why not? Well, because if the title of this article attracted you here then you are probably on the fence at this point concerning TEFL, TESOL and CELTA courses. And the CELTA course requires a big commitment of time, energy and money. CELTA courses cost a lot of money. Not only are they expensive, but they are time consuming and extremely intensive. You'll need at least 4 weeks and well over a $1000. Also simply showing up is not enough. You'll need to pass the exam to obtain certification.

A CELTA course is for people who are going to be in it for the long haul. It's for those people who are making it a career. It's also for those people who are going to be primarily teaching adults. If you are not in it for the long term then I wouldn't bother.

Not taking a TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA course?

You usually don't need a certificate to legally teach English in Asia. Most of the teachers I met in Korea, China and Taiwan did not take courses.

Is there another way of getting the training? Some schools provide some training prior to when you start to teach. However, most do not. A lot of the training provided may not be sufficient neither or taught to you by an "expert". For example, many schools will simply have you watch the teacher who you will be replacing for a week or so before you start. This can be a good idea, but the teacher you are watching may have little experience and/or have poor teaching practices/methods.

You can teach yourself, if you are savvy and independent. Most people are not though, but there is a wealth of information out there on the web and in books. And when you dig deep and combine these with watching other teachers then you have found a pretty good way to learn.

Will a TEFL, TESOL or CELTA course make your job easier?

Yes, at least they should. Teaching English can be pretty stressful, so that's why I would recommend some training for most. In fact I would say that it can always be challenging, some classes and situations more than others. It will definitely be more difficult at first and a course could relieve you from some of that burden.

My experience

I thought the course I took was a waste of money. I spent around a $1000 for an in-class course and I found that what I learned did not accurately prepare me for the job I was getting into. I think the course was rich in theory and not in practice. It didn't accurately prepare me for lessons, deal with problems in the classroom or prepare me for the use of activities that was needed in the classroom. I learned a few activities, but I needed a lot more.

If I could do it again

I would take this online TEFL course. It's inexpensive and practical. I would have saved hundreds of dollars. I would have gained a much better knowledge of how to use activities in the classroom, how to lesson plan, how to deal with classroom management problems and just been better prepared to teach English in Asia.

The good thing about doing it online is that you can start it before you teach, do it when you have already started and do it again for review. I took a my course months before I actually started teaching. If you take it when you have already started you will have a better context of what you will need to know. And with an online course you can review it as needed - which is recommended.

I would start small. If you are just starting out and not sure whether you will like teaching English abroad I would not invest much money in a course. You can always go back for more education. Just take one step at a time and I would recommend this course especially if you will be teaching kids.

Resources for ESL teachers

Online TEFL Course Get certified to teach English abroad

Starters Guide A guide to get started teaching ESL in Asia

The Ebook An all inclusive how-to guide for teaching English in Asia

The Summary A summary of Jeremy Harmer's "How to Teach English"

101 Teaching Tips A 101 essential teaching tips for the ESL teacher

How-to Videos A 100+ how to teach English videos: lesson planning, teaching tips, games & activities, classroom management, etc.

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