CELTA vs TEFL – What’s Best for You?

Many people dream of spending months, if not years, travelling the world and making memories to last a lifetime. At some point, those that do have had to pluck up the courage and take that first giant leap. And it can be daunting. In fact, ask anyone who has made that step and they will probably tell you they had their doubts at some point. But they will also tell you that it is among the very best decisions they have ever made.

Time and money are often cited as reasons why travelling just isn’t possible. The truth is, there is rarely a time when everything will be perfect for travelling, and that’s where bravery comes in: to take that initial step. While this post can’t help you find the ideal time for you to head off, it can offer a solution to the money problem.

The thing is, most modern-day travellers and backpackers aren’t funded by fortunate relatives, but through the small sacrifices they make to reap tremendous rewards. Those rewards are financial to some extent, of course, but they are mostly repaid in treasurable moments and experiences. Sometimes, hard work is required to open doors and possibilities, and using some of your days away to help others in return for payment of both monetary and personal value can allow you to extend those dazzling days indefinitely.

Travelling is more accessible than ever to people of all ages. Reasons for travelling vary, too. Whether your intentions are personal and to see the world, or to offer something to someone in a more remote region, having strings to your bow will always help to open doors and create opportunities.

One of the biggest tools for opening doors is a qualification to teach English as a foreign language. Now, welcome to a world of acronyms! There are a number of routes you can take to gaining such a qualification. Let’s look at two of those options.


A Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate is a prerequisite for many jobs teaching English abroad, as a second language in countries around the world. It is internationally recognised and is one of the most popular qualifications for people looking for jobs teaching English in non-native speaking countries. TEFL is often used as an umbrella term for many different certifications that can be attained to qualify you to take on such work.

Most schools or organisations that you might approach for employment will be looking for a TEFL qualification on your CV. The certificate is not simply a piece of paper, but a sign to potential employers of your dedication and that you are serious about the role you are wanting to undertake. It also shows that you understand some of the complexities of teaching English as a foreign language and that you have been equipped with some of the initial skills that you may need.

To participate in a TEFL, you do not need to have a degree or be a native English speaker yourself. You do need to be over eighteen years of age and fluent in English. If you are a qualified teacher, however experienced, you will still need a TEFL to be qualified for jobs teaching English as a second language. Your skills will, of course, be of great benefit to you, but many practices may differ from those implemented to teach other subjects or to speakers of English.

teaching abroad in school


Initially a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults, CELTA is now known as a Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. It is the most widely recognised English teaching qualification around the world. It places an emphasis on developing practical skills, techniques and the confidence required to successfully work abroad teaching English.

CELTA is a specific type of TEFL qualification and is sponsored by Cambridge University. It is widely regarded as the most prestigious TEFL certification and in some instances, employers may specifically request that applicants hold a CELT qualification above any other foreign language certification.

The CELTA qualification is appropriate for new teachers embarking on their career or teachers wishing to develop their skills, as well as those looking to travel and teach abroad. It is available to all fluent English speakers whether it is their first language or not. All courses will include practical teaching experience too.


TEFL programs vary in length greatly. They can be as intensive as one weekend (check carefully before undertaking such a short course though, as many employers may not recognise the qualification), or can stretch to around 300 hours of class time over several months. This gives you leeway to work around any circumstances that you need to account for. It is, however, important to note that to earn a certificate of note that will be recognised by employers around the world, the course should be a minimum of 100 hours of class time and six hours of teaching practice.

CELTA programmes are generally run on a full-time basis, consisting of 120 hours of class time and six hours of teaching. This is typically completed over four weeks. However, some CELTA schools do offer a part-time option which can be completed over a period of around three months.


On the whole, the intensity of TEFL courses can work around your needs and situation. With courses varying in length, it is easier to pick a course that meets your demands but is practical to complete. Many courses are available online with class time easy to pick up at the weekends meaning any further education or work commitments can be accommodated.

Courses can also include a teaching practice that doesn’t need to be undertaken with English language learners. This may help with issues such as time or convenience for you as a student in not having to fit around specific timetables and availability. However, approach these courses with caution, as some employers may wish to employ people who have undertaken courses involving practical experience with similar learners to who you will be working with. It also could be seen as underestimating the value of the techniques you can pick up through real-life experience.

On the other hand, CELTA courses generally run as full-time courses, as mentioned above. A typical day on the course would include around six-hours of work, plus any additional home-learning that needs to take place. Lesson planning for practical assessments and written assignments will need to be completed on top of this. It is a real four-week commitment and will not fit around other responsibilities such as a full-time job.

CELTA certifications are also based on an understanding that you have a firm grasp of grammar concepts. Additional work will be required for anyone undertaking the course for who this is not the case. That can add time and pressure to the course and is true for people on both the full and part-time courses.

Certification and Credibility

As TEFL is quite an umbrella term and courses vary, it is worth the time researching specific courses and seeking a reputable course provider. Having said that, TEFL courses are internationally recognised and will, should you do adequate research, provide you with the practical skills you require to accompany your certification.

Your TEFL course should include a minimum of 120 hours across both study and practical experience to be considered adequate by employers. Be wary of prices that sound too good to be true, but also understand that more does not equate to better. Check the credentials of both the course and its leaders before signing up.

CELTA courses do carry a strong pull because of the Cambridge effect. Some employers around the world may request applicants are specifically CELTA certified, although there are many options available in most countries that do not. The course is famed for its abilities to equip effective teachers, although other courses are certainly capable of this too. For those who have an eye on longer-term employment overseas, a requirement to have a CELTA certification is more likely to arise.


A basic online TEFL course will cost around £200 while a high-standard, premier online course will cost upwards of £300 for 120 hours. Classroom courses range from around £240 for a basic, twenty-hour course to around £450 for in-depth, 150-hour premier courses.

CELTA is a more expensive option, with fees typically around £1,400.

The cost to an individual can obviously depend on their current circumstances, any loss of earnings incurred through partaking in the courses and travelling to and from classes and training that is held in-person.


It is important to remember that less does not necessarily mean better value, nor does a higher price in itself constitute a better option.

If you are considering a TEFL course, comprehensively research a course before committing to it. Consider factors such as employability, who is running the course and how qualified they are and what support you will receive moving forward. There are many TEFL courses that excellently balance your needs with the qualifications you can receive all for a brilliant price. It is also vital that you ensure any course you undertake covers the requirements you will need it to. There is no value in completing a course if it does not qualify you for the job that you are set on!

Similarly, check the requirements you need to decide whether a CELTA is appropriate. At around three times the price of other in-depth TEFL courses, it is a serious financial commitment. CELTA’s price is partly down to its worldwide recognition and prestige as a highly effective and rigorous course. It will help you stand out above other applicants, though will not be the only factor that can help you to do so.

All courses require dedication and commitment to complete successfully, but this is particularly true of CELTA. This will, however, be a further positive for employers. It is worth considering, if your intention is to work just with children, whether CELTA is the best option for you, as it is more adult-focused than other available courses.

If you are considering teaching in the long-term, either at home or abroad, a CELTA course may be an excellent investment in your future career. However, if you are looking to the short-term only while you travel, a TEFL may offer better value for money for you.

Pros and Cons

Both courses have their strengths and their weaknesses and which you go for should be based on your personal requirements. To help, here are some pros and cons of each.

TEFL courses generally offer better flexibility in when and where they are completed. They are available both in-person or online and can be full or part-time. They are a cheaper option and are recognised worldwide as a qualification and certification to teach. They can be undertaken by anyone who is fluent in English and over the age of eighteen regardless of existing qualifications. Because they differ in length, they open up many options and represent an opportunity for a backpacker to add another skill to their rucksack before heading off globe-trotting.

TEFL courses are not always enough though, and some employers will expect a more rigorous qualification. While this shouldn’t impact your ability to find work, there are always likely to be options in countries where a TEFL is more than adequate, it may limit your selection. Courses may also vary in standard, although this can be combatted with some thorough research from potential applicants.

Alternatively, CELTA offers one of the most prestigious qualifications in the world of foreign language teaching. It is highly regarded and equips participants with great skills to head out and teach. Some employers may stipulate that a certification of this standard is required, while others will look very favourably on it. It is a great investment for anyone looking at a long-term career teaching English at home or abroad and may open totally new doors of its own.

However, it is one of the more expensive courses and requires participants to be able to dedicate a significant period of time to the course and attaining the qualification. It will not always be necessary for the jobs you are looking for and applicants may, in some cases, have to hold higher previous qualifications than are necessary for other courses. An interview is typically needed to be accepted and there is a higher demand in terms of the workload expected than there is on different TEFL courses.

Which is Better?

As with any course, qualification or investment, it is important to choose what best suits your needs. There is no right answer to decide which is the better option, as that depends on your time constraints, financial situation, needs, wants and wishes.

If you need a cheaper option that offers flexibility to work around ongoing commitments, then you should consider one of many fantastic TEFL courses. If, however, money is no barrier and you are looking for a qualification that suits a long-term career goal of teaching English either at home or abroad, the CELTA starts to represent good value.

Always look at the fine print of either offer to see which is going to suit your needs and where you are likely to be teaching. Both avenues can represent exceptional value when chosen carefully, and a plethora of opportunities await those who take the plunge and commit to either.

Teaching English abroad or at home to people who do not speak it as their native-tongue can be a hugely rewarding experience. Rejoice in the achievements of your students and know that you have made a truly significant difference in their life. Start your journey today by applying for a course, then get searching for where to employ your valuable, new-found skills!


Which is a bigger commitment?

A CELTA is generally seen as a commitment both in time and money. The rewards for this is a qualification that will be enough to get you noticed in pretty much any job you may be looking to use it for. However, a TEFL can be just as effective in some cases at securing employment and, generally speaking, a TEFL offers greater flexibility in the courses you can take, the way you take it and the time over which the course is completed.

Will my course help me find a job?

Some TEFL courses are better at this than others. CELTA courses will see you offered some support, though this varies in its quality. There is no guarantee of a job after completing a course, so this will come down to your application and determination to go out and see what’s on offer.

Do I need specific qualifications to begin a course?

As long as you are over 18 and can speak English fluently, you will be able to find a suitable TEFL course. You do not need to hold any higher-education qualifications. A CELTA course, on the other hand, requires applicants to go through a vigorous application and interview process and qualifications are likely to play a much more important role in the application earning you a place. Because of this, CELTA courses do have a very high success rate.