What’s the difference between TEFL and CELTA (and which one do I need to teach English abroad)?

What’s the difference between TEFL and CELTA (and which one do I need to teach English abroad)?

More and more people in their twenties are starting to take advantage of the few years of freedom post-graduation. Choosing to pursue other paths instead of jumping right into a 9-5, full-time career. Ever wanted to travel the globe? Get acquainted with another culture? Us too. ✈️🌎👌

Luckily for you, the post-graduation time gap is the perfect period to go exploring. If you're a recent graduate who's hesitant to jump into the "real" work world, you’re probably giving serious thought about doing something else with your time. Like (let us guess) teaching English abroad?

Keep reading:

Upping sticks and moving abroad to teach English is obviously a massive decision. There’s a hundred and one things to worry about and organize, so thorough and in-depth research is always going to be the first step.

Hopefully, you’ve already started researching your options, so by now, you’ve more than likely figured out that you need to get some kind of ESL certification to qualify for teaching jobs abroad. (If you’re in need of more convincing, check out our blog on why you shouldn’t teach English abroad without certification

When considering training options for teaching English abroad, many people usually narrow it down to one of two options: a TEFL or CELTA course. To help you decide which one is right for you, let’s get to grips with the main differences between CELTA and TEFL courses.

Are TEFL and CELTA courses the same?

celta vs tefl

Both courses prepare teachers thoroughly for teaching English abroad, but there are some important differences.

CELTA vs. TEFL at a glance

Cost $199 (40 hours) - $2,000 (150 hours +)Note: Reputable 100-hour TEFL courses (the minimum requirement for teaching jobs abroad) start at $1,000. TEFL training over 150 hours is rarely required. From $1,600 - 5,000+
Format Online, in-person, and blended In-person or blended
Time Online: Self-paced, 2 - 12 weeks. In person: 4 weeks, full-time Note: Weekend TEFL courses are not accepted by employers. 4 weeks, full-time 15+ weeks, part-time.
Credibility Internationally recognized Internationally recognized

Recommended reading: TEFL vs. TESL vs. TESOL

What is TEFL?

This acronym stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. A TEFL certification is one of the most popular and internationally accepted entry-level teaching certifications that will allow you to teach English in non-native speaking countries. A TEFL is what most hiring schools are looking for on your job application. That’s why you’ll see listed over and over again under requirements on most job postings.

Who is TEFL for?

If your goal is to teach English abroad rather than in your home country, TEFL is the most widely accepted (and highly regarded) of the various ESL certification options.

What is CELTA?

Originally standing for Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults, CELTA is now known as Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Wait, isn’t there already a whole other acronym for that? Yup! If you’ve come across TESOL before and assumed it was an entirely different certification to CELTA, then it actually isn’t.

In reality, these two certifications are one and the same. The main distinction is that CELTA is specifically affiliated with Cambridge University. So think of CELTA as a branded version of a generic TESOL course.

Who is CELTA for?

A CELTA is an intensive teaching course for people who are certain they want to pursue a career (two years or more) teaching English, either at home or abroad.


Weighing up the pros and cons of TEFL and CELTA

which is better tefl or celta

As we briefly touched on above, CELTA is a comprehensive course for teachers who want to teach English to students in their home country or overseas. Considering the time commitment involved in taking a CELTA course, plus the significantly hiked-up cost, it’s usually better suited to people who are serious about pursuing a long-term career teaching overseas or at home.

Usually, you will have some experience of instructing students before beginning this route. The content of the course covers the basics of English instruction to ESL students, with an emphasis on practical application of classroom management.

With CELTA, requirements are definitely a lot more stringent than the average TEFL course. Before you can enroll in a CELTA course, you’ll need to attend an interview at a CELTA training center, where a course leader will consider whether you’re a suitable candidate for the course. They will also assess whether your written and spoken English skills are of a high enough standard. Past teaching, coaching or tutoring experience is also preferred to be accepted onto CELTA, but not essential.

Recommended reading: The best places to teach English abroad when you’ve got absolutely NO experience.

CELTA courses are offered in just two formats - fully in person, or in a “blended” style, which combines online learning and classroom-based instruction. This means that in order to complete a CELTA course, you will need to attend at least some classes, in person, at an accredited CELTA training center.

To graduate from the course, you will also need to demonstrate the skills you have learned during the course by taking a series of practice exams in a test center.

TEFL, on the other hand, is an entry-level English teaching certification that provides basic teacher training to teach non-native English speakers overseas.

There are usually no entry requirements for being accepted onto a TEFL course, apart from a keen interest in teaching abroad. No previous teaching experience is required. However, before enrolling in a TEFL course, it is recommended you have a native level or excellent grasp of the English language.

It’s ideal for people who are looking for their first teaching job abroad, or qualified teachers looking to improve their skills with ESL students. TEFL is more suited to people who want to gain an introduction to English teaching or extend their existing teaching skills in an international or ESL setting. TEFL courses teach basic techniques for successfully teaching English to ESL students in an overseas classroom.

It is also useful for TEFL students to hold a bachelor’s degree because this will improve the chances of securing a good teaching job if you intend to teach overseas after you have completed the course.

One of the main benefits of TEFL is that many good quality courses are offered online and tend to be more flexible. This means the course can be completed conveniently alongside studies or work. There are no set class times or deadlines that you have to meet, unlike CELTA or in-person TEFL equivalents.

OK, give it to me straight: Is CELTA better than TEFL?

tefl vs celta

Because of its affiliation with Cambridge University CELTA does have a decent reputation in the teach abroad industry. Accordingly, many people make the mistake of assuming that a CELTA will automatically make you more a more attractive candidate to hiring schools overseas. Or, you might assume that a higher price tag = better quality. Which, in turn, equals more and better job opportunities for you abroad.

This really isn’t the case, however. While CELTA is certainly a widely respected and accepted ESL certification, the vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of people who land a teach job abroad every year do not have a CELTA. Rather, they tend to have a TEFL certificate (taken either online or in person). So the proof is in the pudding. CELTA doesn’t really make you any more hireable than a TEFL does. Of course, if the training provider is something that’s important to you (and it may well be, as many overseas employers place a premium on training from prestigious universities) then there are some TEFL courses offered in tandem with universities that specialize in English language instruction who also like Cambridge University, have strong name recognition globally.

CELTA or TEFL: What type of certification do you need for teaching English abroad?

what is the difference between tefl and celta

If you want a job teaching English in your own country, or you’re considering teaching English abroad as a long-term career, investing in a CELTA course should definitely do the trick. Although they are a whole lot more expensive, you definitely get what you pay for: a quality ESL certification that can open many doors.

Because CELTA course content is also geared towards people interested in teaching adults, a TEFL certificate might be the better option if you’re interested in teaching English to young learners. Online TEFL courses, on the other hand, are great if you’re looking for an affordable, quick, and flexible way to get certified.

You can choose either a TEFL or a CELTA certification course and you’ll come away with an internationally recognized qualification to teach English abroad, so long as the option you go for meets the basic international standard set forth by international employers worldwide: at least 100 hours of coursework. Note: While a minimum of 100 hours of TEFL training is recommended, 120 hours of TEFL training will qualify you for the greatest number of teaching jobs because it can be required to meet mandatory visa and job requirements set out by certain countries abroad.

Aren’t we forgetting the other main requirement - a teaching practicum? Actually, no. While any hands-on practice is always good, a practicum isn’t typically listed as a requirement as it doesn’t count as actual teaching experience in the eyes of hiring schools abroad.

Want to be considered for great-paying English teaching jobs abroad? The vast majority of reputable language schools throughout the world will not give your application the time of day if you don’t hold an internationally recognized TEFL certification.

For more advice on choosing the right TEFL course for you, check out the blog below: A step-by-step guide to choosing the right TEFL course


Hi Julia,

We’re so glad to hear this article was useful for you and are excited that you’re looking to teach English!

In general, online English teaching companies and schools abroad look for a bachelor’s degree a TEFL certificate. In your case, some companies/countries will recognize your 4 qualifications as a degree and some won’t. Without a bachelor’s degree, you’ll need to (a) make sure you still qualify for a work visa in the country you plan to travel to and (b) find other ways to make your resume stand out!

The TEFL course from OISE at the University of Toronto would be a great option for you since it’s completely online – meaning you can take it from anywhere in the world – and it’s from an internationally recognized university.

Best of luck to you! And be sure to reach out at tefl@teachaway.com if you have more questions.

-Elspeth at Teach Away

Elspeth Chalmers
A great, easy-to-read article, summarizing the differences between TEFL and CETLA, and what is TESOL. That was just the article I have been searching for. Thank you. I just have one question about TEFL online. Do you know which is the best course for TEFL online, that I can do from Australia? Please keep in mind the following: I do not have a bachelor’s degree, however, I have four qualifications, as follows: 1.Diploma of Teaching in Early Childhood Education, 2.Graduate Diploma in TESL, 3.Graduate Certificate in Adult Language and Literary, 4.Graduate Diploma in Information and Library Studies. In South Australia, where I live, this is considered equivalent to a Bachelor’s Degree, so I can work as a teacher in government schools here, and I am qualified to do a Master’s Degree, based on the above four qualifications. However, I have applied for online TEFL jobs overseas, and my four qualifications do not count as a bachelor’s degree overseas for online TEFL. So which is the best online TEFL course, for a teacher with my qualifications and experience? Or do you know of anywhere else that I might be able to find some answers? Thank you. Julia

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