What is the difference between TEFL, TESOL and CELTA?

The acronyms of teaching English abroad, demystified

Here, we'll help you understand what the differences are between TEFL, TESOL and CELTA, and how to pick the course that's right for you.

There are many centres that provide qualifications, from large organisations such as Cambridge to smaller, independent companies like i-to-i.  The first questions you should ask yourself are: are the courses accredited and is the certificate recognised in countries around the world?  You should enrol on a course provided by an accredited company in order to secure overseas employment and ensure you are receiving the best possible tuition and support.

Other important considerations are cost, time and flexibility.

To help you choose, here’s our quick summary.

Learn all about TEFL courses with these commonly asked questions

TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language)

This is by far the most common acronym you’ll come across; that’s because TEFL refers to the industry, not a specific type of certificate.  A good course provider, such as i-to-i, will be accredited by a body such as the ODLQC, and will train you to become a confident and effective TEFL teacher. TEFL qualifications are the most commonly held qualifications by teachers living and teaching overseas, due to the relatively low cost, ease and speed of getting qualified – paired with great quality training.

There are lots of options, ranging from short intensive weekend courses to an courses including as much as 300 hours of study. An intensive weekend TEFL course will give you around 20 hours of instruction.  Online courses vary in length, but a typical 120 hour course is the minimum requirement for overseas employment.

Taking up to 3 months to complete, these online courses allow you to Whether you study online or in the classroom, each of these courses provide a solid introduction to TEFL and give you the skills and techniques to begin working straightaway.  The weekend course has the added benefit of a practical element where you can teach the other trainees, and you’re even able to combine online training with a weekend session!

Check out our range of TEFL courses here.

TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages)

TESOL is another commonly-used acronym, particularly popular in North America, Canada and Australia. The good news is, despite this being a very distinct set of letters, there’s really no difference between TEFL and TESOL.

You get qualified in the same way (online or in the classroom), with similar flexibility, usually reasonable pricing and the same clout when it comes to teaching worldwide.

CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults)

The Cambridge CELTA is a specific type of TEFL certificate.  It is standardised and courses are run in centres all over the world.  It is an incredibly intensive course, lasting four to five weeks, full-time (sometimes residential), and costs can run to the thousands. In addition, to enrol on a CELTA course you need to be at least 20 years old and have formal education qualifications (whereas to study for a TEFL qualification the minimum age is 16 and you just need a native-level ability to speak English).

CELTA courses certainly have their place in the world of teaching abroad, and they can be ideal for those who want to make a lifelong  career of teaching abroad (or teach English to learners in English-speaking countries). However, unless you’re really planning some long-term serious teaching, it may be that you don’t need to make the time and financial commitment a CELTA course demands.

View our online and combined TEFL courses here.

Back to FAQ

Need some help deciding where to go?
Download the TEFL brochure

Get the brochure

Our Friends

STA Travel
G Adventures
FCO Know Before You Go
Payment methods available
Payment methods available
Payment methods available
Payment methods available
Payment methods available

Teach and Travel Group Ltd. Registered Company No. 7935847.
Suite 2, Chantry House, Victoria Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS5 3JB, United Kingdom

i-to-i TEFL is rated 4.40 stars by Reviews.co.uk based on 1229 merchant reviews

4.40 / 5 Rating
1229 Reviews
Did what it says on the tin, learnt all about the IELTS exam and plenty of ways to teach it. A very solid preparatory course for anybody interested in teaching the IELTS exam
Very experienced tutor. Huge amount of information delivered in a very enjoyable way. Very practical and interactive. Good venue. Excellent
i-to-i is well organized, planned and easy to follow. Affordable price and great support. when you need some extra help and support or when you have a problem, their responds are very quick. The support team is always there!! This course is very useful that it'll keep you motivated and give you confidence. I recommend to anyone. You can extend your courses as you like , keep your course account even after course expiration, I find it very useful. it's like whenever you feel like going for extra qualification all you have to do is come back to i-to-i account and pay for an extra course to keep you going. I paid for a 300hr something course but right now I have completed only 120hr course. I passed it and my certificate is on the way. I'm looking forward to complete other parts of my course as well. The only problem when you're buying a course bundle is actually all the courses are not together, each sub courses are presented separated so when you complete the 120hr course you actually get 120hr course certificate once you finish the course. I guess for each sub course it's like that so I'm not sure whether I'm supposed to get a certificate of 300hr something if I complete the course bundle I bought. Anyway I highly recommend your online TEFL course with i-to-i. When looking for a good course I've done my search online to find many sites providing very expensive courses but why go for expensive ones when you can have courses for affordable prices with such a well organized and a qualified team to help you through out the course?!! Good luck and thank you i-to-i team!

Rachel on the South Africa TEFL Internship from i-to-i on Vimeo.

Thailand - The best experience of my life from i-to-i on Vimeo.