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.

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i-to-i TEFL is rated 4.41 stars by Reviews.co.uk based on 1216 merchant reviews

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1216 Reviews
I enjoyed every moment of the i-to-i TEFL course, it is very efficiently structured and everyone can get something valuable out of it. Even though I studied B.Ed and majored in English, this Course gave me the additional spin on teaching English as a Foreign language, the types of activities and resources that are tried and tested in the TEFL classroom etc. It is a must for anyone who wants to specialize in ESL/TEFL and though I have years of experience teaching TEFL/ESL in South Korea, UAE etc, I just wish I had done this Course sooner, (though I self-taught and used many of these concepts in service) I learned so many valuable new or better approaches / techniques in this Course and I look forward to applying them in my next TEFL/EFL classroom. Thank you i-to-i !! <3 Ronell
I was very pleased to experience this course. Once I started I found myself hooked and I sat for long periods going through the many facets of the course. There are many forms of resources available as well as actual in class videos which were very insightful. I come from a training background and therefore teaching in a class room has a different dynamic. I was very happy with the guidance I received.
If you are hesitating over whether or not to take this course... don't! I found it very useful and interesting and you will learn and have fun at the same time.

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.