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 1203 merchant reviews

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1203 Reviews
I started the course with trepidation, it has been a long time since I did any 'academic' work! But I found the course to be very well structured, you can work at your own pace and revise as you go. There is a wealth of resources within the course - it is very thorough and as far as I can tell, there's nothing missing. I enjoyed the course, gaining confidence as I progressed. All in all, an excellent course which I would highly recommend.
I greatly appreciated all the support that was available. I had a difficult time downloading my lesson plan and essay, and the staff worked with me to scan and email them. Everyone I worked with at i-to-i TEFL was professional and helpful!
Good teaching training. I have been teaching English for a few years already and I wanted to brush up my technique and I'm glad I chose i-to-i to do it. A friend of mine recommended your company. I was able to get a discount, which was nice. I experienced no problems or glitches while taking the course. Lots of useful tips and links. Overall a very good experience. Definitely worth the time and money spent. Thank you for a no-hassle, positive experience. I feel much better qualified as a teacher.

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.