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  :: TEFL - Choosing the right TEFL Course

Choosing the Right TEFL Course

TEFL, CELTA, TESOL, ELT, Cert TESOL... the acronyms used to name different courses in the industry of English Language Teaching are endless. You could say the same for the opportunities those qualifications will provide: certainly, they vary tremendously.

The right course for you depends on a variety of factors. For example: Do you want just an insight into teaching English? or is this a whole career move for you? do you expect to get paid for teaching? or are you prepared to volunteer?

If you're not sure what your plans are yet, we always recommend you read all the information on this Cactus TEFL website. Cactus TEFL grew out of our realisation that there are a zillion course options but - up to now - no one to point interested parties in the right direction, so we catalogued masses of advice here in one place.

What's in a Word?

The biggest misconception is probably surrounding the word TEFL. Many people seem to think that TEFL is a qualification in its own right. It’s not. TEFL is simply the name encompassing the industry of English Language Teaching. Within that industry there is a mind-blowing range of courses you can sign up for that will lead to an internationally recognised qualification. Below you can find a breakdown of courses we offer at Cactus TEFL. This will help you to choose the right course and guide your first steps into the field of teaching English.

Types of courses:

:: Online Courses

Useful for those who are unable to get time off work to follow a face-to-face course or who are nowhere near an onsite training centre. Online TEFL courses always include all the major content components necessary for teaching, such as classroom management, teaching grammar, etc. They do not include real teaching practice, although some of them do give you a taste for real life teaching by including streamed training videos or DVDs demonstrating various teaching techniques.

Advantages of Online TEFL

You can study from the comfort of your own home and you can keep on working whilst heading towards your future in TEFL. We always recommend going for a course that includes more hours: the more comprehensive your online programme, the more you will learn, and your knowledge and confidence will be boosted accordingly.

Limitations of Online courses

Although an online course will always provide you with a sound introduction to English Language Teaching, and can even have a syllabus to rival a full-time course, it does miss out on teaching practice (TP), arguably the most vital course component.

An on-site course, no matter how short, will usually include some form of TP, thus arming you with some basic tools for classroom teaching. Throughout the world, employers will show a strong preference for those with classroom experience. So be careful if you are relying on an online course to get you a full-time teaching position, because it may not. Do your research in advance!

:: Full time 4-week TEFL Courses

For those considering a serious career in TEFL this is the perfect preparation. Within the industry the Cambridge CELTA and the Trinity Cert TESOL are the best known qualifications and they will be preferred by any employer around the globe. What's the difference? A quick look on any job site and you will find that the majority of TEFL employers will ask for Cambridge CELTA/Trinity Cert TESOL or equivalent. This equivalent can be a course with a similar number of hours and teaching practice, such as the SIT TESOL Certificate. Just make sure that your course includes at least 100 hours of input and 6 hours of teaching practice and some classroom observation and you are generally OK.

:: Other 4 week Intensive TEFL Courses

There are plenty of TEFL courses of around 100 to 150 hours’ duration that have not been rubber-stamped by Cambridge or Trinity. Many schools that provide TEFL courses feel they know enough about running their TEFL programmes and that they don’t need external quality control. Others prefer not to have to pay the exam board registration fee, which can rise to over £120 per course participant. This can help them to pass on a lower price to you, the customer.

These 'other' 4 week courses are largely based on the original 4 week course model, with 2 to 3 hours of input sessions and 2 to 3 hours of teaching practice each day. They may well be taught by tutors with very good qualifications and years of experience. Some providers also have their own internal validation process.

These courses are generally very well viewed in their local context, and are often an excellent alternative for would-be teachers who intend to get a few years' teaching experience in a particular location.  It can be argued that after a few years' as a teacher, the actual TEFL course you followed at the beginning of your TEFL journey is much less important than the teaching experience itself.


Advantages of a 4-week full-time course

A certificate from a full-time course is your best chance of securing work and, providing your other credentials are up to scratch, will fulfil most private language schools' requirements. Doing a Cambridge CELTA or Trinity Cert TESOL maximises your options, although there are also some excellent equivalent courses out there that you can book through Cactus TEFL. With a basic industry standard qualification, nothing will stand in the way of furthering your career in TEFL by doing a Diploma in TESOL course which will pave the way to more managerial roles, or using your qualification and experience to start working behind the scenes of the industry once you are back in the UK.

Limitations of a 4-week full-time course

There are no real limitations worth mentioning. You can’t teach in further education or state schools with just a CELTA or a Cert TESOL and you may not find a job that easily in the UK, but that’s mainly due to the market being so competitive. The only thing to be aware (and wary) of is the intensity of these courses. The pre-interview task, which most (though not all) 4-week courses have as part of the application, gives you an idea of what is required on a course but by no means prepares you for what’s to come. However, the sense of achievement you will feel after you have finished the course makes it all well worthwhile!

:: Blended learning

The Online CELTA is a blended course which leads to the same internationally recognised certificate as the face to face course.


Advantages of the online CELTA course

The Online CELTA combines the flexibility of online study with the face-to-face interaction of real classroom teaching practice experience. coursework is delivered through an interactive e-environment involving online tasks, forums and discussions.

Online self-study

You have the freedom to choose how you work. As long as assignments are completed on time and you contribute to discussion forums and live room discussions, the online format allows you to work at your own pace, when and where you choose. Your online course tutor will facilitate your group work and provide feedback on assignments and progress.

Hands-on teaching practice

CELTA’s success is based on its strong practical element, showing employers that you have the necessary skills to succeed in the classroom. Cambridge CELTA Course Online uses exactly the same model of face-to-face supervised lesson planning, teaching practice, evaluation and feedback, with full support from your teaching practice tutors.

You will need a standard computer with broadband internet connection and a headset with integrated microphone.

Limitations of the online CELTA course

Because you do not have full on site contact with your input tutors, the course may feel disjointed. However, this is a relatively new course format, and we have not yet heard of actual limitations as experienced by trainees.

Finally ...... See what one of the industry professional associations says > Choosing your first TESOL course >