So, you want to be an EFL teacher? Perhaps you’ve just graduated from university and you’d like a job that allows you to travel and earn money at the same time. Or maybe you’ve been working in the same unfulfilling role for years and you need a change. You type “how to become an EFL teacher” into Google and you’re immediately bombarded with adds for teacher training courses. After a bit of research, you discover that CELTA is the most widely-recognised and respected qualification on offer. “Great,” you think, “where do I sign up?”.
But then it hits you: the price. With courses at around £1500, CELTA’s not cheap, particularly if you’re a recent graduate with the albatross of student loans hanging heavily around your neck, or if you live in a country where the exchange rate is not favourable. “Maybe I can get by without it,” you reason, perhaps opting instead to do a much shorter and cheaper TEFL course (a weekend as opposed to a month, at around £150 as opposed to £1500). Some of these courses can even be done entirely online, making them especially convenient if you don’t live near a teaching centre.
Unfortunately, however, there’s a reason why doing a generic TEFL course is so much cheaper and quicker than a CELTA – it’s a lot less thorough. A generic TEFL certificate is like an old fashioned mobile phone; you can call or text somebody, but there is no internet, no apps, no camera – none of features that we now find so valuable to help us through our day to day lives. Basically, the generic TEFL certificate is a speedy introduction to the world of teaching English. You’ll be given a basic theoretical overview, but no in depth analysis and little to no actual teaching practice. This means you are likely to find yourself standing in front of your first class wondering what the heck to do.
Don’t get it wrong, doing a generic TEFL course has its merits; if you’re not yet 100% sure that teaching’s for you, it’s a relatively inexpensive way of dipping your toe into the water. Be warned, however, that not all generic TEFL courses are created equal. The best ones, although short, will include in-person tuition with a qualified instructor; you’ll be expected to prepare lesson plans and present mock classes upon which you’ll be assessed. Other courses, however, could just be you, your laptop and some suspiciously generic-sounding written feedback from a faceless tutor over the Internet.
While it is possible to get a teaching job with only a university degree and a generic TEFL certificate in some countries, most reputable English schools will prefer, if not require, you to have a CELTA – especially in Europe. As with most things in life, you get back what you put into your career, and although it might seem like a lot of money up front, doing a CELTA will pay for itself further down the line. Indeed, there are countless reasons why investing in your career now is well worth your while. Here are just a few:
Stand Out from the Crowd
Teaching English as a foreign language is an increasingly popular career choice, particularly among recent graduates. There may once have been a time when having a university degree and being a native English speaker would have stood you in pretty good stead in terms of employability. These days, however, everyone and their dog has been to uni, so the bar has been raised considerably. Investing in a decent teaching qualification will make you much more desirable in the eyes of employers. In fact, with so many applicants to choose from, a lot of schools won’t even consider you if you don’t have a CELTA – it’s a quick and easy way for them to separate the wheat from the chaff.
The TEFL market is huge: people the world over want to learn English and that doesn’t look likely to change any time soon. This is of course great news for anyone looking for a teaching job – there are loads of them out there for the taking, even when you’re competing with hundreds of other candidates. The only problem is that the TEFL industry is still largely unregulated. As such, the schools that don’t require you to have a proper teaching qualification are more likely to be the ones that are going to extort you. While government sponsored programmes and international teaching companies are usually safe ground, there are many privately run language academies that can basically do whatever they want. There are some “schools” in Asia, for example, that only grant their teachers three days annual leave. There are others that will pay you the bare minimum and then expect you to work loads of overtime. They’ll take advantage of the fact that you’re young and/or inexperienced, and in a foreign country with little to no support network. With a CELTA qualification, however, you can apply for jobs in reputable schools and negotiate a decent salary and contract. Any school worth their salt should respect and nurture their teachers by providing them not only with basic workers’ rights, but professional development opportunities as well. You’re a teacher, not a slave, and with a proper teaching qualification you’ll have the documentation to prove it, the knowledge to know what you’re worth, and the confidence to ask for it.
Self-Confidence & Professionalism
Having a CELTA will also increase your confidence in the classroom. Standing in front of a room full of students can be daunting at the best of times, but you’ll feel a lot more self-assured as a teacher with an internationally recognised qualification under your belt. Being a native English speaker doesn’t automatically make you an English teacher, but having a CELTA will give you the knowledge and tools you’ll need to teach the English language. In many countries, the pressure on students to speak perfect English is intense. Private language academies can charge very high fees and, as such, paying students deserve (and demand) the best of the best from their teachers. Your students might even ask you about your professional background, especially if you’re teaching adults, some of whom may be older than you. This can feel quite undermining, even if you have all of the qualifications under the sun. Of course, being a good teacher requires more than just a certificate, but it’s a good place to start, and your students will hold you in higher esteem because of it.
Life Experience & Transferable Skills
Aside from all of this serious stuff, doing a CELTA is an exciting and rewarding experience in and of itself. You can opt to do the course abroad, meaning that you’ll get to start travelling before you’ve even become qualified as a teacher. You’ll meet people from all over the world and form some great friendships. You can exchange study notes and teaching tips with your fellow trainees, and enjoy your free time together exploring a new city. There are also a lot of transferable skills to be gained from doing a CELTA, so even if you don’t end up being an English teacher for life, it’s still a great investment to make in your future career.