English Language Certification: Why They Matter When Teaching Abroad

There is a growing demand for English teachers in today’s increasingly globalised world. In a 2015 report by the British Council, one of the largest providers of English language instruction in the world, it’s estimated that 2 billion people will be studying English by 2020.

With high demand, it’s no surprise that schools all over the world are hiring teachers outside their countries to teach English. Whether it’s an international school in the Philippines or a public school in Chile, people who want to teach in a foreign country will find numerous career opportunities abroad.

If you’re considering teaching English abroad, it’s important to remember that hiring requirements differ in each organisation. Some institutions require a college degree, while others will consider applicants only with teaching experience.

Most schools require some form of basic English language certification. Although it’s possible to find a position without it, a certificate will make your job search easier and gives you more leeway to negotiate a higher salary. Certified English teachers learn useful strategies to help their students understand English.

Available English Language Programmes

Empty Classroom

There are two common programmes for English teachers: Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) and Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA).

A TEFL programme refers to certified courses that train teachers who teach English to non-native speakers. These include: Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) and English Language Teaching (ELT). Some TEFL programmes are applied more to teach in native-speaking English countries like the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, while other certifications grant access to teach in local schools.

CELTA is a specific programme sponsored by Cambridge University. Considered by many as prestigious, the course follows strict standards and employs teachers from the university. The programme is designed to teach adults.

The Differences Among English Language Certifications

Although both essentially certify you to teach English to non-native speakers, CELTA and TEFL have several differences:

  • Length of Classes

CELTA requires students to complete 120 hours of class time and at least six hours of practical experience teaching to English as a Second Language (ESL) learners. Most courses are offered on a full-time basis and take a month to complete, while students can opt for a three-month programme if they want to study part-time.

The length of TEFL courses differ per programme provider: they can be as short as 100 hours of class time or as extensive as 300 hours. Like CELTA, it requires students to undergo six hours of teaching practice to complete the programme.

  • Course Load

CELTA courses are known to be rigorous, as you’re required to complete four written assignments and prepare lesson plans for your ESL students. TEFL courses vary in intensity, and some allow you to complete your teaching practice at your own pace, as long as you finish it within the schedule of the programme.

  • Price

TEFL courses are cheaper compared to CELTA, costing as little as $200. Since CELTA is considered a prestigious programme, fees for courses cost between $1,500 and $4,000. Despite the price, CELTA is an internationally recognised certificate, and it increases your chance of getting into the school of your choice.


With the demand for English teachers increasing, it’s natural to want to get ahead of other applicants. Although some schools do not require English language courses like TEFL and CELTA, being certified shows your commitment to a high teaching standard, and makes you more attractive to potential employers.

The Author

Like this article?

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkdin
Share on Pinterest
Scroll to Top