Welcome to the maze of ESL teaching certifications! Today, I am giving you an overview of CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) offered by Cambridge English.
I earned my own CELTA in 2017 and I have used it every day as an ESL teacher in Europe. This article is the first in a series about CELTA. Stay tuned for in-depth articles on the course itself, evaluation and pass levels, and a comparison among other ESL certifications.
What is CELTA?
CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) is an English teaching certification granted by Cambridge English. In order to receive the certification, candidates must complete written coursework, as well as 120 hours of contact time, including practical teaching experience with real adult learners. CELTA is a widely accepted certification which qualifies you to teach adults in most language schools worldwide.
It does not replace a teaching degree, however, and does not qualify you to teach in public schools.
CELTA is a certification for teaching adults, although the course may include a theory session concerning young learners. Cambridge English offers a TKT (Teaching Knowledge Test) specialist module for Young Learners for educators wanting certification in teaching children.
Who needs CELTA?
CELTA offers high-quality education in English language teaching and gives graduates the skills they need to be a successful ESL teacher. CELTA is the preferred certification for ESL teachers in Europe. Yes, you can still work in Europe with a different TESOL/TEFL certification, but some schools (especially the larger, more well-known language schools), schools specifically for adults, and corporate employers have a strong preference for CELTA.
While schools in European countries may favor CELTA, that is not true for the rest of the world. In Asia, Africa, and the Americas, other TESOL certifications are far more common. That being said, CELTA is known and accepted worldwide. You will be able to teach anywhere with CELTA, but you may have a harder time teaching in Europe without it.
Throughout my three years of teaching in Europe, when applying to private language schools, I have always been asked for my CELTA. Private students I have taught, however, generally have not cared about it—and, even if they have, they have only found it only mildly reassuring. Being a native speaker in a foreign country is often enough to get private lessons but does not quite cut it for professional gigs at an established school.
For more information on whether you need a certification at all, see our post “Do you need to get certified as an ESL teacher?”
When should I get CELTA?
Cambridge English’s minimum requirements for CELTA applicants are:
- Being 18+ years
- Being educated according to the standard required for entry into higher education
- Being a proficient English language user (CEFR level high C1 or above)
You must fulfill these requirements to even be interviewed by a CELTA center. In the interview, they will confirm that you meet the language requirements and verify that you have the necessary background and/or skills to follow the course readings. Prior classroom experience is not required to take CELTA, but it is certainly desirable.
Most CELTA candidates have some teaching experience, ranging from a summer of volunteer tutoring to 20 years of experience in the classroom. I got my CELTA after 3 years of committed volunteer tutoring and one year as a language assistant in a French high school. With a little bit of teaching under by belt, I felt prepared to undertake the course.
In my course, there were a number of similar ESL teachers at the beginning of their professional careers—for example, a linguistics student with no practical experience, a retired army sergeant, and one cafe owner with no prior teaching experience. The course proved to be too difficult for the cafe owner and he dropped out. It was just too difficult for him to follow the academic course readings and demonstrate the required teaching skills successfully in such a short time frame.
Make sure you have the time to dedicate to CELTA. It is a highly intensive course, more so than many of the online-only TESOL certifications. In my CELTA course, we were studying in class or teaching a class from 9 a.m. to at least 5 p.m., sometimes at 7 or 8 p.m., five days a week for 4 weeks. And that does not even include the time we spent at the library completing writing assignments.
Check with your specific text center, but usually you will not be refunded if you drop out of or fail the course.
Where and how can I get CELTA?
There are several ways to take CELTA:
- Face-to-face full time (4-5 weeks)
- Face-to face part time (a few months – 1 year)
- Blended learning (online + face-to-face teaching at a flexible pace)
I took the face-to-face full-time course and am glad I did. It was extremely intensive, however. I wound up taking it in the U.K. instead of the U.S., where I am from, or France where I had previously been living. I am glad I went away because I was able to focus 100% on the course with no distractions. If you do not have 4-5 weeks to dedicate exclusively to the course, I recommend taking it part time or as a blended course.
It is an expensive course, and, again, you are generally not entitled to any refund if you cannot complete or fail the course (refunds are handled by the center itself, not Cambridge English). It is also a good idea to earn your CELTA in the geographic area where you would like to teach, since many language schools rely on CELTA centers to find teachers. I did not do that, and it all worked out fine, but at the time I was definitely disappointed when I had to leave the many professional contacts I had met through the course and start building myself professionally all over again in a brand new country.
You can search for a center here. Note that you must have a center even if you take the course online, since all lesson planning and teaching are conducted under the supervision of your tutors at the center.
How expensive is CELTA?
CELTA costs vary by center but are generally between ₱50,000- ₱100,000 ($1,000-$2,000USD). My course at York St. John University cost $1,600. CELTA is, on average, more expensive than other TESOL certifications.
The quality of CELTA is more strictly controlled than other TESOL programs. Cambridge English is ultimately responsible for their actual performance as teachers and sends an inspector to interview candidates, inspect course files and lesson plans, and ensure that the grading of candidates is fair and that every CELTA course meets the same high standards—no matter which center is delivering it.
This means that you will get the same CELTA-quality education no matter which center you attend. So shop around and find the best deal for you. Do not forget to include housing expenses and a possible visa in your budget.
This article is the first in a series about CELTA. Stay tuned for in-depth articles on the course itself, evaluation and pass levels, and a comparison among other ESL certifications!