Whether you take the CELTA completely in person or as a blended course, you will have to be physically present at a teaching center for your teaching practicals and to receive feedback from your tutors. It’s important to choose the right center to get the most out of your course.
CELTA is the same certification no matter where you take it. Standards for candidates and the course itself are highly consistent. Cambridge English even sends inspectors to the centers to make sure that every course is high quality and that candidates are fairly graded. You can search all the teaching centers on the Cambridge English website. Never book a CELTA course offered by a center that isn’t certified by Cambridge English.
Choosing a Center
There are many factors to consider when choosing your center, including location, cost, schedule, teaching staff, and resources at the school. I got my CELTA at York St. John University in York, England. My journey to this center was partly through choice and partly through circumstance. I had planned to renew as a language assistant in France but had a problem with my renewal and decided not to come back.
However, I had already booked a return ticket to France! I didn’t want to waste my ticket, so I decided to complete the CELTA in Europe. I didn’t have enough tourist visa days left for the Schengen zone (continental Europe) so I chose the UK. London was too expensive, and I wanted to travel around Scotland for six weeks after the course. York was a big enough city close to Scotland and the course was offered through a university which, at the time, seemed more reputable to me than a private language school.
CELTA at a University Center
Once I started the course, I was glad I had chosen a center at a university since I also had access to the university library. This was most important for the four written assignments required by CELTA. It would have been more difficult (though not impossible) to have done them without access to the university library catalog. Getting my CELTA through the university also got me a UK student ID which turned out to be really useful for discounts on transportation, museums, food, and even lodging during my vacation in Scotland.
As part of your CELTA, you also have to observe experienced teachers in the classroom. Since there were plenty of international students at York St. John University, those observations were really easy to do in person and the classes were mostly academic English for university students which was totally unlike the groups we taught for our practicals.
CELTA is a general certification and isn’t focused on academic English, so observing those kinds of courses helped round out my overall TESOL education.
CELTA at a Language School
If you take the CELTA at a language school or a special school just for TESOL certifications, such as Teaching House (a popular choice in the US), you’ll still get a great course with qualified instructors and resources you need. Additionally, since these schools are more specialized than a university, you may get access to TESOL-specific job boards and a wide variety of TESOL opportunities outside of an academic context.
There are also just more non-university centers, especially outside the UK. Each center sets its own calendar, so choose the school that offers the most convenient course for you.
CELTA in an English-Speaking Country
I am grateful to have taken the CELTA in an English-speaking country since the students in class for the teaching practicals were extremely diverse. The CELTA candidate teaching courses, at least at York St. John, are completely free for students. Almost all the students were recent immigrants to the UK and had a wide variety of ages, backgrounds, and mother tongues.
I have a special passion for for these types of learners and had been a volunteer tutor with recent immigrants back in the US. A section of CELTA focuses on learning how to interview students and understand their needs as well as general reading on mother-tongue specific challenges for learners. A more diverse group gives you deeper practice in these essential skills.
If you take the CELTA outside of an English-speaking country, be prepared for more monolingual classrooms. On the plus side, if you hope to work in-country, you’ll have lots of experience with those speakers and be better prepared to address their specific needs in the classroom. On the downside, you won’t get as much exposure to different nationalities and mother tongues which could prove useful later, especially if you teach in a different country than where you got your CELTA.
Going abroad for CELTA?
Even though I didn’t do it this way, I think it’s more useful to get your CELTA in the geographic area you would like to work. You also make a lot of professional contacts in the ESOL world through the course—your tutors, your classmates, the teachers you observe, the head of the language school or program director, etc.
Many language schools recruit teachers directly through the local CELTA course. In my course, I met several language school owners and teachers that were interested in hiring new teachers from our course. A local candidate from Yorkshire was hired by one of the schools that visited our CELTA course as her first CELTA-certified job, and it was an extremely positive experience for her. I wish I had had opportunities like that, but it just wasn’t possible since I didn’t have the right to work or stay in the UK.
All the positives from my CELTA abroad considered, be careful about going abroad for your CELTA. Depending on your nationality, you might have to get a visa, and, if you’re brand new like I was at York, you also might have to sort out your own housing. Some centers will be able to arrange accommodation for you but others won’t, so research your center carefully.
I had to find my own housing and was left on my own visa-wise. It wasn’t too complicated, but I did have to get a special stamp at the airport from immigration without which I would have been turned away from the course by the university registrar.
The plus side of being totally outside of my regular life was that I could really devote my time and energy to CELTA. Not having any commitments like a job or family to take care of allowed me to focus on the course and survive the stress.
With CELTA, you’re working all day every day with no real rest for a month. It can be very difficult to complete if you are also working full time, caring for family members, or otherwise already busy. You always have more than one chance to complete assignments and your teaching skills just have to improve, not be perfect. But all the opportunities to pass don’t really mean much if you just don’t have enough hours in the day to finish the work.
And that’s the end of my center-choosing journey! I hope this guide has given you a better idea of the types of centers to take CELTA and which one works best for you.
- All CELTA courses are equal.
- Always choose a certified center.
- Take CELTA where you want to work.
- Choose the course that fits your calendar.
Feel free to leave comments with your own experiences and any questions you have!
This article is the second 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!