TEFL, TESOL, CELTA… no, we’re not playing scrabble.


These are three of the many qualifications you can get to teach abroad.

Which one’s right for you? Good question. It’s important you find out before you sign up because if you choose the wrong one and your school won’t accept it, you might end up spending more than you expected.

Here’s a quick guide to the different types of courses, and who they’re best for.



These two acronyms are often used interchangeably. They’re both designed for people with little to no teaching experience who want to teach abroad. Both courses cover similar material and last around 120 hours.

Most schools around the world will ask that you have either a TEFL or a TESOL certificate as a basic condition of employment. But neither of them will catapult you to the higher end of the salary scale. They’re entry-level qualifications that will earn you an entry-level rate. Depending on where you want to work, this might be perfectly affordable. Make sure to check the rates of the country you’re interested in to figure out if it’s worth investing in a TEFL/TESOL or something more advanced.


So, is there a difference?

Yes, a small one.

A TEFL qualification lets you teach English abroad, but it only qualifies you to work with native speakers of the country you’re in. So, if you have a TEFL and you want to teach English in Vietnam, you can only teach native Vietnamese speakers.

A TESOL, however, allows you to teach English to speakers of any language either at home or abroad.

The other slight difference is that TESOL is more common (as both a term and a course) in the U.S. and Australia, while TEFL is more popular in the U.K. and Ireland.

Still following? Now let’s complicate things…



This is the most intensive of the three courses. Countries with competitive ESL markets and prestigious schools often require it, as it includes more practical and theoretical modules.

Because of this, CELTA courses are the most widely recognised. They’re ideal for teachers who are just starting out, and for more experienced educators looking to take the next step in their careers. As you might expect, a CELTA helps you stand out from the crowd; it shows you’re serious about teaching. It’s also a great negotiating tool when it comes to talking salary.

The status comes at a cost, however. You’ll need to commit to a full-time 4-week study schedule and around £1295. So make sure you’re serious about it!


What do we recommend?

If you’re not sure where your career path will take you, but you want to try teaching abroad, TEFL and TESOL courses are great options. They’re much more affordable than the CELTA, and you can complete them online if you can’t commit to a full-time schedule. As for which of the two you should choose, that depends on where you want to go and what you want to do. Check the rules of your host country before you make a decision.

A CELTA is the best option for candidates considering an ESL teaching career. It will give you much more confidence in the classroom and open more opportunities across more countries – including your home country. Likewise, if you’re aiming for a higher salary, a CELTA might be for you. But keep in mind that money shouldn’t be your only motivation.


Ready to take the ESL classroom by storm? Explore our programs in Vietnam, Thailand,  China, Cambodia or Poland  or send in an application

Or, if you’re still not sure, drop us a message; we’re here to help.

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