How to Choose a TESOL Certification Course
Choosing the right TESOL certification course can be very stressful. After all, the wrong course basically amounts to time and money down the drain. By carefully considering your needs and the pros and cons of each type of certification, you can enrol in the course which will meet your needs and get you started in a challenging, but rewarding career which can literally take you around the world.
CELTA vs. The Other Guys
For a large percentage of the ESL world, there is only one name in TESOL certification: CELTA, the Cambridge Certificate In English Language Teaching To Adults. Everyone else is just The Other Guy. Depending on where you want to go (geographically) in your career, this could be a deciding factor.
However, if you plan to teach in Asia, for example, the CELTA is seen as one of many options for certification. Since it is fairly expensive, requires one month of full-time study (if you live near a course provider, you may have a part-time option), and is very intensive (even part time), you may want to opt for a less stressful course.
The CELTA is a very practical course, in contrast to a Master's program which is largely theoretical. So, many people choose to earn both qualifications. It also requires observed teaching practice, unlike some other TESOL courses. You should be aware that some employers will accept other certificates only if the course included observed teaching practice.
CELTA Up Close and Personal
- My Life! Teaching in a Korean University: celta
A friend of mine recently took the CELTA and lived to blog about it. She discusses various aspects of the course (including how hard it is) as well as detailing her practice lessons.
What do You do in a CELTA Course?
As mentioned above, some schools prefer a CELTA, but will consider any certificate that includes teaching practica, that is, observed demonstration lessons which must be of a certain standard in order to pass the course.
The CELTA requires six hours of teaching practice, so you should probably consider that the standard. In other words, don't waste your time with a course which requires only one teaching demonstration.
Online vs Offline Certification
If you are taking a course for your own edification, then by all means, take the course which fits in with your lifestyle, even if it is online. However, there are very few employers which will consider an online certificate to be a "real" qualification. If it is absolutely your only option, then I would only consider the online CELTA, simply because the reputation of Cambridge may help.
Honestly, there are too many certificates available online for the price of "enrollment" and too few legitimate ones. With a plethora of qualified teachers around these days, there is no need for a school to take the time to research which category your online certificate belongs to.
I work in Korea, where all offline courses are seen as fairly equal, whether they included teaching practica or not, but online certificates are generally dismissed out of hand.
You could go for the gold and get a Master's degree. I have an MEd. TESOL, but the requirements were virtually the same as for an MA. Be aware when you choose this option that it is very different from TESOL certification.
CELTA and other certificate courses are practical in nature. They teach you what to teach and how to be a good teacher. Master's programs focus on the theories of language acquisition and various aspects of language education.
Having earned an MEd. TESOL and having taught a TESOL certification course, I still plan to take the CELTA course when I move to Europe, simply because it is an excellent course and I am not delusional enough to think I have learned all there is to know about teaching ESL. It will have to wait though, because I'm also not delusional enough to think I can take it part time while teaching full time.
You should be aware that if you plan to teach at the tertiary level, this is the entry level degree. In the past, a BA and some experience could get you a university position in South Korea, but as the market has matured, that has become a thing of the past. In fact, many professors I know are currently working on EdDs or PhDs in order to continue to stand out in a crowded field.
In any case, the (very few) tenured foreign professors I know hold terminal degrees. I've never even heard rumors of a foreign professor getting tenure with only a Master's degree. So, if you are interested in ESL as a career, and plan to teach at the university level, be aware that a Master's degree may get you in the door, but you will be expected to pursue development opportunities, and ultimately may need to earn a higher degree.