There are many certification programs available, ranging from weekend immersion courses to 2-month, full-time programs. It is also possible to earn a certificate through online study, though this option is less preferred because it lacks practical training. According to the TESOL International Association, the best certificate programs should meet the following three criteria:
- Offer a balance of theory and practice regarding pedagogy and methodology;
- Be taught by qualified teacher educators, preferably with master’s degrees in ESL;, and
- Have a minimum of 100 instructional hours that include supervised practice teaching.
The primary advantage of certification programs is that they offer excellent preparation in the fundamentals of language acquisition and instruction, as well as training in classroom management and the effective use of a variety of learning materials. Especially for recent college graduates with limited work and/or teaching experience, the training offered in a TESOL/TEFL certificate program is a relatively quick way to gain valuable teaching skills and practical experience before starting a first job. Certification programs also provide training in effective resume and cover letter writing, interviewing skills, and contract negotiation. The other advantage of certification programs is that they have extensive connections and resources available to help students find jobs.
Following are brief descriptions of four of the most well-known and internationally recognized TESOL certification programs.
CELTA: This program, formally titled the Cambridge Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CELTA), is administered by Cambridge University in England. The course involves 4-5 weeks of full-time study, and can also be pursued as a part-time program over several months. Earning a CELTA certificate requires 120 contact hours, with another 80 hours dedicated to learning material and preparing for practice teaching. The course concludes with an assessment based on six hours of practice teaching to ESL students at two different levels of ability. Upon successful completion of the course, students are issued a certificate through the University of Cambridge. Many institutions in the U.S. and around the world offer CELTA certification courses, with variations in cost depending on location. The cost for a standard CELTA certification program in the U.S. is approximately $2,500.
SIT TESOL Certificate: The School for International Training, based in Brattleboro, VT, offers a 130-hour TESOL certificate course at locations around the U.S. and abroad. Like the CELTA certification program, the SIT course offers extensive training in how to teach reading, writing, listening, speaking, pronunciation, and grammar at the beginning and intermediate levels. Cost in the U.S. is comparable to CELTA programs.
Trinity Certificate in TESOL: Offered by Trinity College, London, the Trinity TESOL course involves 130 hours of instruction, either full-time or part-time, at over 100 locations around the world. It involves requirements and content similar to those of CELTA and SIT.
TEFL Certificate: This is a more general term for a host of certification courses available in the U.S. and Canada. Programs can run anywhere from 2-6 weeks, but the best programs will involve at least 4 weeks of training.
In general, if you have the time and money, earning a TESOL or TEFL certificate is advisable for improving your chances of landing a good English-teaching job overseas. Anecdotal evidence suggests that certificates are less of a requirement in Asia, but more highly in demand in Europe and the Middle East. Many people with experience in the profession suggest earning the certificate in the country where you plan to teach, the better to gain assistance from the certificate program in your job search.