• Tom Garside

TEFL Certificates, CELTA, CertTESOL… What’s the difference? Qualifications in ELT explained


If you are looking for a teacher training qualification, and are not sure where to turn, you are not alone. There are hundreds of options out there, from free online courses to 6-month full-time qualifications.

Here is a list of the course and qualification types on offer, to help you make the right choice for you and your teaching journey:

TEFL / TESOL Certificate: Not to be confused with TEFL or TESOL (the industries, not the certificates), the term ‘TEFL Certificate’ or ‘TEFL Cert’ are a broad description of the many different initial certificates in ELT. Many of these certificates are not accredited or recognised, and some are free online courses with little practical value. Others are very good courses that do the same job as the Trinity CertTESOL or CELTA. The difference is in accreditation and recognition - a fantastic course which does not include external assessment or validation by an independent body (not an affiliate of the course provider, which has a vested interest in passing people through the course) cannot be verified as high quality or not, other than by reputation. This kind of course is unlikely to have strong international recognition in the industry.

Trinity CertTESOL / Cambridge CELTA: These initial training qualifications are the most widely recognised and accepted qualifications in ELT. They are externally assessed by the validating body (Trinity College London and Cambridge University ESOL respectively), and are an objective mark of quality in teacher training. They are both regulated at Level 5 of the UK’s Ofqual framework, meaning they are equivalent in level to the second year of a UK bachelors degree. Both courses include the same broad range of teaching and learning skills, though many would say that the CertTESOL is roader in scope and more flexible for different teachers working in different situations. Another difference is the focus on phonology (pronunciation theory and teaching) which is included i the CertTESOL course.



Trinity TYLEC: The Trinity Young Learners Extension Certificate, though not regulated on the UK Ofqual framework, is a very useful extension certificate to the Trinity CertTESOL or Cambridge CELTA, which focuses on approaches and methods for working with young learners.

Trinity CertPT: The Trinity Certificate for Practising Teachers is a progression qualification for experienced language teachers, which is regulated at Level 6 on the Ofqual framework. This makes it equivalent to the final year of a UK bachelors degree. The CertPT focuses on the evaluation, adaptation and design of teaching materials with a focus on teachers meeting the specific needs of their learners in the specific settings where they teach.

Trinity DipTESOL / Cambridge DELTA: These post-graduate qualifications are regulated at level 7 on the Ofqual framework, making them equivalent to the first year of a Masters degree. These qualifications are for teachers with over 2 years of post-CertTESOL/CELTA experience in ELT, and extend teachers’ knowledge of theory and practice in specific areas of language and methodology. The qualifications are structured quite differently, but both enhance teachers’ delivery to a very high standard. These Diploma-level qualifications are often required to teach in Higher Education settings to teach EAP, or to move into higher-level positions in management or teacher training.

Whichever course you choose, make sure it does what it says it is going to do for you, and check whether it will give you the opportunities that you want to explore in your teaching career. If you require specific acceptance from a professional or government body to travel, the best thing to do is check with your employer or the appropriate authority to see if your certificate is recognised in that region.

Tom Garside is Director of Language Point Teacher Education. Language Point delivers the internationally recognised RQF level 5 Trinity CertTESOL in a totally online mode of study, and the RQF level 6 Trinity College Certificate for Practising Teachers, a contextually-informed teacher development qualification with a specific focus on online language education.

If you are interested to know more about these qualifications, or you want take your teaching to a another level with our teacher education courses, contact us or visit our course pages for details.

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