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What is CELTA and What is CELTA Certification?

One of the most common acronyms used in the field of teaching English as a second language (ESL) is CELTA. Learn what CELTA stands for and how it is used regarding qualifications for teaching ESL.

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Embarking on a journey into the world of teaching English as a second language often starts with a quest for the right qualifications. Let's delve into the CELTA certification—what it is, its significance, and why it stands as a pillar in the realm of English language education. Whether you're considering a career teaching English or simply curious about the CELTA certification, let's uncover the essentials together.

CELTA Meaning

What Does CELTA Stand For? 

CELTA stands for Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Initially, the acronym stood for Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults. However, the actual name for the course was changed to Cambridge English Level 5 Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CELTA) in 2011 to reflect changes in the curriculum to include training for teaching English to young learners (children) as well as adults.

What is CELTA Certification? 

CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is a well-known training and certification course for teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) offered by Cambridge Assessment English.

Originally, many CELTA graduates traditionally taught English primarily to adults and business professionals in Europe and around the globe. Cambridge English enacted these name changes to make CELTA more relevant and marketable for those looking to teach English in growing markets in Asia and elsewhere, where opportunities to teach English to children have skyrocketed in recent decades.

Since 1988, the course has been overseen by Cambridge Assessment English, a non-teaching department of Cambridge University in the U.K., which is best known for developing assessment exams and standards for testing and developing the English skills of non-native speakers. 

Like other top TEFL certification courses (including International TEFL Academy’s online TEFL course), CELTA courses are recognized as Level 5 on the Ofqual register. This designation means that it showcases specialized professional-level skills and is globally recognized as a professional-level qualification by thousands of schools and language institutes providing English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction.

Ways to Take a CELTA Course

While Cambridge Assessment English oversees CELTA courses, many of the course locations around the globe that are licensed to offer CELTA courses are independent educational institutions. This means that the exact format and schedule of classes may vary though the curriculum and certification are the same. It also means that students in different locations may receive differing services like job placement assistance for finding ESL teaching. Many centers are local to a particular city or region and may offer job guidance for only that locale. Others may provide worldwide guidance or no such services at all.

How Long Does a CELTA Course Take?

Students can take CELTA courses in-person, online, and in a hybrid format that combines online and in-person classes and practice teaching. Most in-person courses are full-time intensive and last 4-5 weeks. In-person courses are offered by approximately 250 centers worldwide.

A CELTA certified teacher practicing teaching english

What’s in a CELTA Certification Course? 

CELTA courses are designed to provide students with skills for teaching English as a foreign language using a dual focus on theory and practice. Courses include at least 120 hours of class time, similar to other Level 5 TEFL certification courses. In addition, students must complete six hours of practice teaching.

Is CELTA Hard to Pass?

CELTA can be challenging due to its intensive nature. CELTA course content focuses on various TEFL-related knowledge and skillsets, including planning and resources, and teaching language skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking, professionalism, and language awareness). With dedication and effort, many find success in meeting its rigorous standards.

How Much Does CELTA Certification Cost?

CELTA certification costs vary by location and institution but generally range from $1,500 to $4,000 USD. This depends on the center offering a CELTA course and whether you take the course online or in person.

Tuition may or may not include additional services such as job guidance, and for those attending a course from out of town, it does not include costs for accommodation, travel, food, and other living expenses.

Is CELTA Better Than TEFL or TESOL?

CELTA is one particular version of a TEFL/TESOL course. There are many TEFL and TESOL courses of varying quality offered worldwide. As a Level 5 TEFL course with worldwide recognition, CELTA is considered an elite TEFL course, unlike many courses that do not meet the same academic standards. 

However, there are TEFL courses that meet or exceed the same standards as CELTA. Also, those looking to teach English abroad should consider whether they need services like job search guidance that some CELTA-approved courses may or may not provide.

It is important to note that TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) are generic terms that both refer to providing English language instruction for non-native speakers. There is no one specific “TEFL” or “TESOL” course that is separate or distinct from a “CELTA” course. In most cases, when you encounter references to ESL teaching certificates for teaching English abroad, a “TEFL certification” and a “TESOL certification” are the same, and the terms are interchangeable.

Read more: TEFL/TESOL/CELTA - What's the difference?

Recommendation: If you seek a top-level TEFL certification course to teach English abroad or online, thoroughly research your options and consider which class and which TEFL school will best meet your personal needs and goals. Consider additional services and benefits you may need, like job search guidance and alumni community. Do not assume that one TEFL course is better just because of comments you may read online. Here are some helpful tips for choosing the best TEFL course.

CELTA Certification Students in their classroom

Do I Need a CELTA For Teaching English Abroad?

No. A CELTA will qualify you for ESL job positions abroad; however, you do not “need a CELTA” to teach English abroad or online. For many years, CELTA was among the best-known certifications for teaching English as a foreign language abroad, especially in Europe and the U.K., where CELTA is based. 

However, today, there are many well-known TEFL courses and TEFL schools that will provide you with an equivalent certification. You can take a certification course labeled as TEFL, TESL, TESOL, or CELTA, and you will earn a legitimate qualification if your TEFL course meets specific international standards set forth by the British Council and recognized by employers around the globe. These basic standards include:

  • At least 100 hours of training and coursework (equivalent to a full-time 4-week intensive course);
  • At least 6 hours of live practice teaching (practicum) with actual ESL students (since COVID-19, this can typically be completed in a live classroom environment, or virtually);
  • The course is taught by qualified university-level instructors (typically this means holding at least an M.A. in teaching English as a foreign language or linguistics, a DELTA or extensive professional training and English teaching experience);
  • The course uses a curriculum that is accredited and externally monitored by at least one independent and credible organization in the field.

If you want to receive the professional training you need to teach at a professional level, you will need to gain a recognized certification that will qualify you for tens of thousands of jobs worldwide; you need to have an accredited 120 hour TEFL certification course that meets the standards outlined above.


What Can I Do with a CELTA Certification?

A CELTA certification is one of the more recognized TEFL certifications that will qualify you for many jobs teaching ESL around the world and online.

The field of TEFL/TESOL represents one of the fastest-growing educational sectors worldwide. It presents thousands of excellent professional opportunities for teaching English abroad in all corners of the globe to native and fluent English speakers who earn their TEFL/TESOL certification.


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