Ten definitive answers to your most common CELTA questions
We sit down with a CELTA expert to put to rest all of your frequently-asked questions about the course.
With more than 100 centres worldwide, hundreds of students a year and 15 years in the business, it’s little surprise that we often get thrown some curve-ball questions here at StudyCELTA. But there are also a few that we field every day. The same few that if you do a basic internet search, you’ll find a range of different, inconsistent answers.
So, with that in mind, we’ve spoken to Claire Potter, Head of Teacher Training in Seville and a Cambridge assessor, to answer – once and for all – your most burning CELTA questions.
Forget the five different responses you’ve seen mused in social media groups and on TEFL forums – to find out everything you need to know about the CELTA course, this is the only article you’ll need.
- What’s the difference between CELTA and TEFL or TESOL courses?
- What is the CELTA equivalent to on a qualifications scale?
- Do I need a university degree to take the CELTA course?
- Does the CELTA course guarantee me a job?
- Does it matter where in the world I take the CELTA?
- Does it show on my certificate where I took the course?
- If I take a part-time or online-blended course, as opposed to a full-time course, does it say that on my certificate?
- Is it possible to miss days of the course?
- Does the CELTA train me to teach beginner students when I don’t know any of their first language?
- Will the CELTA course make me a great English teacher?
What’s the difference between CELTA and TEFL or TESOL courses?
It’s not uncommon to hear someone talking about how they want to teach English abroad, but first they need to get ‘the TEFL’.
But what is this mysterious, elusive ‘TEFL’ they speak of, and where can I find it? The truth is, it is both everything and nothing; you see, TEFL is really only an acronym (meaning Teaching English as a Foreign Language) used to describe any myriad of teacher training courses.
But TEFL has seemingly taken on a life of its own, adapted and strewed by course providers to make it sound like an actual certificate – ‘the TEFL’ – and that it’s a must-do for budding teachers.
Claire Potter explains it a little further: “CELTA is a TEFL course… that’s what the CELTA is all about; training you to teach English to foreign students, or to speakers of another language in your own country.”
TESOL means much the same thing (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), but it’s worth noting that there is one course with a similar name – the Trinity Cert TESOL – which is also held in high regard.
“Most academies will be looking for trainees who have completed the CELTA course, and also the Trinity TESOL course is popular,” adds Potter.
“Essentially those are the two courses that you will find are recognised and accepted all over the world, because they involve a lot of in-depth training, teaching practice, being observed and assessed, and a lot of methodology which is clearly linked to practice in the classroom.”
What is the CELTA equivalent to on a qualifications scale?
It’s a little bit above secondary school, and a little bit below university – in the UK, the CELTA is measured on the qualifications scale as level five, which puts it even with a higher national certificate or diploma, or a foundation degree.
Claire Potter says that the Delta, a Diploma course for experienced English teachers, is even higher up on the scale at level seven.
“If you do a Delta course, which consists of modules, those modules give you credit towards a Masters, so it’s on the same scale as a Masters course.”
Do I need a university degree to take the CELTA course?
Officially no, you don’t. Candidates who have completed education, such as secondary school, that would allow them to embark on a degree are eligible.
“We’ve had many CELTA candidates who aren’t degree qualified,” adds Potter, “The only thing about having a degree is that in certain countries you will need to have a degree to get a working visa as a teacher of foreign language, but that doesn’t apply to Spain, for example.”
Does the CELTA course guarantee me a job?
We’ve all seen the spiels from online TEFL course providers, promising successful candidates a job at the end of the course.
But, according to Potter, if something seems too good to be true – it probably is.
“I know that there are many courses that aren’t CELTA or Trinity that offer you a job after it, and essentially it’s just teaching the same students you’ve been teaching on the course (if you’ve been doing teaching practice on the course), and being paid a low amount.”
While you aren’t automatically offered a position at the end of a CELTA course, it does put you high up on the list for hiring academies.
“Here in Seville, we have a job information service and we get many, many local academies who contact us when they are looking for teachers, and we pass all that information onto trainees,” says Potter.
“CELTA is the one qualification that all academies and institutions recognise.”
Does it matter where in the world I take the CELTA?
Locations for CELTA courses are becoming more and more off the beaten track – gone are the days of students flocking to Anglophone hubs like Cambridge and London – you can now take a course in the Galapagos Islands, New Delhi or Bali.
But many budding CELTA trainees are tricked into thinking that taking a course in one of these non-traditional locations means that it’s somehow ‘worth’ less.
Claire Potter puts those misconceptions to bed: “One of the things about the CELTA course that makes it such a quality course is that it’s standardised and it’s assessed, and this means that every course is visited by an assessor, who checks that the course is being run according to Cambridge guidelines.”
“When you’re looking for a job your employer should not look at where you did the CELTA, they should look at the fact that you’ve got a CELTA certification.”
Does it show on my certificate where I took the course?
According to Potter, “It will state the grade that you are awarded, it will name the dates, and it gives the centre number but it doesn’t actually name the centre.”
The certificate is issued by the University of Cambridge itself, and not the school, and is sent by post around six weeks after you finish. In the meantime, the school gives you a provisional grade letter, which recognises that you have successfully finished the course.
If I take a part-time or online-blended course, as opposed to a full-time course, does it say that on my certificate?
The short answer is that no, it doesn’t.
“Although the course may have been done over a longer period of time, or it might have been an online course whereby… the teaching practice is done in the centres, it doesn’t specify on the certificate how you did the course; it just specifies the qualification that you’ve gained.”
Is it possible to miss days of the course?
The CELTA course, when taken full-time, is an intense, choc-full-of-information, complete immersion into English teaching. Miss just a few hours, and you could miss an entire teaching skill.
That said, if absolutely unavoidable, it is sometimes possible to miss days of the course.
“Officially, you do not have to complete 100 per cent of the course, however, any trainee who misses any percentage of the course is clearly at a disadvantage, and most centres will highly encourage 100 per cent attendance,” says Potter.
“Of course, sometimes somebody has a medical appointment, or somebody has their graduation day – that’s something for the centre to sort out with the trainee. But, can you turn up every other day? No you can’t – professionalism is another aspect that is also assessed.”
And if you unexpectedly miss a day during the course due to illness or an emergency, in most cases the centre will try to work around you. Potter says that past problems have been solved with a little timetable shuffling.
“However, once you start missing a number of days, you have to look at the viability of somebody completing the course successfully… [but] it really is down to the discretion of the centre”.
Does the CELTA train me to teach beginner students when I don’t know any of their first language?
While it seems impossible, there are actually ways to teach learners when you speak zero words of their first language (and they speak zero words of English!).
“It’s challenging but it’s possible”, says Potter, “To give you an example, when I first qualified as a teacher I went to Japan and I didn’t speak a word of Japanese, and I was given students of all ages and levels, including as young as three-year-olds. I think I taught them quite successfully!”
Although you may take the CELTA course in a non-English-speaking country, it’s taught in a way so that you could apply the techniques to any classroom, anywhere in the world – and direct translation is frowned upon.
“We look at all sorts of different techniques that you can use, how you have to grade your language, doing things very visually, and lots of examples.”
“It can be so satisfying when you’re teaching low levels because you really see the progress quickly, [the students] can be very satisfied themselves, and they can see that they’re understanding enough to communicate a little bit in English.”
So, will the CELTA course make me a great English teacher?
There’s an analogy that a lot of CELTA trainers, Claire Potter included, like to use when they talk about the CELTA course: it’s like your first, practical driving exam.
You pass the test, can effectively employ the skills and know all the rules – but the real learning happens out on the open road.
The CELTA is much the same; it equips you with all the knowledge and techniques to teach English, but the classroom is where great teachers are made.
“I think that the amount of information that trainees do take on by the end of the course is incredible,” says Potter, “But, it is still an initial training course, and people find that once they’ve left the course and have started their first job, that’s when they really put into practice a lot of the techniques, and a lot of the planning skills that they’ve learnt on the course.”
“The CELTA is the start of it all.”
Have more CELTA questions? See StudyCELTA’s Answers!