TESOL vs TEFL vs CELTA — What Does it Mean?

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You want to teach English as a second language but all these acronyms are mind-boggling. What does it all mean?!

You don’t know which certification is better – there are so many to choose from.

In this article, I break down the differences between a TESOL, TEFL and CELTA so you won’t feel so out of your depth. In short:

TESOL vs TEFL vs CELTA Overview

TESOL — Teach English to Speakers of Other Languages

TEFL — Teach English as a Foreign Language

CELTA — Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults

Other Acronyms

ESL — English as a Second Language

ESOL — English Speakers of Other Languages

ELL — English Language Learner

TEFL, TESOL and CELTA programs provide training that shows you how to teach various language skills such as listening, speaking, grammar, and writing. You will learn classroom management and know how to meet the different needs of English language learners.

So what does this really mean?


The terms TESOL and TEFL are used interchangeably when speaking about courses. They are used to refer to teaching English to non-native speakers.

So, what is the difference between TESOL and TEFL?

You will often hear the term “TESOL” used more often in the United States, whereas you will hear “TEFL” more commonly in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

If you want to start your teaching career as an ESL teacher, you must show you have one of these qualifications.

Usually, a teaching certificate, such as a TESOL or TEFL, is required if you apply for a job as an English Language Teacher. I recommend a TEFL or a TESOL because they are usually much more affordable and less time-consuming than a CELTA.

Language schools abroad normally accept both types of accreditation- TESOL and TEFL. Ultimately, both courses aim to enhance their teaching skills and help students improve their fluency.

What is a TEFL certificate?

TEFL, also known as ‘Teaching English as a Foreign Language,’ is the better-known certificate of the two. It is considered the most widely recognized certification in non-native English-speaking countries.

It is most suitable for prospective teachers who want to travel abroad and teach in other countries. You will learn how to handle the classroom in a place where English is not the first language.

A TEFL certificate is not very hard to pass, but you need to put in the work.

You don’t need a bachelor’s degree or other qualifications to complete it. The average time to completion is 4-6 weeks. You can complete it even faster if you haven’t anything else to do.

When you receive your certificate of completion, you can apply for all the jobs you want in schools or on TEFL websites. But be wary of recruiters, research the job thoroughly and ensure the school exists to avoid scams. See here how to spot a scam.

What Should You Look for in a TEFL Course?

  • At least a 120-hour certificate
  • You can find it on the Register of Regulated Qualifications
  • Ongoing support from experienced tutors
  • Provide assessments and grading
  • Continually updated quality course material
  • A government-regulated qualification
  • Some in-class training or teaching practice (optional)
  • Job support and assistance (optional)

How Much Does a Course Certificate Cost?

The cost of a TEFL certificate can vary drastically, based on the courses themselves.

Some TEFL courses give you on-the-job experience or in-person training. Others are based online.

Check the course accreditation and make sure it’s valid. Some courses are misleading, especially those courses on the daily deal websites.

Typically you will pay between $200-$600 for a middle-of-the-range TEFL course.

What is a TESOL certificate?

TESOL is another common acronym you might hear in the world of English language teaching.

A TESOL certificate is generally best for those who want to teach non-native English speakers in their home country. It stands for ‘Teaching English To Speakers of Other Languages’ and is a commonly used term in the U.S.

In North America, for example, you may need a master’s degree in TESOL to be an English language teacher at the public school level. This does not apply to private language schools.

British, Australian and Canadian often issue a TESOL certificate used for domestic training.

Check out this video for further clarification:

CELTA Certificate

Furthermore, if you really want to invest in your certificate, you should look no further than a CELTA.

A CELTA stands for “Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults.”It is awarded by a branch of the University of Cambridge.

A CELTA is a very intensive and widely regarded ESL course. However, you do not need a CELTA to get an English language teaching job.

You can still apply for teaching jobs if you have some form of certification.

Oftentimes, it will say on the job advertisements that they accept teachers with a “CELTA or equivalent,” which means that you don’t necessarily have to do a CELTA course. A level-5 TEFL course provides the same level of qualification as a CELTA.

The key is getting some experience under your belt, which will work in your favor when applying to these schools. Think about your experience working with kids or adults, and include that in your resume.

My Recommended TEFL Course

There are plenty of online courses out there, but I highly recommend the TEFL Academy if you want a teaching certificate from an internationally recognized, government-regulated TEFL provider.

It landed me a job within less than a week of completion.

The course offers a level-5 qualification (the same level as a CELTA) and equates to a 168-hour course.

If you can, try to get the certificate, including some classroom experience. This was the option I chose, and it really improved my job opportunities when I was first applying for jobs.

The TEFL Academy guides you through the process, from finding a job to planning lessons. If you want to find out more, read my review.

TESOL Recommendation for Teaching Online

If you plan on teaching English online and need a certificate quickly, I recommend this TESOL certificate from the International Open Academy.

You can check out their TESOL course here. I recommend it because it’s cheap and a good place to start. They are accredited by the International Council for Online Educational Standards (www.icoes.org).

This is one of the most popular courses completed by online ESL teachers. It only takes them roughly a weekend to complete.

They also have a TEFL certification course, the same as the TESOL one. Either one is fine, but due to the popularity of the TEFL, I would go for this one. You can find it here.

This is the course for you if you want to get a job teaching English with a company online. But if you want more experience and expertise, I recommend taking The TEFL Academy course, which I discussed earlier.

This TESOL/ TEFL course is not very in-depth compared to the other courses, but it is accepted by many ESL companies.


TEFL, TESOL and CELTA certificate programs are a surefire way to start your new teaching career. The courses provide hours of training that will prepare you for various teaching positions.

As you can see, there are some subtle differences between the TEFL and TESOL certificates, as the terms are used interchangeably in native and non-native-speaking countries.

It is a good idea to do a TEFL course if you want to teach abroad or online as it is one of the most widely-known English language qualifications.

Best of luck in becoming a qualified English teacher!

Teach English Abroad Certification - What You Need to Know


Do these courses expire?

TEFL and TESOL courses do not expire! You will have the certificates for life. You can even study for more than one if you find an interesting course.

How much do online TEFL courses cost?

They can cost anywhere from $20 to $1000+. It depends on what you are looking for in a course and the price you are willing to pay. Expect to pay $250+ for a good course.

How long does it take to complete the TEFL course?

The TEFL course usually takes 4-6 weeks to complete on average. You will have a good time frame in which to complete the course. You can complete them even faster if you want. Some TEFL courses are more intensive than others, some being 100 hours while others have 300-hour certificates. You can complete some in just a short weekend.

How much can you make as an online English teacher?

The pay is limitless. You can work for companies and make $20 per hour, or you could freelance and specialize and make $100+ per hour. It also depends on the country you work in and what you intend to do with the teaching certificate. Currently, I make up to $65+ per hour teaching groups.

Can non-native speakers of English take a TEFL course?

Yes, non-native English speakers can do a TEFL course. English does not have to be your native language in order for you to teach it!

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I'm an Irish tutor and founder of TPR Teaching. I started teaching in 2016 and have since taught in the UK, Spain, and online.

I love learning new things about the English language and how to teach it better. I'm always trying to improve my knowledge, so I can better meet the needs of others!

I enjoy traveling, nature walks, and soaking up a new culture. Please share the posts if you find them helpful!

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2 thoughts on “TESOL vs TEFL vs CELTA — What Does it Mean?”

  1. Heya just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of the pictures aren’t loading properly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different web browsers and both show the same results.


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