Many faces of TESOL Certifications

The market for English as a Second Language instructors has blossomed over the last few decades and so too has the number of TESOL Certifications options. Would-be international educators that are wondering how to teach English abroad are now confronted with a veritable alphabet soup of competing acronyms like TESOL [Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages], ELT [English Language Teaching], and TEFL [Teaching English as a Foreign Language].

Fortunately, however, the astounding number letter combinations that have popped up in recent years are largely interchangeable. The acronyms, born out of competition among certifying institutions, are not globally standardized and are frequently seen as equivalent. Thus an employer will typically consider a TESOL certification to be the same as a TEFL certification and vice versa.

That is not to say, however, that all programs are created equal: while a given ELT certification may be seen as equivalent to a TEFL certification, the pedigree of the certification is becoming increasingly important. Thus the letters matter less than where they came from. Every employer is different but, generally speaking, an online TEFL program is less-well respected than an intensive on-site one – but a generic on-site one is itself less prestigious than one which also features classroom experience. Of course, the CELTA [Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults] in general and the DELTA [Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults] in particular remain the gold standard of ESL education. The DELTA, for example, the professional qualification in English language teaching backed by the University of Cambridge, is widely respected throughout the world.

At the same time, however, it is important to remember that ESL positions are like snowflakes – each one is unique. As a result there is still considerable appeal to even the simplest of online certifications. Applicants and employers alike know that it may well be just the first step in a long time of TESOL certification and ESL success.

TESOL Certifications and the Changing Market for Teaching English Abroad

The big question for many would-be international English teachers is not why, but how to teach English abroad. After all, although international demand for English teachers is at an all-time high, so too is the supply of would-be educators. Indeed, what was once a fringe movement has become a large – and increasingly competitive – industry.

At the same time, a TESOL certification, long seen as a leg-up in a job search but not an essential feature of one, is increasingly becoming a prerequisite. While it of course remains possible to get a job teaching English abroad without formal certifications – private companies around the world and the Peace Corps in the United States, for example, are always looking for raw recruits – it is increasingly more difficult to get the best jobs without one. For example, many government programs in countries like Japan and South Korea that once enlisted scores of untrained teachers annually (but also offered stable, secure positions) have slowly shifted their focus towards certified instructors.

Fortunately, a teaching certificate is also easier to come by than ever. 120 hour programs are offered in an equally varied number of locations and mediums. Some TESOL Certification programs are fully online, others part-time over several months, and still others full-time (and can be completed in your home country or at a growing number of international locations) meaning that there are options to fit anyone’s time and budget.

Also, it is important to remember that many TESOL certificate courses make your eventual job search still easier. Not only do they make you a better candidate in general, some even offer fringe benefits like job placement through partner schools while others team up with recruiting agencies in specific countries. In any case, however, your training will doubtless serve you well once you step into that classroom, wherever it might be.