While much has been said about the value of a CELTA course, this section aims to describe in depth the role and structure of a CELTA certification. After all, it has its reputation for high quality for a reason – and it could help you better prepare for your next ESL job search.
There is no shortage of acronyms in the ever-growing English as a Second Language industry. Still, while competing names even for the industry itself – be it ESL, EFL, TESOL, or TEFL – abound, a few industry acronyms command attention by standing head and shoulders above the rest. Of these, the CELTA doubtless makes the shortlist of many. Its popularity and high regard have made it an industry buzzword but for those new to teaching English abroad it can doubtless appear confusing. Part of this confusion doubtless stems from the fact that its proper name itself no longer matches the acronym that is so widely recognized! Such is the value of its brand that what was once the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults is now the Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages but the CELTA abbreviation is still maintained.
Thus, as its full name indicates, the CELTA is a certification course for teachers of English. What gives it its lofty reputation, then? In a word: pedigree. CELTA courses are internationally recognized because they were developed (and are constantly audited) by the world famous University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations department. Because of Cambridge ESOL’s reputation for excellence, CELTA courses are themselves seen as one of the gold standards in English teaching qualifications. Given this it is perfect for those who are interested in teaching both in an English-speaking nation or internationally. Because it is so widely recognized around the world, however, it is widely sought after by those who are interested in teaching English abroad.
Cambridge ESOL did not just lend the CELTA its reputation, however – it also provided the program with its structure. Designed for people with little (or no) teaching experience in mind, the CELTA provides students with a background in English teaching methodology and language analysis as well as practical experience by way of six hours of assessed teaching practice with actual ESL classes. Because the emphasis is on developing practical skills that would-be teachers can use in the classroom, teaching practice is considered a particularly important component in determining a candidate’s final grade. Although written assignments are also factored into a student’s final grade, this system ensures that only the most proficient instructors earn a CELTA certification. Grades are subsequently awarded on a Pass, Pass B and Pass A basis and certificates are issued by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate, a part of the University of Cambridge.
That having been said, you do no need to set foot on the University of Cambridge campus to earn a CELTA – there are over 286 approved CELTA centers in 54 countries, providing almost 900 CELTA courses every year. Each course is audited Cambridge ESOL – meaning that all CELTA courses have to meet certain minimum qualifications established by the university – which ensure both quality and flexibility. Training centers are welcome to tweak the design of their curriculum to better meet the needs of their students and, accordingly, different training centers may be a better match for the needs of different students.
Broadly speaking however, full-time CELTA courses consist of 120 instructional hours over four weeks and part-time programs can take several months. Online CELTA options also exist. As you would imagine, though, the flagship full-time program, with its long days and high standards, can be very intense. It is, however, this level of rigor that has made the CELTA so popular with employers, who give it (and any resume containing it) consideration for almost any opening. Given this high regard, CELTA courses have increased in popularity among English teachers as a whole in recent years and may well represent your first step in a successful English teaching career!