ESL Teaching Qualifications
Can anybody be an ESL Teacher?
Whilst unqualified mother-tongue speakers can often find work with smaller schools, either as a teacher or teaching assistant, an ESL Teacher should ideally possess at least a first degree plus a post-graduate teaching qualification and / or a recognised TEFL / TESOL certificate. The most common of these are the Cambridge ELT certificate (CELTA) and the Trinity College London Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).
However, there are many countries in the world where schools have difficulty finding enough qualified teachers and in these cases teachers can often find work without a TEFL / TESOL qualification. In many cases, these schools will encourage or require you to study for certification whilst working for them.
Can I teach English if I’m not a native speaker?
Of course you can, but how easily you find a job will depend on your level of English and, in some countries, on your nationality. If you are bilingual or at near-native level you will generally find it easier to find a teaching post. In some countries, work visa requirements imposed by national governments require that teachers are native-speakers and from a country where English is the recognised national language. These restrictions vary from country to country, so you should check the embassy website of the country you would like to work in.
What is the best TEFL / TESOL Qualification?
In some countries a good First Degree is the most important qualification teachers can have, in others you will need a TEFL qualification which included observed teaching practice. There are many TEFL courses available, but those which are validated by external bodies such as the Cambridge/RSA or Trinity College are usually preferred by employers. One of the most fundamental requirements of any TEFL course is that it must include observed, face to face teaching time. An online TEFL course is generally unacceptable to employers. The most widely accepted TEFL qualifications are those listed below.
Cambridge ELT Certificate (CELTA)
The Cambridge ELT Certificate is widely considered to be the reference for TEFL qualifications and is internationally recognised. Its full title is the Cambridge ELT Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA). CELTA courses place great emphasis on actual teaching practice and, perhaps for this reason, CELTA is the most popular TEFL course among teachers and employers alike.
CELTA courses are usually 4-6 week intensive programmes but some schools allow them to be taken on a part-time basis. Entry requirements for CELTA courses vary between training schools. CELTA courses are open to native and non-native speakers, but all candidates are interviewed and take a language test.
Trinity Certificate in TESOL
The other leading TEFL qualification is the Trinity College London Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. The TESOL syllabus is strictly controlled and all training centres have the same common requirements.
A TESOL course can be taken full-time, with a 4-6 week intensive programme including 130 tuition hours, or part-time over several months. Some Trinity training centres also offer a short introductory course, and others offer a correspondence module in addition to the main programme.
As with the Cambridge CELTA, entry requirements vary. Some centres require a university degree whilst others will accept applicants who have a good educational background. In either case, a good command of English is a prerequisite.
A master’s degree is required for teaching in higher education and community colleges in the United States and Canada. Suitable Master’s Degrees are available from over 300 universities in the United States and Canada. These Master’s Degrees may go by different names in different universities or cities, but they provide suitable preparation in teaching ESL/EFL as well as providing training in curriculum development, teacher training, administration, and materials writing. Master’s degrees usually require 30-36 hours of credit and a good program will include supervised teaching practice.
Other TEFL courses
There are plenty of other TEFL courses available to prospective ESL Teachers, many being run by large chain schools who train teachers in their own particular teaching methods. In some cases these courses will be recognised by employers, in others not. It is worth doing a little resarch into any training course you plan to take to ensure that it will be deemed acceptable by employers in the country you wish to teach in.