CELTA or an online TEFL course? I know that it can be pretty stressful trying to decide. I mean  it's confusing because you have so many options. It really depends on what you want.

I have taken both online and in-class courses. I also lived and taught in China, Korea and Taiwan. I am going to generalize here a bit for simplicity and then we'll talk about the details more later.

First off CELTA is a kind of course. It is a brand whereas there are many online TEFL courses by different brands.

So for starters...

Take an online TEFL course if

  • you are a self-directed learner
  • you work well independently
  • you want to control the pace
  • you want to save money
  • you are thinking of teaching abroad for 1 or 2 years
  • you are not sure how long you will teach
  • you are not sure if you will like teaching
  • you are just plain not sure
  • you just want a certificate and you could care less about what you learn (however, if this is you see the responsibility check below)

But if you take an online course

Know that online TEFL courses vary considerably in quality and cost. The cheaper courses like those on Groupon will not use videos, but primarily text which makes the courses not rememberable. So you could be paying for something that goes in one ear and out the other.

In other words I would look for an online course that uses a considerable amount of classroom based videos. You'll learn by watching other teachers like you would in an in-class course like CELTA. It's much better to see something being done than to be told about it.

Moral check

If you don't care about what you learn (you just want a certificate) then I am going to give you a few reasons to rethink your decision.

  1. If you actually know what you are doing in the classroom you will enjoy teaching more. If you enjoy it more you will have a better year abroad.
  2. The parents of those students that you will teach want a good teacher and not a slacker. The same can be said for your boss.

Take a CELTA course if

  • you have money (like $2000 or more)
  • you have time (like a month or so and 120 hours or so)
  • there are CELTA courses near you
  • you want what is said to be the "best" TEFL training
  • you want to teach adults
  • you like hard work and cramming
  • you want a course accredited by Cambridge University
  • you want observation, criticism and feedback from a real teacher in person
  • you don't mind the possibility of failing (yes, people fail)
  • you want the most reputable (see below for more) certificate possible
  • you want to meet some people
  • you want to be part of an elite, lol crowd
  • you want 4-6 hours of observed teaching practice
  • you are in it for the long run
  • you are a traditional learner

But if you take a CELTA course

CELTA courses cost money. They are intensive and you can fail. And no you won't get your money back or a certificate. To take a CELTA course you will need to find one in your area. The "A" in CELTA is for teaching adults, so if you are going to teach kids (most of the jobs in Asia) then I would take a course focused on that instead.

CELTA courses take place in a classroom. So if you are a traditional learner then this might be for you. if you care a lot about reputation then this might be for you. Many people think that CELTA is the most reputable course.

Although keep in mind that only some schools note that distinction. Based on my experience teaching in Asia most schools don't actually care about the name of the certificate you took. 

They care about experience more.

Some schools in Europe or the Middle East will prefer it or require it especially if you don't have experience.

Problems with CELTA

"Too much material is thrown at the candidate in too little time. That is my biggest concern with a course like the CELTA. Not enough time to digest and really think about what is thrown at you in a month long course." - Hollerich on Reddit

A key drawback to an in-class course like CELTA is that you do not control the pace, the course does.

Learn more about the other drawbacks such as failing.

Bottomline

If you are debating CELTA or online TEFL the first thing I would consider is how serious you are about teaching. How long are you planning on teaching English? You can always go back for more training later if you want.

There is no one size fits all. Do your research because there is a lot of hype (opinions) surrounding both. 

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