TEFL Courses

CELTA vs TEFL: Which certificate do you need?

Learn the differences between TEFL and CELTA to determine which certification is right for your teach abroad journey.

Key takeaways 🔑

  • CELTA stands for Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (now known as Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language.
  • TEFL refers to any certification program that trains an English speaker to teach their language to others. CELTA, on the other hand, is an intensive ESL teaching certificate, designed by Cambridge University. It is considered one of the most prestigious qualifications for teaching English abroad. You can also think of CELTA as a brand of TEFL.
  • Price is often the deciding factor for students who opt for a TEFL certification other than a CELTA. Due to the prestige of the program, obtaining your CELTA can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000, depending on the school. TEFL courses, meanwhile, can cost anywhere from $200-$2000.

The world of teaching English abroad can sometimes feel like an alphabet soup of confusing acronyms. Aside from CELTA and TEFL, there’s also ESL, TESL, and TESOL. What does it all mean and which certificate is right for you?

Let’s break down the differences between CELTA and TEFL to help you find the best fit!

CELTA vs. TEFL: What is the difference?

A woman sits at a table and looks at a book.

There is no one standard certification to teach English abroad. Because of this, many different types of certificates are offered by a range of providers worldwide. Regardless of the provider, all of these certificates are considered TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) – even CELTA!

That said, CELTA is a very specific type of TEFL certificate. CELTA originally stood for Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults but it is now known as the Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. It’s a course administered by Cambridge English which is part of Cambridge University in the UK.


The requirements for the CELTA are generally the same across all training centers, both online and in-person. They require that you meet the following criteria:

  • High school diploma
  • Aged 18+
  • Native or near-native (C1+) level of English

Requirements can vary widely by TEFL provider. Some providers will require you to submit an application while others allow you to simply pay for the course and start. Many suggest that you are at least 18 years old with a native or high level of English. Requirements may be less stringent for fully online courses than they are for in-person options.


When it comes to cost, CELTA is generally the pricier option. CELTA can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000, depending on the school. The online-only option of study tends to be cheaper than in-person.

TEFL certificates range from $200 to $2,500 depending on location and provider. Similar to CELTA, online courses are more cost-effective. However, some of the less expensive 100% online TEFL certificates do not include teaching practice so be on the lookout for that when comparing options.


Most CELTA courses require students to attend the full-time, month-long course, which means six-hour days and a heavy homework load, including lesson planning for your practicum and four written assignments. A month-long CELTA program, then, is a full-time commitment. It’s tough to do much of anything else (including getting much sleep) during your CELTA. This workload is what makes CELTA so difficult.

There is a part-time option available to CELTA students though it generally means a three month commitment with morning or evening sessions during the week or on weekends.

TEFL courses range in intensity from quick but in-depth weekend certifications to a month or more of study. They may be in-person or self-guided with quizzes or written assignments. Some TEFL courses don’t require students to complete a teaching practicum. This can be problematic as some employers want to see graded practice built into certification.

Read more: Frequently Asked Questions About TEFL

Where you can use it

If you’re wondering whether you actually need CELTA or TEFL to teach abroad, the answer is that it depends. While many countries do require teachers to have a minimum of a 120-hour certificate, others will take candidates with a bachelor’s degree alone.

Certain regions of the world tend to prefer CELTA over TEFL, namely Europe and the Middle East. However, both TEFL and CELTA are accepted everywhere. Both can get you jobs in private language academies and potentially public schools, depending on the country and its regulations for teaching professionals.

You can use either CELTA or TEFL to teach online. Many online teaching companies accept online TEFL courses that don’t have included teaching practice.

Career paths

Do you see yourself teaching long-term or do you just want to spend a gap year working abroad? What your career plans are can help you determine whether to pursue a CELTA or a more general type of TEFL certificate.

TEFL certificates on the lower side of the cost spectrum are likely the better choice if you don’t want to make teaching abroad a career. If you just need to tick a box for jobs in countries that require a TEFL certificate, a cheap and quick online course may be a wiser investment. Additionally, if you only plan to teach in Asia, the general consensus among the ESL communities there is that CELTA doesn’t equal more pay or more opportunities compared to a general TEFL certificate.

If you want to pursue teaching overseas as a long-term career, especially in Europe or the Middle East, a CELTA is a great choice. There is growth with this path, too. CELTA grads can progress on to the DELTA which is considered a level seven qualification in the UK, the same as a master’s degree.

Earning potential

How much you can make with a TEFL or CELTA depends on the location you’re teaching in and your years of experience. Having any sort of TEFL certificate will often be enough for a higher pay grade. In some countries in Europe and the Middle East where a CELTA is preferred, you may earn more per month than colleagues who have a more general TEFL certificate.

Read more: Why Should You Get TEFL Certified?

Do I need a TESOL certificate?

TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and is generally focused on non-native English speakers learning English abroad (i.e. Koreans in the US). This is contrasted with TEFL, where learners are in their native country learning English as a foreign language (i.e. Koreans in Korea).

You can definitely use a TESOL certificate abroad but this option is a popular route for teachers who want to teach English in US (or other English-speaking countries) language schools or community colleges.

How to choose a course

A man reads a book near a laptop.

When choosing between a CELTA or TEFL course, you’ll need to compare the following aspects of each program:

Don’t know where to start? GO has made this research easier with our guide to TEFL certifications. And if doing a course remotely sounds more your speed, we also highlight the best online TEFL courses!

Which is right for you?

So, after all of this, is it better to do a CELTA or a TEFL? The answer depends completely on your goals, budget, and timeframe. To help you decide, here are a few points to consider.

You should choose CELTA if...

  • You want to teach in Europe or the Middle East
  • You would like to make teaching a long-term career
  • You have the money to invest in a course
  • You have a month to take an intensive, demanding course or are willing to study part-time over several months

You should choose TEFL if…

  • You want to teach in Asia or Latin America
  • You have a limited budget or timeframe
  • You want to teach short-term or during a gap year
  • You want to self-study and do not need teaching practice

Set yourself up for success teaching English abroad

Whether you choose to earn a CELTA or a more general TEFL certificate, both will equip you with the skills to enter the teaching world abroad. Get started on your course today and prepare for an enriching career overseas!