With so many different courses to choose from, taking the first steps into the TESOL industry can be a challenge. Will you get a worthwhile qualification? Will you have a productive experience on the course? Will you get your money’s worth? The answer to these questions depends on you and your reasons for training to become a teacher in the first place.
Why are you going in to teaching?
If you want to train to become a career teacher, moving up the ladder and working to gain lucrative positions in management, training or academic settings, then you should definitely think about making the extra financial commitment and getting an internationally recognized certificate in TESOL (a Trinity College CertTESOL or Cambridge CELTA).
These qualifications are recognized by almost every country in the world as a mark of quality, and produces teachers that in the most part schools are more likely to be able to depend on to do a good job.
A list of qualifications at this level (Level 5 on the UK Registered Qualifications Framework is what most employers and immigration departments look for) can be found here. Just search for the qualification, and if it is on the list, then it stands at the same prestigious level. If not, even if it is called “level 5” by the course provider, it will probably not be accepted by more discerning organizations.
If you want to travel for a few years, see more of the world and work along the way, your training options are somewhat wider, but don’t just opt for the cheapest TEFL certificate that comes along.
Be aware that there is a huge range of value for money, quality of training and contact with course tutors on TEFL courses around the world. If you want to make things easier for yourself once you get into the classroom, you really need a minimum of 3-4 weeks of full time training to cover all the basic areas of language teaching which you will need to know.
A weekend course will only ever give you a very scant understanding of this complex and technical field. Also, look for a course which offers some kind of guidance on your classroom work. Observed teaching practice, even if it is via a recording or teaching your co-trainees, can highlight useful areas for you to take away from the course, and gives you some experience of what it is like to stand up in front of people in the classroom.
Where do you want to travel with your qualification?
Different countries have quite different visa and immigration policies when it comes to teaching qualifications. Do your research and find out what kind of certification is required by countries you are thinking of applying to.
Many teachers gain certificates, apply for jobs and then are told that the organization or the immigration office of that particular country do not accept the certificate after all, so it is always best to do your research before booking tickets!
If you are going to a specific place where you know you can work with a 2-week TEFL course, and you don’t want to move on to other parts of the world, go for it, but be aware that if you have to move on for any reason (it can happen), you may need to upgrade your qualification or return home before applying for a visa in another country.
Look at job ads in the region that you are interested in, and find out what they are asking for at different levels of salary scale. Do the maths, and you might find it’s worth investing in a more widely recognized qualification such as the Trinity or Cambridge qualifications.
Where do you want to go with your teaching?
If you think English Language Teaching is something you will want to continue as a career, it is well worth looking at what development options there are out there.
Initial Teacher Education (ITE) qualifications are only the start of the developmental pathway that takes teachers to different specialisms and career paths. An internationally-recognized Certificate in TESOL is most likely to give you the most rounded starting point for your development as a teacher, a firm foundation to develop from as you gain experience.
Development into areas such as management, training and curriculum design, for example, is rewarding and can be very lucrative. If development is your thing, it’s best to gain a strong foothold with a more renowned course, which is quality-assured from the beginning.
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How to choose a teacher training provider
Bearing the above points in mind, here are some useful questions to ask an organization before signing up to their course:
- How many study hours are there on the course? As a guide, the globally-recognized CELTA and CertTESOL courses contain a minimum of 130 Guided Learning Hours.
- Does the course involve face-to-face training, and if so, what is the balance between online / distance work and face-to-face work?
- Is there observed teaching practice on the course? If so, who will you teach? Real students or trainees on the course? Face to face or online? Again, as a guide, the CertTESOL and CELTA courses require trainees to teach real learners for a minimum of 6 hours of observed, face-to-face classroom time.
- What accreditations does the course hold? Look into these, and check that they are valid and reputable. If you search for the accreditation body and the same names keep popping up on the training provider’s information and the accreditor’s body, there is something suspicious going on. A validation body should be independent, objective and regulated (as are Trinity College London and Cambridge ESOL, both of whom are regulated by the UK OFQUAL body) if it is to hold any weight for the qualification.
- Who are the trainers on the course? What qualifications do they hold? If they only have the qualification they are training on, you may not receive appropriate training to handle situations in different teaching contexts. Look for trainers with at least a Post-graduate qualification in English Language Teaching (a PGDipTESOL, Trinity DipTESOL or Cambridge DELTA).
Whatever training course you end up choosing, do your research and be aware that they are not all the same, and may not even do what they promise. Ask questions, get specific answers and prepare for the experience that you want to have with your teaching career.If you like this article, please share: