Differences Between CELTA, TESOL, & TEFL Certifications


If you want to teach English as a second or foreign language, you’ll need an English teacher certificate to apply for jobs. There are several English certifications available, and it is easy to get confused with all of those abbreviations and acronyms.

In this article, we are going to shed some light upon these certifications, specifically TEFL, TESOL, and CELTA, and see how they differ from each other.

  • CELTA or Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults is accredited by Cambridge University. If you have little or no previous English language teaching experience and want to have internationally-recognized qualification, then CELTA would be your best option. But please note that your English language skills should be at a level equal to at least C1.
  • TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. It is like CELTA, but without Cambridge accreditation. Anyway, this English as a foreign language certification is also widely accepted and recognized. Sometimes this term is also used to unite the two slightly differing certifications – TESL and TEFL.
  • TEFL or Teaching English as a Foreign Language is designed mostly for native English teachers who would like to teach English to foreigners abroad, not in their home country or another English-speaking country. It can also be a variant of a TESOL certificate and may be referred to as TEFL TESOL certification or TESOL TEFL certification. Please do not confuse the abbreviation with the TOEFL certificate, which is intended for foreign students who learn English.

Now let’s figure out what is the difference between TEFL and TESOL, what they have in common, and which certification is right for you – TESOL, CELTA, or TEFL.

Common Features and Differences: TEFL vs TESOL & CELTA vs TEFL

All three certificates enable the teachers to teach English as a second/foreign language abroad. However, if we compare TEFL vs TESOL or CELTA vs TEFL, we will find out that TESOL and CELTA enable the teachers to teach English as a second/foreign language not only abroad but also in an English-speaking country or their home country.

Unfortunately, there are no free online English courses with certificates for ESL teachers. Some of the courses may cost a lot. Prices for taking a TESOL, TEFL, or CELTA training course differ depending on course providers, dates, duration, and locations.

For example:

  • Prices both for classroom and online CELTA courses vary from approximately $950 to $2,800.
  • Prices for full-time TESOL courses in-classroom are between $600 and $2,700, whereas prices for online TESOL courses are significantly lower and vary from $200 to $1,000.
  • Prices for TEFL certification are from $280 up to $1400, whereas online TEFL certification costs from $230 to $1,000.

How long does it take to earn a CELTA, TEFL or TESOL certificate?

  • It will take about 4-5 months to complete a full-time CELTA course. For a part-time CELTA course, you will need from several months to one year. Online CELTA courses can take from 13 to 17 weeks.
  • TESOL courses last from 140 hours to 190 hours. Online TESOL courses last from 60 to 120 hours.
  • For a TEFL course, you need from 20 up to 120 hours. For a TEFL course online, you need from 40 up to 170 hours.

Please be aware that many employers may require at least 100 hours of a TESOL, TEFL or CELTA course.

If you still have not decided which certificate is right for you or have not figured out the difference between TESOL and TEFL and CELTA, here is a short summary for you:

  • If you want to move abroad and teach English to non-native English speakers there, then TEFL or TESOL certification would be your best choice.
  • If you want to move abroad and teach English to non-native English speakers there, but you are a beginner teacher and lack practice, then you should aim at CELTA. CELTA also offers the opportunity of part-time studying.
  • If you have not decided yet if you want to move abroad or stay at home but still want to teach English to non-native English speakers, then choose a TESOL certificate, as holders of such certificates can work both in an English-speaking countries and in countries where English is a foreign language.

Please also do not forget to carefully study the requirements of your future employers, as it may appear that they might require only specific certificates and a certain amount of hours from their candidates.

Now you have a better understanding of difference between TEFL and TESOL and CELTA, and know which certification to choose – TEFL or CELTA or TESOL. We wish you good luck in your job search and hope that you will find the best job opportunity that fits your needs and requirements.


    • We don’t have any particular recommendation. However, VIPKID teachers are not required to hold a TESOL certification to teach our students. Feel free to take a look at our requirements here: t.vipkid.com.cn/opportunity

      • Hi! I have some teaching experience working with methods like Face to Face and Interchange at private academies of language in Cuba. I see that holding any international teaching certification is not a set requirement, which is perfect to me due to the setbacks that living in Cuba presents when applying to any foreign job offer. I already submitted my application and look forward to hearing the results. Fingers crossed!

      • So Kristen, you say VIPKID does not require that new hires have a TESOL certificate, but does VIPKID require the TEFA or CELTA certificates?
        I was not able to open the t.vipkid.com.cn/opportunity link as it was not put on to open in your last response. Thank you for responding to me.

  1. I also took the intensive four week CELTA course. I already had degrees in Education and in English, and had taught conversational and academic English for years. The CELTA course was REALLY good because it provided the classroom (intake) environment in the mornings, and then the practicum/teaching (output) sessions in the afternoon. We were putting what we learned to practice, getting daily feedback, and had opportunity to really measure our growth. I also highly recommend the CELTA course. It was worth every penny. I have been able to use principles to teach children, too.

  2. I’m currently taking a TOEFL online course and am amazed at how in-depth they are. The Bridge people are the sponsors at TOEFLOnline.com, they are also quite reasonable.

  3. Does VIPKID have a list of companies/courses for certification that they accept to list on our teaching profiles?