Choosing the right TEFL course can be confusing!
Do you go for the well known Cambridge CELTA certificate?
Or consider an alternative like the Trinity CertTESOL?
And what exactly is the difference between them anyway?
In this help guide, we’ll explore the difference between CELTA and CertTESOL to give you everything you need to know about both courses.
How can you trust the information in this guide?
You know that I studied the CELTA and run a website dedicated to helping people prepare for their CELTA, so I have an obvious bias based on my own experience. That’s unavoidable but natural.
However, I will always be as fair as possible and provide unbiased information, because my aim is to help you to make an informed choice. If the TrinityTESOL is best for your situation, you should definitely consider it.
This CELTA vs. TrinityTESOL comparison guide is based on research and facts. My team researched both courses by emailing course providers and schools, reading through applications and syllabuses, and checking credible websites.
Let’s get started…
Cambridge Assessment English
Trinity College London
Both institutions are highly respected. Trinity college is an international exam board for performing arts and English. Cambridge English Language Assessment is part of Cambridge University, which is obviously a highly regarded university. In some people’s eyes this may lend the CELTA more credibility.
Firstly, it’s important to say that both CELTA and CertTESOL are excellent, high-quality TEFL courses. They both provide the same level of qualification, similar syllabuses, and the opportunity to upgrade to an equally recognised diploma level certificate after a few years experience.
The main thing that separates the two courses is ‘recognisability’. There’s little doubt, that of the two, the Cambridge CELTA qualification is the more famous. It has been marketed more effectively and is known by every language school that teaches English in the world.
This means there is the implied benefit of the CELTA leading to more job opportunities.
If two applicants apply for a job, and the only thing that separates them is a CELTA vs. CertTESOL, then, rightly or wrongly, the CELTA may be seen as a less risky hire. People feel more comfortable with familiarity, even directors at international schools.
Fran Austin of Oxford TEFL makes the point that comparing course providers is more important than the differences between the qualifications:
“(CELTA and CertTESOL) are both of very high quality and would both be beneficial to your career. You should also consider other factors when choosing a school, such as careers service, expertise of tutors, experience etc.”
Both courses have rigid age limits and expect a decent standard of education. But they are both fairly flexible in the level of English required for the job. They realise that not everybody applying will be native speakers, but they do expect a degree of fluency.
If you are a non-native speaker, you’ll need a level C1 or C2.
The CertTESOL providers (aka centres or schools) may add additional requirements, such as slightly higher age limits, so be sure to check with them directly.
Recognisability is a recurring theme in this article. This is really the crux of the matter. As you’ll see in a moment, there isn’t that much difference in terms of content and assessment. The real difference lies in the public perception of each course, where the CELTA definitely wins out.
However, Trinity are very clear that their course is widely recognised with the following statement featuring on their website:
“[CertTESOL] is recognised as a qualification for English language teaching in the UK and internationally.
It is regulated by Ofqual, the statutory body authorised to regulate qualifications in this field in England, and the (former) British Association of TESOL Qualifying Institutions in establishing a national framework of specifications.
It is also accepted as an initial qualification by the British Council in the English language teaching organisations accredited by the Council in the UK and in their own teaching operations outside the UK. Many other state and independent sector teaching organisations also accept the qualification.”
Nikue from CELTA DELTA says:
“CELTA tends to be more recognized worldwide, as it has more marketing juice behind it. This is generally a help in competitive job markets worldwide. In the UK, however, you’ll probably have the same luck with either in terms of employment.”
Sandie Warren, Head of training at StudyCELTA.com comes to a similar conclusion:
“Both are highly regarded throughout the world, Cambridge possibly being a little better known globally. Both will undoubtedly enhance your career prospects, especially when looking for work abroad.”
There is some variability between training centres and geographic locations, so it’s worth shopping around. The CertTESOL does appear to be a little bit cheaper in certain areas.
Both courses offer the same selection of study options, with little difference in duration or cost.
Both courses are offered in locations around the globe, as you would expect from TEFL courses. However, there’s a wider choice if you decide to study for the CELTA as there are three times as many training centres or schools.
Both courses cover similar content. CertTESOL has some content related to teaching young learners (though all teaching practice is with adults), there is slightly more emphasis on phonology and there is also a project based on teaching one to one classes.
Both syllabuses are very similar in terms of content and structure: it’s likely they both draw inspiration from each other to ensure their courses are competitive and comprehensive.
Having studied the CELTA syllabus (both during my course and to create this website for you), I’ve come to have a deeper appreciation of how each module helps new teachers as they start their career. If the Trinity CertTESOL syllabus is built with the same care and aims, then it should be equally as useful.
Thumbs up for both course providers here!
The number of hours vary depending on the training centre, especially for the online courses. Please use these as a rough guide only.
Both CELTA and CertTESOL are the real deal in term of hours. That’s sign of a quality certificate designed to help you improve.
Shorter courses may offer value if you understand what you’re getting, but only the 120+ hour CELTA and CertTESOL are suitable for new teachers entering the TEFL industry.
Both courses are rigorously assessed. The moderation process makes sure that all training providers are assessing to a standardised level and that the quality of instruction is high.
Again, both courses appear equal in terms of the method and quality of assessment.
Tom Garside of English for Asia, does point out there are some differences in the assessment which may be relevant for some students:
“CertTESOL and CELTA are both qualifications leading to the same level of certificate, and are regarded equally worldwide in terms of acceptance and validation. The only difference is really in the style of assessment. Where the CELTA is more biased towards assessment of teaching practice (with the external component being a lesson observed by a Cambridge ESOL representative for your final teaching practice), the CertTESOL puts more emphasis on observation and reflection, with more assignment work being assessed based on your observation and performance in the classroom. The externally assessed component for the Cert is an interview based around a piece of material that you have designed.”
Most of this guide is based on research we’ve found on websites and by emailing course centres. But are the CELTA and CertTESOL perceived differently in the real world of job vacancies?
My team and I carried out a simple experiment to understand whether TEFL employers prefer CELTA or CertTESOL when listing their desired qualifications.
We took a sample of 30 job vacancies posted online, selected randomly from various job listing websites, and recorded whether they asked for CELTA, CertTESOL, either or general TEFL certificate.
Here are the results:
ask for a CELTA
ask for a CertTESOL
ask for either CELTA or CertTESOL
ask for a general TEFL certificate
Although these results are over a small sample size, it’s clear that CELTA is specifically requested more often than CertTESOL. Whether this is due to a simple lack of awareness of the CertTESOL qualification or that the CELTA is valued more highly, it’s difficult to tell.
After reading through the above comparisons, it’s clear that there really isn’t that much difference between the CELTA and CertTESOL, especially not in terms of course content and syllabus.
Trinity CertTESOL is a highly respected and recognised certificate. I believe it’s a credible alternative to the Cambridge CELTA, and more options are great; it encourages course providers to constantly improve syllabus content and remain competitively priced.
However, the CELTA is a more recognisable name in the TEFL world. The amount of times it was the only qualification mentioned in the job listings proves that.
This big gulf in awareness means that I personally advise taking the CELTA over the CertTESOL. That’s the course I took and I can attest to how useful it has been in developing my professional teaching career.
Having said that, Trinity CertTESOL is currently the only full alternative to CELTA that I would recommend as a worthwhile path to entering the TEFL industry, as it is the second most recognisable certificate available. For some people, it may be offered at a more convenient date or location; in which case it should be a definite consideration.
I hope I’ve provided a balanced and useful comparison between CELTA and Trinity CertTESOL. I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, especially if you can share any direct experience with CertTESOL.
We put a lot of research into this guide to be sure it was a fair and unbiased comparison. Someone is sure to ask, “How can I be sure this is an unbiased comparison?” If you’re interested, here are just some of the many sources we used.
Trinity FAQ including requirements and recognition
Trinity - How many CertTESOL courses each year?
"Over 600 courses are run worldwide each year, either full time or part time."