Overview of TESOL Certificate Programs

Certificates vary widely in quality and degree. You can get a TESOL certificate online or in class. You can get them from a well-known organization such as Cambridge or Oxford or from very local or purpose specific organizations (such as churches training for their mission or literacy organizations training for tutoring). The challenge is that there is no regulation of quality in TESOL certificates apart from institutional reputation.

Types of programs:

  • Online training programs lack the crucial component of face-to-face and classroom experience. While a lot can be learned well on line, the actual interpersonal skills of being in front of and executing a classroom cannot.
  • I much highly favor hybrid training programs that are partially online, partially in person. These can often work well with teacher schedules as the in person component is scheduled during holidays. I’m not at all against on-line learning – in fact, I think there are times when you can actually learn MORE online – but for certain courses, face to face experience is a must.
  • University based programs tend to be more reputable when they are attached to accredited institutions. A for-credit university course certainly has the ability to cover more content than a weekend seminar that also offers a certificate program. It also carries the name/reputation of the university from which it comes (which can be good or bad, depending on the university).
  • I’m not very familiar with for-profit training programs such as Oxford Seminars or AmericanTESOL Institute, though reviews are pretty unfavorable because they lack classroom experience.

Region specific qualifications

  • Without a degree, it may be difficult to get into some parts of the Middle East and Asia.
  • European countries typically require CELTA Certification.
  • South America, Central, Africa and more developing countries will have looser qualifications.
  • In the US, a TESOL certificate is more likely to qualify one for part-time employment.  The full time positions usually go to candidates with an MATESOL or related degree.

Prospective employers will look at:
1) institutional reputation
2) classroom hours
3) courses taken
4) field experience in the classroom. (Generally, a program with a minimum of around 60 hours of field experience is more highly regarded.)

The Bottom Line?

The more desirable the locale (read: good salary, appealing destination), the better the qualifications needed.


3 thoughts on “Overview of TESOL Certificate Programs

  1. The whole business has the smell of the English Dept. is short of students so keep attaching more and more things needed in order to get a job teaching English. Frankly, everything has become so over certified that one can never become certified enough before one dies–probably of starvation.

  2. I’d disagree completely, Kenneth. Teaching English as most English departments do is to study the aesthetic components of the language – for example, poetry and literature. However, TESOL trains teachers how to teach language skills – reading, writing, speaking, listening and such. It’s actually quite different content than a straight English degree. I can’t tell you how many people I know who thought they could teach ESL just because they spoke it and found themselves completely lost in the classroom.

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