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Confusion over qualifications

October 11, 2007

Hello again,

Every so often people seem confused about teaching qualifications and the means of acquiring them. I hope to provide some clarification in this post.

Firstly we must make a...

... distinction between teacher training and academic qualifications. A Masters degree is an academic qualification not a vocational training course. It will give you a much deeper understanding of linguistics, learning theory and teaching methods than a Bachelors degree or a short training course. It traditionally, however, has no practical component. Masters candidates should either obtain practical experience before enrolling or expect to complete further training afterwards to ensure practical skills are acquired. For new entrants into ELT who wish to progress in their career, the Masters will be a highly desirable qualification but should not be viewed as teacher training.

Teacher training courses are now generally seen to exist at two levels: certificate and diploma. The certificate level offered most widely by the University of Cambridge and Trinity College London, is normally a four- or five-week training course incorporating teaching practice. To quote from the two institutions: “CELTA is an initial qualification for people with little or no previous teaching experience and opens up a whole world of exciting teaching opportunities. Because it is awarded by Cambridge ESOL, part of the world famous University of Cambridge, you can rely on its quality and recognition.
CELTA can also be taken as Module One of the Certificate in Further Education Teaching Stage 3 with the Certificate for ESOL Subject Specialists, which is a qualification for teachers who want to specialise in teaching English in Further, Adult and Community Education in England and Wales. Over 10,000 people successfully complete a CELTA course each year.”

“The Trinity Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CertTESOL) is designed for those with little or no experience of teaching English. It equips candidates with the basic skills and knowledge needed to take up a first post as an ESOL teacher. It gives an introduction to the theory and practice of contemporary English teaching and an insight into the challenges facing the learner and the role of the teacher.”

The certificate level is thus initial training that should allow new teachers to gain some experience. To become fully qualified, they should then progress to a diploma:

“The Diploma is accepted by the British Council as a full TEFL Qualifying qualification for teachers in its accredited teaching organizations in the UK and in its own teaching operations overseas.”

However, teachers should weigh up carefully whether they wish to achieve a diploma or a Masters. Ideally they should have both as a Masters is not a teaching qualification, but in practice a teacher who already has a certificate, some experience and who then takes a Masters is likely to be seen as a strong candidate for teaching posts.

The issue of how qualifications are acquired is a separate one and in theory it makes absolutely no difference whether you study in situ or take some form of distance learning option. All that matters is that the qualification itself is authentic. Thus it is possible to take certificate and diploma training courses by distance learning (special arrangements are made for teaching practice). And there is no reason at all why an academic qualification such as a Masters should not be taken by distance learning so long as the course is being offered by a reputable university. The final qualification is as valid as one obtained by attendance. Indeed some courses allow candidates to mix attendance distance learning so the distinction becomes blurred. Furthermore, the distance learner needs to be exceptionally strongly motivated and the perseverance testified to by those obtaining their degrees by distance learning may well be seen as a laudable personal quality.

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  1. Monica Arroyo Says:

    Im am very interested in a teaching positon. I have the COTE (Certificate for Overseas Teachers of English) from Cambridge University and The Diploma for Teachers and Trainers from Cambridge University as well ( I have two other certificates as a teacher from a Mexican Institute). I am Mexican-American born in California and have been teaching esl for 10 years now(Im 33 years old). I am a Teacher Trainer for my institution and work with the International Baccalaureate Organisation's program. However I do not have a bachelors degree. do you think I have chances to be hired in the USA...?
    I currently work in one of Mexico's leading billingual private schools The Churchill School

  1. Brenda Townsend Hall Says:

    In order to get a work permit you would have first to find an employer to sponsor you. It would be best to look for schools specialising in ESOL for Hispanics. But as I am based in the UK I am not very au fait with the situation in the USA, perhaps some of my colleagues could help.

  1. diploma owner Says:

    Thanks for your article, Brenda. It was interesting to read and I've found some useful aspects.

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