Sunday, March 10, 2013

To CELTA or not to CELTA?

I’ve taken this weekend off from traveling to lie in a patch of sunlight that falls in the middle of my hardwood floor and contemplate my life. I’ve also meandered through nearby villages and pastures, drinking the new springtime air through my skin.

I have much to think about, since in just a couple of short months I will be a college graduate moving on the next phase of my life. What will this phase be? As excited as I am to be a teacher, I am not yet ready to come home and settle down into a teaching career. Part of the reason I have been so excited to get a degree in education is the flexibility and opportunity the degree will afford me. I have always had dreams of travel and adventure teaching abroad, and now is the time to consider making these dreams a reality. I am realizing, though, that while dreams are free of complications and fear, making dreams a reality can be a little scary and complicated. But I have faith in myself and know that challenging choices are usually the most rewarding. I want to be courageous in all that I do, and that is why I think that in May, when I am done teaching in Germany, I will fly off to teach English in Southeast Asia: perhaps Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia.

English is the Lingua Franca (the language used for world communication), and there is a growing demand for native English speakers to teach all over the world. Teachers are needed in government schools, private schools, language schools, and even the business world; the demand for native English speakers is so great that schools compete for these teachers by offering great benefits and pay. A qualified teacher in Southeast Asia can usually get a return flight, paid housing, a generous salary, medical insurance, a contract-completion bonus, and sometimes even meals provided. The pay can be lower for teachers abroad than in the states, but the cost of living in most countries is so low that teachers live very luxurious lifestyles, travel widely, and still manage to save money.

At the minimum, teachers abroad need to have completed a four-year college education, be a Native English speaker, and to hold a certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL, to be discussed later). The attributes of being young, white, or female greatly increase job prospects, and have the good fortune of possessing all three of these. Having a degree in education and a teaching certification will also be a huge advantage. Even though I have no experience, I will be a very desirable candidate for most schools and should have absolutely no problem getting a job in Asia.

Still, I am left with the question of which sort of teaching certificate to obtain. There are two main types of certifications. The first, and most common, is a simple TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language ) certificate. These are relatively cheap and easy to obtain, and consist of 120 hours of training, most of which is online. Many schools accept these certificates, in Asia and some other places in the world.

The other option is the King of all teaching abroad certificates: the CELTA (Cambridge Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults). This certification is offered through Cambridge, is internationally recognized, and is considered the most prestigious and desired certification. A CELTA certification would allow me to get hired to teach English anywhere in the world and would open doors to more jobs and better pay. The certification never expires, and together with my other accomplishments it would make me one of the most desired candidates at any job I might apply for, anywhere. But this prestige comes at a cost: a pricy, highly intensive month-long live-in program that is hard to get into. I could get a TEFL certification for about $600, while a CELTA is about $2,000. Also, the program is extremely rigorous and is usually taken by people who want to teach English abroad as their career. I may end up loving teaching abroad and want to continue to do it all over the world, but I don’t know yet.

I applied for a summer CELTA program in Phuket, Thailand. The application process alone was rigorous, and got up at 4am one morning before school so that I could have a Skype interview with the representatives. I got in! Only 12 people are accepted into the Phuket program each year, and I one of them. Now I have less than one week in which to make the decision to accept the offer and make a hefty down payment to secure my place in the course, which starts on the 1st of July. It is a tempting prospect. Besides obtaining a CELTA certification, I would also be living for one month on one of the most beautiful islands in the world. The program cost is $2600, and includes a private room in the resort where the course takes place, plus full board to the tune of catered Thai meals. Also, I would leave the program having been gently eased into Thai culture and feeling very prepared to teach in foreign schools.

I am trying to make the decision of whether to obtain the CELTA or just a basic TEFL, and I need help! It is a hard decision because I COULD teach with just a TEFL, no problem. It is a cheap and viable option. The CELTA is the most intensive and rigorous program available, and is expensive; on the other hand, it would thoroughly prepare me to teach abroad and would open job prospects around the world.  

Perhaps you can see now why I needed some time to simply lie on the floor and contemplate my options. Dear family, friends, and intelligent readers, please comment with feedback and advice to help this scaredy-cat to make up her indecisive mind. 

Phuket (Google Images)

CELTA Phuket Website: 

1 comment:

  1. My advice is to do the CELTA now, while you have the time. Can you have regrets if you attain the highest goal?