Why you should do a CELTA (and why you shouldn’t)
OK, I hear you. What on earth is a CELTA? It’s a qualification from Cambridge English (part of the University of Cambridge) that certifies you to teach English as a second or foreign language. Put very simply, it changes lives. But before I tell you about all the great things that will happen to you when you do a CELTA, I should probably tell you the downsides, too.
Firstly, the cost. A CELTA isn’t cheap and it’s something you’ll almost certainly have to save up for. Meanwhile, you can get a ‘qualification’ to teach English from so many other companies, and the course is always magically reduced from £1374 to £137.40. There’s a reason for that. It was only ever worth £137.40 (or less). The content will reflect that low price, and employers will see through it straight away, like cling film over last night’s dinner.
Secondly, a CELTA is legitimately hard work. Even before you start, you have an application task to do and an interview to pass. They don’t just allow everyone on. And after that, the real work starts. I did a four-week in-person course and I started every day at 6 a.m. to get everything done. The online courses and part-time courses are more spread out, but the quality of work you produce has to be just as high, and that’s hard.
So a CELTA is only for those who can put in the graft, and truly invest in their careers. That’s why having one will open so many doors. So let’s get to that – the fun part…
1. You’ll get to the top of the pile when it comes to getting a job.
And I mean that literally. A few years after taking my CELTA, I became the HR manager of a school (that’s a whole other story we’ll leave for another day). For every job application I put out, I received maybe 500 applications – and this was before COVID-19. I needed a system to filter out top-tier candidates from the rest and the first thing I looked at was whether a candidate had a CELTA. Every single one of the teachers at that institute now has a CELTA.
As I said, this was the world before COVID-19, if you remember that. I’ve heard on the English language teaching grapevine that applications for some jobs have gone up tenfold. If you don’t have a CV that stands out, the chances of getting a job at a legitimate school or institute are so slim they’re practically two-dimensional.
2. You’ll learn that English is actually really interesting.
Despite having a degree in English literature, I was completely clueless about the structure of English when I started my CELTA. In fact, I remember shouting in surprise, ‘There’s a past participle???’ some way into my second week. English is full of quirks and complexities, and that turns out to be fascinating. Call me a nerd: I actually love it. There’s not enough time for a deep dive into everything, but just enough to get you hooked on phonemes and prepositions.
3. You’ll open up career possibilities for your whole life.
The CELTA helped me achieve more in ten years than I believed I would do in an entire career. It was the kick-start I needed to leave a country in recession and get a job abroad. And once you’re out there, stuff happens. For me, it was co-founding a language school and then going on to land a job at Twinkl as their TEFL/ESL segment manager. A CELTA is the first step down a winding path that can take you to some extraordinary places – not just geographically but professionally. Literally anything could happen.
4. You’ll get the chance to live abroad.
If I’m not going on about how great teaching English is, I’m going on about how great living in another country is. A CELTA will help you get a job abroad, and it’s a true adventure. You’re not a tourist who goes to that one place where everyone takes a photo, gets stomach problems and goes home, you’re ingraining yourself in the everyday life of a community. You’re making friends and learning a language. You’re seeing every festival and trying every food. You’re going to people’s houses and seeing what life is actually like, and finding things in common. You’re challenging yourself and feeling really out of your comfort zone. And yes, you still get to experience the stomach problems!
5. You’ll learn communication skills for any job.
Teaching English is weird, because you’re teaching something using that same thing. In your CELTA – and in your career – you’ll end up teaching students who have very different linguistic backgrounds and lots of people whose first language you can’t speak. So you have to get really good at communicating complex ideas using simple language. Everything has to be super clear, super simple (we call this ‘grading’ your language) or your lesson turns into confusion. This ability to communicate is a skill that turns out to be essential in so many different jobs. Who hasn’t had to carefully word an email so as to get the right response? Who hasn’t cautiously approached their boss with an idea? It’s too often the case that a good idea goes unused simply because it hasn’t been communicated effectively. A CELTA will help you with that by teaching you how to convey an idea in the simplest possible way.
6. You’ll get a new perspective on the learning process.
As teachers, we all too often think of our students as a bunch of empty cups, vessels to be filled, yada yada. But students are people, and people are not like that. They come to class with a backpack full of their education history, anxieties, aspirations, worries and lots more. One of the experiences you get on the CELTA is being taught a lesson in a language you know nothing of. It’s an experience that I’ll never forget – and reminds us how far out of their comfort zone our learners are when they’re in our classes (answer, measure the distance in miles). It’s a great exercise in compassion, and one I hope I took on board with my teaching.
7. You’ll find it easier to learn another language.
With such an in-depth understanding of your own language, learning another one becomes easy. Well, easier at least. It’ll help you to pick up on linguistic similarities and differences that are effectively a shortcut to understanding the rules of your chosen language. You’ll find that lots of your own learners struggle with learning English because their grammatical understanding of their first language(s) is patchy.
8. You’ll learn about time management.
As I said, a CELTA is hard work, and you’ll find yourself juggling multiple assignments and lesson plans all at once. This is excellent preparation for being a teacher, when you’ll be managing a schedule with different age groups and levels. You’ll also be the only adult in the room with at least five children simultaneously saying ‘Teeeeeaaaacher’ while five more are handing in completed work and five more are yet to open a pencil case. A CELTA is the training you need to focus on the task at hand, prioritise and not let the workload get on top of you completely.
9. You’ll make friends.
Really good friends. I’m still in contact with one of my fellow CELTA’ers after… eeeeek… nine years! When you’re on such a steep learning curve, it makes all the difference to be surrounded by great people and we had a fantastic time learning together. So much fun happened while we were doing our course. There were fits of laughter and games… I think we climbed out of the window at one point and there were two marriage proposals (they were just pretend, but there was a large audience who thought it was real). We had an absolute ball together and we all helped each other through the experience.
There we are – nine reasons to get up and go for it when it comes to doing a CELTA. Any questions at all, just send a message to the team at ITTC Bournemouth – they’ve taken so many people through their very highly regarded course. And if you need teaching resources, game ideas, or tips, come on over to Twinkl – the global home for ESL.