The TEFL career path

The world of TEFL has developed a lot over the years and along with this so have related courses to help you develop your TEFL career from newbie teacher to expert.

In this post, I’ll outline some of the courses you can choose from and provide some useful information about each so you can better choose the best options for you.

TEFL training course (not the CELTA)

You can find quite a few TEFL courses both online and in-house now. They have grown due to demand from people unable to attend or unaware of the CELTA. These can vary from short weekends to longer courses. Some argue that a TEFL course is a TEFL course and that if it gets you a job then it is fine. There are companies who provide their own TEFL courses as part of pre-teaching training and some that sell courses and then offer work. The important question to ask yourself is ‘will it help me get a good job’? If you can’t afford the CELTA or find a course in your country and an alternative will help you then you might need to consider this option but if you plan to apply to the big schools then be prepared for the certificate not being recognised.


The CELTA is for many people the first step into TEFL. It is intense and stressful but provides you with the tools and confidence to start teaching the next day and can be enough to get you a good job in several countries. However, in terms of recognition, it isn’t always recognised as it isn’t seen as ‘academic’ in some countries but is generally taken by language schools who understand these qualifications. It can be a big investment so choose your school carefully and think about moving abroad afterwards as there are many people with CELTAs now so competition can be tough.


The traditional next step up the TEFL career ladder is the DELTA. In many ways, it continues your education into linguistics, course development and experimenting with new methods. It is frequently requested for senior teacher and ADOS and DOS posts and even in the academic system. After a few years of CELTA level teaching, you might feel you’ve reached a plateau and need to develop and so the DELTA is the natural next move. There is some debate about whether it is equivalent to an MA though. On paper in the UK, it is the same level but if you apply for an academic job that asks for an MA and have the DELTA, you might not be accepted. It can help you skip MA modules though.

Certificate in International Business English Training (Cert iBET, Business English)

Teachers of Business English delivering lessons in language schools or in companies can learn a lot from the Cert iBET course. It is available online, in schools or as a blended course and is designed to help you develop as a professional business English provider and some courses have very recognised trainers in this field. It isn’t as popular as the CELTA or DELTA and so these courses are limited. Also, it isn’t as well-known but is certainly worth considering after the CELTA if you want to work in Business English.

Coaching courses

Coaching has become a common word on TEFL teacher CVs over the past few years. Several people have even rebranded themselves as language coaches. This is because coaching is seen by some as a more modern method of teaching or ‘coaching’ 121 students and even groups. It is many complementary components to the TEFL method and can open up new doors for your teaching and career. Nevertheless, choosing the right coaching course can be difficult as it is still a developing field and so prices, quality and recognised vary greatly. If you want something to expand your bag of TEFL techniques then coaching could be useful.


Any teacher looking to move into academia will probably need to think about an MA course. Thankfully, there are numerous online, weekend and on-site courses that cover TEFL teaching and this is expanding. Where previously only an MA in Linguistics was available, now you can choose from MA’s focussing on technology and teaching and even material development. For the majority of countries an MA is an MA but always check. There are students with BAs and MAs from countries that are not recognised in Europe. Also look at the ranking of the university you wish to attend and the faculty. With the increasing amount of online MA courses, you can access good quality education from anywhere but at a high price in some cases.

Post-Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)

A PGCE is a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education which is like a practical MA combined with internships. It is often requested for teaching in primary, middle and high schools in the UK system and so is a rather intense course which prepares you to teach the national curriculum. There are courses with elements of TEFL so if you are thinking of working in UK schools, a PGCE is a good choice. On the other hand, if you expect to use it abroad, you might need to reconsider as it isn’t academic like an MA or as TEFL as a CELTA or DELTA.

Masters of Research (MRes)

For teachers considering an academic path towards a Phd, the MRes is becoming a common choice. Some Phd programmes demand a solid background in research which not all MA courses provide. As a result, the MRes can provide you with the research tools you need to do a Phd or to work in research. It is increasingly combined with Phd programmes in structured Phds now to enable people to progress easier into a Phd.


The top qualification for most people is a Phd. This is where you select a focus you are interested in and do intensive research on it for publication. If you are in the academic system as an EAP teacher or have a similar post, a Phd should help you move up but make sure you choose a suitable topic, a good university and a recognised tutor. Your Phd paper is kind of your mark in the sand and employers are very aware of which universities are high in rankings, as well as which tutors are respected in the field. The length and difficulty, as well as price, of a Phd are not to be underestimated though so take these into consideration. Moreover, having a Phd does not guarantee you a job and the chances of finding the right post in the exact right subject area can be challenging.

Disclaimer: All our blog posts are written by external bloggers. Content contained herein does not necessarily represent the views of the British Council.

Average: 3.8 (5 votes)

Submitted by ashtonej on Fri, 11/27/2020 - 07:37

The Trinity CertTESOL is also accepted by the British Council so should be explicitly stated as one of the two recommended options. Evidence of this is here 

Paragraph titles CELTA/CertTESOLand DELTA/DipTESOL both contain Trinity qualification names but the content only mentions CELTA and DELTA.

As a person who is familiar with both Cambridge and Trinity College of London qualifications, even I find this article confusing.


Submitted by Cath McLellan on Mon, 11/30/2020 - 15:01

In reply to by ashtonej

Thanks for your comment. As stated at the bottom of this blogpost - all our blog posts are written by external bloggers, and so the views here do not necessarily represent the British Council. This post gives an overview of some of the different career paths available to English language teachers and just some of the qualifications that they can gain to develop professionally - as you said, the CertTESOL and DipTESOL are mentioned alongside the CELTA and DELTA as alternatives to these qualifications.

Best wishes,


TE Team

Research and insight

Browse fascinating case studies, research papers, publications and books by researchers and ELT experts from around the world.

See our publications, research and insight