I suppose the answer depends.
Just over 6 months on from receiving my CELTA certificate, I’ve been thinking about the benefits it’s brought me, versus my expectations when I signed up. Was it worth it?
The first thing to think about is the cost. I did mine as a full-time, 9-5 one month intensive course, which meant it was impossible to undertake paid work at the same time, because the workload is heavy. So in order to pay for a course like the one I did, you would need enough money to pay your living expenses for a month in which you wouldn’t be working, plus pay the fees upfront, which aren’t cheap: around £1,200+. However, as the official Cambridge CELTA website attests, it is possible to take the course part-time over 12 weeks, or even partially online, meaning that the cost is spread and you can carry on earning at the same time.
Now- earning potential. It’s no secret that teachers aren’t regularly featured on rich lists, but of course, anyone considering a career in TEFL will want to feel confident that they will make back the money they spent on training, as well as being able to support themselves afterwards. I can (happily) say that I have earned back my CELTA-related expenses in TEFL teaching since I finished the course, although I’m not employed in an English academy: I teach private lessons as a tutor.
This leads me on to employment opportunities. I’m based in the UK, and openings for newly-minted CELTA graduates here are quite limited. I have experience as a secondary school English teacher, which has no doubt helped me to find work, but full-time, permanent posts in English-teaching academies are hard to come by. There are some exceptions: London is home to many private language schools of varying quality, and coastal towns in the south are also popular with international students all year round, so if you want to work in, say, Brighton or Bournemouth, you might have a good chance without much additional experience. Summer language camps for continental teens are also hosted by universities all over the country, and if you don’t mind the temporary nature of the work then these can present good opportunities.
Otherwise, to make full use of the CELTA, your best bet is to move abroad. That’s something I’m definitely interested in, as were others on my course: one Madrid-based classmate went from being a language assistant in a state school to the head of department in a private college once he obtained his certificate. Good for him. Others were planning to move to Israel, Italy, Korea, Ukraine, Spain, France, and Russia. Another classmate was a Polish-born, UK-based English teacher who was carving out a very nice niche for himself teaching English to newly-arrived members of the local Polish community, and doing pretty well at it.
When I was thinking about taking my CELTA, a classmate in my Saturday Spanish class suggested going with her to study for it in Barcelona. It sounded pretty tempting, but in the end, I decided to take it locally- and I’m glad I did. While I love Barcelona, and the idea of a month there was really appealing, in reality it would have meant extra expense- and not much time to see the city. The inescapable truth is that while on the course you’re in class from 9-5, and evenings and weekends are inevitably spent in planning lessons and writing (and then re-submitting!) assignments. Even while doing my CELTA close to home, I had to turn down the chance to meet up with a very dear old friend who was on a flying visit to the UK as I just couldn’t afford to take a day off. A month in Barcelona with my nose stuck in a grammar textbook would have been a criminal waste!
So my final thoughts? CELTA will bring you opportunities, especially if you are willing to travel. As an exam overseen by the University of Cambridge, it’s also a decent, internationally recognised qualification that looks good on your CV. (CELTA and TESOL graduates are often more highly prized than those who have taken generic or online-only courses.) The course content itself is something of a mixed bag: while I generally found the seminars useful and interesting, and the instructors both knowledgeable and experienced, every afternoon of the course was spent “observing” fellow trainees – and while it’s useful to observe your peers, it’s frustrating to be sitting at the back of a classroom for 10-12 hours each week while your own teaching and looming assignment deadlines weigh heavily on your mind. Overall, though, it was a good introduction to the world of TEFL, and I hope to make more use of my qualification in the future.