The usual qualifications for newcomers to TEFL are a degree and a TEFL certificate such as the ICAL TEFL Course. These are usually enough to secure a decent job in teaching English as a foreign language.
However, after a few years experience, some teachers will want to go for further study. The two main options here are a Diploma or a Masters Degree.
By far the most well known and respected diploma courses are the Cambridge DELTA and the Trinity DipTESOL. These are the only two diploma courses most organizations (including the British Council) will consider seriously.
Diploma vs MA
This is a question a lot of teachers ask. Which is better? Which should they take?
Basically, an MA is taken from a university and is generally (although not always) fairly theoretical in content. A diploma, on the other hand, is usually more practical and very much geared towards life at the chalkface.
If you are looking at going for a higher teaching job, perhaps moving into TEFL teacher-training, or maybe applying for a DoS position, then a diploma is best as it shows that you are not only a teacher with practical experience, but also the qualifications to back it up.
On the other hand, if you want to teach at a university and head into the more theoretical or academic side of TEFL, then an MA is the usual qualification to have.
Note though, if you have a good diploma you can often use it as credit on an MA course depending on where you took the diploma and where you want to take the MA.
As for time, a typical MA is 1 year full time. It will usually include study along with associated coursework and a dissertation – usually around 15,000 words. The DELTA takes around 3 months to complete full time although you can split this up. A DipTESOL takes around 10 weeks. All of these can be taken part-time if you prefer.
Fees vary of course depending on where you study, but an MA will start from around $10000 USD (€7913, £6363). A DELTA can cost around £1500 ($2357 USD, €1865) while the DipTESOL is around £2500 ($3929 USD, €3109).
More on the Diploma
Different schools and colleges offer diploma courses. Some of them are definitely rubbish and when you apply for work with them, you run the risk of finding you’ve thrown your money away.
If you want to be certain that the diploma you are paying for is going to be accepted almost everywhere and is well regarded, you should look at either the Cambridge DELTA or the Trinity DipTESOL.
Although the courses are set and overseen by Cambridge and Trinity respectively, they are run all over the world at various schools and institutions (which are regularly moderated by Cambridge or Trinity to see they come up to scratch). Each school sets their own fees so check with a local center for accurate local costs and don’t forget their may be additional fees if you need accommodation and so on.
Both courses are very intensive with extensive reading and a lot of late hours and several tons of coffee required to complete them!
The DELTA comprises 3 modules. These can be taken and paid for individually but only when all 3 are successfully completed is the DELTA certificate awarded.
- Module 1 focuses on the background to teaching and learning. Assessment by written examination.
- Module 2 focuses on developing professional practice. Assessment by a portfolio of coursework including observed lessons, written assignments, and an externally-assessed lesson observation.
- Module 3 focuses on a specialist option (e.g. TEYL). Assessment is by dissertation.
For more on this course, see Cambridge DELTA.
The DipTESOL is not modular but includes roughly the same content as the DELTA. It is slightly more focussed on pronunciation.
Assessment is in four parts:
- A written exam on aspects of language including grammar, lexis and discourse, theory and practice of learning and teaching, and aspects of professional development.
- Portfolio: Your coursework portfolio consisting of three elements: 10 hours of classroom observation, a developmental record reflecting on 15 hours of teaching at various levels and an independent research project on an area of particular interest to you.
- An interview which includes presentation of a phonology topic, related to classroom practice; assessment of your knowledge of the characteristics of spoken English and discourse, including phonology, stress and intonation with live transcription of an utterance of 20 lexical items; discussion of your classroom practice regarding strategies for teaching spoken English, and the skills and sub-skills involved in effective listening and speaking.
- Assessment of teaching practice.
For more on this course, see Trinity CertTESOL.
Usually a diploma will ask for at least 2 (or often 3) years’ teaching experience, a TEFL certificate, and a degree.
If a diploma course accepts students without experience then it is likely not a particularly good diploma course. A diploma is supposed to be equivalent to a post-graduate degree course so if a provider does not ask for a prior degree, this should raise questions in your mind as to the worth of that particular diploma.
However, having said this, you may be accepted onto a respected diploma course if you do not have prior qualifications but only if you have plenty of experience teaching and can show a commitment to the profession (e.g. membership of IATEFL and other well regarded organizations, a track record of conferences and seminars and so on).
Masters Degrees for Teachers of English – the alternative to a diploma.
Trinity DipTESOL – official information from Trinity College.
Cambridge DELTA – official information from Cambridge.