Which TESOL certificate is best?

TESOL courses vary in length from a few hours over the weekend all the way to the pinnacle of educational certification, which is the doctorate level. Here we will briefly describe the different courses available, their content, and why you may wish to take them.

Weekend TESOL (often called a taster course)

Typical course duration: Five to fifteen hours

Typical study components: An overview of TESOL. What a typical 120-hour certification involves. Employment opportunities by country. Introduction to teaching skills and language awareness.

Use of certification: Can be used as ‘Continuing Professional Development’ (CPD) credit. Useful to get an idea of what TESOL involves without paying out for a full course.

Specialization Course

Typical course duration: Forty to sixty hours

Typical study components: There are three generally recognized courses. Teaching English to young learners, teaching business English and teaching English online. Other specialized courses may include topics such as academic planning, further grammar, phonology and phonetics.

Use of certification: Typically these are used in addition to a general 120-hour TESOL certification to enhance your CV or resume, should you wish to apply for employment within one of these specialized areas of teaching English.

Introduction to TESOL

Typical course duration: Fifty to sixty hours

Typical study components: The focus is usually on teaching skills. Topics covered would normally include teaching methods, lesson planning, production of teaching materials, an introduction to grammar, and general language awareness, but this would lack the depth required to teach those topics.

Use of certification: In certain circumstances it may be used as proof of TESOL certification, though the usual minimum requirement worldwide is a 120-hour course.

TESOL certificate

Typical course duration: One hundred and twenty hours

Typical study components: There are usually two or three major components to these courses depending on whether they are taken as an in-class course or an online course. In the online version the two components are teaching skills and language awareness (grammar, phonology etc). The in-class version usually has the additional aspect of real teaching practice with English Language Learners (ELL’s)

Use of certification: This is the most recognized qualification worldwide as an entry requirement to ESL teaching.

TESOL Diploma

Typical course duration: Two hundred and fifty hours

Typical study components: Course content typically covers both theories and methodology of teaching. Typical study areas include the history of ESL teaching methods, assessment methods and techniques, teaching and learning strategies, motivational theory, phonetics, professional development, and many other topics.

Use of certification: Used mainly for higher level teaching and management positions.

TESOL Masters

Typical course duration: One year full time onsite, 2 to 4 years part time onsite. Similar timings for online versions.

Typical study components: Linguistics, language development, research (percentage of research required depends upon the program taken).

Use of certification: ESL program coordinators worldwide, ESL administrators.


Typical course duration: Can be up to ten years allowed (2 to 4 years is typical)

Typical study components: Almost entirely research based on a topic of study with which you are probably already familiar and under the direction of a professor.

Use of certification: University teaching and administration. Research jobs.

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