Okay, so it’s the all-important question for English teachers. Should you get something like the CELTA or another TEFL certificate or should you just bite the bullet and go big with a Masters degree? Keep on reading to find out all the information you need to know.
Which one is Better: TEFL vs Masters?
A reader question from Sam: “I’m thinking about a TEFL certificate vs. Masters degree (or even PhD) for teaching in a Korean university. Which one is better? Will one of them help me get my foot in the door better than the other?”
If we’re talking about strictly teaching, something like the CELTA (and the next level, the DELTA) is going to be much better than a Masters in many cases because of the practical nature of it. These courses also require supervised teaching practice, which in my opinion is by far the best way to improve your teaching skills.
Teaching is an art and while it’s good to have the theoretical background, it’s best learned through doing. Of course, you will pick up a ton of tips and tricks while doing your MA, but nothing is as good as supervised teaching practice.
I’m not going lie, I wasn’t a great teacher until I did the CELTA. After that, I figured out how to teach grammar (and understood it myself). I also learned how to plan an effective lesson and the stages for various kind of them.
The DELTA helped me expand my knowledge of grammar to the (kind-of) expert level. That’s a serious exam and you really have to know your stuff.
Teaching Certificate vs Masters for Getting a University Job in Korea
However, I have a hunch that the question is really about getting a university job in Korea and which one is better for that. The Masters degree by far–these days, it’s kind of a basic qualification to even get your foot in the door.
Koreans in general are pretty clueless when it comes to things like TEFL certs/CELTA, etc. In my own experience of doing the DELTA, none of the admins that I’ve mentioned this to have any idea what it is. This is despite the fact that I could use it get up to a year credit in many MA TESOL programs, especially in the UK.
Like it’s a legit certification program for ESL teachers and not some fly by night kind of thing!
That said, even a totally unrelated Masters degree is far better than any sort of TEFL certification. Business, engineering, whatever. It’s usually the basic requirement to get past the first round of resume screening.
What about for Outside of Korea?
Perhaps where TEFL certificates have the best value is outside of Korea. In many countries around the world, something like this is the basic qualification to get an English teaching visa.
Or, it’s the boost you need to compete for a competitive job, especially back in your home country where something like this is pretty much the standard.
If you want to do the Delta in Korea, check out:
Will a TEFL Certificate Increase My Earning Potential?
Even in Korea, you will get more money for having a TEFL certificate in some cases. This is certainly true in a public school where you may get 100,000-200,000 Won a month more for having this certificate or being a certified teaching in your home country.
Outside of Korea, it’s much the same.
How Can I Get a Uni Job in South Korea?
If you have a Masters degree it really is possible to get a uni job teaching English in Korea. But, it’s not going to be easy because the field is really competitive. Get a leg up on the competition by checking out this book on Amazon: How to Get a University Job in South Korea: The English Teaching Job of Your Dreams
Find out Whether or Not the Celta Will Help you Get a University Job in Korea
What Kind of Degree Do I Need to Teach in South Korea?
“I have a B.A in English (Literature & Composition). I also have a Masters in Science: Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment. There is a job that I’m looking at in Korea that is seeking an ESL Teacher. Are my degrees sufficient or do I need more experience specifically with ESL or teaching?”
Your qualifications are more than sufficient for a public school or hagwon job. With your MA, you would definitely be able to complete for university jobs once you’re in country and perhaps have a year of experience teaching adults at a hagwon for example.
For teaching English in Korea, all you need is a BA in basket weaving to legally get an E2 (conversation instructor) visa from the Korean government. And you have to also be from the “big 6” countries where English is spoken as the first language: Canada, USA, England, Australia, Uk, New Zealand, South Africa.
As far as somewhere actually hiring you for a teaching job in Korea, that is kind of a different story and this my unofficial ranking of what is most important.
Teaching in Korea Without a Degree
If you don’t have a BA but perhaps have a TEFL certificate or CELTA, you may want to know whether or not you can get a job teaching English in Korea. In short, it’s nearly impossible to do this legally, unless you want to consider the TALK program (Teach and Learn in Korea).
The Talk program is for people in their third year or higher of a university degree program. With this, you’re eligible for teaching jobs in elementary schools in public areas and your salary will be lower than English teachers with a degree. In general, you’ll teach after school classes for a total of around 15 hours a week.
Besides that, there are no legal opportunities for English teaching jobs in Korea without a degree. That said, some people do enter on tourist or family visas and then do private English teaching on the side which can be quite lucrative once you build up a network.
Ranking of Factors for Getting Uni Jobs in Korea
1. How beautiful/handsome you are. Blond hair/blue eyes preferred.
2. Where you’re from. North American preferred simply because it’s the accent that Koreans generally find easiest to understand.
3. Age. The younger, the better unless you want to get a university job in Korea, where being too young can hurt you. If you want to work at a uni, standards are a bit higher but you seem to have it covered with your masters degree.
4. Experience teaching English
5. What kind of degree you have. Things like TESOL or education are best. Some universities or high schools will look favourably on things like business or engineering degrees, if you’ll be teaching those majors.
6. Random other things. It just depends on the person who’s interviewing you. One guy at my last university went to the same school in the US as the guy doing the hiring. And you guessed it…he got the job!
So, as you can see experience and the kinds of degrees you have isn’t actually that important. You will definitely be able to land yourself a hagwon or public school job easily enough.
Of course, university jobs are a lot more difficult. You might get lucky and slip in there at the last minute with you MA though.
What about a Doctorate Degree in Law + Teaching English in a Korean University?
Here’s a reader question:
ESL in Korea = Basically a Dead-End Job
Stellar Teachers Get Punished
Korean Uni Interviews via Skype
If you must come to Korea, it really is quite difficult to get a university job from abroad. I estimate less than 10% of Korean universities are willing to do Skype interviews. Having a PhD might help you get a foot in the door, but it also might be a bit of a red-flag because hiring committees will wonder why you would ever want to teach in Korea and you will probably have to spend a good bit of the interview process explaining this.
They are used to people with Masters degree in things such as English, TESOL, humanities or arts. You’ll need to spend some time thinking about a good answer to this question.
Frugal Living and Early Retirement
How to Get a University Job in Korea
In case you want some advice on how to get one of the best teaching English jobs in the entire world, you’ll want to check out this book: How to Get a University Job in South Korea: The English Teaching Job of Your Dreams.
Print or Ebook Version
It’s available in both digital and print formats. The (cheaper!) digital copy can be read on any device by downloading the free Kindle reading app. Take it with you for some serious job advice on the go. Or, sit down and read it in a couple of hours and then get your job searching going on!
Get a Leg Up on the Competition
Of course, it’s not easy to get a university job in South Korea these days. There are just fewer jobs and more and more people competing for them. Give yourself a leg up on the competition by checking out this book as you’re beginning your job search process.
Where Can I Find the Book?
Learn more about it on Amazon.com, but only if you’re serious about getting yourself one of the best English teaching jobs in the entire world. How does 5 months paid vacation sound? Great, right?
All about the CELTA and Teaching English in Korea
Are you teaching in Korea (or want to) and are considering doing the CELTA? Then you’ll probably want to know how if it’ll help you get a job, or whether or not it may assist you in levelling up to something like a university job. Keep on reading for the answers to those important questions.
A Reader Question: CELTA South Korea
“At the moment I am seriously considering a teaching job in Korea-preferably in or near Seoul and preferably in a university or public school. I have teaching credentials but no ESL Certification. Do you think I should get the Celta? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.”
What is the CELTA?
The Cambridge Celta is the gold standard in the one-month ESL teaching programs (120 hours long). There are other similar programs with a huge variety of different names (there is no standardization in this area). Some are entirely online, while others are in person. Finally, some are a hybrid of the two and require some amount of observed teaching practice.
Of course, having a Masters degree in TESOL, TEFL or something like that is better, but if you don’t have the time, money, or inclination, then this is the next best thing. You can even sometimes get partial credit towards something like an MA TESOL if you’ve completed the CELTA.
Is the CELTA Recognized in Korea?
That is, the CELTA is the next best thing if you want to go teach in almost any country besides Korea. I cruise the ESL Cafe international jobs board periodically and it seems like almost any job in Europe, South America, the Middle East, many parts of Asia want a Celta certificate along with a university degree.
Koreans, even English teaching professionals generally don’t even know what the Celta is and will often hire people based on appearance vs. actual qualifications. So my advice for you? Spend the Celta money to hire a professional photographer to take the picture that you will attach to your resume and you’ll be better off if your only goal is teaching in Korea and no place else. Only kind of joking.
That said, if you do end up in public school, a CELTA will often bump you up into the next pay scale so you’ll often make an extra 100,000 Won per month, so it can be a worthwhile endeavour, even for that alone. If you’re looking for cheaper, quicker and completely online, check out these TESOL certification courses. But, be sure to check whether or not your school district or country will recognize whatever course you ultimately decide to do.
Want some solid advice about getting a university job in South Korea? Lots more details about what employers are looking for in terms of qualifications: How to Get a University Job in South Korea: The English Teaching Job of Your Dreams
Will the CELTA Help You Get a Uni Job in Korea?
Find out all the details here:
Are the CELTA or Other TEFL Courses Effective for Improving Teaching Skills?
If you’re serious about teaching, then the Celta is a very good thing to do. You will learn how to teach adults in a very effective way and I credit the course I did with basically refining my teaching style so that I’m now a well-oiled machine.
Seriously, it was one of the best courses I’ve ever done and I can’t say enough good stuff about it. It was during this course that I locked down my lesson planning style. And learned about the importance of ICQ’s and CCQ’s.
If you have the time and money and want to be an ESL teacher for at least a few years, it’s worth it. Your students will benefit greatly!
Have your Say about the TEFL Certificate vs Masters Debate
What are your thoughts about getting a TEFL certificate instead of a Master’s degree for teaching in Korea? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.
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