ESL Certifications

If you’re in the market for an ESL job in Korea, you’ve probably noticed that job listings often request applicants to have qualifications such as MA TESOL/DELTA or TEFL/TESOL Certificate. So, what exactly are these qualifications, and should you spend the time, effort, and money to obtain one or more of them?

For English teachers looking to improve their qualifications and job prospects, we introduce several options for further training in and around Seoul.

Internet-based TEFL/TESL/TESOL Certificates

Cost: $150-500 USD

An online certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (or the similar designations Teaching English as a Second Language or Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is a good option for new teachers who want to learn about teaching methodology without committing the time or money required for a classroom course.

In general, you will be expected to spend 100-120 hours reviewing the materials prepared for you and at the end you will have to undergo a written assessment that will be evaluated by the certifying company.

Be aware that there are hundreds of online TEFL/TESL certification programs of varying quality. At the end of the day, however, very few Korean schools or institutes (except perhaps the very high-end ones) will differentiate between them. Many jobs will offer an additional salary of ₩100,000 per month for holding the certificate, and it certainly can’t hurt your employment prospects – particularly if you lack formal training in English Language Education – so this is certainly a route to consider if you’re looking to break in or advance in the industry.

The following are reasonably priced online certificate programs (which, given the large Facebook followings, appear to be somewhat reputable):

OnlineTEFL – 40 hour courses beginning at $119

LoveTEFL – £185

ICAL TEFL – $265

The following site is a useful resource as it has user-submitted reviews of numerous online programs:


Cost: $1500-2500 USD

CELTA and CertTESOL are accreditations for teachers who are serious about advancing in the field of ESL. While these options are significantly more expensive than your basic online certificate, the quality of training is top notch and holders of the CELTA or CertTESOL designation are highly sought after in the ESL world. As a result, these accreditations can potentially open doors to elite academies or universities, and can be a viable alternative to completing a full MA program in TESOL.

Unfortunately, the CELTA and CertTESOL designations are not as well known in Asia as they are in Europe, but the reputation in Korea (especially of CELTA) is quickly growing.

CELTA (now known as Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) is a professional certification program administered by Cambridge English. In 2011, an CELTA online program was established. To find out more information about how you can take CELTA, check out the official web page: Ways to take CELTA.

If you’re interested in obtaining the CELTA through classroom training in Seoul, the British Council Korea offers four-week courses every year. The next session is scheduled for June 3 – 28, 2013.

CertTESOL is another reputable teaching certification awarded by Trinity College London. As with CELTA, training can be done in locations across the world. Unfortunately, there is currently no CertTESOL program available in Korea, although there is one available at English for Asia in Hong Kong, and portions of the curriculum may be completed through distance learning. CertTESOL training fees are also usually slightly lower than those for CELTA.

Both CELTA and CertTESOL are very highly regarded in the ESL industry, and the quality of training is similar to what one would expect in a good MA program. In addition, taking part in one of these courses would present a great opportunity to network and expand your list of professional contacts.


Cost: $3000+ USD

DELTA is essentially a more comprehensive version of CELTA and is also offered by Cambridge English. It is a diploma awarded upon completion of three intensive modules; in addition, the candidate must also have demonstrated a long-term commitment to teaching through two years (1200 hours) of full-time TESL-related work experience.

In order to obtain the DELTA while living in Korea, your options are either to go through the British Council or to take The Distance DELTA.


Cost: $10,000+ USD

A final option for teachers looking to really distinguish themselves is to do an MA in TESOL, which generally involves 3-4 semesters of full-time study and submission of a master’s thesis. While there legitimate distance learning programs out there that offer an MA in TESOL, the plethora of online degree mills has made it so that such degrees may not be viewed as favorably.

Many brick-and-mortar, accredited universities (particularly in the UK, US, and Australia) do offer a significant distance learning component, but generally classroom training is an integral part of a good master’s program.

While an MA is by far the most expensive option, it will also open the most doors to the most desirable ESL positions both in Korea and elsewhere. Another option is to do a non-TESOL master’s program, such as one in Linguistics or English Literature, depending on where your interests lie – doing so could also help you differentiate yourself from other applicants when applying for jobs down the road.

The following foreign universities have well-regarded distance learning programs:

Shenandoah University (US)

University of Birmingham (UK)

The University of New England’s Master Degrees in Applied Linguistics/TESOL (AUS)

The local degree programs in TESOL and other English language subjects below are considered among the best in Korea and the level of instruction would be similar to that in many western programs. However, the portability of these degrees outside Korea may be questionable:

Korea University: MA in English Education; MA in English Language and Literature; MA in TESOL

Sookmyung University: MA in TESOL

Other options

Hanyang University offers a certificate program in TESOL that counts toward graduate credits.

Indiana State University offers a 12-credit graduate certificate in TESL/TEFL that can be completed via distance education.

There are a variety of specialist certificates, such as the exam-based Cambridge English Business Certificate.

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