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Teaching House Nomads Blog | September 19, 2021

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Get Serious: How to Turn TEFL into a “Proper Job”

Get Serious: How to Turn TEFL into a “Proper Job”
Barry O'Leary

I’ve heard a lot of people say that being an ESL teacher is not a proper job. After all, it’s easy to teach your own language by following a well laid out course book, and entertaining students by playing a few games of Hangman and Pictionary. It’s true that plenty of ESL teachers are there for the ride, using teaching English as a means to make a few bob while they travel the world. I know, because I was one of them.

But the day I decided to do my diploma, teaching English stopped being just a way of earning some cash to pay my way and fund the occasional trip. Since then, I feel like I’ve actually obtained a meaningful career.

Here are a few reasons why you should do the Diploma of English Language Teaching to Speakers of Other Languages (Delta) if you want to become a serious ESL teacher (and by serious I don’t mean the boring type who doesn’t have fun in class).

Knowledge is power

Plenty of books to read on the Delta

Get ready for an influx of information

Devouring the extensive reading list alone will quadruple your knowledge about the ESL world. Not to mention the useful and inspiring input sessions that will fine tune your teaching abilities. You are put through a vigorous test of your awareness of language, theories, and techniques that will ultimately turn you into a super-human ESL teacher.

When I taught in Sydney I had a difficult group of Chinese students who wanted a reason for everything. Luckily there was a Delta trained teacher in the staffroom. She was an absolute saviour. She seemed to know everything about everything, like a walking English encyclopaedia. As I was new, I used to ask her a grammar or skills related question every day. Thankfully she liked beer, which was how I repaid the favour when we went out after work.

If you want to progress in ESL, then a Delta will improve your knowledge and help you develop as a teacher.

Improve your job security

What if the ESL bubble bursts where you are?

What if the ESL bubble bursts where you are?

One of the reasons I considered doing the Delta initially was when the recession in Spain was approaching. My boss in the summer school where I worked got me thinking.

“But what if Spain suddenly becomes like Greece?” he said on Skype one day. “What if demand for English suddenly bombs? If you have a Delta, then you’ll be safe in your job. Or if you have to come back to the UK, you’ll need a Delta to get a half-decent paying job.”

The demand for English has fallen slightly in Spain due to economic problems, but most of the population acknowledge the importance of learning English and there is still a healthy market here. The bubble could burst at any time though. At least I know that if for whatever reason my company needs to lay off workers, they’ll probably keep me on due to my experience. Also, if I want to return to the UK, or am able convince my wife that we could live in Thailand, then I’m confident I’ll find work with the Delta behind me.

Challenge yourself

Doing your Delta may feel like climbing a mountain

Doing your Delta may feel like climbing a mountain

Maybe you’ve been in the game for a few years now and are starting to look ahead. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and take the smooth route. Imagine yourself in ten or twenty years. Can you see yourself in the same job, teaching the same levels, just getting by term by term? Can you envisage your brain sliding down the ESL slope and ending up in ball of mess? This was happening to me, which is why I set myself the challenge.

By pushing yourself through the Delta you’ll be surprised how motivated you’ll become in class. Okay, you’re going to have an extremely tough year, or two. There will be moments when you wish you could sleep at night and not worry about the observation you have the next day, or relax in class without connecting everything to your final LSA. Once you’ve done it though, you’ll feel great as your ESL career will have taken a new direction.

Broaden your horizons

Take your pick of jobs

Take your pick of jobs

By doing the Delta your world will open. If you really want to make a go of it and progress up the ESL chain, then doing the Delta is the only way to go. To become a CELTA or teacher trainer you’ll need the Delta. Maybe you fancy getting into materials writing, then the detailed analysis of course books and focus on structured lesson plans will help you excel in this area too. Plus most Director of Studies positions with the largest, most lucrative companies ask for a Delta.

It’s up to you. Maybe you’re happy in your job as an ESL teacher, you can deal with your students, your lessons are okay and the students learn something. But if you have that niggling feeling that you can do more, they can learn more, and your classes can be better, more interactive with more purpose and better focus, then do a Delta.

Have I tempted you to give it a try? I put it off for about 3 years, and although it was actually one of the hardest years of my life, I’m glad I did it, but then again, I’m serious about making a career as an ESL teacher, so I don’t suppose I had much choice.

If you’re interested then why not try Teaching House blended course? If you have any more questions, I’ll be happy to answer them.


  1. Angela

    I realize the DELTA is much more extensive than the CELTA, as the latter is just the certificate, but can you tell me a little bit more in regards to getting the diploma? On average, how long does it take and how many hours of observation do you need? Is it set up more like a degree program where you are tested on required readings too?

    I have not yet obtained the CELTA so I know the certificate is a needed first step, but I’m thinking ahead, especially in light of the fact that I too would love to teach English in Spain again as you are doing. Thank you for any tips!

    • Hey Angela,

      Thanks for writing. Great that you are planning ahead, I didn’t even know the Delta existed until I’d been teaching for four years.

      The Delta can take as long as you want it to, but I think a minimum of 1 year. About 3 months to do module 1, another 3 months to do module 2, and then depends on module 3. I managed to get mine done in a year, which was tough going, but possible.

      When you say how many hours of observation do you need, do you mean before you take on the Delta? During the Delta you have 4 or 5 lessons observed, the last one being the most important. Also you need about 3 years teaching before you can get on a Delta course.

      Have a look at another post I did about the Delta, which also gives some more tips. I also have more on my blog and will be working closely with Teaching House re further blogs about the Delta too.

      Best of luck.


  2. Allison Hammond

    I want Cambridge to design a diploma-level credential that is useful for teachers who primarily or exclusively teach Very Young Learners!

    CELTA (and presumably DELTA) techniques are very useful for learners down to the age of about 8. But for learners younger than that you need a very different skill set.

    Here’s the rub: the MARKET for teachers who are EXCELLENT at teaching ITSY BITSY TEENY WEENY LEARNERS is ENORMOUS!!!

    I’m talking 2-to-4-year-olds. And I’m talking MILLIONS of them.

    As the manager of one Teaching House center told me in my interview: “Every parent in the world wants their child to learn English.”

    Cambridge, that’s a powerful quote from one of your very own.

    Course developers, it’s time to think outside the “A” (Adult) box. There was a time when Cambridge was ahead of the market curve. I LOVED my CELTA course and I want to see its creators get ahead of that curve again.

    Let’s DO IT!!

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