TESL certification from Duke: Hot or not?
April 15, 2010 10:38 AM   Subscribe

I am considering enrolling in the Duke University (continuing education, non-credit) TESL certification program with the goal of living and teaching English abroad. Would this be a waste of time?

I haven't been able to find any other TESL certification program locally (Raleigh, Durham, or Chapel Hill North Carolina, USA).

The program includes 11 classes of varying duration (one-day seminars up to 11-week commitments), plus a 10-week practicum, with total tuition estimated at ~ $2000. Not grad school, but not nothing. It would probably take 6-9 months to complete everything.

The program doesn't lead to the kind of certification I'd need to teach here in public schools, but that's fine -- that's not what I want to do anyway.

At the information session -- which included about 15 people in a range of ages -- a couple of students asked about finding jobs after getting certified. Apparently, placement is often through personal connections through the instructors and program administrators, and that the prestige of the Duke University name helped a lot. (I'm not good at "personal connections" and don't see this working out well for me.)

I guess I could also seek jobs by contacting international placement agencies directly, but I don't know if this is "done".

I'd like to eventually land a pretty good job in Europe or North Africa (maybe my programming background will help). I realize that these jobs are usually filled by people with minimal monetary needs (who are a lot younger than I am), but I'd at least like to be able to work with a very reputable company which will treat me well.
posted by amtho to Education (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you looked for programming and ESL jobs in the places that you want to be? Do that first. I know a lot of people with TESL certs and the same number of people who went abroad for these jobs without any certifications. Ability to teach is a more beloved/less maintained requirement. If you already plan to spend 6-9 months in school it may be smarter to seek an M.Ed. or MAT that has interaction with TESL and might have that certificate as a supplement.
posted by parmanparman at 10:53 AM on April 15, 2010

Fair warning, it is VERY, VERY difficult to get a job in Europe, especially Western Europe, as a non-EU citizen. As someone who is about to begin a TESL certification of my own, this is something that's been drilled into me by the teachers interviewing me, other teachers, blogs, etc., etc., etc.

I can't say anything about Duke's certification, though in my research, apparently CELTA and TESOL are the most widely-accepted certifications, and the more respectable the place you want to teach, the likelier you are to get a job with one of those.

Granted, finding information about TEFL is like looking for a needle in a box of pins. There's so much information available that it's hard to tell what's real and what's just someone trying to make a buck off of your adventurous spirit.
posted by inmediasres at 11:33 AM on April 15, 2010

For what it's worth, I know people who've done much, much shorter/less prestigious TESOL programs than the one you mentioned and had success in finding teaching jobs overseas, all in Asia or Central/South America. I also know people who've had no TESOL certification and found jobs. I'm currently teaching English in France under a sort of governmental exchange program and have no training as a teacher whatsoever (although this is a strictly short-term program).

All of which leads me to suggest you think carefully before sinking a lot of time/money into training for something you could (IMHO) probably do without going to the prestigious university. As another thought, why not try to find a teaching job in a country like Korea or China (where the bulk of the work seems to exist), see if you like it, and then decide whether to invest in the education that could land you better teaching positions?
posted by nicoleincanada at 12:10 PM on April 15, 2010

Response by poster: nicoleic - If I didn't like teaching in Korea (because of the cultural isolation), it wouldn't necessarily prove that I wouldn't enjoy it somewhere else, so that approach wouldn't necessarily help. Also, I haven't ruled out Korea or China, I just think I'd prefer somewhere else. I'm open.

The program is really not that burdensome, it's just a few evening/weekend classes, and I do actually want to learn the material offered -- it sounds fairly interesting and helpful. I'm convinced it's a worthwhile investment, just for learning. ~2K is the _total_ cost for all 12 classes, and the people look interesting, too.

A M.Ed. would be a lot more work and expense, wouldn't it?

I'm just not sure what happens after I get the certification.

I know that it's difficult to find work like this in Europe (Eastern Europe would be fine -- I've actually taught in Prague, but just for 3 weeks and for an informally organized group). So, it's difficult. I guess my question is, given that it _is_ difficult to do this, would a Duke certification actually help? Is it in fact prestigious at all? Admission is non-competitive...
posted by amtho at 12:31 PM on April 15, 2010

It's hard for me to believe that the Duke name would have almost any recognition outside of the US. I know it's a great, highly ranked school overall, but it was the admissions folks who told you this, right? Also, would a non-credit program really be all that meaningful? I just don't know.

I think if you want to get this degree and work in North Africa, you should get this degree in North Africa. In particularly, I'm thinking of the TEFL degree program at the American University in Cairo. I know quite a few people who went to AUC for this degree and now have jobs teaching at AUC. This is a US-accredited university, so it's a degree that'd be worth something back in the US, too. I think you can get the diploma or a master's. And, seriously, if you want to go overseas, just go.

I'll nth the idea that it will be very difficult for you to get a job teaching English in Europe unless you have EU citizenship. The EU has plenty of native English speakers, so there's really no need for them to bring in folks from outside.

Good luck!
posted by bluedaisy at 1:32 PM on April 15, 2010

Also, did you check at community colleges in the Triangle? Or at NC Central?
posted by bluedaisy at 1:34 PM on April 15, 2010

Response by poster: I checked UNC, Durham Tech, Meredith, and NCSU. I just looked at NCCU's site and didn't see anything. I only checked Duke on a whim and was delighted when I found their program.

Studying abroad in Cairo sounds fascinating, but it's a lot more expensive. The idea that people actually do that, especially that their parents pay for them to do that, seems strange and exotic to me. It's totally beyond my budget.
posted by amtho at 2:31 PM on April 15, 2010

Why assume people's parents pay for them? Many of the folks I know who did it did it as independent adults. One guy I know who is still there had been in the military for years. Why does studying abroad seem any stranger than working abroad, which is what you want to do?

Okay, this is a derail. But you might be hard pressed to find a company to hire you overseas if you can't get there first. At least getting the degree (and you might be able to find a short term one) overseas would get you there, so you'd develop connections and look for work at the same time.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:35 PM on April 15, 2010

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