You’re probably like me. Your CELTA has been reduced to a distant nightmare. You’ve got your first-lesson routine down to an art, and you can’t believe you were ever actually nervous in the classroom. Your Tefl adventure began years ago and you’ve finally admitted that you can’t imagine yourself in any other field. At first it was just a means to travel, but now you’re knee-deep in grammar jokes and spend your free time proofreading shop front signs from Sao Paolo to Hong Kong. You know you’re not going home.
Woops, you’ve become a TEFL Lifer.
But what’s next? DELTA or Masters?
I recently made this decision for myself and I want to share how I finally came to it. It only took about 1,000 hours of research, a million color-coded spreadsheets, 100 emails to program advisors, and 365 Snickers bars to reach my conclusion. Of course you should know that most minor decisions are apt to send me into panic mode, so this choice, which my future career will be based on, understandably set me drawing up pros and cons lists like my life depended on it. I thought I’d share what I found in case it helps any other TEFL lifer out there trying to figure out the next step.
Choice # 1: Delta
Remember how intense CELTA was? It’s like that but with way more pressure. Theoretically, you can complete the DELTA module by module at your own pace. In practice however, it seems most providers are still only offering the intensive DELTA (though the Distance DELTA is becoming more popular). You prepare for all three modules over a grueling two month session during which you live, eat, and breathe the DELTA. For the last three years I’ve been working at a school that offers it. I’ve witnessed several friends disappear into DELTA-landia. Leaving loved ones unattended for 8 weeks took its toll on their personal lives, but without exception, they did survive, so that’s a point in the DELTA’s favor.
- DELTA is a widely recognized qualification in Europe and Asia.
- I could stay in Vietnam where the cost of living is next to nothing and do the DELTA at the school I currently work for, simply putting my contract on hold for two months.
- I’d be done in two months (with the hardest part at least.)
- The DELTA is not a widely recognized qualification in the USA. If I ever wanted to go home, it would be harder to find a job, especially in a community college or University which require an MA.
- The schedule is unbelievably intense.
- It’s expensive for a two month program.
Cost: About $5,000 plus two months of living expenses. Total: $7,000.
Choice #2: MA TESOL
This seems to be the qualification that a lot of well-respected ELT professionals have to their name. I always promised myself I’d get a Masters by my 30th birthday, and if I start this autumn, I’ll make that goal (just barely!). It’s a year of full-time study or more, which can be done through traditional classroom learning as well as online. I’ve looked into all the options both at home and abroad, and found out the following:
- Recognized world-wide, including in the USA. This is a big plus, as I’d like to leave the door to home open even though I have no plans of walking through it.
- It’s a Masters. I would achieve my Masters-by-30 goal.
- Some are available online, so I wouldn’t have to relocate if I didn’t want to.
- There are very few MA TESOLs outside of English speaking countries. Cost of living would be high if I relocated to one. I’ve lived in cheap countries for sooooo long that prices back home and in other English speaking countries seem absurdly high! I can’t stomach the thought of needing to buy a car, or paying 5 bucks for a beer. Spoiled? Yes.
- The price of the MA itself would mean taking out loans. I’m currently out of debt and don’t want to dive back in. Even the online ones are pricy.
- I don’t know if I’m ready to live in an English speaking country again.
Cost: Between $16,000 – $40,000. OUCH! (This would be cheaper if you are a E.U. citizen.)
Choice #3: MA Applied Linguistics
A bit more theory based, and less focused on classroom practice. This may be a positive or a negative for you. It focuses on how language acquisition works, and the relationships between languages, a topic that fascinates me. I also love how adaptable this Masters would be to any field in ELT that I decide to pursue.
- This is the most captivating field for me.
- Coupled with my teaching experience, it would be accepted world-wide as a qualification to keep teaching at language institutes, colleges, and universities.
- It is offered in a variety of countries, so I could choose the country or the cost-of-living that best suits my needs. Spain again?!
- Virtually the same as the MA TESOL if I were to do it in an English-speaking country.
Cost: $6,000 – $40,000 depending on the country & university (again, cheaper if you’re European!)
As I said before, I obsessed over this decision for a while. Several years actually. So which qualification is right for me? After long and difficult deliberation I’ve finally chosen: (drumroll please…) Applied Linguistics.
In the end it came down to several factors. The first of those was the actual content of the course. I’ve become increasingly interested in theories of Second Language Acquisition and I feel this MA will be best suited for me at the moment. This will open the doors to D.O.S. positions in language schools as well as potential work in research in case I want to continue in academia. It seems like the most versatile qualification. Secondly, the fact that it will be accepted world-wide was very important for me, considering I hardly have a clue as to where I’m going to be living in 5 years. Finally, the fact that this MA is offered in many different countries meant that I was able to find a financially feasible option.
So, this week, after my 365th Snickers bar, I applied to an MA in Applied Linguistics in Barcelona. At only $7,000 for an international student it seems a reasonable investment. Also, the cost of living in Spain, even Barcelona, is cheaper than in English-speaking countries, and there is always work available teaching. Admissions are rolling and I’ve got my fingers crossed that I’ll be accepted. So that’s it. If all goes well, I’m going back to Europe. Bring on the cheese.
Have you already finished one of these options or are you considering it? Leave a comment below!