MA, PGCEi or Diploma?

Question from a reader:

I’m after some advice. I can’t decide which professional development course to do. I have a CELTA plus five years’ teaching experience and I’ve been thinking for a while about doing a DELTA or Dip. Then again, I’ve heard that for university jobs like teaching pre-sessional courses it’s good to have an MA. But recently I’ve heard people mention the PGCEi as a future-proofing qualification and I’m like… aargh! Which course should I do?

My comments:

Hmmm, where to start? There’s so much to consider! I’d say from the outset that there’s no definitive answer but I’m happy to share my views.

Okay, so first up I think you need to consider what you want to achieve from doing further studies. The two things you’ve mentioned are getting a job at a uni and future-proofing.

Both these motivations sound extrinsic (but I can’t be sure) – the focus being more on getting a ‘good job’, less precarious work, financial reward and perks, etc. Even then, it still really depends on your long-term plans and life/career goals. Unfortunately, there are other constraints to factor in too. It’s disheartening to say this but qualifications future-proof nothing as long as discriminatory hiring practices exist.

Chances are that there’s more motivating you than money. If you are really interested in developing your classroom practice then a Dip is certainly worth considering. In my view it’s the most applicable course for professional English language teachers. I feel like my teaching improved loads by doing the DipTESOL, especially confidence-wise, and I’d thoroughly recommend it.

A diploma is sometimes a prerequisite for moving up the ranks and into management. Again though, there’s that conundrum about how much you’re motivated by the vocation of teaching itself, or by ‘furthering your career’ as such within ELT (It is okay to ‘just’ want to be a better teacher you know). This is where those hiring practices come into play again, as a Dip doesn’t guarantee you much on that promotion front either. My old school used to advertise junior management roles externally as requiring a Dip plus 2 years’ experience. Then they would hire people internally for the role who were only halfway through a dip course. Im taking nothing away from the suitability of those who get the job, it’s just worth considering that things aren’t black and white – it’s not a case of ‘once I get XYZ I’ll be able to…’

This doesn’t apply in the same way to an MA. An MA is certainly not a prerequisite for a teaching role at a uni, e.g. a pre-sessional in the UK. However, when I was teaching in Korea it seemed an MA was a non-negotiable for uni work. With this is mind, planning ahead and researching the path you want to take is largely going to dictate whether any of these courses are suitable.

It would be misleading to say that if research and theoretical understanding of your practice float your boat then do an MA. A lot of MA courses are far more practical than it might seem. Personally, I’d say that if you’re thinking of specializing in some way then an MA is worth considering. The NILE MAPDLE that I did offered loads of practical modules in things like materials development and teacher training, so you could hone your knowledge and skills in specific areas. I benefitted first-hand from specialising in such a way – my MA deffo helped with finding work as a writer.

The PGCEi is a curveball here. I don’t think it’s worth considering unless you are serious about branching out a bit and moving into international schools. A PGCEi is an excellent and well-rounded course for international educators, but if you see yourself as continuing as more of a TEFLer then it wouldn’t be of much benefit.

Out of the three, the PGCEi is the course that is most likely to future-proof you (if that is even a thing). However, it’s also the one which involves the biggest professional commitment.

The international school market is growing rapidly, there are loads of employment opportunities and the pay/conditions are often excellent. For experienced teachers in ELT looking for secure work and an international school education for dependents, and who are willing to invest time and effort upskilling, PGCEi is a no-brainer. That upskilling though… demands are high. You don’t get something for nothing.

It’s tough here to really endorse one course over the others – I chose to do all three so I clearly see value in them. That is certainly not possible financially for many people in ELT, and it only happened because I said ‘right, the first time I write a coursebook all that money is going on professional development’. I was lucky enough to fund the MA and PGCEi outright, but if that wasn’t the case then it would have made the choice of which course to take very tough.

Looking at the current state of ELT, for those based in Asia I would seriously consider a PGCEi. I’m the fourth person from my old BC school alone to have taken the plunge. All of us now are on the international school circuit, and as far as I know none of us have looked back. You can find out more about the course in my post here.

If you want to get into writing then finding an MA that offers practical training in materials development is worthwhile. However, it is not a must. I’ve come to realize that finding writing work is easier than it seems at first (see here and also here) and there’s a lot you can learn on the job. I can’t vouch for other specialisms.

As for the Dip, there is absolutely nothing to lose personally or professionally from doing it, maybe just financially.

I’d love to hear other views on this one and I’m happy to offer my opinion/advice on any comments, but I can’t provide answers I’m afraid!

2 comments

  1. Great post as ever Pete. I would definitely recommend those that are keen to undertake a course the following:
    1. If you want to work for the British Council and are keen to get involved within management, then a DELTA or a DipTESOL is a requirement.
    2. If you want to get involved within academic English and tutoring for a University either in the UK or abroad, then an MA in English Teaching or Linguistics is necessary.
    3. If you wish to further your career by teaching for international schools then an PGCEi course is necessary.

    However, there are some universities that offer both an MA and a Diploma level qualification (equivalent to a DELTA/DipTESOL and recognised by the BC) that will give you further opportunities at either the BC or at University level – this was the direction I chose for my English teaching career. Furthermore, if you secure permanent employment with a University, then it is usually required to undertake a PGCE in Higher Education, just to further enhance your knowledge and awareness of teaching in a HE context.

    Liked by 2 people

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