When it comes to ranking educational qualifications by their difficulty level, many countries have their own ranking system. For example, there are 9 different levels that courses can be classed as within the UK.
Examples of actual UK qualifications at each level are given below:Entry level: Entry level certificate (ELC)
Level 1: GCSE - grades 3, 2, 1 or grades D, E, F, G
Level 2: GCSE - grades 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4 or grades A*, A, B, C
Level 3: A level
Level 4: Certificate of higher education (Cert HE)
Level 5: Diploma of higher education (Dip HE)
Level 6: Degree with honors - for example bachelor of the arts (BA) hons
Level 7: Master’s degree, for example Master of Science (MSc)
Level 8: Doctorate, for example doctor of philosophy (PhD or DPhil)
Depending on which National Qualification Framework (NQF) you are referencing, you may find the entry-level 120-hour TEFL certification at levels 2 or 3. Working through the different levels of TEFL certification you could then obtain a Diploma, a Degree, a Masters degree and finally a PhD.
The highest ESL qualification is therefore the PhD in TEFL or TESOL. There are a number of ways to study for this qualification which include;
1. Full-time study at university
2. Part-time study at university
3. Studying online
The time frame for completing a PhD depends on whether your study is full time or part time.
Studying full-time the typical time frame is 3 to 4 years.
Studying part-time the typical time frame is 4 to 8 years.
These timeframes are also a factor in terms of how you actually go about getting your PhD as there are a number of different routes to gaining this qualification.
The four routes to a PhD
1. Probably the most common method for gaining a PhD is the ‘by thesis’ route. When you hear someone say “I am writing my doctoral thesis” this is what they are studying for.
This method, typically undertaken for three or four year’s full-time, requires you to conduct research and write your thesis of between 60,000 and 100,000 words (depending on the institution you study with).
2. Professional doctorate: This is a very common route for professions such as teaching and medicine. These are typically undertaken whilst you are still working and can take up to eight years to complete. Again your research will lead to a final essay, but this is only a part of the course as the professional route involves a significant “taught” component as well.
3. PhD through publication. As the name implies this route involves you achieving your doctorate through evidence of published work. Typically you are required to submit between four and eight published works and submit an overall statement of how your work has helped develop the field of enquiry.
4. The final route to gaining a PhD is through online study. This option is suitable for those who are unable to physically attend a university. Although you will be expected to attend short periods (such as summer school) at the university, most of your four to eight years of study will be conducted independently in conjunction with your supervisor. Contact is maintained online via Zoom or Skype type platforms.