How to Teach English Online: The Ultimate Guide

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[Teaching online] gives teachers the opportunity to work from almost anywhere in the world. My main reason why I work [online] is because it gives me flexibility in my schedule and to work from home.

Dan

Online English Teacher

About Teaching Online

For people looking to teach English online, the process can often be intimidating.  There are seemingly countless jobs out there with different rates of pay, requirements, and students.  While many schools and jobs are straight forward, we have received more than a few messages complaining about how the details seem to change from one job to the next.

With this in mind, we have done our best to create a 4 part guide aimed at helping anyone interested in teaching English online.  Each section covers a topic that can help prospective teachers better prepare for a job in online education and we have done our best to back up each with real examples from over 20 different jobs.

 

Looking for our guides to getting hired?  Check out:

Requirements for Online Teaching: What Employers Want

The good news is that there is no rigid set of requirements to teach English online, meaning almost anyone can get a job in online education.  The bad news is that employers do tend to favor certain traits above others and teachers that possess those are more desirable.

Luckily, we are here to help you identify trends that exist across job postings regardless of the employer so that you can find jobs that work for you and stand out in your application.

Similar to the last section, we looked at 20 different jobs and websites to see what traits and characteristics are common when it comes to the majority of teaching English online requirements.

 

I. Physical Online English Teaching Requirements

Physical requirements include everything from where you’re allowed to teach to what nationality the employer prefers.  Luckily, due to you teaching online, a physical presence isn’t typically required but there are a few things to keep in mind when considering online English teaching as a career.

 

Hours and Time Zones

teach english online requirements hours

Your students are going to be located all over the world and this can cause some less than desirable working hours depending on your location.  It’s important to keep this in mind when looking at jobs and crucial to ask if it’s not mentioned by the employer.  The last thing you want is to commit yourself to working in the middle of the night without knowing it (and yes, such a schedule will catch up to you!).

 

Nationality

teach english online requirements nationalty

As I mentioned above, nationality doesn’t play as big of a role online as it does in the classroom.  Lots of schools are willing to accept teachers regardless of where they are from but do tend to care more about your English abilities.

 

English Abilities

teach english online requirements native speaker

Unfortunately, being a native speaker is still a huge advantage when it comes to most teach English online requirements.  After all, if you were paying for English lessons, wouldn’t you want your teacher to be a native speaker?

While I don’t recommend it, you might be able to fool some schools into thinking you grew up speaking English, but then you put your job on the line.  If you’re not a native speaker, my advice is to find a school that doesn’t care because they are definitely a few of them out there.

 

II. Teaching Experience Requirements

Just like with traditional ESL classroom jobs, there seems to be a position out there for everyone.  No matter if you’re young or old, inexperienced or tenured, you should be able to find something that meshes well with your teaching abilities.

No Experience?  No Problem!

teach english online requirements experience

If the ink on your TEFL certificate has barely dried, don’t worry!  There are plenty of jobs for new teachers and plenty of them will offer some sort of training (usually online).  With this in mind, DO NOT take the first job that is offered to you simply because you don’t have any experience.  It’s important for all teachers to find a job that matches both their goals and aspirations so make sure to find one that you like.

 

Teaching Certification

teach english online requirements certification

This is another teach English online requirement that can only help you, not hurt you.  Sure, schools prefer certified teachers, but very few will turn you away if you don’t have a certification.  However, this does not mean it’s not valuable – getting certified is a great way build confidence and learn some of the best practices, especially for new teachers.

 

III. Technical Requirements

These might be the most important teach English online requirements out there and certainly the ones that contrast the most with traditional classroom teaching.

Above everything else, including being a native speaker, these requirements are the most inflexible because you actually have to be able to get online and work effectively in order to get an online job.

I know, crazy, right?

Luckily, as with most of the stuff in this guide, there are a ton of options that work with nearly every type of computer and internet connection (I’ve even seen jobs where you teach over the phone!).

 

Computer Specifications

teach english online requirements computer

Sorry Mac users – PCs are much more common when it comes to most teach English online requirements.  That’s not to say you won’t be able to find a job to accommodate your Macbook, but you might have to look a bit harder.

Also, if your computer is a relic, make sure to ask about the RAM required to run the school’s program (if they provide one) or check with whatever service (like Skype) that you’ll be using.  You don’t want to get hired only to find out your machine can’t handle the workload!

 

Internet Speed

teach english online requirements internet

Obviously you don’t need Google Fiber to teach English online, but you also can’t do it from a dial up connection.  Despite what the above job posting says, the majority of schools are insisting on at least 4mbps download but 6mb will definitely make things easier when you are using video and screensharing.

 

Hardware and Accessories

teach english online requirements hardware

You’re going to need a bit more than a solid computer to be a good online English teacher.  Classes work best when the audio and video is as clear as possible, and that means investing in a quality microphone and camera.  Many schools also require a smartphone in case of emergencies like the one above.

 

Online Payment

teach english online requirements payment

Finally, and often overlooked when it comes to the teach English online requirements, is the fact that you will need to be paid online.  The easiest and most accepted way for this is Paypal, but some schools use other channels or even wire transfer, so make sure to check so you can get it all set up before your first pay day!

 

How Much Can You Make Teaching Online?

Even if you didn’t get into education for the money, it’s always a good idea to know what the average teach English online salary is.  Knowing this not only helps you identify quality jobs, it also helps you evaluate your current job.

There’s just one problem: there are a dizzying amount of options and factors out there that can determine how much you make as an online teacher.  Besides the obvious like experience and accent, things like the lessons you teach and the type of employer you work for can affect your teach English online salary.

We set out to reduce the confusion by examining and evaluating over 20 different jobs and companies in order to figure out what teachers can expect to earn and what you can do to increase your earning power.

 

The 4 Different Types of Employers

There are four main ways to make money when it comes to teaching English online:

  • Online Schools
  • Make-a-Profile Companies
  • Working for Yourself
  • Selling Your Own Courses on Established Websites

 

Online Schools

teach english online salary online school

Online schools hire like any other school – you apply, interview, and start teaching knowing that the school will be providing the students and usually the curriculum.  You teach a consistent schedule and tend to have the same students.

Online schools are great for people just starting out as they handle all of the planning, marketing, and scheduling so all you have to worry about is teaching.

The downside is that online English schools also tend to pay a bit lower because they do all these things and teachers have very little say when it comes to increasing your rates.

 

Make-a-Profile Companies

teach english online salary profile

Make-a-Profile companies require you to complete a profile on their site and market yourself in order to find students.  These companies allow you to set your own rates so it is a good opportunity to make more money, but you are also competing against other teachers that are often willing to work for less than you.

If you have experience or are certified in things like test preparation or college admissions, using a profile site is a good way to stand out and charge a premium for your skills.

However, there is no guarantee of students and it might take a while for you to build up the reviews and feedback needed to make decent money.

 

Working for Yourself

teach english online salary jennifer esl

Working for yourself gives you ultimate control – you set your own rates, find your own students, and work when you want.

However, while the payoffs might be great, it is the most difficult on this list because of the work required.  You not only need to pay for and set up a website but also compete for students with some much larger companies.  However, when done correctly, this type of business can be incredibly rewarding.

 

Selling Courses on Established Websites

teach english online salary udemy

Selling courses online is a great way to create passive income, meaning once you create a course the majority of your work is pretty much done.  Yes, you do have to market your work, but you are not teaching the material every time a student buys it.

A plus to this method is that you can teach about anything – there is no requirement for it to be related to English.

The downside is that if you do teach English, students don’t typically look to places like Udemy for or Lynda for online English courses.  Still, these sites are a great way to showcase a niche or specialty you have can expose you to a lot of potential students.

 

What Each Employer Pays

I wish I could say each of the aforementioned employers pays a specific and predictable rate, but as is the case with all jobs, there is quite a bit of range involved with each.  Employers take into consideration your experience, nationality, accent, specialty and even location when hiring but we have done our best to document the average pay ranges associated with each

 

Online Schools: $9-$20/hr

teach english online salary vipkid

VIP Kid is a good example of the standard pay range for a teach English online salary.  They pay up to $18 or $22 if you achieve all your bonuses.

teach english online salary lyngo

This Japanese school, Lyngo, is a bit on the lower end of the pay range but promotes the chance to get promoted to manager.

 

Make-a-Profile Companies: $10-$40/hr

teach english online salary make a profile

It’s all about the specialties when it comes to profile companies and you are going to have a hard time standing out without one, unless your rates are very low/

Teachers set their own rates on these sites so the minimum tends to be a bit higher than the minimum for online schools.  As we mentioned earlier, if you do choose to create a profile on these sites, it’s better to start low and slowly increase your prices as you gain reviews and students.

 

Work for Yourself: $25-$50/hr

teach english online salary work for yourself

Obviously, the sky’s the limit when you work for yourself, but most rates we say fell within the $25-$50/hr range.  Smart teachers should offer discounts for multiple lessons and even multiple students.

 

Selling Your Own Courses: $40-$100/course

teach english online salary own course

The setup is a little different here because you are selling courses, or classes, as opposed to hours.  I’ve seen courses sell from $40/ea like in the above example to $100 each for a teacher with an established following and proven track record.

While courses take a lot of work, the payouts can be great because you can theoretically sell that course forever!

 

How to Make More Money with Your Teach English Online Salary

If you’re looking to really step up your online teaching game there are some really easy ways to double or even triple your earning potential:

Teach for More than One Company or Profile Site

The great thing about online education is that it’s global – you are able to reach students from all over the world at any given time of day.  Those of you looking to increase your teach English online salary can use this to teach one group of students in the morning and another in the afternoon or evening.  For example, you might wake up and teach foreign students enrolled in US universities and still be able to reach other students in Asia later in the day.  It makes for a long workday but can pay off quite handsomely.

 

Have a Specialty or Niche

teach english online salary niche

Being able to offer more than just oral English will put you ahead of the competition when it comes to teaching online.  If you can offer students specialized instruction you will be able to charge a premium for your lessons.

All these test prep options above allow this teacher to charge nearly $30/hr!

 

Offer Discounts or Trials

teach english online salary discounts

Before you bemoan the thought of giving something away for free or at a discount, let me reassure you that it can be a very smart business decision, especially long term.

Most people prefer to try things before they buy them and students are no exception, you can easily stand out from your peers if you are willing to offer a trial lesson or a discount for multiple students or multiple classes.  Your willingness to do this will not only demonstrate confidence in your abilities but also help to lock in a bigger payment from students if they buy in bulk

 

How to Find and Evaluate an Online English Teaching Job

Evaluating online English teaching jobs is no small task – even if you’ve only looked at one job board you know there are hundreds of schools vying for both teachers and students.  The question is, then, how do you know a good school and job from one that will make you question your sanity after a week?

Having gone through the process ourselves and spoken to more than a few teachers who have found online English teaching jobs, we decided to put together a quick list to reference anytime you see a job that appeals to you.  The goal is to not only save teachers the headache of applying to a bad school but also to show both new and established online teaching schools what teachers like to see in potential employers.

A word to the wise, though – nothing on this list can replace your instincts.  If you are on the fence or in doubt about anything an online teaching school says, go with your gut and move onto the next option.  There are just too many opportunities out there to not be 100% in love with your new online English teaching job.

 

Where to Find Online English Teaching Jobs

Job hunting sucks regardless of the industry due to the sheer number of places a job can be listed (or hide, depending on how you look at it.

Online English teaching is no different, sorry.

 

Online Job Boards

find online teaching job boards

You’ll get the most diversity and range of jobs from a job board.  Schools, recruiters and teachers can all post jobs on these websites with the goal of having as many teachers see it as possible.

For teachers, job boards provide the most opportunities, but they also provide the most risk as anyone can list jobs, including unreputable schools.

 

Online Schools

find online teaching job online school

If you have a school in mind it’s perfectly fine to go directly to their site and search for open jobs.  Even if they don’t have a career page feel free to send them an email or Tweet and let them know you’re interested, plenty of schools only hire in a few places and might have an opening even if their website doesn’t list it.

 

Classifieds, etc.

I do not recommend browsing the classifieds or any site not directly related to teaching when searching for a job.  There are too many dedicated and quality sites out there and straying from them can waste time at best or result in scam attempts at worst.

 

What to Look for in an Online English Teaching Job

English on Their Website (Importance: High)

I get it, most online schools didn’t design their website with you in mind.  Still, that doesn’t excuse the fact that many schools don’t even have a SINGLE page in English for their teachers.  In my opinion, this is representative of how a school will treat their teachers – if they can’t even put an English page on their website then how is their communication going to be when it really matters?

find online teaching job chinese website

 

Schools that take the time to either maintain an English section or page really stand out to me because it shows that they are not just focused on students.

find online teaching job english website

 

Even worse is if they don’t have a website, or it’s expired.  Beware if you see anything like the following image:

find online teaching job bad website

Email Address with School Name and Website (Importance: Medium)

Evaluating an email address is not something you really hear about when applying for jobs, but it can make a huge difference in determining who you are dealing with and how professional they are.

Why?

For this example let’s assume you are looking at a job listing for a school called “John’s Online English School.”  If the email address on the job posting matches the name of the school, ie john@johnsonlineenglishschool.com then I consider that a verified email.  It means that more than likely the person who posted this job works for the company and is authorized to work on their behalf.

find online teaching job email2

However, if the email is something like sam@yahoo.com it would make me nervous for two reasons.  The first is that they don’t have a valid website (something you should have checked before applying) and it means Sam might not even work for them.  It could be a recruiter trying to get a piece of the action or an outright scam, you never know.

find online teaching job email1

So, the moral of the story is to be careful who you email – the more ‘professional’ their email looks the better.

Note – the same goes for online applications – if a job posting takes you to a site that doesn’t match the name of the school, be wary.

 

Using Above-Average English (Importance: Low)

When you are interacting with this potential school it’s important to evaluate their English abilities just as you would a new student.  Do they understand what you are saying?  Can you understand them?  Are you constantly having to translate things?

While this is not a deal breaker, I will tell you that when it comes to issues like getting paid, scheduling classes, etc, you do not want to be interacting with a school that has poor English – it will only give you a headache.

Just like everything else on this list, having someone on their staff that speaks quality English is a sign of their professionalism and while it won’t affect your teaching, it can affect everything else.

 

Reviews and Testimonials (Importance: Medium)

Online English teaching is a fairly new industry and there are new schools popping up every month.  Because of this, it’s unreasonable to expect all of them to have a solid and lengthy web presence, but I do think it’s important to search for reviews, praise, and complaints ANYTIME you consider a new job.

Simply seeing if they are registered on sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor will give you some good insight into (again) how professional they are and what their employees think of them.

find online teaching job reviews

There are two scenarios that can play out there:

They don’t have any reviews – if this is the case I wouldn’t worry too much as long as the rest of what you find (website, email, etc) is to your liking.  Again, this is a new industry and it takes time for people to write about individual schools.

They have reviews – I would take any published reviews with a grain of salt, it’s far too easy for companies to fake good feedback or try and ruin the reputation of a competitor by leaving bad reviews.  However, if I did see similar things posted on multiple sites, that would be something I’d consider more heavily.

 

The Hiring Process

As much as I’d love to put my faith in school that hires without interviewing candidates, that’s just not how professional organizations operate.  Reputable schools (both traditional and online) have very similar hiring processes: email, interview, demo class, contract.  There are endless variations to this but the important thing to realize is that you should not trust a school willing to forgo at least the interview stage.

find online teaching job process

If a school is willing to hire me on the spot then my answer would be easy: Next!  Not because I don’t think I’d do a good job, but because I don’t trust anyone that is willing to hire blindly

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