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8 FAQs About Teaching English Online
Written by: Lynda Galea
Last Updated: September 10, 2020
Are you looking for the ultimate side gig that enables you to make money from anywhere in the world, including the safety and comfort of your own home? Do you want to have a job that allows you to earn a sustainable salary while living a nomadic lifestyle moving from country to country? What about making a difference in the lives of others and connecting with people from all over the globe?
In a digitally connected world where 1.5 billion English learners seek to connect with native-speaking instructors in countries like the U.S., Canada, & the U.K., teaching English online offers incredible opportunities to English speakers of all backgrounds.
Online learning is a vast field, and here to stay as an integral part of education, and as a business. From world-class universities to Fortune 500 companies, computer, mobile, and Internet-based training have become an integral part of nearly all education fields, including English as a second language (ESL). In fact, according to Forbes, Research and Markets forecasts e-learning revenue generated globally will reach $325 Billion by 2025. In recent years, teaching English online to speakers of other languages worldwide has grown exponentially and shows no signs of slowing down.
The excellent news for virtually any English speaker is that you don’t need a background in education or professional experience to get started as an online English teacher and that teaching ESL online offers flexible hours that you can work from home or while traveling domestically or internationally. So, to learn more, here are some answers to basic questions about the exciting field of teaching English online.
- The field of teaching English online is enormous & fast-growing, offering many opportunities.
- You don’t need prior teaching experience or even a college degree to teach online, but you should get a TEFL certification.
- Teaching English online offers convenience and flexibility and you can do it from anywhere in the world as long as you have a strong internet connection.
1. What Is Teaching English Online?
Teaching English online is teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) to a non-native English speaker over the internet through a computer and a webcam. Students can learn one-on-one or in a small group, and the cost is usually relatively cheaper than an in-person, face-to-face ESL class. In many cases, both students and teachers can set their class times and schedules, and the teacher can teach from whatever location is convenient to them. In other instances, schedules may be set by a school or university. All types of educational institutions offer online English classes, including grade schools, online teaching platforms, and even corporations. Individual students may also hire online English teachers as independent contractors or as private tutors.
2. Is Teaching English Online a Legitimate Job or Career?
Worldwide, the demand for online education has boomed in recent years, as increased internet access and new technology have provided new opportunities for students, teachers, and schools. Online English language instruction, in particular, has seen significant growth. According to USA TODAY, by 2019, a single online teaching company (VIPKID) alone employed 70,000 teachers to provide online English lessons to more than 600,000 students (mainly Chinese); and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds of companies and schools offering English classes to millions and students – and hiring thousands of instructors to teach them. With the onset of the COVID-19, the demand for online instruction has surged even higher.
As people increasingly look for opportunities to work remotely, teaching English online is a legitimate job/career opportunity. Teaching ESL online is also an excellent career option for those who are teaching English abroad to get side-work and to work full-time while living overseas or traveling.
3. Teaching English Online Versus Teaching English In Person - What’s The Difference?
While teaching English offers great benefits like increased mobility and flexible schedules that are great for achieving work/life balance, it also presents unique challenges compared to teaching English in person. Student engagement, lesson planning, and tools and new technology like digital props will all be different when teaching English online versus teaching English face-to-face. For teachers with extensive in-person classroom experience, this means you will need to adjust your teaching practices and approach to a certain degree.
Here are some critical advantages of teaching English online versus teaching ESL in a classroom setting:
- Mobility. You can travel while teaching English online anywhere and move from place to place without interrupting your ability to earn a good salary. As long as you have a strong internet connection and a suitable space with an appropriate backdrop, you can teach English from virtually anywhere. In recent years, many ITA graduates have been "country hopping" their way around the world while earning a steady salary teaching English online.
- Teach from the safety and comfort of home. On the flip side, you can also teach English online from home. Online English teaching not only provides opportunities to make money as a full-time job or a part-time gig. At the same time, you can work another job or go to school, but during the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of English teachers have been able to earn a good salary safely from home during perilous economic times.
- Flexible scheduling. In most cases, you will have more control over your daily and weekly schedule teaching ESL online than teaching English in a classroom. Not only can you work full-time or part-time, but you can set your hours according to your schedule.
- Gain professional experience in the field of e-learning, one of the fastest-growing areas in education both in the U.S. and abroad.
- If you are planning to teach English abroad, you can gain valuable teaching experience – and make start-up cash – before you head overseas.
- Teach ESL online to make a positive impact on people’s lives and to make some money at the same time.
- Interact with people from all over the world, and have the opportunity to build relationships with students and teach them a skill that will set them up for a successful future.
Read More: Pros and Cons of Teaching English Online
4. What are the requirements to teach English online?
Given the vast breadth of the TEO field, requirements will vary widely by employer, but here are some standard standards that many of the top online teaching companies look for:
- TEFL certification. You don’t need prior teaching experience or a university degree to teach English online. Still, employers and students want to hire trained teachers with skills in standard teaching methodologies and best practices. That is why most – though not all – major online teaching companies do require an accredited TEFL certification. Learn more about TEFL Certification options.
- Bachelor’s degree. This requirement varies by employer. Indeed, many of the biggest companies do require a 4-year degree. Still, there are certainly ample opportunities for those without a college degree. To Learn more, read 10 Companies That Let You Teach English Online Without a Degree.
- Speak English fluently. This may seem obvious, but a high percentage of English instructors worldwide are not native or even fluent speakers. Hence, many companies prefer to employ native speakers and many students seek them out because they are keen to improve their conversational skills and want to be exposed to the accent and speed used by native speakers. That said, you can still teach English as a non-native English speaker if you have fluency and qualifications.
Read more: Requirements for Teaching English Online
5. How much money can I make teaching English online?
Pay for online English instructors varies, but first-time teachers can typically expect to earn an average salary of $10-$20 USD per hour. Most major online education companies use sliding scales based on factors like reviews and the number of teaching hours to provide incentives for salary increases and bonuses. Bear in mind that teachers are paid by the lesson, which is often between 20-30 minutes rather than an hour, so expect to be paid $6-$10 USD per lesson at first. To see what several major online teaching companies pay for salaries, check out the Teach English Online Employer Comparison Chart.
A significant benefit of teaching English online is the flexibility. You can teach as a side gig for an hour or two per day and make $100-$200 a week. Or, you can teach English online as a full-time job or even a career, and teaching five hours a day or more, you can make a full-time salary of upwards of $2000 a month to start.
More experienced teachers, especially those who run their own private or group lessons, can charge and earn more, with some making as much as $40-$50 an hour. Bear in mind that it takes time for teachers to build a base of private students, but the pay-off is that there isn’t a school taking a big chunk of student payments.
6. How Do I Find a Job Teaching English Online?
Most major online teaching companies have links and forms on their website where you can apply for positions. Many also advertise jobs on major ESL job boards like ESL Authority and Dave’s ESL Cafe. There are also online networks and job boards where you can market your teaching services as an independent teacher to individual students looking for private lessons.
When applying for positions, you’ll get more positive responses by tailoring your resume (c.v.) and cover letter specifically for teaching English online. Be sure to emphasize any prior teaching experience -- especially in the field of ESL (English as a second language) or online teaching experience -- and don’t forget to highlight your TEFL certification.
Be prepared to provide the following:
- Full Name
- Highest Degree Obtained
- Main Occupation
- Country You Are Currently Living In
- Mobile Phone Number
- Email Address
- Skype ID
Read More: How to Write a Killer Cover Letter for an Online English Teaching Job
In most cases, you should expect to go through not only an interview process, but you will typically be asked to present a live online teaching demonstration or to provide a recorded demo.
7. What Are Some Common Online English Teaching Job Interview Questions?
Like any job interview, it's key to be prepared to answer some basic questions about yourself and have questions that you want to ask any prospective employer. Here are some basic examples to consider.
Be prepared to provide relevant information and answers the following questions and queries:
- Explain all relevant teaching or other professional experience that has prepared you to teach English online.
- What is your educational background? How has it qualified you to teach English online?
- Why do you want to teach English online & what are your goals?
- Why do you see yourself as a good fit for teaching with this company?
Questions you may want to ask of prospective employers:
- Can you set your own hours and how does scheduling work?
- How do salaries and bonuses work?
- Are their long-term prospects for growth and professional development?
- What sort of time commitment are they looking for?
Be prepared to teach an online English class demo lesson. This is a key part of the interview process for many online ESL teaching jobs. Here are some key tips to bear in mind:
- Set up a proper online teaching virtual classroom with an appropriate backdrop and good lighting.
- Make sure your internet connection is dependable and fast (many prospective employers will run a test).
- Ask if they will give you a lesson to teach in advance and make every effort to familiarize yourself with that company’s online platform. For smaller companies in particular, you may just be teaching over Skype or Zoom.
- Have any teaching props ready to go.
- Dress like a professional teacher.
8. What Are Some Reputable Companies That Hire Online English Teachers?
Now that you know a lot more about Teaching English online (TEO), it’s time to learn more about how to find a job teaching English online, and how to size up and compare potential employers. Not all online English teaching jobs are created equal. That’s why we’ve done the research for you and compiled a comprehensive list of over 100 ESL schools that hire online English teachers.
Here are some examples of the best online ESL teaching companies that employ TEFL-certified instructors to teach English online:
- Degree not required
- Set your own rate
- Teach all ages
- One-on-one classes
If you don’t have a degree, Preply is a solid option. This company specializes in facilitating 1:1 tutoring with students from all over the world. You get to set your own price, clients find you, and you can work with students of all ages.
- Degree required
- Earn$15-$22 USD per hour
- Teach children ages 4-12
- One-on-one classes
VIPKid provides an international learning experience to children in China between the ages 4-12. Located in Beijing and San Francisco, with teachers all over the U.S. and Canada, the company offers fully immersive one-on-one English language instruction provided online by highly qualified teachers. The curriculum uses a flipped-classroom approach to foster creativity and critical thinking skills.
- Whales English
- Degree required
- Earn$15-$22 USD per hour
- Teach children ages 4-18
- Group classes: 2-10 students
Whales English caters to language learners aged 3 to 18 who have different attainment levels and different learning needs. They aim to provide high quality education for children from all socio-economic backgrounds to minimize the gap between the privileged and the underprivileged. With a student renewal rate of over 83% throughout all courses, they've also been recognized as one of the most sought-after online ESL programs.
Here are some additional resources to find even more opportunities:
Posted In: Teach English Online
An accomplished traveler (she's visited 40 countries!), Lynda hails from Melbourne, Australia. Since she joined ITA in 2017, Lynda has become a primary expert on the field of teaching English online. Not only has she published numerous articles on the topic herself, but she has worked with International TEFL Academy alumni around the world to produce an entire library of information and content about teaching English online. Lynda also serves as a primary organizer of ITA's ground-breaking Teach Abroad Film Festival.
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