Did you know there are thousands of people teaching English to international students from their living room and earning money online? Thanks to distance learning technology, such as Zoom and Skype, teaching ESL (English as a Second language) online has become a rewarding hustle for many.
If you're interested in learning about new cultures, but now is not the time to move abroad, or conversely, if you've formerly taught abroad and are looking for a way to make a little extra moolah and connect your experiences overseas to your life back home, teaching English online is a great option. Plus, given the upsurge in demand for English teachers, it is increasingly feasible for teachers to take advantage of these unique tech-meets-education opportunities.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know to start teaching English online, and how you can break into this growing industry.
Why teach ESL online?
The short answer: this form of teaching is booming.
Online learning is so convenient; both teacher and student can set their schedules and have classes when and where suits them, and neither wastes time traveling to classes. In addition, students can learn 1-on-1 or in a small group at a fraction of the cost of a comparable face-to-face course, and teachers save time on preparation since the online classes are generally discussion-based.
It's easy to see the appeal for both teacher and student, and, as a result, there are many major employers in this industry. Each is rapidly expanding to offer convenient and cost-effective classes. At this point, learning English online is well established in countries worldwide, so you can choose the community in which you'd most like to connect. While there are many small and medium-size recruiters, big names to look out for in the online English teaching industry are Teach Away and EF English First.
With the many employer options for those looking to teach English online, it can get confusing to know what certifications you need and what to expect. Read this article for a comprehensive list of the 10 best companies for teaching English online.
But beyond the convenience and growing presence of the field, teaching online can be a great way to "test the waters" with your teaching skills before taking the leap to move abroad.
How can you better engage students who don't speak English? How difficult is it to prep lessons? These are all questions you'll be able to answer with online English teaching experience. Many ESL teachers can vouch for knowing what you're getting yourself into before finding your teach abroad program dramatically helps with your transition to life in another country.
Who is a good fit for teaching ESL online?
Since teachers mainly set their schedules, many students and parents find teaching online very convenient. Moreover, those who teach abroad in a conventional school can also teach online to fill in their timetable gaps or supplement their income.
There are also plenty of teachers who love having a variety of students and classes and make teaching online a full-time job. Variety is a crucial component. Classes 1-on-1 are likely to be 30 minutes in duration, while the norm for groups (usually 2-6 students) is 45-60 minutes.
Over a 4-hour teaching slot, you are likely to teach quite a range of material to people of differing nationalities, levels and backgrounds - no two classes are the same!
Anyone interested in international education and who wants to embrace new cultures from their own home would be a great fit as an online English teacher.
What does an online ESL teacher do?
You'll usually lead a student or group of students through a theme-based discussion. You will make corrections, encourage responses, and ensure that each student gets a fair turn to participate. Materials are generally provided, but there can be some scope for using your own.
Many students may have studied English previously but lack fluency and the ability to converse naturally in English, so most lessons are often conversational.
The themes you'll discuss likely include hobbies, family, culture, sports, music, and films. In addition, depending on the school, you may be expected to complete some admin work outside of lessons, such as writing lesson summaries, sending corrections by email, and assigning homework.
What do you need to teach ESL online?
To teach online successfully, you'll need a secure and reliable Internet connection, a Zoom or Skype account, and a TESOL/TEFL certificate. Generally, it's also important to be a native English speaker. Finally, most important is a friendly, patient, and punctual personality. Many companies allow you to teach English online without a degree, as long as you have completed the proper certifications.
Like any ESL classroom, your subject matter has a lot of flexibility. You'll cover the basics: grammar, speaking, listening, reading, and writing. The lack of face-to-face communication means you may need to get creative in the classroom. There are many fun ESL games for English teachers that can adapt to an online classroom.
This added challenge is a real learning opportunity for educators, especially as we push forward into a century where the lines between online learning and classroom learning will continue to blur.
Choose a top virtual TEFL course
Since most entry-level courses are geared to teaching general English to classes face-to-face, you should consider a TEFL course which also contains a component on teaching English 1-on-1 or online. This will give you the best skills and an edge in employment. Such courses will also help you set up in a freelance capacity, giving you some of the necessary know-how, skills, and confidence to succeed in an online setting.
There are many options when it comes to TEFL courses (and it’s important to know the difference between TEFL, TESOL, CELTA, etc), so you’ll want to think about which TEFL program will best suit your career goals.
Want to get a jumpstart on the process? Start by exploring some of these top virtual TEFL programs:
- Teach Away's OISE University of Toronto TEFL: Teach Away's online, self-paced course is globally recognized and perfect for teachers or recent grads looking to strengthen their teaching skills before going abroad. They offer 3 different TEFL courses for you to choose from, based on your skill level and ideal time frame.
- International TEFL Academy: If you're interested in teaching English online or in countries such as Spain and South Korea, consider getting TEFL certified with ITA. They offer accredited TEFL courses online, as well as job search guidance.
- Uni-Prep Institute: For those hoping to jump into their teaching career quickly, Uni-Prep offers fast-paced TEFL courses that can be completed in 2-4 weeks. They also offer tutor support and job search assistance!
Explore more TEFL courses: The 11 Best Online TEFL Courses
What salary can I make as an ESL teacher?
The base pay rate to teach English online is generally not high but can be increased for teaching specialized English classes, learning groups, or high satisfaction ratings given by previous students. You can expect a higher salary with more experience and expertise, and like employment in most fields – the more proof of your expertise, the higher your pay rate raises.
Online English teachers can expect to make between $10-$40 per hour, with your experience and qualifications being the major determinative factor in where you fall on this scale. In addition, many companies will offer incentives to boost your hourly pay if you meet certain conditions over time (such as the number of students booked).
Generally, you will be able to set your hours, which means that you can fit teaching into your schedule. However, that may mean that you can still find the time to work a part-time job or have other supplemental income.
Learn more here about what salary to expect when teaching English online and how to increase your value.
How to find English teaching jobs online
Once you complete your TEFL/TESOL certification, you’ll be eager to start teaching. Finding jobs as an English teacher can seem daunting at first, but there are many ways to connect with employers looking for qualified English teachers.
Choose a TEFL course that offers job search assistance
Choosing programs that include jobs search assistance like International TEFL Academy provides several resources to help you find a job after completing your course. Some even offer guaranteed job placement, though these programs are more expensive than others. If you’re intimidated by the job search process, this may be the right choice!
Apply for an online language tutoring platform
Working for a language tutoring platform is one of the easiest ways to teach English online. The majority of tutoring companies will require you to hold a degree and native English proficiency. However, there are some exceptions. For example, some companies allow teachers to teach with only an ESL certification, while others may allow non-native speakers with high proficiency levels.
Companies generally provide all materials and lesson plans, so little prep is required on your end! These are usually part-time jobs or hourly contracts. They’re perfect if you want to supplement your income or earn extra money.
Consider freelance tutoring
Another option is to teach English online via freelance tutoring. This is a great way to be your boss, set your schedule and salary, and choose which students you want to teach.
Freelance tutoring is a great way to earn additional income. However, if you have a teaching or tutoring background, you may find it easier to land your first few clients on websites like Upwork. But this comes with its challenges — you need to build a good profile and demonstrate that you have the skills for the job.
One way to stand out is by being able to offer more than just English instruction. For example, consider adding more services, such as editing or proofreading essays, providing career advice, or helping students select courses they can take while learning English.
What to look for in ESL online teaching platforms?
There are a lot of companies out there that offer you the chance to teach English online. But unfortunately, not all of them are created equal. Some have better pay, some have more supportive teachers and staff, some are easier to work for, and some seem to have their stuff together better than others.
Before you start applying to every English tutoring platform you see online or even here on Go Overseas, take the time to look into the company. You'll save yourself a lot of headaches later. Here are a few things to look for in an online teaching company:
While your hourly rate isn't the only factor you should consider when choosing an online teaching company, there's no denying that it's important. After all, you need to be able to afford your bills! Some companies pay as little as $3 per hour, while others pay up to $30 per hour. However, the average seems to be around $10 per hour, with many companies offering a base rate plus bonuses and incentives.
Questions to consider regarding pay:
- What's your hourly rate?
- Is it consistent?
- How does that rate change with experience?
- Does the school pay for training hours?
- How much will you get paid if you cancel class last minute?
- How much notice must you give?
- When do you get paid?
- Is it direct deposit?
Teaching English online can be an excellent way to earn money at home if you're traveling abroad or don't have a BA in English or other traditional teaching qualifications. However, some companies do require these things; others focus instead on finding teachers who are native English speakers and have experience working with people of various ages and backgrounds. In addition, some companies require that you use your computer or webcam, while others provide all the equipment you'll need to teach online.
Some online English teaching jobs offer lower rates because they have less stringent training and curriculum requirements. Does the company provide lesson plans and materials? Do they expect you to create your lessons? Do they dictate what you're supposed to teach in each class, or do they let you incorporate your ideas and interests into lesson plans?
How many hours per week do they expect their teachers to work? Can you work part-time or full-time, depending on your availability? Can you schedule classes in advance, or must they be scheduled weekly or even daily? These are all critical questions to answer when considering an English tutoring platform to work for.
How to apply for English teaching jobs online
You’ll find a company you want to work for during the application process of teaching English online. Then, look through the jobs posted on the websites of different companies. There are jobs posted by companies large and small all over the world.
Apply directly through their website. Read all the instructions carefully, and follow them exactly. Make sure that you fill out every required field on the application form and upload all necessary documents. These will usually include your resume, a photo of yourself, proof of address, and your TESOL/TEFL certificate.
Here are some typical materials required in an application:
- A resume or CV
- A writing sample that demonstrates your ability to write in English
- A scanned copy of your university diploma
- An identification document such as your passport
Wait for an invitation to an interview. If your application is successful, you'll be invited to an interview with one of their recruiters. Usually, this will be via Skype or phone call, but some companies may ask you to come to their office if it's nearby. The interviews are usually informal and friendly — they just want to get a sense of who you are and whether they'd like to work with you!
Resources you’ll need to apply:
- Good internet speed: This is important! Your internet speed will determine how well your classes run and how good the quality of the lessons are for your students. Before applying for online teaching jobs, make sure you have a good internet connection.
- A Headset, microphone, and webcam: These things will be required for online teaching jobs, so make sure you have them already when applying for a position!
- A quiet place to teach from: Most companies want their teachers to teach from home or another quiet place without distractions like kids or pets running around while they conduct their classes!
The future of distance learning
Like most English teaching positions, progression and the accompanying increase in pay are not automatic. Those keen to make a career in the online English teaching field will need to specialize in a key area such as medical, legal, or academic English, get into teacher training, or set up their online school teaching English.
However, don't let the competition scare you off. The downsides are limited, and the upsides are pretty apparent: it's hard to beat the flexibility and variety, plus you get to be your boss!
As this industry grows, many conventional English language schools offer an online option to their students. Distance learning is becoming the norm, and teaching online is easier than ever. Whether you plan to teach internationally long-term or looking for a way to make some extra money while embracing other cultures, teaching English online is an exciting field to explore.