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Guide to teaching English online

Whether you’re enticed by the opportunity to work from home and manage your own schedule, or you are excited about meeting people from all over the world, there are several reasons why teaching English online may be right for you.

As an international online English teacher, you develop lesson plans, teach classes, and review coursework utilizing digital tools. All you’ll need to get started is a computer with a webcam for video conferencing and a secure Internet connection! Whether you’re teaching from your couch or teaching while traveling the world, the choice is yours as long as you can manage the workload.

In order to teach ESL online, many programs will require a university degree, prior teaching experience, or a teaching certification such as TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). Depending on the program, you may need to be a native English speaker to apply. Hourly rates for virtual English teaching vary dramatically, but you can expect to make anywhere from $14-$22 USD an hour.

Interested in teaching English Online? We’ve got you covered! Keep reading to learn more about the types of jobs, average salaries and benefits, and how to get an online English teaching job!

Types of online teaching jobs

When it comes to teaching English online, there are three different ways to find work. You can teach with a program, set up a profile on a freelancing marketplace, or go totally independent and find your own paying students.

As you consider which method will work best for you, take into account your prior experience, your desire for autonomy, and what rate you hope to charge. Are you a first-time teacher interested in doing this as a side hustle? You may want to consider teaching with an online language company. Or do you have the entrepreneurial drive to market yourself, build a website, and grow a client base? Then private tutoring may be right for you.

Whatever stage of your teaching career you’re in, there is an online option for you. Here are the three different types of online English teaching jobs abroad:

Teach through a program or company

Programs that pair eager English teachers with students worldwide are plentiful, so it’s essential to make sure you choose the right one. If you sign up with a language company or institute, they’ll most likely manage the creation of lesson plans, assign students and courses, and handle payment processes. This allows you to focus on the main thing — teaching!

While this option won’t be right for everyone, it’s a great choice for people with little to no teaching experience. It will allow you to build up your confidence and teaching repertoire without having to hit the pavement, as it were, to find students on your own. Keep in mind, though, that if you sign up with a company, they will most likely set your wage rate and could charge service fees as well.

When choosing a program, it’s important to read reviews, research prospective organizations, and talk to people who have taught with the company before. There are many companies out there that recruit online ESL teachers, so make sure the organization you decide to work with is legitimate and can help you fulfill your goals.

Freelance tutoring through a marketplace

Utilizing a marketplace to find tutoring clients online is a good option for teachers who want more autonomy but aren’t ready for or interested in being fully independent. As a freelance tutor offering ESL courses online, you’d set up a profile on an online marketplace that facilitates connections between tutors and students. Make sure your profile stands out! Teaching online is quite popular at the moment, so you’ll want to make sure you’re attracting potential students by putting effort into your profile.

These sites will generally also manage the payment process, but everything else will be up to you. You can create your own lesson plans, set your schedule, and manage your students as you see fit.

Private tutoring

If you’re entrepreneurially-minded, private tutoring could be the route for you. As a private online English tutor, you would set up your own profile, find your own clients, and make your own lesson plans. This allows you maximum flexibility to set your schedule how you’d like it and teach what you want to teach. Plus, 100% of the profits go directly into your pocket—no need to worry about third-party fees!

Note: While this option may sound like the best of both worlds, it is also the most challenging. Unless you are a well-established tutor, it can be hard to convince students to sign up for your service. If this is the path you choose to take, consider offering promotional deals, such as free sessions, so that you can build up some good reviews.

Average salary for online English teaching jobs

Unlike in-person teaching, online English teaching jobs are rarely salaried. For the most part, you can expect to receive hourly pay, potentially with additional monetary incentives for things like student referrals and additional sessions.

Pay rates vary dramatically based on several factors. Private tutoring will generally pay the best, and depending on your qualifications and experience, you could make as much as $85/hour or more. But generally, most private tutors will charge between $25-45/hour.

If you’re teaching with a company, your pay will most likely be considerably less, anywhere from $14-22/hour. But remember, while the pay may be lower, you generally will have a much easier time finding students, so your take-home income may still be competitive.

Read more: Teaching English Online Salary Expectations - How much can I make?

How to get a job teaching English online

A benefit of teaching English online is that you’re not limited to teaching during the school year. Countries have various academic calendars, and many students will want support over long breaks, so summer can actually be an ideal time to start applying for online teaching jobs.

When to apply for jobs online

The answer to this is easy – apply anytime!

Since you will be working remotely, you can work with students all over the world who will need support during various times of the year. Remember that school schedules vary by hemisphere and country, so even if the school year has ended in your home country, you may be able to find work teaching students in a different hemisphere.

How to apply for online Teaching jobs

If you’ve decided that the best route for you is through an online language company or institute, the first thing you’ll want to do is consider who you want to be teaching. Some companies specialize in teaching older students (think high school), some work with the young kids, some are geographically specific, and others cater to the full range of students. Check out the various sites and explore all of your options before making a decision.

At some point in the application process, you may be asked to interview and give a sample lesson plan. Get a jump start on this by brainstorming different topics that you could teach in a very short amount of time (probably 5 minutes). And remember to get creative! If you’re hoping to work with younger students, try to incorporate props to make the lesson interactive. This demo lesson may be a major factor in your hourly pay, so make it count!

If rather than teaching with a company, you’ve decided to freelance or tutor privately, then there’s no application necessary. Set up your profile or tutoring site at your leisure, but make sure it stands out among your competitors! Remember, the more experience and qualifications you gain, the more value you can provide students and the more you can charge per hour. Building a strong foundation as an ESL teacher will ultimately help you grow your business!

Common qualifications to teach English online

Generally, most jobs will be looking for the following qualifications in an application to teach English online:

  • Native or near-native level of English proficiency. Some organizations may even require that you hold a passport from an English speaking country
  • A university degree, or proof that you are in the process of receiving a degree
  • Reliable access to high-speed internet and functioning audio and visual technology
  • A TEFL certification (in some cases)

Requirements will vary by program, so it’s important you check the details specific to each company. Although many programs require a bachelor's degree, it doesn't mean you're automatically out of luck if you don't have one; there are definitely still ways to teach English online without a degree!

While a TEFL certificate (or other English teaching certification) is not required by all programs, it can certainly boost your pay grade and can sometimes stand-in for a university degree. Plus, going through a TEFL course provides knowledge, skills, and tips on teaching English as a foreign language, which can be very different from teaching a native English speaker.

Lastly, there are a few companies that work with non-native English teachers, too. In this case, you’ll most likely need to pass an English proficiency test to demonstrate your fluency in the language. Try specifically searching for online English teaching jobs for non-native speakers, and you’re sure to find some options.

Read more: How to Teach English Online

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I teach English online with a TEFL certificate?

    Yes! In fact, a TEFL certificate may increase your chances of being hired to teach English online. TEFL/TESOL certification programs are a worthy investment and can provide you with the skills needed to teach English online. 120-hour online courses can cost between $100 - $600 and let you learn at your own pace. Some providers will also help you with job placements after you've completed the program. Otherwise, you can start teaching online by applying to openings on our job board.

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  • How much do online English teachers make?

    Online English teachers can make anywhere from $14 to $85 per hour. The wide range in pay rate is calculated based on experience, qualifications, and employment type. Online teaching companies generally pay between $14 - $22 per hour, while private tutoring rates can be set between $25 - $45 per hour. If you have specialized training or have years of teaching experience, your rate could be as high as $85 per hour as a private English teacher. However, it tends to be easier to build a student base by working with an online teaching organization, so at the end of the day, your income could still be higher than if you go the private route.

  • How can I teach English online at home?

    The most common way to teach English from home is to look for jobs with an online teaching company or organization. Once your job application is accepted you should be prepared to attend an interview and provide a sample lesson plan. Now that you landed the gig, you can set up your availability and the organization will match students up to you. If you prefer to tutor privately or to set up a profile on a freelancing website, you may have to do some heavy lifting to find students. Once you've built up your reputation you may have more control over your time, the students you work with, and the rates you want to charge.

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  • Can you teach English online without a degree?

    Although having a college degree is helpful, it's possible to find online English teaching jobs that do not require one. For those opportunities that don't need a university degree, it’s important to have near-native English proficiency, previous teaching experience, or a TEFL teaching certificate.

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