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Everything You Need to Know to Start Teaching English Online

Last updated: January 8, 2020
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Teaching English online is a popular way for stay-at-home parents and new digital nomads to earn money around their other commitments, whether it’s kids, another job, or travel. But many people only know of online English schools as a theoretical concept, and get overwhelmed when it’s time to figure out the nitty gritty details of the industry.

If you’re in that situation, this article is the perfect resource for you. We’ll cover what teaching English online entails, what you need to get started, how much you can expect to earn, and the five most popular companies for English teachers to work with.

What Does Teaching English Online Entail?

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As an online English teacher, you’ll have the ability to work part-time or full-time and to set your own schedule. Some online English schools will ask you to commit to a set schedule of availability for several weeks or months, and others will allow you to change your teaching schedule every week. Most schools will provide you with lesson plans and help with grading, but some will require you to do your own legwork.

A lot of what your workload entails will depend on the school you choose to work with, but some things will stay the same no matter what. You’ll always need to show up to your lessons prepared to teach and to keep your students engaged, despite being in a completely different city or country. You’ll need to be mindful of cultural norms and conduct the lessons in easy-to-understand, clear conversational English.

What Do You Need to Get Started as an Online English Teacher?

In order to get started as an online English teacher, you do need to meet certain qualifications and have certain tools available.

Qualifications

To be hired as an online English teacher, you’ll need to meet certain qualifications. Some online teaching platforms will hire you without a TEFL certification or university degree, but most will not. To get the best paying online English teaching jobs, you’ll need to meet the following criteria:

  • Be a native or near-native English speaker
  • Be from the United States, Canada, or the United Kingdom
  • Have a university degree or be in the process of completing one (for some platforms)
  • Have a TEFL course certificate (for some platforms)

Tools

Most online teaching platforms require the following tools to get started:

  • Solid internet connection
  • A good microphone and headset
  • A webcam
  • A quiet space to teach

It also helps to be enthusiastic, energetic, and positive. You’ll mostly be teaching children so being high-energy and able to keep the kids engaged is going to be the skill that sets you apart from the average online English teacher.

How Much Does Teaching English Online Pay?

While teaching English classes online is an entry-level job, exactly what you’ll earn as an online English teacher depends on your teaching experience, your qualifications (think TEFL certification and university degree), and the online school you choose to work with.

Teachers are considered independent contractors, and most online English schools pay them between $14 and $25 per hour. This rate is based on the number of assigned lessons, which are usually 25-30 minutes long, so if you truly want to earn per hour, you’ll need to sign up for a set number of classes. Oftentimes, you can also earn bonuses for referring others to teach English in the school.

While this might not seem super high, most online English schools take care of lesson planning, test grading, and communicating with parents, so all you have to do is show up and teach the class.

Some schools pay through PayPal, and others prefer to direct deposit money into your bank account.

The Top 5 Companies for Teaching English Online

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There are hundreds of online teaching companies posting thousands of online English teaching jobs every year. This is due to both the increase in demand for English teachers and the fact that many online English teachers choose to teach for just a few years and then move on, rather than to make a career of it.

While there are thousands of options for you to teach English online, we’ve selected the five most popular online teaching companies for your consideration.

1. VIPKid

VIPKid is a popular online learning platform based in China, which hires ESL teachers who are either American or Canadian to teach English to children in China. VIPKid creates all the lesson plans, grades the tests, and coordinates with student’s parents, which allows their online teachers up to just show up and teach their classes.

Classes with VIPKid are one-on-one and run 25-30 minutes each. As a VIPKid English teacher, you can earn up to $14-$22 per hour, depending on your credentials, demo lesson performance, and class incentives. You’ll be paid extra for good performance, such as up to $1 for being on time and teaching the class according to schedule, $1 for teaching above a certain number of lessons a month, and $100 for successful teacher referrals.

VIPKid has no minimum number of hours per week but does require its teachers to have a bachelor’s degree.

2. DaDa

DaDa is a China-based online education platform that coordinates one-on-one English lessons for Chinese students from kindergarten to 9th grade. DaDa teachers must have native fluency in English, as well as at least a bachelor’s degree. This company also has a preference for certified teachers (typically TESOL, CELTA, or TEFL certificates). The minimum working hours for a DaDA teacher are 10 hours per month.

DaDa’s online ESL classes are 30 minutes long and usually scheduled daily using the Beijing time zone.

DaDa provides its teachers with all lesson materials so the preparation is minimal. Depending on your teaching experience, qualifications, and bonuses, you can expect to be paid between $15 and $25 per hour.

3. Qkids

Qkids connects English native speakers with Chinese children to improve the students’ English language skills. Classes have anywhere from 1-4 students and Qkids takes care of planning lessons, grading tests, and all communication with the parents.

Qkids English teachers are required to have a bachelor’s degree and to be able to commit to at least six hours per week. Training is provided by Qkids, and teachers earn anywhere from $16-20 per hour.

Unlike many of the other online teaching jobs, working with Qkids isn’t completely location independent. You do have to live in the United States or Canada, so if you were hoping to make your work schedule more normal by moving to Thailand as a digital nomad, working with Qkids isn’t an option for you.

4. EF Education First

While many online language schools focus on hiring teachers from the United States and Canada, EF Education First is the top online language school that hires native speakers from the United Kingdom. It also offers a blended learning approach: All their online students take lessons at one of their physical schools in China, in addition to engaging in their online classes.

EF Education First does not require its language teachers to have any experience teaching and has a paid training program to those who do not. While EF Education First provides its teachers with all the required lesson plans, the teachers must provide a brief summary of the class for the students and parents afterward.

As an online teacher for EF Education First, you can earn $10-$20 per hour, plus bonuses for teaching during weekday peak hours and for having students book with you again and again.

5. Italki

Italki is very different from other English teaching platforms as teachers have complete control over their hourly rate and set their own hours and own schedule. It is also not limited to just teaching English. If you’re a native speaker or otherwise fluent in a foreign language, like Korean or French, you can apply to teach that language on Italki.

The downside of complete control is having the responsibility to plan and coordinate your lessons. All classes are one-on-one and to charge the higher rates of a professional teacher (usually around $25 per hour) over the lower rates of a community english tutor (around $12 per hour), you’ll need to be able to show you have certifications, including a university degree, and teaching experience.

Classes are usually run on FaceTime, Skype, or Google Hangouts, with Italki handling payment processing. For that service and connecting you with students, Italki takes a 15% commission from your completed classes. Teachers must send invoices to receive their payments, which are made on the 26th and 10th of every month.

Help Them Learn While You EarnEverything You Need to Know to Start Teaching English Onlineadorable book boy 1250722 1

While teaching is generally a challenging career, teaching English online is much easier, especially if you work with a school that handles all coordination and lesson planning for you. If you’re a native English speaker from the United States, Canada, or the United Kingdom who is interested in earning a little extra cash in your free time and being your own boss, teaching online English lessons can be a great option for you.

Teaching English online tends to be flexible, fun, and relatively well-paid. If you have the skillset, you should give it a try. At worst you’ll discover you hate it. At best, you’ve found a great way to earn money from the comfort of your own home, all while helping someone improve their English skills.

There is very little risk and a huge potential upside, so if you’ve ever considered it (and you’re here, so you probably have) now is a great time to apply and get started.

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