Don’t like the idea of being stuck in the same place your whole life? Teaching English online may be your way out. As an online English teacher, you can teach from anywhere in the world with an active internet connection. Here’s how.
1. Is education for you?
First, you have to decide if the field of education, particularly language education, is right for you. Teaching is as immensely rewarding as it is frustrating and challenging. You have to be ready to deal with difficult students and technical issues, and you have to keep a smile on your face while you do it. But if you can manage that, teaching English can be very easy.
Unlike traditional students, language learners often want to study English, which makes your job a whole lot easier. But like traditional students, you’ll get students of all kinds of abilities and levels. So you have to be patient and learn to adjust on the fly. You have to prepare and maintain a good attitude, even on days when you don’t really feel like being in front of a group of students.
The upside is that you’ll get the reward of making your own schedule, having complete geographical freedom, and getting to know people from all over the world. You’ll get to join hundreds of people on their personal or professional journey to improve themselves by learning your language. And you get to help them get there.
2. Get a TEFL certificate
Even if you don’t have a degree in education or experience teaching, for most online ESL teaching jobs, the main requirement is speaking English as a first language. The other essential requirement is having a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate. Almost no company will hire you without that, even if you have teaching experience in another field.
TEFL courses are abundant and can be done in person or online at your own pace. Many of them are even available at deep discounts through sites like Groupon, so your investment in your ESL career doesn’t have to break the bank. Depending on the company, a TEFL course and certificate can cost you less than $50 or several hundred dollars.
Some of the most popular online TEFL programs include Premier TEFL, International TEFL Academy, and myTEFL. The length of the courses vary from 120 to over 200 hours. But most of them are self-paced so you can take as little as a couple of weeks to complete it. I finished my TEFL course while I was on a two-month trip around Europe.
3. Search and apply!
Once you’ve secured your TEFL certificate, it’s time to look for a job. It’s probably a good idea to decide whether you want to focus on teaching English to children or adults. Also whether you prefer group lessons or one on one. Different companies specialize in different formats, but many of them offer teach from home positions.
The hardest positions to get are the highest paying ones. And the highest paying positions are typically for teaching children. Some of the most popular companies for teaching children include VIPKid and DaDaABC. The downside of teaching children is that you’re often restricted to working peak hours when little ones are home from school and before they get to their early bedtime. You also have to be livelier to keep the kids entertained while you go through the lesson. Props and funny voices are encouraged.
Adults, on the other hand, learn English at any time and don’t need the online classroom to look like a preschool. One of the biggest companies in the world is English First (EF), with students from all over the globe. This means that you can work at your leisure 24 hours a day. Other companies include Open English and goFLUENT, which specializes in business English. Here you’ll find an extensive list of companies from different regions.
4. Prepare for the interview and mock class
Once you get to the next step in the hiring process, you’ll want to prepare for the interview. To teach English online, you’re typically required to do a mock lesson with the hiring representative. Each company has their own requirements, and many of them will send you specific materials to work with before the interview.
The internet and YouTube are invaluable resources in preparing for your interview. Many successful ESL teachers post tutorials about how to pass the mock class with some of the most well-known companies. VIPKid teachers are especially active on YouTube, providing tips, tricks, sample classes, and general tutorials to make you feel extra prepared.
5. Get experience and get higher certifications
Got hired? Rejoice! Teach your first class. Then teach another few hundred classes. You’ll notice that teaching English online doesn’t pay very well. So if you want to make a career out of ESL teaching, you need to work on your professional development.
The more experience you have, the higher caliber jobs you’ll qualify for. After 6-12 months, you’ll have a better chance at getting those higher paying jobs. Another thing that will help you get a better job teaching English online is a CELTA certificate.
CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) is the gold standard for English teaching certifications because all CELTA courses are affiliated and accredited by Cambridge University. Most people don’t want to spend the time and money required to obtain a CELTA certificate if they’re just wading in the waters of ESL teaching. But if you’re already experienced and you are committed, this is a great way to open a lot of doors.
The course can take up to 2 to 3 months and cost several thousand dollars. But getting a CELTA certificate usually qualifies you to become a supervisor at a lot of the companies, where you may already be working as a freelance teacher.
6. Keep applying and improve your quality of life
Once you have some experience under your belt and additional certifications, it’s time to put yourself on the market again. Search for better opportunities. Stick to the field you enjoy most, whether it’s working with adults or children, conversational English or test prep or grammatical lessons. This way, you can optimize your income, your schedule, and your enjoyment of the work itself.
If you’re curious, give it a try! There’s a lot to be said for working in pajama pants from anywhere you want.