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How to Become an Online Teacher in 5 Steps

As the world continues to move toward online learning, virtual ESL teachers are in high demand, so there’s no better time than now to break into the field of online English teaching. After all, what’s not to love about a fun, rewarding job with the flexibility to work from anywhere you like? Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to become an online teacher to help you kickstart your new career.

Step 1: Get qualified to teach online

Most new online English teachers start out working with a company (like LISA Learning International Language School), but before you embark on a job hunt or send your application out, you’ll first want to make sure you fit the bill for teaching English online. Each of these companies sets its own qualifications for online teachers; however, generally speaking, applicants are required to have the following prerequisites. Chances are, you’re already close to qualified!

A TEFL/TESOL certification

Nearly every company asks their online English teacher to have a TEFL certification, preferably one that incorporates a minimum of 120 hours of study (consider earning the Bridge Master TEFL/TESOL Certificate or, for more advanced training, the Bridge IDELTOnline). Having this certification proves that you’re equipped with fundamental English teaching skills.

To take your resume a step further and stand out to employers as a candidate who’s serious about preparing for a virtual teaching position, it’s highly recommended that you also add Specialized Certification in Teaching English Online to your general online TEFL course training. This will ensure that you have the skills needed for the virtual classroom, such as using online platforms and engaging students virtually.

Another option is to take the Master Certificate + Teaching English Online Bundle, a comprehensive, 240-hour certification that qualifies you to teach both online and abroad.

A bachelor’s degree

While it’s true that many companies request teachers to possess a university degree (usually in any field), it’s not impossible to find employers who accept applicants who are currently enrolled in a bachelor’s program or who don’t have a degree at all.

Find out more about teaching English online without a degree.

Previous teaching experience

Although some companies require a certain number of years of classroom or online teaching experience, there are a number of online English schools that welcome newcomers to the field. But even if you haven’t ever taught English, you can always gain experience in other ways, such as by completing a virtual teaching practicum, volunteering, or offering your online tutoring services for free. When applying for online teaching jobs with companies, be sure to highlight these kinds of experience, along with other education-related activities like mentoring or training employees.

Here are more ways to gain TEFL/TESOL experience.

Computer and other equipment

A working computer (laptop or desktop), headset with microphone, webcam, and stable internet connection are the tech essentials required by online English teaching companies, though specifications may vary from company to company. Remember to give your equipment a test run before your interviews or any teaching demos to ensure that it is compatible with the most common teaching platforms.

Check out our more comprehensive guide to online English teaching requirements.

online Business English teacher

Cheryl, an online business English teacher in Jamaica

Step 2: Decide who you want to teach online

If you want to become a teacher online, you’ll need to ask an important question: Do you want to teach English classes to kids, adults, or both? Choosing the right age group to teach will depend on your personal preferences and previous experience, as well as weighing the pros and cons of each option.

Teaching English to kids or teens

If you’re a teacher who’s brimming with energy and enjoys doing dynamic activities with your students, you’ll have fun teaching children!

Kids’ classes often require you to have tons of patience, classroom management skills, and a wealth of ideas to keep your learners engaged. Nonetheless, you’re sure to have enthusiastic learners who are eager to participate in your games and not afraid to look or sound silly in class.

Find out more about teaching English to adults vs. kids.

Teaching English to adults

On the other hand, giving English classes to adults – who can include, for example, college students, business professionals, or people who work in tourism – is focused more on bolstering their language skills for a particular purpose. Though teaching adults involves less disciplining than teaching kids, it requires you to be detail-oriented and keep lessons relevant to their lives.

Here are some companies where you can teach English online to adults.

ESL niches

Aside from teaching a particular age group, you can similarly opt to teach specialized subjects or ESL niches such as Business English, technical English, or preparing students for English language proficiency exams, like the TOEFL or IELTS.

If you want to stand out by teaching a certain ESL niche, you can gain unique, practical skills by taking Specialized Certificate courses or short, targeted Micro-credential courses in various subjects.

Step 3: Search for jobs that fit your qualifications and preferences

Now that you’ve checked off the most important online ESL teaching requirements and you’ve chosen who you want to teach, you can start your job search. The good news is, more and more online English teaching positions are becoming available, so if you have the right credentials, you’ll find an opportunity that matches your qualifications and preferences.

If you’re wondering how to teach online courses, here are some ways to find online English teaching jobs:

  • Check the Bridge Job Board for the latest online teaching job offers.
  • Join the Bridge Jobs Group on Facebook to find out about new teaching positions and get job search advice and tips from other members.
  • Read interviews with Bridge alumni who are teaching English online with different companies.
  • Conduct an online search and send your application directly to companies of interest via their website.
  • Get job referrals from family or friends who have taught or studied English online.

These companies are currently seeking online English teachers.

Step 4: Apply to online teaching jobs

Once you’ve narrowed down your job search and selected the companies you want to apply to, it’s time to complete your online application, undergo the selection process, and seize that online job offer you’ve got your sights on!

The hiring process for most online ESL companies is straightforward. Applicants usually need to pass the following stages before successfully landing a teaching position with a company:

  1. Fill out the application form or upload your online teacher resume on the company’s recruitment page.
  2. Submit a demo ESL teaching video with your application (you’ll be given detailed instructions).
  3. Schedule a virtual interview with your potential employer.
  4. If you pass the interview, the recruiter may ask you to give some trial classes with a student.
  5. If the company decides to hire you, you’ll need to review and sign your work contract.
  6. Once you’re on board, you’ll have to set your teaching schedule on the school’s system or online platform.

Sophia, from the U.S., shared with us the hiring process at Cambly, where she’s currently teaching, in this interview.

Cambly teacher Sophia working from France

Cambly teacher, Sophia, working from France

Step 5: Be the best online teacher you can be and maximize your earning potential

The last step in how to be an online teacher is to showcase your skills and bring your passion for teaching into the virtual classroom! You’ll surely want to see your students coming back for your classes, so remember to make use of fun ESL games and activities, keep students engaged with a lively teaching background, and build rapport with your learners.

Be aware of the review process for online ESL teachers

Online schools usually have a review process for English tutors, which could vary from one company to another. Most companies evaluate online teachers through a formal class observation conducted after a certain number of classes and by gathering students’ written feedback about their tutor.

Professional development opportunities

Training to be an online English teacher may have given you the practical skills needed for helping students become fluent in the language, though learning never stops there. If you want to upgrade the quality of your teaching, consider taking your professional development up a notch with targeted training in specific TEFL subfields.

For instance, Bridge offers a variety of short Micro-credential courses that can equip you with knowledge and skills in developing materials and using multimedia in the online classroom.

Maximize your earning potential

Whether you’re teaching English online as a full-time stint or a side gig, it’s important to make the most money you can as a virtual ESL teacher. Aside from choosing to work with the highest-paying tutoring companies, here are some other ways to boost your income:

  • Aside from the base pay, consider the incentives and performance-based bonuses the company offers.
  • Open teaching slots during the online school’s peak hours.
  • Increase your bookings by getting good reviews from students or their parents.

Get more tips for maximizing your earning potential as an online English teacher.

What if I prefer to become a freelance online English teacher instead of working with a company?

You can certainly pursue the freelancing path as a virtual ESL teacher if you don’t want to work with an online school. Although being an independent English tutor comes with a lot of responsibility – from finding students to sourcing materials to managing your finances – it ultimately grants you more flexibility and higher earning potential (you get to keep all your students’ payments for yourself!).

When it comes down to how to teach online, the steps to get started as a freelance online English teacher are not that different from working with a company. However, the following additional steps are recommended in order to successfully launch your teaching business:

Chris runs his own ESL school in Japan

Teacher Chris runs his own ESL school in Japan.

Whether you want to work with a company or as a freelancer, you can become an online ESL teacher by following these steps. With the right TEFL/TESOL training and determination to succeed, there’s no doubt that you’ll be enjoying the perks of this enriching job soon and even build a career out of it if you choose to.

Not sure if this is the right career for you? Find out more about teaching English online vs. the classroom.

Back in her hometown in the Philippines, Krzl worked as a writer at a TV station before moving to Chile. After she completed her TESOL certification, she worked for language institutes and then decided to become an independent English teacher to business professionals. When she’s not giving classes, she’s either surfing along Chile’s long stretch of coastline, traveling, or practicing photography by the beach.