How to Become an Online Teacher
Updated August 31, 2022
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Online teaching jobs allow educators to widen their job searches. What qualifications will you need to teach remotely, and how can you find jobs for online teachers?
If you love teaching but hate the commute, you'd probably make a great candidate for an online teaching job. Of course, online teaching is about more than just saving gas money. Teaching online is convenient, flexible, and may even be the fastest-growing job sector in higher education today.
More and more colleges, universities, and private companies are turning to the web as a credible outlet for education, training, and certification. Educators, grad students looking for extra work, and qualified experts can look to online education for promising employment opportunities and the prospect of a brighter future.
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What Do Employers Look for When Hiring Online Teachers?
Successful online teaching applicants bring several key qualifications to their work. Many hold backgrounds in education or child-focused work. Most positions also require a college degree. An online teacher typically must possess:
- English proficiency
- A college degree
- Background in teaching or working with kids
- Proficiency and comfort with computers and online technology
- Experience or training with online course management platforms, such as D2L, Canvas, Blackboard, or Angel
Where Can I Find Online Teaching Jobs?
Where can you find online teaching jobs? Fortunately, many schools and private companies post their openings online. A prospective online educator can conduct a national job search rather than limiting themselves to local schools and employers.
When looking for online teaching jobs, focus on the specific role and teaching area. For example, online tutors or ELL instructors apply for different jobs than online K-12 teachers or adjunct professors.
Becoming an Online Teacher
Before pursuing online teaching jobs, consider the different types of online educators. Some specialize in tutoring, while others work in K-12 education. Colleges also hire online instructors. Each role comes with different education and certification requirements.
Online teachers may benefit from earning online teaching degrees. A master's in teaching online, for example, familiarizes students with online teaching technology.
Online tutors instruct learners in many academic subjects. Tutors can specialize in areas like standardized test preparation, college-level tutoring, or elementary and secondary tutoring. The educational requirements depend on the role.
Most tutors hold college degrees. Standardized test tutors typically need scores in the 95th percentile or higher. Experience in education or tutoring helps people land online tutoring jobs.
Many tutors work through private tutoring companies. These tutors pay a portion of their earnings to the company, which connects them with clients. Other tutors operate as self-employed educators and recruit clients themselves.
Schools may hire tutors to work in writing or tutoring centers. Educators seeking tutoring jobs can search for local tutoring companies, contact schools, or start their own tutoring businesses.
K-12 Online Teacher
K-12 school districts continue to rely on online teachers to educate students and run online academies. The requirements for K-12 online teaching jobs vary depending on the school.
Public K-12 schools generally require teachers to possess licensure or certification. Each educator must complete an approved teacher training program, student teaching experience, and a background check to receive their teaching credentials. A bachelor's in education or a master's in education generally meets the requirements.
Private schools may hire online teachers who do not possess licensure. These educators typically need degrees in their subject areas or teaching degrees. Private schools also look for candidates with experience in the field. Candidates can typically find jobs for online teachers at the K-12 level posted through schools or school districts.
Online ELL Instructor
Online ELL instructors educate non-native English speakers in grammar, writing, and communication. They may work with international students preparing to attend American colleges or ELL learners at K-12 schools in the U.S.
An ELL instructor typically needs a bachelor's degree in English, communication, or education. Experience as a tutor or teacher helps candidates stand out for ELL instructor jobs. The position typically does not require any certifications.
Several private companies hire English language instructors to teach online courses. Depending on the position, instructors may work irregular hours. For example, ELL instructors working with students in Japan or China need to teach online during normal school hours in Asia.
Private Education Company Online Teacher
Many private education companies hire online teachers to educate elementary students in core subjects, prepare high schoolers for the SAT or ACT exam, and teach college-level classes. Depending on the company, instructors might teach a GMAT prep course for future MBA students, lead a group of English language learners through grammar exercises, or teach core writing skills to middle schoolers.
The requirements and qualifications vary depending on the role. Private education companies that specialize in standardized test courses set minimum scores for instructors. Postsecondary educators typically need college graduates. Prospective applicants should research local private education companies to learn more about the job requirements for online teachers.
Online Adjunct Professor
Online adjunct professors teach college-level courses. They work at two-year community colleges, universities, and trade schools. An adjunct professor typically needs a graduate degree in their field. Competitive positions may even require doctorates. Unlike public K-12 teaching jobs, adjunct professors generally do not need licenses or certification.
Depending on the role, adjuncts may teach 1-4 courses per term. Some adjuncts work at multiple colleges. Adjunct pay varies widely, so prospective adjuncts should research per-course rates during their job search.
Colleges typically hire adjuncts directly. Online instructors can look for job postings in their field. Teaching online opens up new possibilities for adjunct professors. Rather than limiting their job search to one local area, they can search nationally or even internationally. Possessing doctoral degrees or prior teaching experience can help adjuncts stand out.
Tips Before Becoming an Online Teacher
Experienced online teachers often look back at their first class and wish they had made different choices. Even educators with in-person teaching experience can benefit from the following tips for first-time online teachers.
- Keeping the class engaged is one of the most important aspects of online teaching. Rather than relying on a lecture format, break up class with interactive features like chats, quizzes, and discussion questions.
- Online teaching differs depending on the format. In synchronous classes, educators can interact directly with students during live sessions. It is often more difficult to keep students engaged in asynchronous classes.
- Depending on the number of students, consider the grading load. In large classes, educators may need to use automated grading for quizzes and online assignments.
- Online teachers improve with experience. Consider recording live lectures for you to review between terms.
- Make sure students can easily contact you through email, video office hours, phone calls, and other voice-to-voice connections.
Ask an Online Teacher
Sarah Eilefson, Ph.D.
Sarah Eilefson received her Ph.D. from Loyola University Chicago and teaches composition at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Her scholarly articles have appeared in Text & Presentation and Scholarly Editing, and she has contributed to healthcare and law enforcement publications.
Preferred Pronouns: She/her
What led you to being an online teacher? What have you taught online?
I love teaching and being in the classroom, but the COVID-19 pandemic made in-person education impossible — and opened up new doors for online education.
My Ph.D. is in English, and I primarily teach composition courses online, both first-year and advanced sections. In these classes, we practice ways of anticipating and responding to the needs of different audiences and different kinds of rhetorical situations. We read a lot of essays by great writers, ask difficult questions of these texts, and prepare and share drafts that we workshop with partners.
How did you get your online teaching job?
The application process for college teaching positions looks very similar in the remote world as it did pre-pandemic. The application requires a lot of parts: cover letter, CV, sample syllabi, contact information for references, and student evaluation scores. The interview process was conducted via Zoom, and my orientation and onboarding also took place online.
I think my experience working remotely helped strengthen my application to teach online. Every day, I use the skills I learned in fully remote work environments to help me design my course delivery methods — from the way I present my lectures and engage students in discussions to how I design assignments and grade papers.
Is there anything about online teaching that you didn't expect?
I had expected it would be very hard for students to be fully present when they were Zooming into our class meetings from their dorm rooms or family dining room tables.
However, my students really impressed me with their dedication to their studies, their confidence in sharing ideas in the classroom, and their efforts on written assignments.
Not everyone was fully present every day, of course. But on the whole, I got to know many of them as individuals, and as a class, we engaged in some of the richest discussions I've had the pleasure of facilitating — and I got to read some of the strongest research papers of my teaching career.
Common Questions About Online Teaching Jobs
What Skills Do Online Teachers Need?
Online teachers rely on their communication and organizational skills. Teaching online also requires strong time management and technology skills.
How Can I Improve My Online Teaching Skills?
Educators can improve their online teaching skills by reviewing recordings of their teaching, investing time in preparing before class, and asking for feedback from students.
What Makes a Successful Online Teacher?
Successful online teachers build connections with students that transcend the learning format. They also bring an organized approach to teaching and focus on communication.
What Is the Biggest Challenge in Online Teaching?
Connecting with students is one of the biggest challenges in online teaching jobs. Educators can overcome this challenge by practicing their communication skills and strengthening their technical abilities.
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