You can also go freelance and teach via Skype but this relies on word of mouth and being excellent at marketing yourself. A professional website is an absolute must!
The standard requirements for teaching English online are (1) a TEFL certificate, (2) a Bachelor’s Degree, (3) Native or near-native level proficiency, (4) a fast and reliable internet connection and sometimes (5) prior experience.
If you don’t already have a TEFL certificate then this is the first step. Without such certification you will find it very hard indeed to get hired. Luckily you can even now do this from the comfort of your own home. The University of Toronto’s TEFL Online is an excellent course that is highly regarded and will prepare you well for teaching online to a variety of age groups and skill levels. Check out their course page here…
A Bachelor’s Degree is of course a much bigger issue and it might be argued that it is unfair given that most students now need to get into considerable debt to obtain a BA or BSc. The reason it is usually a requirement for teaching online is the same reason that it is usually a requirement for teaching English in person in an actual classroom. Namely that it is evidence that you are sufficiently academically gifted and studious to (hopefully) possess the essential characteristics for being a decent teacher. Luckily not all online teaching platforms require this so if you are TEFL certified then you should still be able to find an opportunity or two.
There is much debate about native vs non-native English teachers but for now, in Asia at least, it remains difficult for teachers who are not from the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, NZ or South Africa to find legal work. The same goes for many online positions simply because most of them are Asian-owned and so there remains a strong bias in favour of native speaker teachers. However, increasing number of teachers from the Philippines are working online teaching English. Salaries are often considerably lower than those offered to native speakers. The best advice for non-native speakers would be to get some experience teaching English online (perhaps for a lower hourly rate) and then develop your own website and do freelance work based on your prior experience. This way you may find you can earn similar (or more) than native speaker teachers using the standard platforms.
A high speed internet connection is essential. Without this, you will have delays in communication and your students will be wasting precious time asking you to repeat what you have just said (and vice versa). Not ideal for a good quality learning experience. Your upload speed is the one to focus on as these are sometimes set rather low in rural areas, even in developed countries like the UK. During your interview with online teaching companies you will normally be asked to conduct a short upload/download speed test to make sure your set-up is sufficient for their requirements.
Prior experience teaching ‘in the real world’ is desirable though by no means essential. If you haven’t taught English before it is recommended that you either get some experience as soon as possible or else consider any mentoring or tutoring work that you have done – perhaps during your university studies – or voluntatry work. Chances are you will have some relevant prior experience which will be acceptable as a substitute and will demonstrate you have the confidence and ability to teach English online.
It is interesting to read the adverts of many of these online teaching companies. They sometimes state that teachers from the UK with a British accent or teachers from North America are preferred. These requirements are not always strictly adhered to, especially if you do not have a strong region accent but rather a neutral one that is easy to understand by those in your online class.
There are so many different companies out there offering different rates of pay that it would be unfair to publicise certain ones here at the expense of others. If you teach English online please comment below with your tips and advice for other teachers thinking of doing the same.