If you’ve found our network here at Teach Nomadic and you’re not already teaching online, you might be wondering how to become an online teacher. Perhaps you’ve made the decision to take control of your lifestyle, your location, and your finances by choosing to go this route.
You’re motivated, you love helping others, and you’ve identified which subject or skill you want to teach. Furthermore, you’re here at Teach Nomadic to connect within a growing network of other like-minded online teachers!
While the specific requirements will vary depending on your field, there are a number of general core components you must have to ensure a successful and lucrative online teaching business. In this article, I’ll discuss some of the general requirements you’ll want to meet, as well as some useful resources to help you get started!
Education Requirements to Teach Online
I’ve grouped the education requirements for online educators into three broad categories:
1. Those That Have No Minimum Education Requirement
While a degree or certification in the subject you wish to teach lends credibility to your abilities as a teacher, they’re not necessary! It’s true you can begin teaching online right now without any experience or formal education in the field you’ve chosen.
For online language teachers like myself, for example, platforms like italki allow candidates to apply as Community Tutors who are “friendly, helpful, knowledgeable, and use their time to provide students with informal tutoring or conversation practice.” No degree is required!
If you’re looking to teach or tutor a different topic, but you lack a degree or you’re currently a student earning one, other sites like Tutor.com and Student Tutor allow you to get started after demonstrating a strong understanding of the subject material.
You can also create your own website or advertise your services on Craigslist. This means with patience, professionalism, and the technology we’ll talk about below, you can begin tutoring or teaching online courses today!
2. Those Requiring a Minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree and/or Certification
For many online teaching companies or platforms, holding a bachelor’s degree in any subject from an accredited university qualifies you to work for them. Let’s look at the language-teaching sector again: italki.com lists a description for their higher-tier Professional Teacher applicant requirements that summarizes the general requirements of most similar platforms or companies. Professional Teachers:
- “have training as educators and/or extensive professional teaching experience. They can provide students with resources, prepared materials, and structured lesson plans to help students reach their goals.
- To apply for a professional teaching profile, you must upload documents showing your training and experience as an educator.”
VIPKID is another language-teaching company where teachers earn up to $22/hour providing Chinese students aged 4-12 with an international learning experience based on the US Common Core State Standards. They require a Bachelor’s degree in any field, experience mentoring or tutoring, and eligibility to work in the USA or Canada.
VIPKID is hiring:
To teach online courses in other subjects the aforementioned sites, along with other sites like Aim-For-A and MathElf, have higher-paying positions that require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and often a specific certification or length of experience as well.
3. Those That Require a Graduate or Professional Degree
Most online teaching opportunities requiring a graduate degree, professional degree, or a number of completed advanced courses can be found in part-time adjunct positions for online institutions. Other universities offer full-time distance-learning positions, but these positions often require a doctorate degree or are limited to those subjects currently in high-demand.
In addition, full-time positions often involve additional duties outside of regular class hours.
If you plan to work for someone, it’s always best to check with the specific institution, platform, or company you want to teach for in order to determine what they require of their instructors before applying.
Check out our Featured Teacher interview with Bret of OETjobs to find the best verified online English teaching jobs!
Technical Requirements for Teaching Online
There are three main areas of tech requirements for teaching online, and we will publish more content that provides specific details about each of them:
1. Device Requirements
Of course you need a device to teach from! Some companies allow teaching via tablet or phone app, and I’ve seen some amazing classroom setups by teachers using iPads. In general, a newer laptop or desktop is still your best bet to ensure that you have all the following system features.
Headset with microphone
A headset with stable input and output will help block out external noise so you can deliver clear classes to your students and hear them as well!
Here’s our review of the best headset for online teaching.
Most laptops and many desktops have integrated high-definition cameras nowadays. If yours doesn’t, you might want to think about purchasing an external webcam so that any visual component of your course can be seen by your students.A grainy and choppy video feed can be frustrating to both teacher and student and detracts from your professional image, so don’t let this get in the way!
2. Minimum System Requirements
Your computer operating system is Windows for most PCs and OS for Macs. You’ll want to be sure you’re running one of the updated versions (Windows 7+ or OS 10.8x are solid baselines).
Think of this as your computer’s “brain”. The higher the speed of the central processing unit (CPU), the faster data is processed and communicated to other applications. This will be listed in your device’s manual, and it may be displayed on the device on a sticker. Intel core i3 is a safe minimum, although faster processors are available at a cost.
I read once that you can think of RAM as a desk with worksheets on it. The bigger the desk surface space, the more worksheets can be laid out and completed at once (the more RAM, the more programs can run simultaneously).This is useful up to a point, as more RAM isn’t useful if you’re not running more and more programs at once. At least 4GB of available RAM is often the requirement and will be sufficient, although 8GB will better handle your operating system and browser use on newer devices.
Many online teaching companies make use of their own education platforms, which means you’ll need the latest version of Adobe Flash Player to view multimedia, using internet applications, and streaming audio and video through their classroom. You can get it here (it’s a quick, free download).
Finally, we come to the tech requirement at the heart of our mission here at Teach Nomadic. A strong internet connection is an obvious necessity for teaching online, but this is where it can get a bit tricky.
While teaching adults through my own site, I’ve taught lessons in places like Ikea using WiFi. The connection was strong enough, there weren’t any rules to follow regarding my background imagery or external noise, and the adult was a longtime student who had no problem with the setup and understood my situation at the time.
This would not fly, however, for the company I’ve worked for (or for many other similar companies). I would have been breaking multiple company rules, most significant of which is that the connection was not strong enough to provide a stable connection through their platform.
Many companies require a minimum connection download speed of 20Mbps and ask that you have a direct wired connection via Ethernet cable (more on that later).
You can also start by joining Teach Nomadic to help all of us reduce Teacher IT problems due to poor connectivity!
3. Minimum Browser Requirements
- This means you’re using an updated version of the internet browser that supports your company’s teaching platform and/or your own tools.
Other Materials You Might Need
By this point, we’ve covered the basic requirements for teaching classes online: you have an idea of which places you can teach based on your education, and you know the basic technological tools you need in order to teach online.
Other basic materials for all teachers include an appointment/calendar management system, a video call system like Skype or Zoom, lesson plans (here is a complete library for online English teachers at Off2Class, an on-screen (or physical) whiteboard, and props (especially if you plan to teach children).
We’ll cover some of these in greater detail going forward, but you can check out the list of Best Apps for Online Teachers at Teacher Indie to get a good idea of what’s out there.
I encourage you to check out Teacher Indie, as it’s been an incredible resource for me throughout my online-teaching career. You’ll find tons of useful content and the answers to many other questions you might have regarding how to become an online teacher.
The Importance of Meeting These Requirements to Teach Online
You now have a general idea of the basic requirements for teaching your subject or skill online. While the obvious reason why it’s important to meet these requirements is that it lends credibility to your skills as an instructor and helps you to maintain a professional image, you’ll find that there may be additional reasons if you choose to work for a company or institution.
First and foremost, you companies reject applicats if they lack the required experience, education, or equipment. But even if you manage to get hired using technology that doesn’t meet the standards, you could be in for a rough time.
Anyone who has worked for a company like VIPKID knows (and likely fears) the dreaded ‘Teacher IT Problem’. In short, this means that there was an unstable internet connection or a problem with the audio or video during the class period and the Tech Team has determined that your setup is at fault!
I’ve learned the hard way that running a speed test isn’t always enough: computer technicians can even see your ping (the response time of your connection, how reactive it is) in real-time, and they use this data to determine on whose end the problem has occurred. Receive enough of these black marks against your record, and say goodbye to your contract!
The Bottom Line: How to Teach Online Classes and Earn Money
Having prior experience teaching and holding degrees or certifications will often help, but they are not always necessary to meet the requirements for teaching courses online. With patience and professionalism, along with a willingness to learn, you can still succeed in this pursuit!
Connectivity issues and other tech problems can hurt your image as a professional teacher in the eyes of your students, however, and that’s what I aim to help you avoid here at Online Teacher Tech by providing up-to-date information on the latest trends and tools used for online education.
What’s your favorite part about teaching online? Have a question about what you need to get started? Want to share experiences, opinions, or suggestions related to becoming an online teacher?
Leave a comment or question below and let us know!