Back in the day, before online jobs for teaching English were a thing, adventurous types would show up in schools around the world with their backpacks on, ready to teach.
In those days, ending up working for a dodgy school was a big risk. You’re in a new country, you don’t know anyone, don’t speak the language or know the culture. And now you’re stuck!
At least when it comes to online English language teaching jobs, you don't have to relocate. But it sucks to find yourself working for a company that doesn’t pay you on time or has an unfair lesson cancellation policy.
The TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) industry is not well-regulated, and there can be some horror stories regarding bad schools. But you can avoid being another anecdote if you know what you’re getting yourself into and use your smarts to avoid bad online schools.
In this post, I’ll guide you in your search for places to find online English teaching jobs with 5 ways to find a trustworthy start teaching online.
Where to Look For Online English Teaching Jobs
If you type “online teaching jobs” into a search engine, chances are you won’t have much luck with finding a reputable online teaching company.
Knowing exactly where to look to find work and the requirements you’ll need to start teaching online straight away, will save you a lot of time and hassle. So here are the best places to check in your search for online ESL tutoring jobs.
If you want to become a qualified online language teacher and earn a living from home, I recommend checking out CeOLT (Certificate of Online Language Teaching).
#1 An Online Language Learning Platform
If you’re ok with freelancing and don’t need a job (with regular pay, benefits, and holiday time), consider teaching on online platforms like Verbling, iTalki, and Preply.
These platforms have an application process – you’ll need to create an account, an intro video, and a profile and upload copies of your teaching certificates if you have them. Once you’ve been accepted, you can start teaching, but they won’t guarantee you a certain number of hours or rate of pay.
The way it works is that students browse the profiles. And if they like your intro video, they might book a trial lesson with you. If that goes well, they may come back and book a series of lessons. If you don’t want to work with them, you don’t have to.
Pros of Working for an Online Teaching Platform
These platforms are great if you’re just getting started with teaching English and want to practice a bit or suss out if an online teaching job is what you want to pursue. You can have a flexible schedule while working in the comfort of your own home, so it’s great to fit around other jobs or commitments.
Cons of Working for an Online Teaching Platform
The downside of working for an online teaching platform is that you can never predict how much work you’ll get or how many students will book you. Until you build up your reputation and find a few regulars who want to take English classes with you every week, it’s hard to make a regular income.
The platforms also take a big chunk of your income as their “fee” which can sometimes be as much as 20%.
These platforms are also oversaturated and it’s very hard to get your profile to rank when you start out. That means it’s difficult for potential students to find you when they’re searching for a new teacher.
#2 Long-Established Companies
One way to give yourself a better chance of finding a trustworthy job is to search for teaching roles with long-established companies in the field.
Some big names in English language teaching are organisations like the British Council, International House, and Bell. These educational institutions don’t use discriminatory language in their job adverts, such as “native speakers only”.
The British Council is a registered charity in the UK, a public corporation, and an executive non-departmental public body. So you can be pretty confident that they’re not a fly-by-night school, here today and gone tomorrow!
Traditionally, these companies have operated language schools around the world with an in-person teaching model. Since the pandemic, the situation has shifted fast, and they have pivoted to more online options.
For instance, English First, which usually recruits teachers to work in Asia, pivoted to online lessons during the pandemic. The company has been around for 60 years. However, they’re not recruiting online teachers for the moment, although you can fill out the application form in the meantime.
Berlitz is an American language company founded in 1878 with schools around the world. On the recruitment section of their website, you will now find online posts, including ones for remote English instructors.
Pros of Working for Well-established Teaching Companies
These companies have a great reputation, offer fair pay, treat their employees well and offer the opportunity for long-term career development.
Cons of Working for Well-established Teaching Companies
Because these companies offer more of a career path than other options on this list, jobs don’t come up so often. Online jobs with these companies are sparse and competition to get them is fierce.
Completing a quick TEFL certificate won’t cut it if you want to work for one of these companies, you’ll need a bachelor's degree at a minimum.
#3 Online English Teaching Companies
In the last few years, English language learners have been looking for more online options which means teaching online has really taken off, and lots of companies offering online language classes have sprung up.
However, you will need to be careful and do your due diligence before applying to these companies that offer their clients online ESL classes.
The “pay” can be rather low, and you’re usually not recruited as an employee – you’ll be expected to register as self-employed in your country and bill the company as a freelancer.
Given the rates at some schools, when you do the maths on that, the “job” might not look so attractive. It might suit you only if you want to do teaching as a side gig, not a full-time job.
A lot of English teachers based in the US found themselves out of work when the Chinese English tutoring market for kids collapsed in 2021 due to reforms introduced by the Chinese government.
Be wary of people singing the praises of online teaching companies – some companies offer a referral program bonus if people recommend them to their friends. If someone is giving a company 100% glowing reviews and encouraging you to sign up, they might be using a referral link.
If you want an overview of the different online teaching companies and whether or not you should work for them, onlineteachingreview.com.
Pros of Teaching English For a Company
If you end up teaching English for a leading company, you will get regular hours and be able to make a decent living as an online English teacher
The company will assign students to you according to your availability. The platforms tend to provide a virtual classroom and teaching materials. When you teach for a company, you don’t need to spend any of your time on marketing, lesson preparation, or finding students. Once your class is over, you close your laptop and don’t need to think about work until your next class.
You often don’t need prior teaching experience to work for these companies, just a bachelor’s degree.
Cons of Teaching English For a Company
Working for a company is no guarantee of stable employment, hours can be sporadic and unreliable. Often if a student cancels last minute you won't get paid.
Also, most online teaching companies don’t offer holiday or sick pay – you’re a freelancer, remember, according to them. That said, several are well-established and legit – they're not going to fold overnight or anything.
#4 ESL Job Boards
When looking to teach English online, you’ll find several TEFL job boards following a quick Google search. But are these jobs vetted by the sites that let employers advertise there? Dave’s ESL Café has come under fire for allowing scams to be posted on the job board.
Here’s some advice on avoiding scams, including online.
I’m going to reiterate my advice about going with “brand names” in the industry. IATEFL is the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language, founded in 1967.
On their site, you’ll find a jobs section as well as career guides for members on topics such as becoming a freelancer or getting into materials writing. You can also learn about how to get into teaching English as a second language.
If you don’t want to look on TEFL-specific job boards, why not also search on sites like Indeed, LinkedIn, Monster etc. You can search for “online teaching jobs for English teachers” and see what comes up. But follow my tips in the next section to make sure the job is trustworthy.
Pros of looking on an ESL job board
If you look hard enough, you may come across some of the best ESL online jobs out there with a student you like who gives you consistent work. If you work for someone directly and not via a platform or online company, you will get 100% of your pay. All the platforms take a large cut of your salary.
Cons of looking on an ESL job board
As mentioned, many of the offers are scams and it’s hard to determine what’s fake from real. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Make sure you do your due diligence and some research before committing to anything from one of these boards.
#5 Create Your Own Online English Teaching Job
If all this sounds a bit depressing, I get it. The industry isn’t all bad, but a lot of teachers do go down the freelancing route due to how they’re treated when working for schools.
If you want to teach English online, then going it alone can be an option. You’ll be able to set your own rates and choose your students and how you teach them. Only want to teach adults or offer group classes? When you work for yourself, anything is possible!
Private tutoring children in English online can also be a great way to earn some extra dollars.
But you’ll need some time to build your client base, so it could be helpful to work for an online platform or school giving online classes in the meantime. If you're interested in this pathway, you can discover 8 ideas to find students when you work independently online.
I also recommend checking out the CeOLT (Certification of Online Language Teaching) programme.
This qualification not only helps you to become a better language teacher but also teaches you how to find paying students and build a language teaching business online.
You can find out more about the programme and its unique “business building” component here.
Creating your own online teaching job is also a great option if you’re not an English native speaker. Many people who have English as a second language run successful freelance businesses teaching English online. You’ll find that there aren’t that many online English teaching jobs for non-native speakers with companies.
One of the ways to be successful when you have your own online teaching company is to find a niche. That way, you’ll find it easier to look for students and refine your expertise. For example, your niche could be business English for lawyers, or English to pass the International Baccalaureate. You get the gist.
Pros of Working for Yourself
You set your own schedule, can have flexible hours, set your pay, and can work with whomever you want. The flexibility and opportunity for higher hourly pay are the main reasons many online English teachers choose this option.
Cons of Working for Yourself
It’s a lot of work! You need to spend time marketing your business, finding students, getting reviews, managing inquiries, offering trial classes, and doing the admin and taxes that come with having your own business. It may take a while for you to reap the benefits of working for yourself.
7 Tips For Finding Trustworthy Online English Teaching Jobs
Ultimately, if you want to find trustworthy English online teaching jobs, you'll need to do your due diligence. Here are 7 tips to give you the best chance of avoiding dodgy online schools and getting an online English teaching job that has longevity.
#1 Do Your Own Research
This goes for any job in any industry, but check out reviews of the company on sites like Glassdoor. Google them and see if any red flags come up. And ask around, which brings me to my next point.
#2 Talk To Other Teachers
Networking with other online English teachers is key to staying sane when you teach, especially online. And that goes for job searching too. Ask fellow online teachers which companies they’ve worked with and how it went. Word of mouth works – people will tell you which language schools to avoid.
There are lots of Facebook groups for ESL teachers where experienced teachers often share tips and advice about how to find a great job. They also share insight about their teaching experience, techniques, and ideas for lesson planning.
#3 Use Your Instincts
If you get to the interview stage and something feels off, listen to your gut. If the interviewer doesn’t answer your questions properly, then consider that a red flag. You’re interviewing them too!
#4 Go With Big Names
This is no guarantee that things will work out. But generally, if you apply for a job with an established brand, then there’s more chance of things working out. It’s also more likely that there will be systems in place to handle problems if they occur.
#5 Ask Your Tutors
If you’re doing a TEFL course, then your tutors will probably bring up the job search towards the end of the course. They might know who is hiring and where you could work as a newly qualified teacher of ESL. Ask them and ask other trainees.
This is why it can be especially useful to do your teacher training in the country where you’d like to teach. As you’re there, you can ask people about job openings and do your research on the ground. Speaking of which.
#6 Go Local
If you live in the country where you’d like to teach English online, then start making connections with the teaching world there, even if you want to teach online. You might want to join a teaching organisation such as TESOL France, TESOL Spain, IATEFL Poland, or IATEFL Hungary. You can find more teachers’ associations here.
They will publish information about teacher training events and conferences and may also publish job adverts. You usually have to pay a membership fee to join (it’s certainly the case for TESOL France).
But if you’re serious about teaching in that particular country, it makes sense to start building your network through a reputable organisation.
If you’re already in the country where you’d like to work, then you can start knocking on doors and contacting language schools. You can also get to know other teachers and ask them about the schools and employers and figure out who’s legit and who to avoid.
With the pivot to online teaching, some companies that used to offer lessons in schools or in-company (training people at their place of employment), are switching to online instruction or offering a mixture. Companies are even requesting online instruction for their staff. Keep in mind, you'll need a secure internet connection to do this.
#7 Don't Expect Miracles
Some online teacher jobs require no previous teaching experience, and there’s no teaching certification or degree required. And surprise, surprise, when this is the case, the pay rate and possibly the conditions are more likely to be poor.
For instance, one of the better online schools I came across (although I haven't worked for them or vetted them in any way), VivaLing, requires a minimum of 2 years of full-time experience, a teaching certificate, and/or educational degree, native English or near-native level. But the “pay” is $20 per hour, and you need to work a minimum of 12 hours per week.
Meanwhile, if you have no degree, no teaching experience, and no certificate but you're a native speaker, you can teach for Cambly, but you'll get just $10.20 per hour (that's not salary, by the way, so you might end up earning below minimum wage in your country) and you have no guaranteed hours.
That said, Cambly is a long-established and legitimate company and probably one of the best ESL online companies to work for. So, if you wanted to get your feet wet in online teaching, it could be a good place to start. But I'm not sure you could call it a “job” – it will be a side gig for most people.
So there you have it, your guide to finding a job as an online English teacher.
With the collapse of the Chinese ESL market, online English teaching jobs are not quite what they once were. Some people were doing full-time hours for Chinese companies.
These days, you'll have to diversify your income by working for several companies or having a mix of your own students plus students from online English teaching platforms. This makes sense as in either case, you're freelancing and not getting paid a salary.
Your best bet, long-term, is to create your own online job by working independently and finding your own students. This will allow you to set your rates so you can earn more and work with the student base you choose.
It’s a very rewarding job to teach others and see them progress and achieve their goals. So, if you feel like you have a passion for teaching and want to give teaching online a try, follow the tips in this post.