What you’ve heard is true: there’s a significant buzz about teaching English. While we’ve seen the online learning industry grow each year, the coronavirus pandemic resulted in off-the-scale demand. Online education has become a necessity for students and teachers across the globe, and a new influx of teachers was needed to meet vast educational needs.
Every year, we see more and more TEFL Org graduates go on to teach English online. With more people than ever looking for ways to earn money from home, it's understandable. If you can do it, why wouldn’t you?
So, the demand for qualified teachers has increased. That said, with so many teachers moving online, it’s also never been more important to stand out. If you’re aiming to teach English online right now then you want to ensure you’re getting the best start possible.
How do you do that? Well, you read this guide on getting your first online teaching job, of course!
Step 1: Get TEFL qualified
This couldn’t be more crucial; if you want to teach English as a foreign language, get TEFL qualified. Luckily, there are plenty of great courses to choose from if you’re aiming to
teach English online
, and your CV just won’t be complete without a stand-out TEFL certificate.
So, what are the right qualifications for the job? Let’s discuss:
Level 5 or 120 hours?
The ideal choices for getting started in teaching English, online or off, are the Level 5 TEFL qualification, or a 120-hour qualification.
Why? Well, both give you the grounding you need to teach English as a foreign language - it’s that simple. Both look great on a CV, and while Level 5 lasts 200 hours, it’s Ofqual-recognised and is extremely well-reviewed!
What are the key differences between Level 5 and 120-hour courses?
The 120-hour course is perfect if:
You have a minimum of a BA degree - in any discipline
You have some previous teaching experience
You’re a native English speaker with a passport from the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa
You’re seeking work in a country with high demand for English teachers
Whereas a Level 5 has the advantage if:
You don’t hold a degree
You haven’t taught before
English isn’t your first language/you don’t have a passport from one of the 7 countries listed above
You’re aiming to work in a country with a competitive jobs market or online
You want the most comprehensive training available
To decide which entry course is right for you, check out our guide on
120-hour v Level 5 courses
. Either way, you’ll end up with the right certificate to get started teaching English!
Qualified with your Level 5 or 120-hour course, but want to study something specifically geared towards online teaching?
While Advanced TEFL courses aren’t necessarily a deal-breaker, consider them as something akin to a post-graduate degree. The BA is great for standing out in the job market, sure, but if you’re looking to really stand out, having extra qualifications is hardly going to impede you.
Especially if you’ve studied something so specifically geared toward Teaching English Online. Let’s face it, employers don’t always want to take risks. They want people who have done the reading and the practice, and if you have a certificate to show for it? All the better!
Step 2: Get your application ready
Ok, now you’re qualified. You’re ready for the job market, right?
Well, not quite: the next step is to get that application ready. A couple of important points here; when it comes to CVs and Cover Letters, it really pays to personalise for each job opening. It sounds labour intensive and, frankly, a bit tedious - but we can’t stress enough that the personal touch absolutely matters.
So, applications! Are you ready?
Put together a great CV!
Being the kind of lovely people we are, we’ve provided a comprehensive
, which is a great place to start - and if you’re a TEFL Org student you’ll also have access to our CV builder, which makes everything that bit easier.
What does the
need? If you have volunteering experience prior to (or from the time of) studying for your TEFL qualification, stick it in. If you're a non-native speaker and can demonstrate excellent English proficiency, whether through school examinations, the IELTS or anything else? Put it on there.
While you might not have previous teaching experience, your CV still needs to sell you as a teacher. Highlight your qualifications and any relevant experience you may have gained in your previous employment, such as training people, presenting, or mentoring.
It should go without saying, but it’s so important – proof, proof, proof! When you’re applying for teaching jobs then grammar and spelling mistakes really aren’t going to do you any favours.
Stand out with a strong cover letter
Again, the cover letter is an important factor in applying for jobs that we’ve covered in some detail, specifically in this
Cover Letter guide
. We’ll give you time to read that, but in case you’re looking for a short version, writing the perfect cover letter comes in 10 steps.
Firstly, research who you’re applying for. Use details from the job description, and use key terms in your cover letter. The company wants to know you care about them enough to want a job there. Then, it sounds obvious, but address the cover letter to the right person. If there’s a faculty head, for example, try to find out their name. If no names are given, a friendly introduction will set you apart.
Then, it’s about providing evidence of your qualities. Think of it like a puzzle, fitting your qualities around what’s in the person specification or job description. Why should they hire you? Make it extremely obvious.
Don’t just focus on your qualifications, either. Of course, they’re vital, but what employers want to know is why you did those qualifications, and what impact they’ll have on you as a teacher. Bring in other stuff; giving presentations, coaching colleagues, experience of working with children - it all helps. Then, make sure your cover letter is neat and tidy; is the text all the same size? Are there any spelling or grammar mistakes, and does it scan well? Don’t try to squeeze in too much, either.
Proofread, obviously. If you can’t demonstrate sound understanding of English on a cover letter for an English teaching job, that’s bad news. Keep it brief, too - get to the point and don’t waffle. Again, make sure to personalise for each job opportunity, because employers will know if it’s a generic statement about you and your abilities.
Be yourself! Some personality goes a long way, and without making it too zany, you can easily give employers a sense of the kind of positive, motivated and fun person you are. Finally, be sure to include your contact details, since you presumably want a reply!
Step 3: Start applying for jobs with online teaching companies
Now it’s time to start applying for jobs, but where do you find them? And should you work for an employer or go out on your own?
Our advice is to start off working for an online teaching company or use a platform that connects students and teachers. The reason is that this is the easiest and quickest way to get started teaching English online.
Yes, you can make more money working independently as a third party won’t be taking a cut of what the student pays. But you’re going to have a hard job finding students willing to pay a good hourly rate for a teacher who has no experience teaching English and who is just finding their feet. TEFL is no different from other types of freelance jobs – you need to build up a client base and that takes a bit of time.
Working for an online company is the best way to get initial experience and improve your teaching skills. Alongside this you can work towards creating and building your own business as an independent teacher.
Online teaching companies vs. platforms
Your two best options when starting out are online companies and teaching platforms/marketplaces. But what are the differences?
An online company will pay you a fee per hour or class. Most will have a set curriculum and provide the lesson material, meaning you don’t have to worry about spending time on lesson planning.
An online platform/marketplace connects students and teachers. You advertise your services on the platform and students approach you directly. Online platforms will take a commission of your rate per hour or lesson.
Working for an online company vs going freelance
Of course, there’s another option: going freelance! You can still travel the world doing this, as the “digital nomad” lifestyle has
grown in prominence
over recent years. Going freelance has plenty of benefits, including setting your own hours, charging your own rates and building your own client base.
if you have your own niche
, for example, Business English, going freelance can help you immediately stand out. This is where Advanced TEFL course experience can come in very handy, especially if you want to teach to particular audiences.
There is a lot to be said, however, for joining an existing infrastructure, especially at the start of your career. For one thing, going freelance in the future will be better informed having worked for established online companies. Not only that, you’ll have the protection of a contract, the facilities to get started and the online presence for building a roster of students.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a fight between one or the other. When you’re getting started in your TEFL career, though, it pays to see how things work first-hand, especially if you’ve designs on going it alone further down the line.
Requirements for online teaching companies and platforms can vary greatly. Some will require a degree, others will ask for previous teaching experience, and some will even need you to be of a specific nationality. The latter is something we absolutely do not agree with - better employers won’t have any problem hiring “non-native” English speakers.
It can be a bit of a pain to work out if you meet the requirements for certain jobs, which is why we’ve done a lot of the hard work for you and put together the table below!
So, you’ve got your TEFL qualification, your CV is looking great, and you’ve been firing off job applications left, right, and centre. The final hurdle is the interview.
The demo lesson
Each company will have its own recruiting and interviewing processes, but many will ask you to conduct a demo lesson. Some will ask you to submit a recording or you might have to do it live in front of an interviewer. Certain companies will even set your salary based on your performance during the demo lesson, which is why it’s extremely important to put the work into doing a great job!
Here are some tips for conducting a successful demo lesson:
Do your research into the company and carefully read the instructions provided.
Use YouTube to find good examples of demo lessons.
Practice, practice, practice. You could even test out your demo lesson on a friend or family member.
Dress smart, just like you would for an in-person interview.
Be mindful of who you’re teaching and ensure the lesson is accurately tailored for the specific age and ability of the student.
Make sure your equipment is all in working order to avoid tech issues.
Just like you would for any interview, prepare answers for the questions you’re likely to be asked. The purpose of an interview isn’t to catch you out, so don’t spend time worrying about being thrown a curveball while you’re
preparing for a TEFL interview
. Prepare a list of answers to general questions that you can use or adapt on the day.
1. Questions about you. ‘Tell us about yourself?’, ‘what are your strengths/weaknesses’?, ‘why do you want to be a teacher?’, etc.
2. Your previous experience. ‘Tell us about your previous teaching experience’, ‘what relevant experience do you have?’, ‘why is experience you’ve listed on your CV relevant to this job?’, etc.
3. Your qualifications.
4. What you can offer them. ‘What makes you a good teacher?’ ‘Why do you think this company is a good fit?’, etc.
And don’t forget about your questions at the end. When an interviewer asks you the inevitable “do you have any questions for me?” at the end, make sure to have some pre-prepared questions up your sleeve. If you’re stuck, here are
7 interview questions for you to use!
Now you’re ready!
This may all sound like a lot of work, but trust us - it’s absolutely worth it. A fresh CV and an engaging cover letter will get you an interview, and when that time comes, it’s so important to be prepared.
It might seem trite or cliché but our best advice through all of this is simple: be yourself. Don’t exaggerate, because you won’t need to. If you’re TEFL qualified, enthusiastic and have transferable skills, that’ll come across. There’s no need to embellish your achievements, your passion and knowledge will shine through.
When it comes to the interview, just take some deep breaths beforehand and let your personality show.
If you’re TEFL qualified, and willing to put the effort in, you
find jobs teaching