A common misconception about teaching online is that you can’t find a job if you have no experience or if you don’t have a relevant certification or degree. We are here to tell you that this is untrue! You can be employed to teach English online with no experience or a degree. Many companies are willing to hire teachers with no familiarity in the classroom. You may have many skills that you had no idea are transferable to teaching. So, read on to find out how you can teach online without having undergone traditional teaching training!
Do you need a degree?
Whether or not you need a degree will depend on which company you teach or if you choose to set up privately and find your own students. Often companies are happy to hire people with open, friendly and outgoing personalities, for example, to work teaching kids this skill are essential. Others focus on conversation with native speakers and this too rarely requires a degree, students just want to chat with a real native speaker.
If you set up privately or use sites such as Superprof you will need to focus on ‘selling yourself’ as a teacher and emphasize all the reasons why you are competent despite your lack of a degree. One way of doing this is to ask friends or colleagues to review you. Another tip is to check job requirements carefully before applying and ensure your resume highlights your relevant skills.
The different types of students
So who will you be teaching? Depending on the time of day, company and your own preference, you may teach a variety of ages. Schools based online in Asia often concentrate on young children’s beginners English classes with one to one or small group’s aged between 5-12. Usually, these students will be grouped 5-8 years and 9-12 years to allow for the resources to suit the age group. Lesson plans and the accompanying software (which is often provided for you) normally include characters, keywords, lots of colors and short games and activities to hold younger learner’s attention. Classes a step beyond this may be centered on teenagers aged 13 and up. Lesson content should again be age appropriate and suited to teenage interests whether it is provided for you or you are planning from scratch.
Generally speaking, conversation classes and Business English are for graduates, adults starting out in their careers or those with well-established roles in particular companies. Again the lesson outcomes and activities will be designed to fulfill the needs of the individuals. If you have private students or choose to focus on conversational lessons you can ask your students the areas they want to work on and cover those topics in your classes. There is a huge amount of guidance and help online for conversation topics, role plays and so on so you won’t be stuck for ideas.
What equipment do you need to start teaching English online?
In order to begin your career teaching online there are a few ‘must haves’ in order to succeed.
- A stable and fairly fast internet connection is essential and will mean you avoid connection issues, download problems and so on. Some companies will ask for an internet speed test before commencing with an interview. You can easily check if you meet company requirements by using http://www.speedtest.net/es
- If you choose to use a phone app you will need to check their requirements to ensure you fulfill them.
- A decent computer will also make a difference. You don’t need an expensive top of the range model but you may need space for downloading a company’s software. Bear this in mind if you are planning on teaching online. I have seen many sites that ask for a minimum of 4GB memory but again this is worth checking with your employer.
- Consider what supplies you might need. Do you want a soft toy to act as a mascot in a kid’s class? Flashcards of key words? A whiteboard to write messages or vocabulary on to hold up to the webcam when necessary?
- Some companies require you to use a headset to help with sound quality and I have even seen some who require UPS (uninterrupted power supply) in case of power outages which could affect classes. The UPS provides around 20 minutes of power in case of a problem.
Other considerations when teaching English online
First Language Basics
You have a think about who you are teaching and whether knowing the basics of the students first language would help you out. I have found this has not been necessary with the groups I have taught but it’s worth consideration or checking with the company if they are a full immersion school. (Meaning as a teacher you use only the target language and do not refer to the student’s home language at all)
Understanding of the student’s culture
Tied into this is maybe trying to have some understanding of the cultural background of the class or individual. If it is very different from your own culture it would be beneficial to have some knowledge of where the student is coming from and their norms and values. For conversation classes for example, are there topics it may be better to avoid talking about? What can you offer about your own culture that students might find interesting?
Check out what other teachers are saying online
Have a search online and see what works for other online teachers. What tips do they provide? What have they found helpful? What has gone wrong!? Forearmed is forewarned. The more you know the better prepared you will be and the more confident you will feel.
Some Qualifications to Consider
Despite the fact that you have no teaching experience or degree, there are some qualifications that you may want to consider. These will increase your knowledge of teaching English and look great on your application.
A TEFL qualification is a certification of Teaching English as a Foreign Language. The certifications come in various forms depending on where you look and how you complete the course.
There is an online option which is 11 weeks long and can be completed part time. There are also options which vary in length from 40 hours, 100 hours and 120 to 150 hours.
There is also a 4 week course on offer which is available in locations around the world and is more detailed and provides more depth than the online versions.
Although it is not a requirement for all companies, having a TEFL qualification can lead to higher pay rates. Having completed a certification often help you feel more confident and more prepared, particularly if you have no experience of the teaching English and are feeling nervous.
CELTA stands for Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages and is a very well respected qualification in the world of ESL. It is an intense study programme with assessment and assignments involved. Unlike the TEFL options CELTA has a pass or fail system and is also a more costly option. There are 300 locations in 70 countries to choose from and the course is 120 hours long. Commitment is required to complete the CELTA and is often done residentially so you stay nearby the course centre whilst you complete it. Many teachers say it really improves your job prospects but I would say this is true more for language schools than for teaching online. For online classes a TEFL is often more than adequate and is a less stressful and cheaper option.
Other Online Courses
There are other options if you wish to take an online course in order to enhance your teaching. For example courses such as Get started teaching online provide the basis for how to apply for jobs, what to expect and so on. Others offer teaching tips and ideas for classes such as Everyday English for ESL and ESL: Idioms, Usage, Pronunciation and Intonation. Courses such as these can be found on Udemy.com. These courses tend to be pretty cheap but I would have a look online first as you may find free sites which make available exactly the same resources.
There are a massive amount of TEFL options depending on where you live, where you want to study and how much time you have. Research first before choosing what is best for you.
Teaching Skills needed
The assumption by some that teaching just requires you to turn up on time and teach could not be further from the truth. Teaching is so much more. You need to inspire and explain with patience and clarity whilst remaining energetic and fun and also dedicating the time to planning classes and evaluating your students.
Total physical response is often overlooked despite being crucial in teaching. An example is the teacher saying a key word such as nose and then pointing to their nose and repeating the word. Students then copy and repeat the word and pointing to themselves. The idea is that the word and action are connected and repeated and drilled. This technique can be used for many aspects of language such as vocabulary, imperatives, tenses, classroom language, giving praise and so on. This method mirrors how children learn their first language and is therefore seen as very effective in a language learning setting. TPR can involve drilling, chants and songs to help students repeat and review language in an interactive way.
One important factor to consider when teaching is how much your students will or should say during a class. By this I mean to what extent a teacher should expect his or her students to respond, speak freely and so on. For beginners, student output would be lower than that of an advanced student, although there is plenty for beginners to ‘produce’ in English even when they have learnt very little. Regardless of their level, you should always be speaking less than the students. Teacher talking time (TTT) should be as minimal as possible to ensure full engagement and learning opportunities. Allowing time for responses, encouragement and patience all help to improve student output.
Modeling a task by yourself first in front of the learners ensures that students know what to do before they try it for themselves. This could be answering a question, practicing pronunciation or playing a game. By seeing their teacher do it first they then understand by implication what they need to do.
Companies that you can work for with no teaching experience
Cambly is an incredibly popular company who have a slightly different approach, with students from over the world contacting you via their website rather than them organising classes for you in a traditional sense. Cambly do not require experience in the classroom or a degree, they just want you to be a native speaker. To apply you record a short video as part of the process so that’s your opportunity to show how enthusiastic you are and say a bit about yourself.
Italki is not dissimilar to Cambly in that it connects students via video and you choose your availability. They connect you with students via their platform. In order to work for Italki you only need an internet connection, computer and a headset. Sign up appears to be fairly simple and teacher reviews on the site are positive. On interesting factor is that you sign up to be either a community tutor or a professional teacher. To be a community tutor no degree or experience is required, you just need to be a native speaker and over 18, and the focus for tutors is purely conversational. If you wish to be a professional teacher you need to uphold various credentials and classes can be more structured or conversation based. For both you set your own price.
Magic Ears is based in China and state that they employ qualified native speakers from the USA and Canada. As you will be working with kids a positive attitude, enthusiasm and lots of total physical response in classes is essential.
Another company who do not require a degree or classroom experience is ABC360. They only ask that you complete and pass their interview process and take part in their obligatory pre-teaching training programme. They look for ingenuity and creativity in their teachers and do not require native speakers and will employ teachers with neutral or what they call non-obvious accents too. They pride themselves on their training department and the training offered to their teachers.
English Hunt are based in South Korea and also offer classes to Japanese students. They ask for US citizens who are responsible and dedicated and can chat in a lively and interesting way. The conversation focus is for their phone teachers who conduct conversation classes with adults via a softphone installed on your computer. These students are advanced. In order to become a phone teacher you need to have a minimum of 48 college credit hours or an ESL certification of some kind.
Nice talk is a fairly new player in the online teaching world. It provides a mobile learning platform for conversation. You can use any cell phone with a stable internet connection and ESL certification is preferred by not essential to be hired. You log on and are matched with a student who wishes to practice speaking English. This seems to be one of simplest approaches out there at the moment.
Palfish is an app that students and teachers log in to in order to practice conversational English. The application process seems clear but feedback from reviewers is very mixed, some people rate it very highly and others have found it very difficult to use. Teachers can be from all over the world and pay is based on how long you use the app for and have students connected to you. You do not need specific qualifications to sign up to Palfish but you must be a native speaker.
How do these English Language companies pay?
Most companies use PayPal which is a trusted and well established form of making and receiving payments online. Some pay bi-weekly and others monthly. The phone app based businesses occasionally require you to earn a minimum amount before they will transfer earnings, for example Nice Talk pays weekly assuming you have $20 or more in your account.
Alipay is also used by some companies and seems to be the popular option for payments in Asia, working in the same kind of way as PayPal with an online ‘wallet’. Many teachers are given the option to choose between PayPal or Alipay so this makes it easy to do whatever works for you. Payoneer and Skrill are other options with the same approach as PayPal. Bank transfer is also available in some circumstances.
So, just to sum up, in answer to our original question, Can you teach online without experience or a degree? The answer is a resounding yes! There are a wealth of online teaching opportunities out there and with a little research, you are sure to find one that suits you. Early in the morning, late at night, kids or adults, Business or conversational English, you really do have a lot of options. Of course you may choose to undergo some training or a certification later on to gain confidence and some additional teaching tips as we discussed above but to start off with just see how you go.
Now is a great time to be seeking teaching opportunities online. The market is growing rapidly across the world and native speakers are in high demand. Good luck on your teaching journey, we are sure you will be great! ☺