Not many jobs give you the opportunity to travel freely and control your own schedule. It’s no secret that there is high demand almost everywhere in the world for native English teachers, but working in a school or university, or as an au pair, isn’t the best option for everyone. Those who are looking for more flexibility (and I mean much more flexibility) than a traditional teaching job, teaching ESL online is a great route to explore.


How to get an online ESL teaching job

1. What are the benefits and challenges of teaching ESL online? Is ESL education for me?
2. What do I need to get started?
3. Looking for a job
4. How and where to apply
5. The interview process
6. Get packing!


1. What are the benefits and challenges of teaching ESL online? Is ESL education for me?

If you’re considering looking into teaching ESL online, one of your motivations is probably flexibility. One of the main benefits of teaching online is that you are free to design your own schedule and work from anywhere in the world. You can even travel as you work, as long as you make sure each destination has a reliable Internet connection and a quiet spot for you to conduct classes.

Teaching ESL online is also much less hassle than traditional classroom teaching; classes tend to be short, one-on-one, and all the planning is usually done for you. This means the time-consuming, stressful and, frankly, boring lesson-planning and material-designing are taken out of the equation; in many cases, you can simply log on and start teaching. Your classes might even be scripted, so you’ll never have to improvise. One of the main struggles of classroom teaching, especially teaching children, is classroom management, but with online ESL teaching, this is unlikely to be an issue, even when teaching small groups.

There are also different options regarding which age group you would like to teach. Some schools specialize in children’s education, some are geared towards adults, and some have options for both. Either way, you will likely encounter students of different levels, so it’s great for building up your experience as a teacher in a relaxed, low-stress environment.

The downside, however, is that teaching ESL online doesn’t tend to be the most reliable, or well-paid, gig. Since websites that run online classes tend to have hundreds of teachers and often employ more on a rolling basis, there aren’t always enough students to go around. So, unless you’re very lucky, you probably won’t make big bucks with online teaching. Schools that offer better pay tend to be less flexible and may contract you to work certain hours which, depending on your time-zone, might be in the middle of the night.

Whether your priority is income or flexibility, teaching ESL online is a good option for, say, students wanting to earn a bit of pocket money, or anyone who just wants to bring in a little extra income. It’s also obviously great for travelers who want to see the world on a budget.

2. What do I need to get started?

First, get a good quality laptop and headset. These, along with a fast, reliable Internet connection, are the only absolute essentials that you need to be an online ESL teacher. You will also be asked to have a quiet, clean space for you to give your classes, so you won’t be interrupted or have distractions. This space doesn’t have to be completely clear, or have any classroom materials (such as a whiteboard); your bedroom is perfectly suitable.

It will also work in your favor if you have any kind of teaching experience and/or a TEFL certificate. If you are interested in becoming TEFL qualified, you can take online courses that fit with your own schedule or take a weekend crash-course. Some TEFL sites often have special offers or discounts, so taking a course won’t leave you out of pocket. However, it’s possible to find an online teaching job without experience, as training will be given. As long as you have a good command of the English language (native speakers also have an advantage), you can find an ESL teaching job suitable for you.

Recommendations for online TEFL certificate: TEFL UK, Premier TEFL, MyTEFL, and TEFL Online all provide quality online training, as well as classroom experience and job application guidance.

3. Looking for a job

A quick Google or LinkedIn search will pull up a list of online schools to which you can apply. You will also find many listings on ESL job boards, such as TEFL Search and ESL Authority. Other ESL teaching job sites are ESL Jobs Lounge and ESL Jobs 77. These sites all allow users to sign up for email notifications, so you can apply as soon as an online teaching job becomes available.

If you know someone who works as an online ESL teacher, another option is to ask them to refer you. You will still have to go through the application process, but your referrer is will probably receive a bonus and you can be sure that the school you are applying to will suit you.

Some popular online ESL schools: VIPKid, DaDaABC, and Twosigmas are high-paying schools that cater to children in China, while Bibo Global and Lingoda are popular options all over the world.

4. How and where to apply

When you have found online schools or agencies that you are interested in, you can go ahead and apply. You will need a CV, on which you should list any relevant experience you have or transferable skills that can apply to teaching. It’s also handy to have a professional-looking headshot at the ready, as some sites will ask you to submit one with your application.

Most online schools have their own web pages with an application form for you to fill in. However, some job listings might ask you to email your CV and cover letter directly to the employer.

Since the application process tends to be quick and easy, it doesn’t do any harm to apply for several online ESL teaching jobs at the same time. If you receive responses from more than one job, you can always choose the one that best suits you.

5. The interview process

The interview process can take some time, as it involves not only a series of Skype interviews, demo classes, and training sessions, but the school will build a teacher profile for you on their website to allow students to book your classes. This means submitting photos, in some cases an introduction video, and a written introduction. It might take a while to get all set up, so make sure you apply some time before you want to start teaching.

After sending your initial application, if the school feels that you would be a good fit, you will be invited to a Skype interview. These interviews tend to be fairly short and informal. As well as asking you a few questions about yourself, the interviewer should also explain to you what the next steps in the process are. Whichever school you apply to, you will almost definitely be required to give demo classes before you can be offered a job. Again, the demo classes are nothing to worry about. They also tend to be short, and they help you to understand how the school works. You will be given feedback to help you get up to speed before you start teaching for real. The demo classes are to help you get the hang of giving online classes as much as they are for the school to see how you teach.

After receiving a job offer, you may be required to do some more training. Again, this will cover everything you need to know about teaching ESL online with your particular company. The training could be in the form of group Skype calls, presentations for you to read through, and quizzes to make sure you’ve got everything.

Finally, you will be asked to submit your profile photos and video, your written introduction, and payment information.

6. Get packing!

Once you have scored an online teaching gig, you’re free to take your life on the road. You can work as much or as little as you like and conduct your classes from anywhere in the world (or at home in your pajamas, if you prefer.) One final benefit to teaching ESL online is that you can often take weeks off at a time, so if you prefer to take regular, work-free travel breaks, you can rest assured that your job will be waiting for you when you get back.