Q&A of Our Experience Traveling With Teaching English Online Jobs
When we are out on long-term travel, at least a few times each week, we get this exact message in our inbox: How do you afford to travel the world? Our answer is simple: we saved money prior to leaving by compromising on many things (like eating out, etc.), we sold a good portion of our belongings, many of our loved ones contributed to our travel funds when we got married in lieu of material possessions, and we taught English online while continuing to travel. After mentioning that we taught English online, we often received dozens of questions about our teaching experience.
It's no secret that many people want to travel the world, but they're worried about money. We were too. For us, teaching English online gave us the opportunity to travel further and longer than we would have been able to otherwise...and honestly, online teaching is one of the easiest jobs we've ever had.
Although at times teaching English online can be frustrating (more on that later), we both have great memories of teaching English online. We got to connect with other cultures in ways we wouldn't normally get to, we were invited into the homes of Chinese students that would show us around and give us a glimpse of their day-to-day life, and we sang countless songs with cute kids such as The Wheels on the Bus and Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.
So, how does one become an online English teacher? How much money can actually be made? Where is the best place to get a TEFL Certification? We're here to answer some of the most common questions.
What are the qualifications to teach English online?
This can vary. Both of us have our bachelor's degrees (not in teaching or teaching English) and then received our TESOL/TEFL certification. Every company and job has different requirements, but I think all companies require at least a TESOL/TEFL certificate. We know people who have obtained jobs online with a TESOL/TEFL certification without having a bachelor's degree. We know people that are over qualified and have obtained mediocre-paying jobs.
Another common requirement from ESL companies is that you be a native English speaker. That is a nicer way of saying that English should be your first language -- and they give preference to those who are from countries like the USA, UK, South Africa, and Australia. We did meet several ESL teachers who were not native English speakers but still managed to land good online teaching or in-person teaching jobs. Sometimes it can be more difficult or rigorous to get the jobs if English isn't your native language, but it's doable.
Whomever you become TEFOL/TESL certified through should be able to assist you in obtaining jobs, answering these questions, and giving more specific advice about online teaching or teaching English in-person!
Where do I get a TEFL certification online?
One of the fastest and most economical ways to get into this profession is to get your TEFL certification online. You can complete the courses from the comfort of your own home and get onto the job market even quicker.
The hard part is, there are so many companies that provide online TEFL certifications and promise this or that. So, how do you know which ones are good?
We recommend Premier TEFL as the best online company to receive your TEFL through. They are accredited and regulated by the English Government (it's recommended to find a company that is backed by a higher institution). They have many different course options and a great support team behind the program. Their courses range from 120 hours which takes about 3-6 weeks to complete up to 250 hours which takes 5-8 weeks to complete.
In our opinion, the 250-hour hybrid TEFL course is the sweet spot. With this package, you will not only get the course and certification, but you will also get much more experience! This course includes roughly 40 hours of invaluable hands-on teaching experience, lesson planning guides, and 10 actual lesson plans that you can use over and over again while teaching. For us, we really grasped the concept of teaching English online when we got hands-on experience. We can't recommend it enough!
Ready to book your course with Premier TEFL? Use the code, "upskill12" for a nice discount on whichever program you go with!
If I want to get my TEFL certification in a foreign country rather than online, how much money do I need to save and where do you recommend?
We choose to get certified in Thailand through TEFL Campus and loved our experience. Not only did we have the chance to live in Thailand for a month and make lifelong friends out of our classmates, but we learned so much valuable information that we use teaching English online daily. Before leaving for our travels, we researched becoming certified in the states or online but ultimately decided that since we didn't have any teaching experience, an in-person class would be best for us.
That being said, you really don't need to save an exorbitant amount of money to move to Thailand (for example) and take a TEFL course. As an individual, you could easily start with a few grand, take the month-long course, and find a job right away. Many people want to experience living in a foreign country and teaching English abroad, while others choose to continue to travel and teach English online. We've gone through both of these mindsets. Remember when we almost took a 15-month teaching contract in Vietnam? We have no regrets not taking that one, by the way, and appreciated the freedom that online teaching offered us.
How much does teaching English pay? What percentage of your monthly travel expenses are covered by being an English Teacher?
We will be the first to admit that weren't able to save any money through online teaching and continuing to travel. Had we chosen to stay put in one country and limit our expenses, we would've been saving each month. In addition, we were both paying off our student loans, which took a large chunk of the money we made online teaching each month. So, is it possible to save money through online teaching? Yes, absolutely. We chose to only teach about 9 hours (each) per week and we were mid-range budget travelers. We didn't find ourselves sleeping in hostel dorm bunks or eating cheap meals each night, but we are budget conscious. On another note, if you are an online teacher most companies require you to provide your own teaching materials. These are a one-time expense and can be as simple as a white board and a paper map for your background.
Teaching English online pays anywhere from $16-25/hour USD. We know what you are thinking, why is it such a range? As an online English teacher, you will have many different companies to choose to teach through. Being an online English teacher you might not teach through only one online ESL company, but rather multiple. Also, each online ESL company has its own pay structure. Some of them pay you per hour, some pay per class, and some online teaching companies offer a bonus system or pay better when you work during peak hours. The bottom line, being an online English Teacher pays on average somewhere around $20/hour USD.
As for what percentage of our travel is covered by having an online English teaching job? That really depends on what country we were traveling and how much moving we did in a month. One time, we rented an apartment in the Philippines for a whole month and that really helped with the budget. We cooked at home, didn't go on too many adventures, and laid low. That month, our online teaching paid for 100% of our living expenses. However, weeks later, we traveled quickly through Australia and New Zealand, which wasn't so friendly on our bank account. All that being said, we estimate on average that our online teaching income covered anywhere from 70-80% of our monthly travel expenses. This doesn't include our student loans or any clothes, haircuts, etc. that we invest in. Remember that we each only worked 9 hours per week.
Where are your students from? What's the classroom setting like?
We worked for a Chinese company, so all of our students were Chinese children. There are platforms that focus on other countries as well such as Korean students. From our experience, China still has the most active online community.
Our students ranged from speaking English fairly fluently to not even knowing how to say their name in English. Each of our classes were one-on-one via a platform similar to Skype. This means we could see and hear our students almost as if we were in a regular classroom teaching English. Our classes didn't require us to lesson plan, so when we were clocked out, we were done for the day. That can be a huge benefit of an online ESL teaching job. However, we were required to fill out student assessments after each class and occasionally complete student appraisals (a longer assessment of the student's recent performance).
Do you have to speak Chinese or another foreign language to teach?
No. When teaching our Chinese students online, a translate button was included but was intended to be used as little as possible. As we said earlier, they want you to be a native speaker and they (the parents and the company we worked for) want you speaking in your native language as much as possible in order to provide the students with an immersive experience. Many times, the parent and child will speak to one another in Chinese. We obviously don't have a clue what they're saying, but encouraged them to focus on the class and only speak English.
What are the good and bad aspects of teaching English online?
The good - it provides income and allows us the freedom to travel the world. The hours are flexible and you can build your own schedule as long as it is within the allotted teaching hours. We had regular students too, so we had the opportunity to build relationships with our students.
The bad - we had some wonderful students and some very frustrating students. This would be the case regardless of whether we were teaching online or in person. Also, finding high-speed Internet was one of our biggest hurdles in teaching online. Some countries like India and The Philippines have horrible Internet. This created some stressful moments as we were scrambling to find a SIM card to use the hotspot.
How many hours per week did you work?
The two of us combined worked 20 hours a week on average. We shifted our hours from time to time to accommodate the time changes and some of the various adventures we were on. If we were traveling to a country that we knew would take more of our time or be more of a struggle to get a solid internet connection, we would decrease our hours. If we knew we would have an apartment for the month with fast internet, we would increase our hours for that month.
What company are you teaching English for and why?
We worked for a Chinese company called DaDa ABC. When we started with DaDa, we personally knew a few people working for DaDa that loved having the freedom to travel and work simultaneously. This is a reputable company that is well-established, pays their teachers on time, and even pays you if your student cancels or you have an open time slot. While it may not be the highest paying online teaching platform, we've found they're very accommodating, they hired us with little teaching experience, they are understanding if you have problems with your Internet, and approve all time-off requests.
Another popular company that we have considered teaching for is the USA based VIP Kid. They have a pretty good pay structure, are really flexible in the hours you can work, and offer a bonus system for signing on last minute and taking classes.
Since we have taught last, there are a few other companies that have become popular that you could check out: gogokid, Magic Ears, SayABC, and Qkids.
What time of day do you teach?
This depends on where we were in the world. Our students took online English classes after their regular school day, so all of our classes were in the evenings from 5 pm-9 pm (Beijing time) during the week. Saturdays and Sundays offer classes all day. In South America, Central America, and North America, the time can be anywhere from 4-10 AM. In New Zealand, we had to work 11 PM-1 AM. That was a bit awkward, but luckily we weren't there for very long. Classes are always in Beijing time, so it depends where you are at. If you are in Asia, generally the times are more reasonable and closer to the Beijing time zone.
As always, thanks for reading our guide to teaching English online. We hope that it is helpful for you and that you are able to teach and travel like we were able to. Even if it isn't a forever job for us, we have such great memories of connecting with other cultures through language. If you have any questions about teaching English online or any of the courses we recommended don't hesitate to reach out.