Teaching English online – that is, conversational or business English – as a second language has always been a great opportunity for English speakers without formal teaching experience. Your native understanding of idioms and natural turns of phrase are exactly what many international students need to improve their English use. In our increasingly global world, the need for English tutors is growing – which is great news for you. The work-at-home opportunities in this industry have been booming the past few years. There's never been a better time to get involved!
What equipment is needed?
Most companies want you to have a desktop or laptop with a webcam, a noise-cancelling USB headset, and high-speed internet. These are pretty standard requests among all work-at-home jobs and no additional software is needed with these positions. Most of these tutoring positions require video contact with your students, so you should have a good computer, high-speed Internet connection, webcam, and a quiet, well-lit home office.
Some tutoring gigs do ask they would provide some teaching aids such as props. A few common requests:
These can all be purchased inexpensively on Amazon or at your local dollar store. You may even have what you need in your child’s toy chest. If finances are tight, head out to your local Goodwill or a neighborhood garage sale. These items should not be hard to come by and you should be able to pick up everything you need to get started for just a few bucks if purchasing second-hand.
Many of these companies have their own curricula and teaching systems in place, so you don’t even need to plan your own lessons. These positions can also be great if you’re up at odd hours, since working with overseas students may mean working very early or rather late – especially since many of these students come from China, South Korea, and Japan.
I’ve put together a list of great companies who are looking for ESL tutors; there’s sure to be an opportunity for you below!
Teach English Online with These Companies
Note: Pay rates, requirements and work arrangements can change at any time. Please refer to the company website for current details.
EducationFirst is headquartered in the USA and was founded in 1965. Deliver 25-minute high-quality and engaging one-on-one online classes to kids ages 6 to 10. Opportunities to teach are available 24 hours per day, 363 days per year. At the time of writing this post, EF is seeking candidates who can commit to early weekday mornings (4-8:30 am EST) and/or weekend nights/mornings (Friday night 8pm EST to Saturday morning 8am EST and Saturday night 8pm EST to Sunday morning 8am EST). Offers start at $12 per hours base rate plus incentives. A bachelor's degree in any field is required. Ideal candidates are those who either already hold a TEFL certificate or will commit to getting one.
Cambly is looking for tutors to chat with students and help them learn English in an informal setting. Their students come from all around the world, and these sessions can be as informative for you as for your students – just think of all the little bits of culture and language you can learn along the way! They pay $0.17 per minute, which works out to $10.20 per hour taught. They pay through Paypal and you can set your own hours.
MagicEars requires a bachelor's degree. At the time of publishing this post, the website gives an earnings estimate of $22 to $26 per hour. You must be based in the U.S. or Canada, be a native English speaker and have a great internet connection.
VIPKID is looking for those who want to have fun teaching English to kids. All lesson plans and course materials are provided. Applicant needs to be a resident of the US or Canada. You also need a Bachelor's degree and reliable computer and internet. Pay is $14 to $22 per hour.
Continuum Education Services is a recruitment agency pairing English teachers and tutors with companies who need their services. CES says that all the companies they might place you with offer base pay and flexible schedules. You’re required to be a native English speaker, have TESOL/TEFL certification (or be willing to get certified in 90 days), and certain computer equipment including a headset and webcam.
Mango Languages is based in Farmington Hills, MI. They are looking for English coaches with a teaching certificate, degree or some teaching experience. You must commit to 10-20 hours per week and 10-20 hours paid training.
eBerlitz has offices in 70 countries worldwide. Pay is reportedly around $14 per hour.
Englishunt has offices in Seoul, Korea and Michigan, USA. The company is currently hiring more tutors for their virtual tutoring service directed at the Japanese market. They require their tutors to have ESL certification or teaching certification (in any subject). Their tutors only work part-time, on average about 8 to 12 hours each week. Since you’re tutoring Japanese students, the hours are between 4 AM and 7 AM EST (which are evening hours for your students). They pay $14.50 an hour and provide their own curriculum.
Global Mate New York targets South Koreans ages 19 to 50. Open to American tutors.
goFLUENT has offices across the globe and contracts business ESL teachers who can commit to 4 hours per day each weekday.
Golden Voice English has been popping on the job boards quite frequently lately. They offer tutors for Chinese students in grades 1 through 9. Both group and 1:1 classes are offered. They pay $20 CAD per hour.
Lingoda is located in Germany and emphasizes that their lessons are like a traditional classroom course, just online – they hold their lessons through Skype (or their virtual classrooms). You choose how much you work, and their availability is wide open as they offer lessons 24 hours a day, every day. They say the salaries they offer vary based on experience, and salaries reportedly average between $10 to $11 hourly.
Pearson pays tutors $14 for 1:1 and $17 for group classes. Business English is their specialty.
Rosetta Stone is a well-known name in the language learning industry. They prefer tutors near their main learning hubs.
Rype was designed with busy students in mind. This is a US-based company. Pay is unclear though students are offered a 14-day free trial.
Twosigmas is located in the UK and looking for ESL tutors to teach 1-on-1 English lessons to children from all across China between the ages of 5 and 12. Reportedly, they’re looking for teachers with experience teaching English, experience teaching children, and a university degree in a relevant field (like Education or Linguistics). It looks like they’ll pay up to $20 an hour depending on your experience.
Duolingo offers not just ESL tutoring but with a side of consulting. They are looking for the best of the best in language teachers and assessors.
iTutorGroup is open to tutors in the U.S., Canada and the UK. A bachelor's degree is required. You must also have TESOL, TEFL, or equivalent; 1+ years teaching experiences; able to commit to 10 peak hours/week.
Voxy is a company located within the U.S. Their learners include students and business professionals across five continents. You need a degree in education, linguistics or TESOL and at least 3 years experience teaching English. A degree or TESL certificate is required. The job description up at the time of writing this post says a commitment of 15 hours per week during peak hours is required.
Ginseng English offers ESL tutoring for both general and business students. Masters degree preferred.
If you’d like to increase your value and hireability as an English tutor, you can work on getting ESL certified. There are various types and pathways to certification, and sites like ESLteacherEDU.org offer resources to guide you.
Tips for New ESL Teachers & Answers to Your FAQs
While many readers of my blog are already actively teaching English online, many more still have questions. Luckily, one of my assistants has been teaching at VIPKid for over two years and has offered to stop by and answer some of your frequently asked questions and provide a few tips for new ESL teachers.
Is it really that flexible?
Different ESL companies have different scheduling requirements. Some ESL companies allow you to choose your own schedule every week with as many or as few hours as you desire. Some companies allow you to even open your schedule just a few hours before allowing for more flexibility! Others require you to set and commit to a weekly schedule.
Most online ESL companies are based in China or Asia, therefore, the hours are based on their time schedule. This means that hours available to teach in America and Canada can be very early or late. For example, peak times for teaching in China for a teacher on the West Coast of America can be from 2 am- 6 am!
Are there minimum hours requirements?
Many online teaching companies will require teachers to work a minimum amount of hours each week. They range from 3-10 hours. Usually, the teacher will schedule their hours at the beginning of their contract and commit to teaching those same hours weekly. The peak time for teaching falls over the weekend so it could require some weekend hours.
Other companies allow you to work as little or as much as you like allowing you to take as much time off as you need.
Could this be a full-time gig?
There are indeed teachers making this their full-time job! If you are a great teacher and attract many regular students, you could definitely work 40 hours a week if not more.
Starting out, it is unlikely you will be able to book that many hours. Parents want to try teachers out and see if they are a good fit for their child. Once teachers have established a connection with students, they are easily able to fill up teaching hours.
The work is not easy though, bear in mind! The work is constant and you must always be speaking and listening. The only break you get is the 3-4 minutes between classes! Therefore it may not be a great full-time job for everyone.
Is the pay that good?
Payment ranges per company and experience. Most online ESL companies advertise payment anywhere between $14-$30 USD per hour. The average pay falls somewhere around $19 per hour.
Most companies offer extra payment incentives and bonuses. For example, if you open extra weekend hours they may give you a bonus. Or if you refer another teacher to the company and they get hired, you may get a decent payout.
It is important to note, online teaching companies will consider you an independent contractor, therefore they don’t take taxes out of your payment. Since you will have to file your own taxes, it is smart to put away about 30% of each paycheck for taxes.
Can I work for more than one company?
Many ESL companies have nothing in their contracts stating you can not work for another company. Therefore you are free to work for multiple companies, but in general, the hours offered are the same. It depends per company and the person, but many online teachers do work for two ESL companies.
I’ve never taught online. Is training provided?
With most companies, video training and mentoring services are provided upon being hired as well as throughout your online teaching career. Companies want to see you be a great teacher so they will provide feedback for your first several classes stating your strengths and what you can improve on.
How long does it take to get started?
The hiring process for most online ESL companies requires a preliminary interview, second interview, then at least one mock teaching class. This process will take one to two weeks. Once you are hired, student bookings can be slow to start. After you have had a few students and receive positive reviews the booking will start to speed up. For most teachers, after a successful first month, they should start to see their schedule filled with classes.
Are their online ESL jobs with daytime hours?
While online ESL jobs can work out great for those on the East Coast looking to work those fringe hours before going to their day job or kids waking up, they can be a little too early for those in Pacific time zone.
If you aren’t sure how Beijing time relates to the U.S., here is a sample of the schedule available at Qkids:
- 7 days a week – Morning Eastern Time (AM – EST): 6:40-7:10, 7:20-7:50, 8:00-8:30, 8:40-9:10
- Plus Friday and Saturday – Night Eastern Time (PM – EST): 8:40-9:10, 9:20-9:50, 10:00-10:30, 10:40-11:10, 11:20-11:50
- Additional summertime slots: (June 24th – August 30th EST) Sunday – Thursday (PM-EST): 8:40-9:10, 9:20-9:50, 10:00-10:30, 10:40-11:10, 11:20-11:50
As you can see, those weekday hours would be 3:40 – 6:10 am for those on the West Coast. Okay for some. Not so much for many. But, you do have some options.
- Cambly is one site that tutors students from around the world.
- SayABC, at the time of writing this post, had availability in the weekday evenings (6-9pm EST) and time slots on Saturday and Sunday.
- Rosetta Stone hires part-time tutors to work 10-12 hours per week during the hours of 6-11am EST weekdays and weekends.
- goFLUENT has clients worldwide allowing for a more flexible schedule to those here in the U.S.
- Mango Languages hires Live Coaches fluent in both English and a second language (at the time of updating this post, they are looking for French, Portuguese, Italian and German. You must be able to commit to at least 20 hours per week.)
- Lingoda has classes available 24/7. You must have at least 2 years of teaching experience.
- Continuum Education Services offers instruction to students in Russia, Latin America, and Africa in addition to Asia. This opens up some additional time zones.
Can I Teach English Online Without a Degree?
Yes and no. In general, the requirements for being an ESL (English as a Second Language) tutor revolve around being a native English speaker who is personable, interesting and has great presentation skills. You don’t need a teaching degree in most cases. Most sites are looking for a bachelor’s degree in any subject. Many of these same sites will accept latter year college students who don’t yet have that degree but are working towards it. There will be a few that may require you to have ESL certification or a teaching certificate in a related field.
There are a few sites who “prefer” a degree though it may not be required:
- SayABC – candidates with Associate degrees or final year university students may be considered
While these companies may not require a degree, the pay rate reflects that. In most cases, you will be paid only around $10 per hour. And even though they may not require a degree, a TESOL/TEFL may still be necessary for those working with children in China. This certificate can be obtained easily and affordably online. Some tutoring companies are even offering assistance in this area.
Do I Need to Speak a Second Language?
No. The vast majority of these positions do not require you to speak any languages other than English. You need to speak it natively.
What’s the interview process like?
Most sites will have you submit an online application that includes your credentials (i.e. your education and experience). A few, such as Qkids, will ask that you also submit a short 2-minute video at that time of yourself telling a story or reading a children’s book. This is just to show your command of the English language and personality. These sites look for animated, enthusiastic individuals who can really make learning fun and connect with these students.
Once selected, you will usually need to do a video interview with a recruiter. This is standard procedure among most work-at-home jobs today. These interviews typically involve a few questions and may ask you to do a little mock teaching. Practice! And have fun! With some companies, how well you do in your mock session may determine your pay rate. Take it seriously.
Once hired, you will have some training time and mock classroom time before you can start picking up shifts.
To increase your chance of success with online tutoring be sure you are using a high-speed internet connection and that your computer is working well. Make any required and recommended system updates prior to your interview. A stable internet connection is vital to your success when working online.
Companies look to hire tutors who speak clearly and enthusiastically. Gesturing and using facial expressions to help convey your message is strongly encouraged. Practice in front of a mirror if necessary. As you get comfortable with video tutoring and your students, this will start to come naturally.
Different companies have different interview processes so make sure to research ahead of time so you are prepared!
Is there a lot of competition for class bookings?
There are thousands of online teachers, but there are even more students wanting classes! To be successful online, teachers must have something that entices the student and students parents to book them again. Teachers can create a beautiful teaching backdrop or add fun games to their classroom to help their chances of being booked again by a student. With a great teaching atmosphere, almost any teacher can create a fully booked schedule for themselves.
Do you have to create your own lesson plans?
One of the best parts of online teaching is that the lesson plans and materials are done for you! All you have to do is come to class familiar with the lesson and add your own teaching style!
Lesson plans are loaded in each classroom and often are interactive. You can enter your classroom before the student arrives to review and plan your lessons.
Of course, teachers are encouraged to extend the lesson plans with their own music/ reward system/ flashcards to make the class even more fun for the students.
What about props?
Teachers are absolutely encouraged to have a variety of props in the classroom. It makes the class more fun for students and teachers. A few stuffed animals and flashcards go a long way! A whiteboard is a great teaching tool, as you can draw and write much easier on a whiteboard than the computer screen.
A reward system is a great tool to have in class. Something that is fun and exciting for the student to work towards. Many online companies require teachers to have at least two supplementary tools in class.
What questions would you recommend an applicant ask an online ESL company in an interview?
- How long is each lesson?
- How many students will be in each lesson?
- What are the teaching environment requirements? (background/lighting etc)
- If my student does not show up to the lesson, will I be paid the same?
- Am I able to screen share in the classroom?
What are your top two tips for new online ESL tutors?
1. My number one tip is to invest a bit of time/money in your teaching space and equipment! Having good lighting and a good headset with a microphone will greatly improve your students' experience, encouraging them to book you again.
Also, you will be sitting for several hours at a time so a comfortable and organized classroom space will also make your life easier! Add exciting and fun props (they don’t have to be expensive) to your classroom space and you are all set to teach!
2. My second tip is to have as much fun as possible in class. Honestly, the more over the top and silly you can be, the better! Students love when you read things in a funny voice or put on funny costumes. It can feel a bit embarrassing at first but soon you will learn to love belting out into loud songs to make students laugh. If you can make the kid have fun, they will absolutely book you again!
I hope these tips for online ESL teachers has helped you make a decision as to whether this industry is a good fit for you. Ready to apply?
Here are a few partner companies looking for new tutors:
Note: Not hiring now, but will be again in the upcoming weeks
Recently advertised pay: $14 to $22/hour
Peak hours: Monday – Friday 6-10pm, and Saturday – Sunday 9am-10pm.
Tutor requirements: Bachelor's degree from a US or Canadian University
Experience with children such as: teaching, mentoring, coaching, tutoring, babysitting, etc.
High-speed internet, computer & webcam/microphone
VIPKID would like tutors to be available at least 7.5 hours per week.
Recently advertised pay: Earn up to $16/hour
Peak hours: weekday mornings in the United States (4:00am EST to 8:30am EST)
Friday nights from 8:00pm EST to Saturday mornings at 8:00am EST
Saturday nights at 8:00pm EST to Sunday mornings at 8:00am EST.
Tutor requirements: Bachelors degree from US or UK university. Currently resides in the US or UK.
Prior teaching experience or equivalent in education, tutoring, mentoring, or homeschooling.
igh-speed internet, computer & webcam/microphone.
Recently advertised pay:
Tutor requirements: Bachelor's degree from a US or Canadian University.
Experience with children such as: teaching, mentoring, coaching, tutoring, babysitting, etc.
High-speed internet, computer & webcam/microphone
Recently advertised pay: $0.17 USD per minute ($10.20/hour), payday is every Monday by PayPal
Peak hours: Cambly provides tutoring to students around the globe. Work anytime.
Tutor requirements: No experience required.
Recently advertised pay: $22 – $26 per hour
Peak hours: Minimum 1.5 teaching hours per week commitment during 5am to 9am (EDT) Monday – Friday, 9pm to 9am Saturday & Sunday
Tutor requirements: BA degree or above preferred
TEFL/TESOL/CELTA or other teaching certificate preferred
Teaching experience preferred
Is it Safe to Work with Foreign Companies?
There is a large concern with privacy these days especially when it comes to working with companies abroad. Every country has their own privacy standards, some much stricter than others. We've heard about this a lot recently with the EU and the sharing of data. And this is something we should think about with any job we apply to or software we download, regardless of the location of the company. I can't vouch for individual companies. I can't tell you what their privacy policies say. As with any opportunity you find online, perform your due diligence. Read the fine print. Always go with your gut and never do anything you aren't comfortable with.
If you would like to work only with those here at home, a few companies located in the U.S. include Pearson, Education First, goFLUENT, Voxy, Rosetta Stone, and more.
It's also common practice for many to have a computer used solely for work so none of your personal shopping or banking information is accessed or saved there. Some work-at-home companies actually require that. Thankfully, you can get a laptop on Dell or Amazon these days for around $200. And both offer financing. Some common requirements in this industry include 4GB RAM, Windows operating system, Intel Core i3 or above. And because you are an independent contractor, this may be an expense you can write off on your taxes.
And always make sure you have a great antivirus software installed on your computer like AVG which protects against viruses, spyware, malware, unsafe downloads, webcam hacking and more. This is an absolute must for anyone working from home.
Are Online ESL Jobs a Good Option for Remote Workers?
I have so many members of my community that have been working these gigs this past year or so as the industry has gained popularity. Most of them love the job, the flexibility and the pay. It’s truly an option for those of you who are teachers at heart even if you don’t have the teaching degree. Working with these students can be fulfilling and satisfying.
One complaint we hear quite frequently from the companies doing the hiring, however, is people not taking it seriously or being committed. They go through the application process. Go through the training. Then, never pick up a shift. Or, worse yet, pick up shifts and never show up.
That lack of commitment is what puts all of our remote jobs at risk. And it happens in every industry. Not being committed, not appreciating the expense that goes into onboarding and training someone, not showing up to cover the shifts you’ve committed to are all things that drive telecommuting positions back in-house.
It’s our shared responsibility to prove employers wrong who think we can’t be trusted or aren’t committed or responsible enough to work remotely. Leave the work-at-home world a little better than you found it for the benefit of everyone.
Originally published in August 2016. Updated June 2019.