Do you think it’d be fun to teach kids overseas how to speak English, but you don’t want to worry about lesson plans? Or perhaps you’re not certified to teach ESL? That’s okay! There are great opportunities online today to teach English as a Second Language without having to spend all your time building lesson plans or needing to go through an expensive teaching certification process. VIPKID offers one such opportunity, so let’s break it down.
Overview of the Work
When teaching with VIPKID, you will work one-on-one with Chinese students in 30-minute lessons online. There is no need to create your own teaching materials since the company will do that for you. However, there is some prep time necessary and recommended – you can log on to the teacher portal approximately 6 to 12 hours before your scheduled lesson and preview the class materials so you’re familiar with the teaching plan beforehand.
Lessons are booked by the students (or rather, their parents), so you’ll teach whoever’s booked a lesson with you that day. VIPKID asks their teachers to submit their weekly availability for lessons one month in advance, and they email you your class schedule for the week each Saturday at 10AM (Beijing time). You can have classes added to your schedule during the week as well (always with 24 hours lead time), so you'll need to be careful about checking your daily schedule. (You have 100% control over setting your availability, but they encourage you to be available during Beijing peak times in order to have the greatest opportunity of being booked for classes.)
When it’s time for your lessons, you log on to VIPKID’s proprietary platform to interact with your students through video chat. Your demeanor and ability to build rapport with these kids will be an important component of your VIPKID career – just like teaching in person, some students will be bored or exhausted or sulking and you’ll need to work to engage them in the lesson content. You’ll be expected to leave feedback for each student after your lessons.
Also, your students will all be Chinese kids who are currently living in China. This means that the hours you must be available for lessons will likely be either late at night or very early in the morning. This is because China is 12 or more hours ahead of us, depending on where you’re located in the United States. Peak hours are usually from 3 am to 10 am during the week and from 6 pm to 10 am on the weekends here in the U.S. depending on your timezone. This can make it a great option for those working from home with children or still holding a traditional 9-to-5. You may be able to get an online tutoring shift in before going about your day!
VIPKID Tutor Requirements
In order to qualify as an applicant with VIPKID, you must have a Bachelor’s degree – they emphasize that their clients expect the highest quality instruction for their children, and so they must set minimum standards of hiring only those teachers with a college degree. You don’t need to have majored in a particular subject like English as a Second Language or Education, however! Any Bachelor’s degree will do.
To supplement the college degree requirement, you must also have at least one year of full-time experience teaching, coaching, tutoring, or working with students. Full-time means you spent 40 hours every week on the job.
Great news for you digital nomads – you don't need to be in a specific location to work with VIPKID. You can work from anywhere so long as you have a stable Internet connection.
Here’s what you need tech-wise to qualify as an applicant:
- A computer: you can work for VIPKID with a desktop PC, MAC, laptop, or Surface tablet.
- A camera: you teach kids through video chat, so you need either an HD External camera or HD integrated camera (which most laptops have today).
- A headset: you need to be able to talk with your students, so make sure you have a headset with a microphone, stable output and input.
For your computer specifically, you need:
- Operating System: Windows 7 or better for PC, or MAC OS 10.8x or better.
- CPU: Intel Core i3 or above.
- Memory: at least 4GB of RAM.
- Internet connection: wired DSL running at least 20 Mbps.
- Plug-ins: the latest version of Flash
- Browser: Google Chrome (version 51 or above) or Mozilla Firefox (version 47 or above).
VIPKID advertises on their front page for teachers that you can make between $14 and $22 per hour teaching with them. Let's look more closely at how exactly they determine what you're paid.
Each teacher's payment is calculated from a base pay of $7 to $9 per 30-minute class – whether you're paid $7 or higher depends on your demo class performance. Yes, their estimation of how you performed during the application process – along with your credentials – will affect how much you’re paid by VIPKID if you’re hired.
On top of this base pay, you have the opportunity to earn incentives that increase your bottom line. You can qualify for up to another $1 per class with their Participation Incentive, which is based on your attendance, punctuality, and whether you follow the schedule. You can earn up to another $1 per class with the Finished Class Incentive, which is based on the number of classes you complete in a given month. Since this number can be increased according to how many students book with you, this is also a reflection of your popularity. They reward that.
If you earn a base pay of $7 with no incentives, you can expect to make $14 per hour teaching with VIPKID. If you make all the incentives – and qualify for the higher base pay – that can take your earnings up to $22 hourly. Just as they advertise!
Interested in raises? You may qualify for one at the end of your contract. VIPKID teachers are signed on for a 6-month contract – if you choose to renew and VIPKID agrees to the renewal, you have a chance at that time to be re-evaluated and earn a higher per-class rate.
VIPKID teachers are paid via direct bank deposit once a month. They don’t provide the exact date of payment – their teachers are paid somewhere between the 10th and 15th of a given month.
Remember that you’re an independent contractor with VIPKID, so you’ll be responsible for paying your own taxes according to your place of residence.
What are People Saying about VIPKID?
If you look through Glassdoor (which is a great resource for reviewing companies before you apply to them), you’ll find hundreds of employee reviews – and at least 232 of those are related to teaching with VIPKID! The majority of teachers working with them said they would recommend VIPKID to a friend. Also, the positive reviews tend to be pretty glowing, with many teachers commenting on how great it is to work with their Chinese students.
One of the other oft-praised elements is the fact that you don’t have to make your own lesson plans and you don’t have to deal with parents directly. All you have to do is show up and teach, then leave feedback when you’re done.
There are some consistent complaints as well: one of the worst elements cited is VIPKID’s severe cancellation policy. You’re only allowed a certain number of cancellations per day, and then only a certain number per contract (which lasts for 6 months) before your contract is canceled.
Another point of complaint suggests that they have too many teachers, so booked classes are low. The company has responded to this complaint by pointing out that parents book their kids’ lessons and can choose their teachers, so it helps to be popular. Being available during Beijing peak times is incredibly important for maxing out your bookings as well.
VIPKID Interview & Demo Process
There are multiple steps to the interview and demo process, so let’s dive right in.
If you are selected for an interview, your interview will take place through VIPKID’s classroom portal. So while they’re interviewing you for the position, they’re also checking your equipment and connection to their servers in China – making sure that your computer and camera work and that your Internet connection is stable enough for a 30-minute teaching session with no issues. (You get to log in up to one hour before your interview so you can make sure your equipment is working and make adjustments as necessary. It’s a good idea to do this – and they encourage it!)
In addition to the interview, you must also do a demo lesson. During this part of the process, you’ll demonstrate how well you do with various teaching tasks – such as explaining activities to a foundation level student or encouraging students to give you complete answers. They’re also checking your time management and ESL teaching acumen here.
VIPKID actually shares a short list of “must-dos” for their successful applicants. Those items are: practice the demo lesson PPTs (helps to have Microsoft PowerPoint here), review their Applicant Performance Indicators (opens as a PDF), teach in surroundings with good background and lighting, and have a good Internet connection.
If you don’t want to do a live demo for whatever reason, VIPKID does afford you the chance to record your demo lesson and send it to them for evaluation.
If you pass the interview and demo stage, they’ll let you know what your base pay would be per class based on your performance, but you’re not hired yet! You’ll be asked to schedule a time to teach a mock class – from recent reports, you’ll do two mock classes, one focused on a lower-level student and a second on a higher-level student. You’ll be evaluated on each separately, and may be offered a position even if they decide you only passed on one of the mock classes.
Other Sites Like VIPKID
If VIPKID doesn’t sound like your speed, there are a number of other ESL companies hiring teachers online today:
- ALO7 – Teach ESL to Chinese students in grades K-12 – they advertise themselves as the largest digital English Language Teaching provider in China.
- Cambly – Earn money while you chat online with students (they pay by the minute) and interact with people from around the world.
- Qkids – Qkids hires teachers who have a degree – or are currently enrolled in college and working toward their degree.
- SayABC – They advertise that you can earn up to $21 per class (which last 40 minutes) and that an average of 90% of classes will be booked.
What do you say? Will you be applying to teach English with VIPKID? You can start the application process here.