I have been teaching English as a second language (ESL) online for the past 10 years now but before I tell you how teaching English as a second language or ESL online works, you need to know what it means to teach English as a second language.
It means to teach students who do not speak English as their first language but live in native-English speaking countries.
Now let’s get started!
Why Should People Learn English as a Second Language?
People often ask me if we could master only one language which one should it be; my answer is always the same, English.
Why do I say that? Here is my argument!
No one can deny the importance of the English language across the globe; it is considered essential for social and professional progress in almost every field. That is why, I believe to get the same opportunities as the native speakers, non-native speakers must also learn English as their second language. Here are my reasons;
- Global Language – English has been declared the official language in about 53 countries across the globe. From corporate to the academic sector, English is used for communication and documentation purposes. It is the preferred language even by the large international organizations such as the United Nations, European Union, and other diplomatic platforms. Due to its widespread use, English has become the second most used language in the world
- Useful for Traveling – I can recall multiple occasions when, traveling abroad, even a few words spoken in English helped me find my way to different tourist spots or locate the most famous restaurants. Every traveler, from all over the world, will tell you that it is not easy to learn the native language of every country you visit but English is the one language that 9 out of 10 times will allow you to communicate with the locals and get the required information. Similarly, when a non-native speaker visits an English speaking country, they will need only a few words of English to convey their message and communicate with native speakers.
- Needed for Education – English is the dominant language in the education sector. Many students from abroad come to the United States and other English speaking countries for higher studies. These universities, not only use English as their main language for communication but all the textbooks that are a part of their curriculum are also written and taught in English. If a non-native student doesn’t learn English as a second language, he/she may not be able to perform well in the classroom and may not form any network of friends. They will simply not be able to avail the same opportunities the students who can speak English can.
- Needed for a Career – A majority of my students who learn English as a second language have one purpose, to get better job opportunities in the international job market. As I said before, it is the official language in over 53 countries, so, just imagine the doors English language can open for you.
- Most Commonly Used Language on the Internet – If you want to run an online business you will need English to communicate with your clients if you want to become a freelance writer, designer, do data entry or accounting or anything else, you will need English to communicate. It is quite simple, in the rapidly growing digital job market, a non-native speaker who knows English will have more opportunities than a non-native speaker who does not know English, even when they both possess the same skill set.
Is Teaching English as a Second Language Abroad a Good Career Option?
Here are a few reasons why I believe this is a good career option;
- Teachers are Always in Demand – Most of my English language students are learners living abroad. These students are either going to native-English speaking countries for education or they have to immigrate for jobs. I also get a lot of women from Asia who are married to men with jobs in countries like the US, UK, and Australia. These women want to learn English as a second language before moving abroad to join their spouses. Therefore, when it comes to teaching abroad, there are plenty of opportunities and teachers are always in demand, which means more job opportunities.
- You Can Get Valuable Experience – One of the biggest advantages of becoming an online teacher abroad is the teaching experience you can get. You can work with different online language schools and learn everything there is to learn about lesson planning, content selection, and student preferences. My experience of working with online language schools such as VIPKID gave me an idea of how to plan my lessons and which learning content is more effective for students who are learning English as a second language.
- There are Many Job Opportunities – As I said before, there are many online schools that hire teachers for teaching English as a second language. These opportunities can help create a strong foundation on which you can build a successful teaching career. The experience gained will be enough to not only help you grow your online teaching network but will also make you eligible for regular teaching jobs, which will open even more doors for you.
Benefits of Teaching English as a Second Language
Like everyone else, I was also a little worried when I decided to teach English as a second language; I didn’t know if I would be able to earn enough, find students or online teaching jobs. I just did not know if teaching online was as good as getting a conventional teaching job. But as things began to pick up the pace and I started to land jobs with online schools such as VIPKID, I saw that an online teaching job had its own advantages. Here are a few that I have been enjoying for a while now;
- You are your own boss – This is perhaps one of the best benefits of going online to teach English as a second language. You get to choose your own working hours, make your own lesson plans, plan your classroom exercises and you report to no one. You are quite literally your own boss.
- You can interact with people from all over the world – Teaching English as a second language online allows you to get in touch with learners from all over the world. As a teacher, you get to know their limitations, language barriers, challenges, and strengths. The experience you get through this knowledge is invaluable. It not only helps you see different perspectives but also gives you a new vision and skills that allow you to become a better teacher and understand the students at a deeper level.
- You can earn good money – It may take a little while but with a little experience in the bag teaching English to non-native speakers can allow you to earn good money. If you get hired by platforms such as VIPKID you can earn a steady living. If you choose to teach part-time you can turn it into a good source of secondary income, which can help you save a lot.
- You get valuable teaching experience – One of the biggest problems for a new teacher is the lack of experience. Every abroad-based teaching job you apply for asks for years of experience, which makes it quite difficult to get one. With online teaching, you can start fresh and get the necessary experience that will make you eligible for your dream teaching job.
What Do You Need to Teach English as a Second Language?
With the rapid growth of the online teaching industry, the more advanced and authentic platforms that teach English as a second language have a few requirements. For instance, when I applied to VIPKID for teaching English as a second language they required a few things from me;
- A bachelor’s degree in any subject.
- One year teaching or some equivalent experience, which could include mentoring or coaching etc.
- A fast internet connection and the necessary hardware.
Even though VIPKID didn’t ask for one but any teacher who wants to teach English as a second language should have a TESL certification.
Let me tell you what it is and why you need it!
Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) Certification
When I became an online English teacher fresh out of college, I thought it was going to be a piece of cake. I would create a Facebook page, offer regular tuition to the siblings of a few of my non-native classmates from college and become a huge success within a couple of weeks. I did the first two things and then kept doing them for a while, not because I wanted to but because I couldn’t move forward.
Sure, I kept getting jobs but I wanted to go up the academic ladder. When I started applying through other platforms and asked students from advanced classes to hire me as their tutor, they felt a little hesitant mainly because I did not have any certification or degree. So getting a certification became my priority and I went on to become a TESL certified online English teacher.
TESL stands for Teaching English as a Second Language and it qualifies you to teach English to non-native speakers living in a country where English is the native language. If you are a freelancer teacher and know your grammar, prepositions, idioms, syntax and other aspects of English language you may not need this certification. However, if you want to get hired by online teaching programs, virtual universities or a company, they may require you to have this certification.
Here are some of the benefits of getting a TESL certification:
- You get more and better teaching opportunities.
- You can get paid better.
- You get an additional skill set to teach abroad.
How Does TESL Work?
TESL or ESL certification tests your command over English language and assess how well you understand it. The entire certification program contains tests that are designed to see how well you know the four major aspects of English, which are;
Where Can You Find Teaching English as a Second Language Jobs?
There are different ways through which you can find teaching English as a second language jobs. When I entered this profession I was still in college, which means I targeted all the non-native students of my college and built myself a classroom. However, if you plan to turn online ESL teaching into your career, you will have to find platforms that offer more steady and reliable jobs.
With the continued trend of immigration to native-English speaking countries for different purposes, such as permanent residence, education, and jobs etc., the market for teaching English as a second language abroad is stronger than ever. There are many online schools such as VIPKID that are constantly looking for qualified English teachers.
Here are a few platforms you can explore to look for a job;
- Online job markets
- Online language schools
- Social media groups for teaching languages
English as a Second Language Teacher’s Salary
Salary of an online teacher teaching English as a second language depends on a number of factors;
- How long have you been teaching – Even though you may not need the experience to start teaching online but your experience may impact your salary. In the beginning, my salary was just enough to qualify as a small allowance but things started to get better with time and I was finally able to turn my online teaching business into my primary source of income.
- The number of students you teach – Of course, the more students you have, the more money you will make.
- Duration of your lessons – The time duration of your lessons will also have an impact on how much you make.
- The academic level you are teaching – The academic level of your learners can also impact your payment; if you teach higher academic levels you can ask for more.
- The platform that hires you – If you teach through a platform such as an online school, the money you charge per lesson can vary from platform to platform. VIPKID, for instance, allows you to charge anywhere between $7-$11 for a 30-minute class and $14-$22 for an hour-long class.
- Your qualifications and certifications – Your qualifications and certifications can also determine your salary. If you have a master’s degree in English linguistics or have TESL, TEFL or any other similar certifications then you can charge more.
If we consider the VIPKID salary then depending on the number of hours you teach per week, on average, you can make anywhere between $200 to $1,500 per month.
What Are The Challenges of Teaching English as a Secondary Language?
Like every online job or business being an ESL teacher also has its own challenges. Some of them could be;
- Finding a job – Yes, you may not need experience or a master’s degree in English linguistics to start teaching online but you will have to find a teaching job to get started. It is not about just finding any job; you will have to work a little hard to find a job that pays enough.
- You may have to wait a bit before you can earn a steady income – By becoming an online teacher you become your own boss and work your own hours. However, you may have to wait for a little while before the money you earn can become steady enough to qualify as your primary source of income. Your salary may vary month to month, which could make it difficult for you to manage your finances.
- Planning unique lessons for individual students – Unlike a regular classroom, when you work through online platforms such as VIPKID, you will have to plan individual lessons. Even though VIPKID and online ESL schools may give you the learning content material but you will have to decide which teaching approach works best for your student. Planning separate and unique lessons for each student can take a lot of time and effort.
- Finding the right content for teaching – One of the best things I like about VIPKID is that I do not have to worry about finding the right learning material for my students. To ensure quality and higher standards of learning, VIPKID provides the learning material to its teachers. However, not every platform does that so you may have to spend a lot of time to find the right and authentic content for your students.
There is no doubt that online teachers who can teach English as a second language are in demand. However, it is all about finding the right teaching platform and possessing the right skill set. Moreover, you will need to be patient because you may have to wait a while before your income can become steady. If you want to make ESL online teaching your career, then you should look into getting the right certifications as it will help you get better job opportunities.