Routes and Requirements to Becoming an Online Educator


Distance education is a growing field providing opportunities for teachers and students beyond the constraints of physical classrooms. Classes are conducted through online platforms and interaction can take place via email, message boards, chat or video chats - the students and teachers taking part in a course could be located anywhere in the world! Are you passionate about education but don’t want to be tied down to a specific location? If so, becoming an online educator might be just the right fit for you. If you are interested in becoming an online instructor, there are various requirements that depend on what you are interested in teaching and a few different routes you can take. Whichever one you choose, you should be competent in your field, comfortable with computers, technology, and have great communication skills.


One way to start your job hunt for is to look at schools that offer online courses in something you can teach to get an idea of their requirements. Online education is the same as brick-and-mortar schools in which different levels of education require different qualifications for the educators.

  • If you want to be an online college instructor, you are going to need a Master’s degree or higher. Teaching full-time at the college level generally requires doctorate or a current pursuit of one.

  • To be a teacher to school-aged children in primary or secondary school, you will need proper a proper teaching certification for teaching K-12.

  • If you are interested in teaching English online as an ESL/EFL instructor, most reputable schools require you to have a Bachelor’s degree in any discipline from an institution in which English is the primary language of instruction, but this is not always the case. There are some online ESL schools that have fairly lax requirements - which might not be great for the students or teachers involved in them, so be sure to do your research before signing any contracts.

  • Online tutoring generally requires the tutor to have a Bachelor’s degree in the subject they will be tutoring in. There are online tutor jobs available for most subjects, such as math, English, science, social studies, ESL/EFL, test prep courses

No matter which level of online education you are interested in teaching at, you will be at an advantage if you brush up on your e-learning methodology and technology by taking a course or certification in distance learning. Some helpful courses can be found on coursera and linkedin learning. If you’re interested in some general information about e-learning, there is a great magazine called elearn Magazine that has informative articles about all sorts of topics related to education and technology.

Aside from the above requirements, online teachers need to have a talent for adapting traditional curriculum to and online platform. Unless you are conducting private skype lessons, you cannot rely on eye contact or facial cues from students to tell you if they are maintaining interest and absorbing the material. Teaching online is quite different from a traditional classroom setting and if you’re the type of teacher who thrives on real-time student feedback online education might be difficult for you.

To have a better chance at getting a well-paid gig as an online instructor, you would be wise to go out and get some teaching experience if you don't already have any. You could do that as a volunteer or student teacher. If you have worked as an online instructor for a while and found that you really like teaching online but would like to be paid more, you could pursue further study in the form of a diploma, certification or grad degree. In the field of education credentials are king so the more you have, the more money you can make.


There are many ways to make money in the online education field, which route you take will depend on how much time you want to devote to instruction and how much money you hope to be paid.

The Side-Gig

At the lowest end of the time and money spectrum is doing online education as a side-gig or for passive income. This type of gig can require you to put in some work upfront, such as by creating a video course, writing an ebook, or spending a little time each week helping out students with questions or problems that no one else can solve. If you think you’d like to put the work in and create a video course to put out into the world in the hopes of imparting your knowledge and that students will pay for it, you can use a platform like udemy. If you are more interested in spending a little time answering questions on a continual basis, you can try brainmass or

There are a few other teaching-related side-gigs available that do not require becoming an online instructor but still fit into the educational field. If you are a retired or experienced teacher, you can sell your teaching materials online, write curriculum, or become a test-scorer or grader. Anyone with knowledge to pass on can write and sell an ebook. Of if you’re technologically inclined with some classroom or teaching experience, you could develop some ed-tech to enhance online learning.

A Contract

In the middle of the spectrum of time requirements and money making potential is to work as a freelance instructor or contract employee. At this stage you may only teach one or two courses, requiring less time and making less money, or you may end up with a full-time online gig for a term. At this level you might be posting video lectures, multimedia material and downloadable texts online. You might even be hosting a chatroom with all your students online simultaneously, much like teaching in a brick-and-mortar school. Some online teachers will be expected to promptly reply to emails and messages on classroom message boards, and if your students are spread out across time zones, you might find yourself always “on”.

There is a wide variety of ways to conduct online courses and it will depend on the company that hires you as to how much prep-time you will need and how much real time instruction there will be. . You can find these type of online instructor positions in a variety of fields at geteducated, the balance careers, kaplan and elsewhere. If you are interested in ESL teaching there are a multitude of platforms, such as italki, Cambly, English Hunt and more. If you are looking for positions at the college level it is a good idea to look at online university or college websites directly for job postings.

The Solopreneur

The last route you can take to becoming an online instructor and the one that requires the most time but may make you the most money in the long run is to set up you own virtual school. If you have the qualifications and a skill that you can teach well, you can set up your own business make your own website and find your own students. Unless you seek accreditation your students won’t be able to earn a certification or diplomas from you, but they still can pay to learn a skill that they need. This type of online education works well for teaching a language, a craft, a technological skills or any other how-to types skills that people need and are willing to pay for.

Online education is taking off and there are going to be more and more opportunities for teachers in the virtual world. As with any other online job, be careful not to sign up with disreputable institutions who end up taking the students money and not sharing any of it with the teachers. There are a lot of scams out there, be wary of anything that seems too good to be true. Even if it seems like you might get a good deal as an instructor, if the students are getting ripped-off you do not want to be associated with that type of school as it will damage your reputation in the longrun- plus it’s not cool to scam people out of their money! Be a responsible educator and help your students achieve their goals. If you are between teaching gigs but have some knowledge or skills that could help our clients achieve their goals, why not sign up as a freelancer with Sagegroupy today to make some money while you hatch your next educational-related plan?

Author: S.Suzuyama

Posted in Resources on Oct 26, 2018

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