English is a crazy language, and that can be an advantage to those who are already fluent and want to earn some extra cash or even carve out a solid living.
Even though you don’t need a bachelor’s degree or any certification to launch your ESL teaching career on many online platforms, having some relevant credentials put you ahead of the rest. Because it is relatively easy to setup a side gig teaching English on the web, TEFL certification goes a long way in boosting your profile.
In fact, there are plenty of part and full-time employment opportunities on job sites that don’t require a college education but love to see a form of ESL teaching certification in your resume.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a die-hard freelancer and have only taught ESL independently through online platforms but have done extensive research into teaching abroad and traditional employment, all of which have loads of opportunities for the right teacher.
I’ve spoken to companies about ESL teaching jobs in China (which presently has a seemingly endless number of positions to fill, particularly for teaching kids) and corresponded with other ESL teaching leads in Eastern Europe.
Because every country will be a little different with their requirements, it helps to have a reliable resource to refer to individual specifications. In addition to providing TEFL certification, International TEFL TESOL Training (ITTT) gives their graduates lifetime job searching tools and assistance. This was what made me choose ITTT for my own TEFL certification. This and the very reasonable price of $199.
I chose the online certification course which was convenient for my schedule. They give you up to six months to complete the course but it can be comfortably finished in three.
A Heads Up
The final project of the course can be initially intimidating. You are required to create a lesson plan. Since I’d already taught over 600 lessons at that point in my ESL teaching career, I figured the assignment would be a breeze. I thought I followed the instructions to the letter, but freaked out when my submission was torn to shreds. The good news is everyone else seemed to share my experience.
You are given three chances to submit the final project, and in almost all cases I discovered everyone passed on the second try. I’m fairly certain ITTT does this simply to push you harder, because my second submission easily passed and was not terribly different from my first one.
The company’s customer support was great and I enjoyed most of the twenty lessons accompanying the course. As a long-time ESL teacher, I was delighted learning new teaching strategies and discovering new tools to use in my own lessons.
The Benefits of Teaching ESL
If you’re teaching ESL online, then a versatile work schedule is undeniably one of the greatest attractions. Many teaching platforms allow you to teach as much or as little as you want. Over the past few years, my own schedule has fluctuated between 10-30 hours per week to accommodate other work and projects as needed.
Opens New Possibilities
Because you will be teaching people from all over the world, you never know who you are going to meet next. Teaching ESL establishes some of the best rapport with others and could lead to career advancements, new friends, and other great opportunities.
One of my earliest students and I have been working together on his manuscripts for a couple of years now. After a few months of intensive lessons with me, he completed his English certification goal, but he later contacted me for consultation and editing for his books (written in English, though he is Saudi Arabian)! Teaching ESL can open many doors.
The amount of money you can make teaching ESL will vary whether you are a freelancer, private tutor, or hired with a company. As far as teaching online goes, it feels great to have that extra income stream doing something you love. You may just want to put something productive into a two-hour gap you have during the week. Teaching ESL ranges from general conversation to intensive business situations—it’s up to you!
However you slice it, teaching ESL is a very rewarding experience. I have dozens of testimonials from students that warm my heart. When a business ESL student tells me they were promoted as a direct result of our lessons and the confidence those lessons gave them—it’s priceless. Knowing you truly made a difference in someone’s life counteracts the challenge of tougher freelancing days. Besides anything else, having some ESL teaching under your belt looks great on your resumé. If you want to travel the world, having a TEFL certificate can get you a job teaching English in hundreds of countries.
The Challenges of Teaching ESL
As with most jobs online, there are many people doing it. One of the best ways to combat competition is to offer some niche services. Business English is in-demand by many students seeking to improve their job chances abroad. Tons of students want help with IELTS preparation, as scoring high on that exam greatly increases students’ opportunities for international work as well as a strong asset on their resumés.
If you teach online, the pay varies dramatically depending on where you teach. On many independent teaching platforms, you get to set your own rate, but it can be difficult to compete with tutors who charge very little. Again, one of the ways around this is to offer something more than tutoring or general English improvement through conversation only (as some do). Some charge as much as 40.00-50.00 per hour teaching high level business English.
With the never-ending demand for English teachers abroad and the unlimited number of students seeking tutoring online, ESL teaching is a secure avenue for earning income. For me the greatest attraction is the freedom and mobility it affords a teacher/tutor. As long as you have an Internet connection and a headset, the world can be your office. Where do you want to go with your ESL teaching career?