Published 11th June 2020
There is a common misconception in this weird and wonderful world of ours that if you are able to speak English that you have the innate ability to teach English as a Foreign Language. We are here to let you know that that is unequivocally not true. Being able to speak a language is not the same as being able to teach a language. In fact, there are a few requirements for being able to teach English as a Foreign Language in general, and a few more for being able to teach English as a Foreign Language online. So, what are the requirements for teaching english online?
Wait, what do you mean you’re not sure you want to teach English online?
Teaching English online is the biggest thing since banana bread! All the cool kids are doing it, loving it and earning money. It allows you to work from wherever you want without having to worry about commuting, a fancy dress code or packing a lunch, and you get to meet people from all over the world. Sure, your working hours might be a bit weird and you might not get on famously with all your students, but we can’t expect everything in life to be perfect and to be perfectly honest, the pros totally outweigh the cons.
Convinced yet? Good, then let’s get back to business. Now that we know you’re interested, let’s make sure you’re qualified to teach English as a Foreign Language online.
What are the requirements for teaching English online?
1. Native or near-native level English
As an English teacher, it should come as no surprise that your English ability is important. You don’t have to be a native speaker but if you’re not, you need to be able to prove that your English level is at least CEFR level C2. If you want to work for a company, some stipulate that you need to be a native speaker or that you need to come from a certain country – often the US or Canada – but there are many who don’t have such restrictions.
1½. A Bachelor’s degree
Yes, that’s point 1½ because many companies prefer it but there are also a lot that don’t require it. In other words, it’s technically not a requirement, but it can be, if you know what we mean. If, however, you are looking to work for a company based in China, it is a legal requirement so if you’re not a graduate don’t bother applying. It doesn’t matter what field the degree is in, as long as it is a Bachelor’s degree.
2. A TEFL certificate
There are a few companies which will give you a teaching job without a TEFL certificate but, if we’re honest, why would you want to teach without knowing how to teach? A TEFL certificate is for your (and your students’) benefit, not for your employer’s.
A TEFL course will give you a better understanding of English grammar, theories of learning and teaching techniques. It will show you how best to plan a lesson and give you ideas for effective exercises and activities. If you’re serious about teaching English as a Foreign Language, there really is no reason you wouldn’t do a TEFL course.
Not all TEFL certificates are created equal, however. Make sure your TEFL course is accredited and internationally recognised and is at least 120 hours.
Read more: How Do I Choose the Right TEFL Course?
Of course, if you are planning on teaching as a freelancer then you don’t need any competencies or qualifications. However, having a TEFL certificate and at least a C2 level of English will make it easier to find students.
3. A computer or a smartphone
Most jobs teaching English online require a computer. There are a few which allow you to teach with an app on your smartphone but generally speaking you need a decent computer. It needs to have a webcam so if your computer doesn’t have a camera you’ll need to get an external webcam.
4. A stable internet connection
You’re teaching online so you need an internet connection. However, it needs to be fast and stable. You cannot teach English lessons if your connection is going to cut out intermittently or if your connection is slow. Most teaching companies require that their teachers have wired and not wireless connections to prevent any connectivity issues.
Basically, your students will not want to have lessons with you if your internet connection keeps dropping so companies won’t hire you without evidence of a good connection. During your interview you will be asked to test your internet speed, so make sure you check it first by going onto a website such as Speedtest.
Of course there are times when we can’t predict that we might lose our connectivity, like when there is an unforeseen power outage. For those times you need a backup plan, like a UPS.
5. A headset
You can get by without a microphone or headphones and rely on those built into your laptop but a headset will give you the best results. Communication is a lot harder online and as a teacher of English it is especially important to make sure both you and your students are able to be easily heard and understood. Headsets also help to block out any external noise.
6. A quiet space
All of the above won’t matter if you don’t have a quiet space to teach in. First prize is a home office but it could be a corner of any room in your house where you won’t be disturbed by dogs, children, traffic or partners.
Even if you are provided with a curriculum and teaching materials, you will need props to make your lessons more engaging. This could be a background or backdrop, realia, a whiteboard, flashcards and/or puppets. As an online language teacher you could well find yourself teaching Young Learners at some point, so fluffy toys, bright pictures and a reward chart would also come in handy.
This is a tough one. Teaching online is not like other jobs. You don’t have an office full of people to make jokes with over a cup of coffee, or staff meetings where you can pick other teachers’ brains for lesson ideas. Teaching online can be lonely, so you need to have intrinsic motivation to make sure you log on for your lessons and don’t just pull the duvet cover over your head and go back to sleep.
Professionalism in terms of online teaching refers to punctuality and reliability and are important in getting and keeping online students. You might not have to wear a suit but you do need to be well-presented and well-spoken during your online lessons.
DO you think you have what it takes? If you can tick all these boxes then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be the most kickass TEFL teacher the online world has ever seen!