Published 28th March 2021
Teaching English as a Foreign Language is such a flexible job. You can teach in most countries, your students can be of any age and nationality, you can teach in various educational institutions, you can teach one student at a time or 50 – and you can even do it online. This flexibility is one of the reasons many people decide to get involved in TEFL: why be stuck to a desk – the same desk – for the rest of your life when you don’t know what your life will look like next year? Why not rather choose a career that can go with the flow of your life and all the ups and downs that go with it?
Read more: 7 Unexpected Outcomes of a TEFL Life
This flexibility also means that TEFL teachers can choose whether they want to teach face-to-face in a classroom or online in a virtual classroom. There are, of course, differences between the two methods of teaching, but it’s perfectly feasible for any TEFL teacher to do either one. Let’s look at the similarities and differences between teaching in-class and teaching online.
The teaching qualifications for teaching English in-class and online are pretty much the same. Some jobs require you to have a Bachelor’s degree, some don’t, but all require a 120-hour TEFL qualification. Remember, if a degree is required, the field of the degree is not important, but it needs to be a degree and not a diploma.
Having said that, if you are teaching face-to-face in a classroom, no matter what country you are in you will probably need to apply for a work permit or visa in order to be able to work legally in the country. This might mean you need a few extra bits and bobs to apply for that permit, such as a clean criminal record or proof of your English level. If you are teaching online, this is not necessary as you don’t require a visa to work online.
If you are teaching online, there are a few other requirements that come into play on a practical level. You need to have a decent laptop, a headset, a good internet connection, and a quiet space to teach. You will also need to prove your internet speed to your employer before you start teaching.
It’s difficult to speak in general about teaching schedules because they can differ so much from school to school, country to country, teacher to teacher. But here are a few possible scenarios for a TEFL teacher schedule:
- A TEFL teacher in a primary school in Thailand teaches five 45-minute lessons a day, Monday to Friday. They are required to be at school from 7 am to 4 pm. On occasion, they might be asked to attend an after-school function.
- A TEFL teacher in a language school in the UK teaches 7 hours a day, Monday to Friday, between 8 am and 6 pm. They only need to be present at the school for their lessons and staff meetings. Any extra work events they attend are paid for, though this seldom happens.
- A TEFL teacher at a language school in Vietnam teaches 5 hours a day, Monday to Friday. They teach 2 hours between 9 am and 12 pm and 3 hours between 5 pm and 9 pm.
- A TEFL teacher in Dubai teaches 4 hours a day, Sunday to Thursday. They teach between 8 am and 12 pm. In summer, they only work four days a week, and often those hours will be after 6 pm.
- A TEFL teacher working online teaches 25 hours a week, Monday to Sunday. These lessons take place whenever the students have scheduled them so their schedule changes regularly. Lessons are often late at night or early in the morning due to time differences between the teacher’s and the student’s countries of residence.
Now let’s get to the interesting bit: the difference in how much you earn. Again, this is tricky to put a definitive number on because it totally depends on where you are teaching and how much you are teaching. However, we are able to make a few points.
Firstly, a big difference between salaries when teaching online versus teaching in a class is that a school will give you a contract and you will be a salaried employee. This means that you have guaranteed work for a certain time period (usually 12 months) and you will be paid a salary at the end of every month. The salary amount might differ slightly from month to month depending on if you do a few extra duties, but generally, it is the same.
If you are teaching in a language school you will earn an hourly rate. You will be paid at the end of each month but your earnings will depend on the number of hours you have worked. This doesn’t usually change much from month to month, though.
Read more: 10 EFL Language Schools You Should Know
Teaching for an online company you are seldom asked to sign a fixed-term contract. You do not receive a set salary but you are paid per lesson taught. You can be paid on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis. How much you get paid totally depends on the number of lessons you have taught. A portion of your earnings may also go to the company you are working for.
In terms of actual earning potential, we can’t put an exact number on it but we can make some generalisations:
- A TEFL teacher in a primary school in Thailand usually earns around THB 35 000 – THB 45 000 a month.
- A TEFL teacher in a language school in the UK usually earns around £20 an hour. For a schedule of 25 hours a week that makes £2 000 a month.
- An online TEFL teacher usually earns between $15 and $25 an hour. For a schedule of 25 hours a week that makes $1 500 and $2 500 a month.
Not all about numbers
But salaries are not only about the numbers. A teaching contract in a school, for example, can include many benefits. You might be provided with accommodation, or given a housing allowance. Your flight could be paid for or contributed to. You will get paid sick leave and paid holidays. You could be given a contract completion bonus, which is usually the 13th cheque. All of this can add up to a lot of savings.
Teaching online provides no such benefits. Any sick days or holidays you take are unpaid. There are no flights to be paid for and your employer does not need to worry about your accommodation. However, when you are an online teacher you do not need to worry about moving to another country, which is a costly venture. You do not need to pay for a daily commute, either in terms of petrol or public transport. Plus, that time usually spent commuting can actually be spent working, so you are not only saving money at that time but earning money.
As you can see there are numerous differences between teaching English as a Foreign Language in-class and teaching English as a Foreign Language online. Both are sustainable as full-time jobs. Which one you choose totally depends on you!