How to become a successful online TEFL teacher

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There are around 2 billion language learners worldwide and 20,000 new TEFL jobs posted every month. The global online language learning market is expected to grow by 110% by 2025 and the percentage of students taking at least one online class a week is now estimated at 32%. That’s a lot of screen time, coffee AND demand for qualified online TEFL teachers.

If you are looking for a career change or want the freedom to work from the comfort of home, becoming an online TEFL teacher can make this possible. 

What are some benefits of being an online TEFL teacher?

Teaching English from your home or office is a great way to apply your skills and provide a valuable service to language learners worldwide. Some of the main benefits are:

  • Compliment your current schedule
  • Earn an additional income
  • Work anywhere in the world
  • Work legally but avoid work visas
  • Flexible schedule (you choose!)
  • Learn about new teaching technologies and tools

So, are you ready to take the plunge into teaching English online? Keep reading and I’ll show you step-by-step how you too can become a successful online TEFL teacher.

Step 1: Get qualified

First things first – taking a rigorous and recognised TEFL course will be the first step to helping you learn the fundamentals of teaching English as a foreign language and becoming an online TEFL teacher. You may have already discovered that it’s not an easy task finding the best TEFL course. This is especially true when there are thousands of options to choose from and they all claim to be the best! 

Around 75% of TEFL employers worldwide request the Cambridge CELTA (or the Trinity CertTESOL) certification. By choosing to take the Cambridge CELTA, you are proving to employers worldwide that you take teaching seriously and are fully trained for some of the top jobs teaching English online. Not only this, you are also proving to yourself that you are worth the investment.

Now that you have decided on the qualification which will give you the best chance of success, it is time to pick the best CELTA course provider.

All CELTA course providers must meet the high standards set out by Cambridge Assessment English in order to offer CELTA courses. This includes qualifications of the tutors, assessment and feedback criteria, facilities or online platforms. Wherever, whenever and however you take the CELTA, you can be assured that you will always receive the high-quality service which CELTA is well-known for. To narrow down your search for a course provider even further, look out for:

  • Reviews and ratings on TEFL course review websites and social media
  • Experience delivering the CELTA course and training teachers 
  • Professionalism, reputation and friendliness of communications
  • Support finding work after the course
  • Graduate community and aftercare

Now that you have decided which qualification you need and which course provider(s) are able to offer this to you, it’s time to dig deeper.

Which is the best format?

The CELTA course is available as a face to face or an online course. Both provide the same high level of training and qualify you to teach in-person or virtually, but if you want to become an online TEFL teacher, we recommend the 100% online option. Gaining your CELTA qualification online will familiarise you with the challenges and benefits of teaching via your computer, help you get to grips with online teaching tools and make you even more appealing to potential employers.

Choose from:

4-week 100% Online CELTA course. This format means you can continue to enjoy the comforts of home without the need to spend time travelling to any centre. Create your own personal workspace at home, make a coffee in your break, grab that folder you left upstairs. This format is intensive and means you can gain your qualification fast. 

14-week Part-Time online CELTA course This format allows you to fit your training in around your other commitments. Whether you need to continue working, or have young children at home, taking this more flexible course will enable you to study without needing to give up your entire life at the same time. If you are very keen to obtain their CELTA certification but you are unable to set aside four weeks from your schedule, this would be the best format for you. 

Woman taking an online TEFL course.

Step 2: Get the skills you need

As a participant on an online CELTA course, you will:

  • Receive support planning online TEFL classes
  • Observe experienced teachers teaching online
  • Teach real adult students online (6 hours)
  • Receive feedback from expert trainers
  • Learn about teaching methodologies
  • Get to grips with English grammar
  • Become confident using online materials and technology
  • Gain lifelong friends from all over the world!

These are all highly valuable elements that will help you become a successful online TEFL teacher by the time you have graduated.

To increase your chances of finding a great online TEFL teaching job, you may also want to consider specialising. Students with specific needs will often seek out specialist teachers in different areas. Many online teaching companies also pay more for specialised English classes, so it is definitely worth thinking about investing in further professional development to take advantage of this. Some areas you could consider are:

  • Cambridge Exam preparation
  • IELTS Exam preparation
  • English for Academic Purposes
  • Teaching Business English
  • Teaching Young Learners

This will allow you to build your skills and confidence, while demonstrating to potential employers that you are qualified and dedicated to your chosen area.

Step 3: Get a job teaching TEFL online

Now you are qualified, you are ready to tackle the job market. Some typical online teaching positions that CELTA graduates find are:

  • Individual private online lessons
  • Group private online classes 
  • Group online classes for young learners or adults for a language school
  • Specialised English classes e.g. business English, exam preparation, young learners

Here are some factors to consider when looking for your first online role:

  1. Does the company you are applying to accept non-native English-speaking teachers? If you are a non-native English speaker, you could check out Preply, Palfish, Learnlight and Cambly.
  2. Where are the students based? The time zone might mean you would be giving classes in the middle of the night. Or it may work in your favour if you can offer lessons at a time in which your schedule would typically be empty due to low-demand in your own location.
  3. Is the payment high enough? Your salary can vary depending on where the company is based. As a CELTA-qualified teacher, we recommend payment of at least €15 / USD $18 per hour in your first year.
  4. Are you willing to teach children? There is very high demand for teaching young learners online and many online teaching companies offer mostly or even exclusively English lessons for children. 
  5. How much lesson planning is required? If your company provides lesson plans and a syllabus, this could reduce the amount of time you spend planning lessons (and therefore how many teaching hours you can take on).

We also recommend doing some research on the company you are thinking about working for to give you an idea of the company culture, conditions and pay. Working for more than one company at the same time will also allow you to reduce the risk and improve the probability of filling your schedule.

What about starting my own company teaching TEFL online?

When you have been working for one or more online teaching companies for a while, you may begin to think about going freelance. This option means you will have more freedom to plan lessons as you choose, without worrying about any guidelines your employer has. If you are thinking about becoming freelance, do plenty of research first on the costs involved in being freelance where you live as this can vary greatly from country to country.

Decided to go it alone? Some things to consider:

  • Target students: which type of classes are most in demand at the moment? What trends have you noticed?
  • Where do potential students spend time online eg. social media platform and forums, and how can you reach them there?
  • How can you effectively demonstrate your skills and experience teaching English online to encourage students to enrol with you?
  • What’s a fair price for you and your students and what variables might affect this?
  • Will you use an online platform or a simple online conferencing system to deliver the classes? 
  • What costs need to be considered for technology, tools, materials or office space?

How will I know when I am a successful online TEFL teacher?

This might sound like a silly question, but hear me out. If you want to be a successful online TEFL teacher, you must understand the value of your service and charge your students accordingly. If you are a successful online TEFL teacher:

  • Your students will keep coming back to you and will recommend you to their friends too
  • You will not be working day and night because you are undercharging students and need to work longer hours to make up for it
  • You will start to instinctively know what your students need and will spend less time planning or worrying about your classes
  • You will be confident and can effectively use a variety of online tools which will engage your students and help them learn English fast
  • You will be able to support yourself financially doing a job which you find rewarding and aligned with your personal and professional goals
Feeling you've succeeded as an online TEFL teacher.

I want to become a successful online TEFL teacher. What now?


Ready to take the next step to becoming an online TEFL teacher? Oxford TEFL provides highly rated 4-week and 14-week online CELTA courses, teacher development courses and a comprehensive careers service to help you get started in the world of online TEFL teaching. Get in touch with Oxford TEFL at info@oxfordtefl.com to find out more about how we can help you or apply for one of our courses via the Oxford TEFL website.

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