How to Become an Online Teacher
There's never been a better time to become an online teacher.
The number of students going to school online has been growing at double digit rates for the past decade. According to surveys of high school students in 2010 by Project Tomorrow, 27 percent took at least one online course in 2009. That number is expected to rise by double digits for the next several years.
Colleges need more instructors, both adjuncts and full-time instructors, who are trained to teach online.
If you already have a teaching career or worked as a counselor or instructor in a classroom setting, you have a knowledge base that you can use to launch a career teaching online. Online teaching careers are open to all sorts of instructors ranging from graphic designers to registered nurses.
Jobs for post-secondary teachers in general—including online and traditional teachers—are likely to grow by 15 percent through 2018, faster than average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The growth projection stems from an expected increase in the college-age population, plus adults returning to school to improve career prospects—a trend especially common during troubled economic times.
How Much Do Online Teachers Make?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't yet separate data on online instructors from traditional ones. The median annual earnings of all post-secondary teachers in 2010 were about $59,000. The middle 50 percent earned between $42,000 and $85,000. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,000, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $122,000.
Teacher pay, both online and non-online, varies depending on such things as field (for example, medicine, law, engineering and IT faculty make more than humanities faculty); level of education and experience; and where the educator is employed (by a two-year or four-year school; public or private school; or by a corporation or other institution).
Many online instructors work as adjunct instructors. This means they work on a contract basis and are paid per course. According to online instructor pay surveys by Get Educated, a common salary range for online college instructors is $1,500 to $2,500 per semester-long course.
If the instructor also develops the course or writes course assignments, pay may be higher. Online course development fees typically run from $1,000 to $3,000, depending on the level of development.
Some online adjuncts work on a part-time basis, while others teach several courses for multiple schools and work enough hours to be considered full-time. Some of these full-time online adjuncts report earnings in the $100,000-plus range.
Online instructors also sometimes work as corporate trainers. Instructors who teach adults or work for corporate training centers online may be paid more than those who teach for public school systems or universities. Those who launch online teaching careers in a corporate environment are sometimes paid per student rather than per course.
What is an Online Instructor or Teacher?
Teachers or tutors who use the Internet to teach courses "at a distance" are referred to as online instructors
or teachers. Online teaching careers are also open to mentors or counselors who answer questions and provide emotional encouragement for online students.
Online teachers interact with students through email, message boards, online "blackboards," chat rooms or, in some cases, virtual reality platforms and software rather than face-to-face. Their students could be from around the country or around the world.
Online teachers need to be able to translate traditional course material in ways that are understood in the online environment, because they can't rely on eye contact or other facial cues to determine whether students are understanding and maintaining interest in a lesson.
Some online instructors post video or audio lectures and other multimedia reference material online, as well as provide easily downloadable text materials. Some courses are set up so that all students attend a chat room at the same time and hear, see or read a professor's words simultaneously, with live discussion via message board. Other courses do not have any shared "real" time, but provide material that students can download and study at their own pace.
Online teachers are expected to promptly answer students' emails and message board questions, as this is the only form of access students have to teachers. Papers and other assignments are transmitted digitally between teacher and student.
Needless to say, anyone who is serious about an online teaching career must be comfortable with computers, Internet technology and, increasingly, social and mobile media.
Online Teacher Certification
To become a college instructor, teachers—whether online or not—typically need at least a master's degree
. Many have PhDs
in their specialty field.
Certificates or special educational certifications or endorsements are not required to become an online instructor at the college level, but certificates can provide additional training that may enhance your online competency and prove attractive to an employer.
Increasingly, colleges and universities are offering certificates in online education and/or degrees in education with an online emphasis. These educational credentials range from certificates in teaching online to a master's in teaching online to online education design and development.
If you intend to teach at the K-12 level, you will need to explore earning a teaching credential or endorsement in your specialty areas. Private companies and schools often do not require certification.
How to Become an Online Instructor
The best way to launch a career teaching online or to become an online instructor is to search out and apply for job positions as an adjunct. Get Educated sponsors an online instructor job board
that is updated several times each week.
However, if you have not already done so, you should first take an online course yourself so you can understand what it is like to be an online student. Also consider a certificate program or additional training in the specific needs of online students.
Contact schools that sponsor online degree programs in your subject speciality areas. Search the websites of online colleges to see if they have a career board where they post openings for adjunct instructors in the types of courses you are qualified to teach. Once you teach your first online course, you will know if you wish to continue as an adjunct or want to pursue a full-time online teaching career.
It can be difficult to find online teaching jobs. Competition is often fierce. For tips on how to find online teaching jobs, use these Get Educated online teaching career guides:
Online instructors recommend contacting schools that offer online courses to inquire about availability, rather than waiting for job postings from those schools. Or, consider suggesting online courses that you can teach to schools that may not already have them, such as a community college in your area.
If you are a teacher looking for a new position as an online instructor, you can post your availability to teach online for free on Get Educated's online teaching jobs board