Online English Tutoring: The Definitive Guide
If you are an English language teacher, you may be looking for a lucrative gig you can do part-time or full-time. If that is the case, this definitive guide to a career in online English tutoring is for you. In recent years, a number of success stories have emerged from the online tutoring space that are turning heads. This article talks about these emerging trends and the biggest markets for this line of work. It also talks about the different niches within English language tutoring in detail so you can work out what niche applies to your skillset.
More importantly, the article aims to guide you on the monetary prospects of English online tutoring should you wish to pursue this as a career. Essentially, this article will show you how to cash in on the growing demand for English language skills to become a successful online English tutor helping people all over the world.
How English teaching has grown over the years
In the post-World War II era of innovation and industry, the brightest minds in the country pursued the sciences. English language teaching was largely seen as an elementary and undemanding profession, centered around school children. Needless to say, it was considered a career choice suited for women. In the scientific and technological spheres, English continued to dominate, but the human population continued to operate in their local tongues.
The Gen-Y or the millennials ushered in the internet age and the world became a global village. In this new context, the citizens of this village needed a unified code. That is how the English language took on a whole new dimension. It became the language of the internet and a passport to the world, and every netizen had to learn English to be part of it. Likewise, English teaching and learning has had to catch up with the demands of this new world.
English is widely adopted by non-native speakers
As per Ethnologue, a publication that compiles and analyzes data on over 7,000 world languages, English is the most spoken language. It has 1.27 billion speakers around the world. Incidentally, only 370 million of these speak English as their mother tongue. The majority of the speakers – nearly 898 million – are non-native speakers. As you can see, non-native adopters of the English language are 2.5 times more in number than native speakers.
Furthermore, Marianna Pascal, an award-winning intercultural communication expert conducted a survey to study who drove conversations in English globally. Her study revealed that non-natives drove 96% of these conversations while only 4% of global conversations are by native speakers.
Implication on demand for English language tutoring
The data on English language usage has clear implications on English tutoring. There has been a growing demand for advanced English language skills amongst both native and non-native speakers due to the factors cited above. Just as the demand for English students has been increasing, there is a shortage of good quality English tutors as well. This dynamic had led to English tutoring becoming quite a lucrative option for many. The English language online tutoring format is taking over the traditional in-person tutoring format. The former has some clear advantages over the latter. You can read about the advantages of online tutoring over private in-person tutoring in greater detail here: online tutoring services.
Qualifications required to become an English tutor
TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language. It is synonymous with other popular acronyms like Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), English Language Teaching (ELT), and teaching ESL (English as a Second Language). All of these refer to a broad group of English tutoring certifications needed for teaching English abroad.
There are many academies that offer TEFL certifications both online and offline. You should opt for something that is 100 to 120 hours of coursework under an accredited institution. A specialized certification online tutoring is an added advantage if you want to hit online platforms.
Here are some of the top TEFL accreditation bodies: ACCET, ACTDEC, IATEFL, ODLQC, TQUK, WTEFLAC
Top recognized TESOL or TEFL certifications
SIT – 130-hour TESOL certification course which includes classroom teaching practice.
Cambridge University – The Cambridge UCLES CELTA certification is a 120-hour program available through the British Council and other language institutes as well.
Trinity College – TESOL certificate called CertTEYL offered by Trinity College London. It involves 130 hours of study and an expected minimum of 70 hours further study required (Total time: 200 hours).
A Master’s Degree
If you want to build a long-term career as an English tutor and target high-paying opportunities, you should arm yourself with a master’s degree. While a degree in the English language is always helpful, you could even consider something more focused on tutoring. These are offered in several universities in the US and Canada. Check with your local universities what they offer. The degrees go by the name of Master’s in Education in TESOL, Master’s in Applied Linguistics, MA in with specialization in TESOL, etc.
Qualifications for a Test Prep English tutor
As discussed earlier, one of the highly lucrative domains within English tutoring is preparation for tests like SAT, ACT, TOEFL, GMAT, GRE, etc. The only qualification students look for is test-taking experience and perfect scorers.
On a final note, degrees and certifications are a necessity when you want to travel abroad to pursue teaching careers onsite. The online English tutoring domain has changed that requirement. Now, there are several entry-level online English tutoring jobs that do not require more than a basic degree and some way to establish that you make a decent English tutor online. If you are a beginner in the tutoring world, you can start as an elementary school English tutor or in English reading and writing tutoring roles. The more technical the role is, such as English grammar tutoring, the greater the need for qualifications.
Making money as an English tutor
How much can I make as an English tutor online? Is there a career in online English tutoring? These are probably the big questions on your mind. Typically, the type of ESL roles that native speakers take up abroad offer a degree of job security. These roles were typically 6 to 12-month contracts and typically include perks such as accommodation. They earn decently well, with salaries ranging between $2,000 and $5,000 per month, depending on the country and complexity of the role. Arab countries pay ESL teachers well compared to Asian or Latin American countries. Even though the career prospects in ESL teaching are good, there is a fairly long process attached to landing such gigs.
Online English tutoring, on the other hand, does not assure you a steady sum of money from the word go. But it offers a lot of flexibility. The best part is that there are no barriers to entry on an online tutoring platform and the lead-time to start earning is low. So, the moment you decide to give it a go, you can start off immediately by creating your profile on a good platform. You can start helping with the TOEFL test or speaking English. But on the flip side, online contracts are short-term, at least initially. This can change with time if you stay on course, upgrade your skills regularly and keep earning good reviews from your existing clients. Then, you can make serious money especially if you have an entrepreneurial mind.
Pay for beginner online English tutors
Pay is usually hourly, and you’ll need to take on several clients, in the beginning, to ensure that you make enough by the end of the month. Depending on the platform you choose, your qualification, and the type of job, a beginner with just a basic degree can make $10 – $20 per hour. If you teach 5 hours a day, 5 days a week you end up making $1,000 – $2,000 a month. With experience, this number will improve.
You can improve your hourly pay by taking up batch tutoring; rates can go up to $75 per hour depending on the size of the batch. But such roles usually require teaching certifications and experience. Qualified native English speakers, particularly British teachers, command the highest rates.
Top countries where English tutoring is in high demand
#1 Countries where parents drive the demand for English tutoring for their children
There are upwards of 300 million people in China learning English. An estimated 100,000 English teachers are employed here receiving huge salaries and benefits such as free rent. While the peak hiring season is in September, English teaching job openings keep emerging all year round. The needs could range anywhere from business to TOEFL test preparation to reading and writing tutoring. For in-person teaching or tutoring roles, you will need to legally obtain your work visas. The typical requirements include a four-year degree and preferably a TEFL certificate. However, the Chinese are quite savvy with online tutoring and are open to hiring non-native speakers with a strong background in the English language.
South Korean parents stress a great deal on their children having superior English language skills. There is data that shows that 1,000 new English teachers are hired in South Korea every month. South Koreans are open to remote online English tutors as long as they can get native speakers. English tutoring contracts are typically cover the entire academic year assuring steady income over that time period. A Bachelor’s degree in any subject and native English-speakers are preferred both online and offline (USA, Canada, the UK, Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand, or Australia). A TEFL is a huge advantage although not a necessity. If you are looking to get hired by a local teaching company, you may need a TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) qualification.
#2 Countries where integration with the global economy drives English tutoring demand
In Japan, the demand for English tutors comes from both students and young adults traveling overseas. It could also be parents who want reading and writing tutoring for their kids. Most of the demand comes from the big cities like Tokyo, Osaka, etc. The Japanese greatly prefer online English tutoring options for the flexibility that they offer. However, there are several local tutoring companies that hire certified English tutors. Native English speakers are preferred in Japan.
A majority of Russians believe learning a foreign language is important. Due to a growing number of Russians migrating to the west, ESL skills are valued. Russian language centers are flexible about degrees, but you will need a TEFL certification if you want to travel to Russia for ESL tutoring opportunities. Conditions are a lot more relaxed when it comes to online tutoring for a Russian audience.
The demand for English teachers in Brazil is a recent phenomenon attributable to economic growth and expansion of local tourism. In Brazil, ESL (English as a Second Language) tutoring is booming and there’s room for non-native English tutors too. In fact, it is common to find entire families learning English from a qualified English language tutor, particularly in major cities. English tutors often travel onsite for the experience, but online opportunities are available too. March to August are the peak hiring months. A degree and TEFL certifications will be preferred.
#3 Countries where English tutoring demand is driven by immigrants and ex-pats
The United States and Canada
The US and Canada are two major economies that have been home to a large number of overseas workers and students. The US is home to 47 million immigrants as of 2015, admitting over a million legal immigrants every year. Canada is home to 8 million immigrants admitting about 300,000 every year. A large percentage of these communities drive the need for English language tutoring for integration into the local culture and for better job and study opportunities.
United Arab Emirates (UAE)
The UAE plays host to 8 million immigrant workers. Interestingly, both the local Arabs and the immigrants have adopted English as the lingua franca. This has led to a huge demand for local English teachers and English language tutors in schools and in local corporations. For local opportunities in English tutoring, you will need TEFL certifications. But online English tutoring opportunities are highly relaxed. There are plenty of openings even for non-native speakers with adequate qualifications.
Types of English tutoring roles
#1 Elementary English tutoring
The basic requirement for English tutors for elementary students (grades 1 to 6) is a thorough knowledge of the local curriculum. As an English tutor, you must appreciate that the needs of a Japanese student will vary from that of an American student. If you are looking for entry-level English tutoring jobs, then the elementary school level is a good starting point.
In native English-speaking countries, elementary English tutoring jobs typically involve students from ex-pat families or immigrant communities, requiring speaking, reading, and writing tutoring. However, you may also find local Americans or British nationals seeking advanced English communication skills, better reading and writing skills, or formal grammar lessons for their school kids.
#2 English test prep tutoring
An essential part of dealing with student communities as an English tutor is preparing them for competitive exams and common entrance tests. In the US, these would be the SAT & ACT exams. For foreign students, it can include the TOEFL test. English test prep tutoring has less to do with language and more to do with cutting-edge test-taking strategies. You will need a thorough knowledge of the type of questions expected in the tests. For example, as an ACT English tutor, you have to know how to solve questions in subject-verb agreement, redundancies, run-on sentences, comma splice, and dangling participle.
In fact, the top English test prep tutors are often not English degree holders nor language experts. They are just expert test-takers who know the nitty-gritty of cracking the exam in question. With so much money and opportunities at stake, English test prep is a very lucrative field with thousands of students seeking tutoring services during peak exam season.
#3 English Grammar Tutoring
Gone are the days when every home had a copy of ‘Wren & Martin Grammar and Composition’. We are in the times of internet slang and textspeak. Due to this, the younger generation finds itself in need of a corrective English tutoring intervention to make their language acceptable in a formal context.
English grammar tutoring is a technical area within this domain. Your English language skills must be based on a strong pedagogical foundation in grammar. If you want to become an English grammar tutor, you will need to be qualified with at least a bachelor’s degree. That said, even within this specific area, the focus is usually on usage and application rather than raw theory.
#4 Creative writing tutoring
Creative writing is seen more as a hobby or an interesting area rather than a survival skill or a professional requirement. However, it is a popular hobby and there are many individuals of all age groups who pursue this craft with discipline. There are writing-clubs as there are book-reading clubs. Therefore, a new niche has emerged within the English language tutoring domain to address the demand for creative writing skills. And you will see this service sought and offered in abundance on many freelancing sites.
If you want to develop as a creative writing tutor, you will need to demonstrate your own skill in some fashion. People with a background in literature, professional writers, authors of published works, etc., are likely to be accepted as creative writing experts. The assignments you get will not be long-term, one-on-one gigs. They are more likely to be in the nature of creative writing workshops, MOOCs, short courses, etc. However, the money is good as a side gig.
#5 Business communication skills tutoring
Business communication tutoring involves email writing, proposal writing, interview skills, group discussion skills, presentation skills, etc. Business communication is often packaged with soft skills training such as introductions, greetings, brevity, listing skills, emotional control, straight talk, elevator speeches, etc.
The typical seekers of this kind of tutoring are students and young professionals who want to improve their employability and advance their career prospects. They are often individuals who don’t speak English as their first language. The stress is more on effective communication and contextual application of language skills. Therefore, a business communication expert with corporate experience is often preferred.
#6 English literature tutoring
English tutoring for literature students in undergraduate and graduate programs is an advanced area within the tutoring domain and typically requires years of teaching experience in the field of English literature. As a tutor, you are expected to teach essay writing skills, literature analysis, technical paper writing, thesis writing, etc. You may be expected to whet their assignments before submission. Students seeking this kind of help will typically have academic excellence as their goal. At the very minimum, you will have to be a highly qualified, experienced teaching professional and a British and American literature aficionado.
#7 English as a Second Language (ESL) tutoring
The term ESL is a way of identifying a category of learners rather than a type of tutoring. A vast majority of English language learners across all age groups are ESL learners. They do not speak English at home and they probably do not even live in a native English-speaking country. They may need English tutoring for a variety of reasons, including for business or college admission TOEFL test.
If you are a native speaker of English trying to build an online English tutoring career, you will have exciting prospects amongst ESL learners in growing Asian economies like China, South Korea, and Japan where English speaking skills are given tremendous focus in education. You will need to pay close attention to cultural influences on language and usage while teaching ESL learners.
If you are a native English speaker, you will only need basic education to find ESL tutoring jobs. If you are a non-native English tutor, you will need English language certifications and qualifications for well-paying gigs.
#8 English tutoring for adult learners
This is an upcoming domain and surprisingly popular too. It appears that in many communities around the world, learning to speak English commonly features in the bucket list of adults! You will find such learners based in emerging economies like Asia, India, Latin America, and Russia. You will also find them amongst immigrants in native English-speaking countries like the US, UK, and Australia.
These are entry-level tutoring roles. The focus of such learners is very specifically cultural integration. Therefore, everyday speech, functional English, basic grammar, listening comprehension, etc., are the areas you will be expected to focus on in your tutoring sessions. While the focus is mostly on speaking skills, you must be prepared to provide basic reading and writing tutoring as well.
#9 Teach-the-teacher English tutoring
The demand for good quality local teachers is steadily growing in the countries we discussed above. If you do not want to teach non-native students directly, you can explore the option of training local teachers and English tutors. You will have to contact local schools, colleges, universities, education bodies, tutoring agencies, etc., for such opportunities to teach the teachers. Obviously, you will need to be a qualified and experienced English language teacher for such collaborations.
In the English online tutoring domain, however, you may find local teachers and tutors who are seeking qualified tutors to upgrade their skills. They are well attuned to the language needs of their local students but need help to bridge a few skill gaps. If you are a qualified English tutor online, you can tap into such roles.
#10 English literacy coaching
The work of a literacy coach is similar to a teach-the-teacher role. The intervention on literacy coaches is more strategic in nature. They work with teachers on a large scale to improve their methods of teaching how to read, write and comprehend English.
English is now the primary language for global business and science. It fuels the internet. People are globe-trotting more than ever and even resettling abroad for better opportunities. English skills are a basic requirement for travelers, temporary workers, foreign students, and migrants to survive in an English-speaking country. That said, even native speakers need formal intervention through English tutoring for higher education or to advance their careers. Online English tutoring is growing at a tremendous pace and even replacing ESL teaching in the post-pandemic world.
All in all, it is quite clear that the underlying dynamics are in your favor. If you put your mind to it, as an online English tutor, you can match the earning potential of in-person tutoring and ESL teaching gigs. In fact, every now and then, we even hear about online tutors hitting gold in this line of work. The very successful ones start their tutoring agencies. Some private online tutors get themselves celebrity kids as clients and earn big bucks.
If you have been toying with the idea of becoming an online English tutor, don’t wait. We at ViTutors run a platform to support your dreams. Vitutors is an online tutoring marketplace where students and parents can hire tutors from anywhere in the world for all levels and budgets. Please check our pages at Vitutors.com to learn more.
How to Become an Online Tutor: A Beginner’s Guide