How Much do Online English Teachers Make?

By Editorial Staff •  Updated: 01/13/23 •  Teach Online

Before founding Teach and GO, I remember sitting in a coffee shop lesson planning with a friend. He showed me a payment he received from something called “VIPKID.” It was for $800, $800 simply from teaching online with a laptop.

This was also in combination with his employment at an international school. While not enough to live off, $800 in addition to a Thai salary (Thailand pays their teachers some of the lowest wages in the ESL world) was a game changer for any English teachers in Thailand.

My friend could almost double his income from the comfort of his apartment without having to run around finding extra classes and negotiating payment and appropriate times to meet students.

Instead, VIPKID did all the heavy lifting—the platform to teach and find students and bookings based on your availability. Combined with reliable payment in USD instead of Thai Baht, I was sold. VIPKID, at the time, had around 500 teachers (now they have 50,000+), so I decided to join because it seemed perfect for an experienced ESL teacher.

No commute, no homework, no quizzes, no following up for payments with parents for private lessons, and you can set your schedule.

In a nutshell, you teach and go (hence the name of our website).

How much can you expect to make?

As you’re not paid a salary and are paid by the hour, it’s simply a function of how many hours you can work. If you’re based in the US, doing 8 hours a week is reasonable; it’s possible to do 20 to 35 hours a week abroad.

You should expect to get paid anywhere from $15 to $20 an hour. On average, an online teacher at a teaching platform can expect to make $500 to $2000 a month.

What are the requirements to teach English online?

The requirements vary depending on the platform and country of origin for students. If it’s for Chinese students like VIPKID or Magic Ears, you’ll need a degree to meet their regulations. If it’s a marketplace like Preply or Fiverr, no formal education is required as you’re considered a freelancer, not a teacher.

Be a native English speaker.

If you want to teach English online, you must be a native speaker. Yes, there are a handful of opportunities to train as a non-native (Native Camp comes to mind), but most companies don’t pay a fair hourly wage.

In addition, South Africans are now considered non-natives and typically have the most difficulty securing a position online for various reasons.

University Degree from an accredited institution.

To teach English abroad requires you to have a degree. This is no different from being an online ESL teacher. It’s an essential requirement that companies need to meet legally to take you on as an online ESL teacher.

The only exception to this is if you’re working as a private tutor or freelancer. For example, you can teach with Outschool, and you don’t need formal education, only practical experience.

TEFL Certification

If you decide to go the online teaching platform route like VIPKID, GOGO Kids, Magic Ears, and so forth, know that you’ll need to get a TEFL certificate at some point. This is certification to help you be a better ESL teacher.

We have various guides here about TEFL certificates. You can check out our dedicated TEFL course page for your best options.

Online teaching gear – The essentials

You don’t need many things to teach English online, but there are a few essentials. Please view our guides on the various items that are very helpful for an online teacher. Also, we have a completely free tutorial on how to get started teaching English online.

Headphones

This guide covers the best headphones for teachers who conduct online classes. In general, you’ll want something cheap with a noise-canceling microphone.

Laptop computer

Teachers have specific needs for laptops and computers in general. An ideal laptop should be small, light, and have a touch screen. We have you covered if you’re looking for the best laptops for teachers.

Microphones

As online learning has grown in popularity, many teachers are discovering just how bad the onboard audio is on all laptops (except for the expensive Macbook Pro).

If you want clear, rich audio, you’ll need to get yourself a USB microphone for teaching.

Props

Teaching online, you’re usually dealing with kids. Having some simple props ready to demonstrate various concepts like colors, prepositions, and whatnot is really helpful.

Teaching background

You’ll need a simple, clean background. That is distraction-free. But many teachers opt to make room in their home into a classroom. Here are some teacher background ideas.

Lighting – Important

Lighting is quite crucial for an online teacher. Your laptop or an overhead light may need to be more. You’re in luck, though; there are a lot of very affordable, cheap video lighting ideas for an online class.

Good attitude and TPR

You’re teaching children. It would help if you were happy, smiling, and having fun. It is much easier once you’re in a class with a student, as kids are naturally silly. But being able to have fun and be silly is a pretty big requirement, particularly when going through the application process, so the companies can trust that you’re a good fit for their students.

TPR, a total physical response, is essential for an online English teacher. You need to use your body to convey information. Like, “What do you see” and put your hand above your eyebrows like you’re looking out into the distance. It may seem silly, but it helps convey information and makes online teaching more effective.

For more, check out our guide on what TPR is.

You have some teaching experience.

While I was an ESL teacher for a few years, you don’t necessarily need to have experience as a teacher in a classroom. Why? Because it’s advantageous to take people with varied backgrounds. So if you’re a coach, school teacher, or after-school tutor, go ahead and apply.

The main thing is that you can convey that you have relevant experience that would make you a good fit for online teaching.

How Much Money Can You Make?

You can make 20 $ an hour roughly, plus any bonus pay depending on the platform. So to get to around $2,000, you need to teach about 22 hours a week. This is quite doable, particularly abroad in Asia, because the teaching hours are in the evening.

Also, while 22 hours may seem like a lot, mainly if you’re coming from the ESL world, it’s manageable when online because you’re not tired out from teaching. There is no homework to grade or “extra” work you need to do that you would typically do as an ESL teacher.

When you get paid, most companies do a wire transfer to your bank account or pay you by PayPal.

Ruby From VIPKID make $3,000 – $4,000 a Month

Ruby Steph La Cruz is an online English teacher based in Spain. Ruby actually got started online teaching while she was studying for her masters degree in Spain. But instead of following the traditional career path, she decided to go all in to teaching online.

Ruby is able to make $3,000 a month with ease for a few reasons:

First is she lives in Spain instead of the United States or Canada. This is a critical advantage for an online English teacher because Ruby is able to teach during the day instead of early morning as teachers do in the U.S. and Canada.

As such, she can teach 6 hours a day Monday to Friday and 8 hours on Saturday. Students start being available at 4 pm Beijing Time. It’s outside of peak time of course, but if you’re a highly rated teacher you can get booked.

Second, when I was asked her directly for any advice on how other teachers could replicate her success, she said that she does 60% short notice classes for VIPKID.

What a short notice class is exactly, is that if you open a class and it gets booked within 24 hours, VIPKID will give you a $2 bonus for the class. This ends up being a $4 an hour bonus which adds up quickly.

Another fun fact about short notice classes is that they are usually trial classes. If you teach a short notice class and the student signs up, VIPKID will give you a $5 bonus for that student signing up. It’s not unusual to have a short notice class booked, then canceled and then rebooked for the same time slot.

So a short notice class can end up being $13 for the class + $4 for the previous short notice class canceled + $5 for the student signing up. $22 for a 25 minute period. Do this twice and you just made $44 for one hour.

Last, she got a raise. VIPKID pays up to $9 per hour base pay excluding bonus. The only way you can get a raise is to maintain a high rating and to teach a minimum of 25 hours per week for a whole contract. So it’s difficult to get a raise, but not impossible if you’re teaching 6-8 hours Monday to Friday.

Teacher Jack

Ruby is an example of working harder and smarter. But there are other teachers who work to build assets that can be sold. Teacher Jack got his start as an ESL teacher. He then transitioned to running his own language school for about 2 years before transitioning to being a full time YouTuber who sells a language course to non native speakers.

His YouTube channel is very popular with non-native speakers and he is one of many online English teachers who use YouTube, a website, an email list and a product in order to make more money online as a teacher.

There are numerous big YouTube channels that all follow the same business format. If you’re looking to get away from just relying on online teaching companies as a way to make an income, look into doing something a bit more creative.

You could do something like VIPKID or any online teaching company of your choice and then build out a YouTube for non native speakers which you can then sell your time for 1 on 1 classes.

Nancy Taylor

Nancy Taylor is a popular YouTuber who creates  tutorials and how-to content for online English teachers as well as prospective online English teachers.

Her primary income source was VIPKID where she was paid over $50,000 in referral fees from VIPKID due to her ability to build an audience.

Now she started off like everyone else being a regular teacher but took the initiative to build an online brand. Now she’s retired from VIPKID all together and focuses on her YouTube channel content and courses.

Make Money Teaching With These 5 Companies

Alright if you made it this far and you think meet the qualifications, let’s get into the 5 best companies to teach English with online. There are plenty of options to teach English online mind you.

You don’t have to strictly limit yourself to these companies, BUT these companies are the best overall from my online teaching experience as well as from various surveys of current online English teachers.

*Please note, things change and while we do our best to keep teachandgo.co updated and relevant you should always refer to the website in question for pay rates and various other company specific policies

*UPDATE: China has banned online teaching. We’ll keep the following content unchanged, but for reference you can’t teach online anymore for a Chinese company. Please checkout our top 11 non Chinese online teaching companies.

VIPKID

Learn more here

VIPKID is the top option for North Americans looking to teach online. The pay is structured a bit differently depending on your qualifications and the amount of classes you teach.

Class is for 25 minutes, so in one hour you can teach 2 classes. All teachers start with a base pay plus a completion bonus and a bonus for teaching more that a specific amount of classes per month. The way the platform works is that it pairs you up with a student and in the actual classroom you’ll be given teaching slides which you’ll have an opportunity to review in advanced as soon you’re booked.

To get booked you simply open hours week to week and parents book you.

The pay:

PAY RATE PER 30 MIN NOTES
Minimum $7-9 per class This is decided on your interview and qualifications
Participation Up to $1 You get a bonus for simply teaching class on time.
Finished Class Up to $1 If you teach more than 45 classes per month, you get $1 bonus per every class

As you can see while the base pay may be something like $8 per class. If you simply teach 8 hours per week you’ll be getting $20 an hour.

The positives of teaching with VIPKID:

There are quite a few things I like:

Week-to-week schedule. This is great because I work online to teach less the following week. I may have a trip to go on or some last-minute thing came up; I can change my schedule as needed.

Excellent pay and always on time. This was a slight concern I had when starting. Would they pay me? The answer is yes. I’ve always been paid on time with NO issues.

Fantastic community! VIPKID is not just a company; it’s a fun community to be a part of with a helpful forum and staff that cares about your success.

The lesson plans are made for you. This is huge. Lesson planning is tedious and time-consuming. Simply having this already taken care of makes teaching with VIPKID easy.

Seasonal bonus pay. During various holidays they run incentives to get teachers to open hours.

Cons of teaching with VIPKID:

The hours are after school for Chinese students. That means early morning if you’re in America, which is challenging to do, depending on your situation.

Fines if you miss or cancel a class in under 24 hours. You’re allowed six cancellations per 6-month contract.

QKids

Apply here.

Qkids is a big platform with over 100,000 Chinese learners aged between 5 and 12. The company and not the parents book you. Class is about 33 minutes long in all, with a scheduled 10-minute break in between back-to-back classes.

Some teachers complain that teaching two classes in 1 hour is impossible. But if you’re looking for something flexible and part-time, QKids is an excellent choice as they’re very flexible with needing time off and having to cancel classes and whatnot.

Learn more with our Qkids review.

Magic Ears

Apply here.

Magic Ears is another excellent platform that pairs you with a student one-on-one. The starting pay is $18 to $24 an hour, including a bonus (which is easy to get by doing a good job). They have different ranks for teachers, so teachers who have moved beyond the entry level of “freshman” and are ranked as Juniors will above receive a raise with each new contract!

Next, the company books the teachers, so if you’re worried about not getting enough hours, you don’t have to worry as much about Magic Ears. Your guaranteed hours will increase as your rank increase. The rank increase is based on a percentage of supervisor & parent feedback. All new teachers start as Freshmen rank and have limited slots open.

After you teach your first ten classes, you will rank up to a level known as Benchmark. The advantage of this is that you can open a full schedule, but your actual booking rates will be low after that rank is the rank of Junior, where you’re booked 50-60% of the time.

After 100 classes, you can rank to senior if you’re in the top 20% of teacher feedback, and you’ll be guaranteed 80% of your open slots to be booked. The last and most coveted rank is Magic Master; it is reserved for those in the top 5% of feedback and has 100% of opened slots guaranteed.

What is the cancellation policy? This is the main selling point of Magic Ears. You’re able to cancel penalty-free in cases of illness or emergency.

Learn more with our Magic Ears review.

Palfish – The fastest-growing company

Apply to Palfish here.

Palfish is a phone app. They have two programs, the free talk program, where you have conversations with adults, and the more competitive kids course, where you teach children.

The kid’s course pays a lot more and is a more traditional setup comparable to other online teaching companies. You open hours, get booked and then teach kids a curriculum-based lesson.

The free talk is simply conversations on demand with adults. It’s a great way to supplement your income part-time.

Learn more with our Palfish review.

Cambly – Casual conversations

Apply to Cambly here.

Cambly is another online teaching company favorite. If you’re not interested in teaching kids or want something where you can earn a few hundred dollars extra a month to have conversations, then take a look at Cambly.

Cambly is also ideal because they are a simple platform that connects language learners with native speakers for conversation. As such, you’re not considered a teacher, and you don’t have to have a degree or any experience to get started.

Is China the only game in town?

China is the leading country for teaching online at the moment. There are opportunities to teach online in different time zones and in other countries. For Americans on the West Coast, teaching online is a bit too early, whereas those on the East Coast find the hours perfect. It would be best if you simply became an early riser.

If you want to find companies with better time zones, check out our online teaching companies page, where we list different countries and potential opportunities.

Do I Need to Speak a Second Language?

No. Anyone who has taught ESL knows that this is not a requirement. In fact, please don’t speak the local language as the students have no choice but to talk to you in English. The paramount need is that you’re a native English speaker. How do they verify this? It’s based on your passport! If you’re from a majority English country, you’re considered a native speaker.

Do I Have to Create the Teaching Material?

No. There is minimal prep time, and the material is prepared for you in advance. You must review the teaching material and prepare for class by understanding the lesson objectives. Starting takes time, but as you do class after class, it gets much more manageable.

So while you do not have to prepare any teaching material, you are expected to have relevant props and items to help you teach effectively. Last, all platforms will expect you to leave student feedback. For this, look at helpful paraphrasing tools to speed up your writing.

What’s the Interview and Overall Application Process Like?

This depends on the platform. But the first step is to submit your resume. If the company is interested, they will quickly interview you about your background and qualifications. If you get past the discussion, most quality platforms have some demo or mock class you’ll need to do to become a teacher.

Again, not all platforms are the same, but they follow the same process. For the demo class, what a lot of platforms will do is you’ll have to submit a quick video of you teaching a class, or they will have you teach a lesson with an actual teacher who will pretend to be a student. Again, check out the websites listed for more information.

Make Money Teaching English Online

Teaching English online is a wonderful opportunity to make a side income and make a slight difference in the world and other people’s lives. If you’re an American or Canadian, check out VIPKID first. Also, consider getting a TEFL certificate.

Editorial Staff

I'm David Unwin and I head the editorial staff here at Teach and GO. I've taught as an ESL teacher in Thailand for 5+ years at all levels of education, from elementary to University. I was also one of the first 1000 VIPKID teachers. I and my team now share my extensive experience as a teacher here at Teach and GO. Learn more.