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How to Become an Online Teacher

Nov 12, 2007 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 7 Comments

Online teaching is a flexible career that allows you to work from home and set your own hours.  It can be a great job, if you can find it.  But who gets hired as an online instructor? And how can you go about landing such a great job?

Many people with careers as online teachers got their start teaching in traditional classrooms. It’s more common for people in a traditional setting to negotiate work-from-home opportunities with their current employers than it is for job searchers to find the perfect at-home job listed somewhere. However, with the rise of colleges and schools that operate exclusively online, these opportunities are becoming more numerous.

Who Hires Online Instructors?

Traditional colleges

Many traditional colleges are getting into the online education industry.  Some campus-based colleges offer select courses online, while others offer entire degree programs.  If you’re interested in teaching online, your best bet may be to become a member of the campus faculty and teach a few traditional classes first.  After you’ve established yourself, suggest ways to incorporate online learning into your classes—or volunteer to teach an online class in your department. 

Online colleges

Online colleges are becoming more and more like traditional schools.  Many of today’s online schools have rigorous course loads, highly qualified teachers, and regional accreditation—just like traditional schools.  They usually require instructors to have an advanced degree or extensive industry experience. 

Nonprofits and adult education

Adult students often face extraordinary challenges when continuing their education.  Many adult learners work full-time and are the primary caregivers in their families. Online education makes school much more accessible to these students, and it’s catching on among adult education nonprofits that teach ESL and GED classes.   Foreign language classes and schools are also getting into online education because many of their students are scattered abroad.

Tutoring companies

Online tutoring companies serve students of all ages.  Some tutoring companies, such as Sylvan Learning Center and, focus on elementary, middle, or high school students.  Kaplan offers online test prep for college SAT tests and postgraduate study.  Many of those who work as tutors have prior teaching experience, but it isn’t always a requirement.

What You’ll Need

An advanced degree for a college-level position

If you want to teach at an online college or university, you’ll need at least a Master’s degree.  Many teaching positions require a Ph.D. Most online schools require the same degrees needed at traditional schools. 

If you want to work in adult education at a nonprofit, you often won’t need more than a Bachelor’s degree—although a Master’s in adult education could help you land the job.  Online tutors generally don’t need advanced degrees, unless you’re working for a company that offers online test prep in the GRE’s, MCAT’s, or another postgraduate test.

In-person teaching experience

Online teaching is still a new craft.  If you have years of in-person teaching experience, you can show your employers that you know the basics of the job.  This will give them greater confidence that you can handle the challenges of teaching online as well.

Many people become online teachers by finding opportunities within the traditional schools where they work.  If you’re already established as a professor at a traditional college, you may be in a position to lead your school’s first foray into online education.  If you work at an adult education nonprofit, you may be able to earn a grant to run an online class. 

Familiarity with technology

Online teachers need to be comfortable with the technology they’ll use to teach the class.  If you’re applying for a job as an online teacher, it may help your chances to show that you have experience as an online student.  You don’t have to have a history as an online student to land a job as a teacher, but you will need to show that you can use the required technology.

Where to Look

General job boards

Head over to,, or any one of the major job boards, and type “online teacher” or “online instructor” into the search bar.  You’ll find jobs from nonprofits, foreign language centers, and other organizations.

Niche job boards

It’s tough to find a job board for online teaching positions only.  However, niche sites can still help.  Check out sites like the Chronicle of Higher Education or Adjunct Nation and do a search for online teaching positions in higher education.  Head over to or for jobs with nonprofits. has an adult education section and job listings.

Individual schools and companies

Sometimes the best way to find online education openings is to check out the websites of individual schools.  Most online colleges have an “employment” or “careers” section that lists current openings.   

Looking online may help you find a great teaching position

But don’t forget to network offline as well.  Let your friends and colleagues know what you’re looking for.  You never know who might know someone who could help you break into a career in online education.


Aisha Aberea Over a year ago

Use the right tools for becoming an online teacher.

Anna Over a year ago

Interesting article. I was wondering if you might have suggestions about classes or courses someone might take to learn more about online teaching techniques, or how to appropriately adapt classroom material for the online context. Thanks.

Reba Gordon Matthews Over a year ago

Anna, I would suggest developing an online repository of materials for your students such as using Dropbox, or a website, wikis, etc. If your online portal does not provide a LIVE Office hour area, use the FREE web tool call Titanpad. It has been very useful with my online students. If you desire more tips, please feel free to contact me on Twitter - @jghfoundation08.

spg Over a year ago

How do become an on-line teacher?

Beau Griffis Over a year ago

I'm graduating in 4 weeks from Penn state University with a BA in Political science I have a 3.68 GPA and want to teach online or substitute teach in state college PA while I work in my masters in finance and then a PHD in economics. I have a lot of work experience in high finance but am looking for a job to help pay my living expenses as I've already got a full ride scholarship for my masters degree. If anyone is able to help me please email me at, I'd be very appreciative.

Thank You
Beau Griffis

James Day Over a year ago

James Day, M.Div., Validation Dementia Care Instructor (CVT-Certified Validation Teacher). I have been a Dementia care instructor for 9 years and have traveled and taught in 5 different states. I have been a public speaker for 27 years and seek to be an online instructor for a company or college. Currently, I am teaching an online course for VTI (Validation Training Institute out of Cleveland, Ohio) and teaching 3 other in-person classes. My students like the fact that I use humor, role-playing a person with dementia, singing, etc. to keep the classes moving along quickly with student buy-in. If your instrested in having me teach for your company or college, let me know at Peace, Jim Day, CVT and President of NAVA (North American Validation Association)

Akhilesh Over a year ago

Hi everyone,
I'm a graduate in Commerce and as well as C.A I have 6 years experience in Teaching but now i want to focus on online Teaching profession I have command over many subject of Graduation in Commerce stream like Tax ,Cost and Account. so can any guide me How i can start.

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