Introduction to Teaching English Online

About Online English Teaching Jobs in China

Online English teaching in China

Due to the recent pandemic, and the layoffs that followed, many people are searching for online work. One of the jobs often seen posted online is teaching English to Chinese students. “Anyone can do that, right?”, I was asked by an interested friend. My answer was, sure, it’s possible, but you should know a bit about what you are getting into beforehand. So, I wrote this article to give readers at TEFL.net some general information about specifically getting a job with an online English teaching company based in China.

Why China? 

Many parents in China are eager to have their kids paired up with a native English speaker, as the mother of one of my former students said, “learning the English language is key to opening doors.” Chinese parents value education more than anything, and they realize now, due to globalization, that the key is English in China. As there is a lack of native speakers based in China, parents are wanting you to teach their kids online. 

Online English demand for China surpasses any other country, by a mile. An estimated 8 million students are learning English online in China, and that number is growing! The English boom in China is forcing educational companies to chase after teachers from overseas and they are posting many ads online to do so.

The Students 

Most of these online jobs, especially for newer teachers, are teaching Chinese elementary school students, usually aged from 4 to 12.  There are positions teaching adult students but the vast majority of the positions are for younger learners. Although I am focusing more on kids’ lessons in this article, if you are interested in teaching adults I would recommend applying to the company English First which, although not based in China, connects teachers with many adult learners in China.   

Some teachers that do teach youngsters do like a variety of ages. In that case, if you would like to teach teenagers as well, I recommend the company DaDa. Although most of their students are youngsters, they teach students up to 16 years old. While many other companies, like VIPKID, focus on younger learners below 12 years of age.  

The class format for most positions is one-to-one with a younger learner. Regarding multi-student classes, teaching an online class of more than one student can be overwhelming, even for experienced online teachers. For newer online teachers, I would recommend sticking with one-to-one lessons to start with.

What Will You Be Teaching to Young Learners? 

You will be teaching phonics, vocabulary, very simple questions around a topic. Topics can include feelings words (happy, sad, angry etc.), classroom language, daily routines, and so forth. The teacher should pronounce very clearly and help the student along with gestures, if needed, whether you want them to repeat the sound, draw, listen, or speak. It is a somewhat animated style of teaching, as young students have a short attention span. The job is to keep them engaged and on the right track. 

The platforms are usually provided by the company. The lessons will most likely have 3 open windows on your screen. One window is of you, the other is of your students and the third is the interactive white board that you both share and use at the same time. The curriculum is preloaded with all the lessons and materials that you need to follow and complete for the specific lesson. These e-materials on the interactive white board contain songs, phonics, matching games, and stories for children to learn; both the student and teacher can write or draw over them. Most lessons follow a syllabus but you may also need to prepare some of your own material if needed.

The Schedule

The nice thing about the classes are that they are flexible, ideal for part-time workers or students who want to rack up some extra cash on the side. However, there are a few things you should know. The peak weekday hours for teaching online are between 6pm and 10pm Beijing time – most teaching will be within this time slot. This causes a few issues. The first is that there are usually not enough hours in a week to consider this a full-time job even if you are seeking a full-time schedule. Secondly, if you live in North America, the peak hours are usually between 2am and 6am PST, not ideal of course.  Weekends are better as the peak hours are in the evenings in America (mornings in Beijing time).

Regarding the classes, most companies have 2 classes in an hour, as most children’s lessons are around 25 minutes long, giving you a few minutes’ rest between lessons. As a new teacher, there may be fewer students to start with, but this can build up very quickly, especially when the new semesters begin every 3 months or so.

What Education Will You Need?

Regarding the education needed to apply, the requirements are changing and companies are becoming somewhat more demanding. Most companies require a university degree as well as a 120-hour TEFL certificate. Many companies also want to hire teachers with at least 2 years of teaching experience. Having said that, if you are a good teacher and you do well on the interview, there is no reason why you can’t find a job online as there are so many companies out there, you will just have to hunt a little harder.

Earning Potential

Hired by a Chinese company, an online English teacher’s wage is around $20 per hour paid by direct deposit, usually twice a month. However, the range could be anywhere from $12 to $35 per hour. The salaries vary depending on experience of the teacher, the company pay scale, teacher credentials, the course they are teaching, and seniority in the company. There are also incentive programs where you can be paid bonuses if students extend their lessons as well as if you complete a certain number of classes per month.   

Depending on how many hours you would like to put in every week, it does give you a good opportunity to stash some extra cash. Potential savings could be anywhere from $1000 extra dollars for a part-time worker working a few days a week, to $2-3000 for those with a lot of availability and willing to work as much as possible, including weekends.

The Tech Side of Teaching Online

As mentioned, most companies will offer their own platforms provided by a third party. On your end, you will need a decent connection as well as, of course, a microphone and web camera.  Before the interview, most companies will test your connection with online software, ensuring there won’t be any tech issues beforehand. Many of the companies also require certain browsers as their software is isn’t always compatible with all browsers. This information is always given beforehand.

Applying

Here is a quick list of a few of the most popular online English teaching companies for kids in China: 

After filling out the online application, you will most likely hear back to have an interview set up. Give it a shot. You may love it! 

If you do wish to apply, I wish you all the best on your exciting new teaching endeavor!

Thank you for reading this article and comments are always welcome.  

Written by Armando Pannacci for TEFL.net May 2020
Arm is an ESL teacher with over ten years of experience teaching English in Thailand, Korea and Canada. He has a bachelor's of social work degree and received his certificate in TESOL from TESOL Canada.

8 Comments

  • Armando Pannacci says:

    Well, that is a good question. I am not sure exactly. The best way to find out is to apply and see what happens.

  • Margarita says:

    Thanks for an informative arcticle! I wonder if these jobs are for native speaking teachers only

  • Armando Pannacci says:

    Hello Mukesh and Ala, if you click the companies listed in the last section, it should direct your to their individual application pages….just fill that out. Hope that helps!

  • Jo Bunney says:

    Thank you for a real down to earth informative article which clearly gives the reader the pros and cons of teaching online in China.

  • Ala says:

    I’m not clear: where is the online application? Can you send me a link please?

  • Mukesh Chandra says:

    How to apply? I don’t find any application form in your article. Please help.

  • Armando Pannacci says:

    Sure, I hope it helped you Sharon!

  • Sharon Case says:

    Thanks for a cool and very clear explanation. I’ve been looking all over

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