Ajarn Street

How to teach online in 2018

An updated overview of this fast-evolving industry

A little over a year ago I wrote an article for Ajarn which discussed my move to teaching English online as well as the pros and cons. 

At the time, I believed it to be a pretty good overview for anyone looking to supplement or replace their classroom income. However, it’s become obvious that an update is needed as the online teaching industry has evolved significantly in the past 18 months.

It’s now 2018 and while the online teaching space might seem saturated with employers, there are really only 3 main players thanks to their millions in investments and their celebrity endorsements:

The three main players are

  • Dada (formerly DadaABC)
  • Magic Ears

This article will focus on what it takes to get hired, teach, and excel at these leading online employers.

Being an Online Teacher in 2018

It’s never been better to be an online teacher - all the major employers are engaged in a hiring blitz as they seek to lock in teachers to support the growing demand from students located in  China and Japan.

Online teaching jobs abound and assuming you are a native speaker and decent experience (degree not required), there is a job out there for you.


There are only 2 main requirements that exist across the 3 companies:

  • Native speaker
  • Experience or degree

Because these companies are marketing their teachers as being native speakers (Magic Ears goes further and requires only American or Canadian applicants) there is little room for negotiation here.  Teachers will need to submit documents and go through training so don’t try and lie about your English ability.

However, when it comes to your experience, there is a little wiggle room.  Despite being strict on their teachers’ accents, Magic Ears doesn’t require a degree (though VIPKID and Dada do), meaning if you have even a little relevant experience you can make it through their interview process.

In addition, there also technical requirements needed to be able to support an online classroom.  This mostly boils down to internet speed (computer type rarely matters) and while some companies will insist on at least 20mb download speed, you should have no issue with 5mb.

What Does Online Teaching Pay?

You’re not going to get rich teaching online but you’re not going to go hungry either - the average salary is around $18/hr, though it is possible to make up to $25/hr with bonuses & incentives.  It’s worth noting that while these higher rates are heavily advertised to entice applicants, it is not easy to get to that level.

Reports show that anything over $20/hr requires teachers to hit all their bonuses (attendance + good student reviews), teach for an extended amount of time (you make more with seniority), and teach a full class schedule (because classes are almost always 30 minutes).

Because of these factors, it’s better not to assume you’ll earn these higher rates unless you teach for a while though I did interview a teacher making $75k with VIPKID by teaching about 70 hours a week!

Though it’s outside the scope of this post - you can make significantly more money teaching for yourself and it seems to be pretty common to test the waters with an established company and then attempt to land your own students.

I don’t have any experience doing this but know that Jack over at http://www.teachingeslonline.com/ offers some good training to anyone who is interested.

Landing Your First Online Teaching Job

Because of the increasing popularity in teaching online (VIPKID has more than 50,000 registered teachers), most employers have a pretty thorough (and often automated) application process.  It almost always begins with a traditional online application that disqualifies you if you don’t meet the basic requirements (remember, if you lie, you will be found out during the next steps).

Following the application you will have a traditional interview via Skype with a manager where they will brief you on the role and its responsibilities.  After this interview you will be provided materials that go over the company’s teaching methods as well as a lesson plan to be used for a mock lesson.

You will then have another online meeting with a manager (and often another teacher) where you deliver your mock lesson and answer questions regarding the materials that were provided to you.

After all of that, will either be asked to do another lesson (if your first one was subpar) or offered a job with compensation that reflects how well your lesson + recollection of the materials went.

Finally, once you have filled out all the remaining paperwork you will be added to their teaching platform and start to be assigned classes.

This process can take anywhere from 1-4 weeks depending on how quickly you move through the steps and applicants are usually welcome to reapply if they don’t receive a job the first time around (though you will need to repeat the entire process).

Next Steps

While there are some obvious similarities between these 3 major online teaching companies, it’s obviously important to research each in depth before applying.  If you want more detail, we have created detailed hiring guides for each complete with detailed requirements, salary information, interview process overview and a look at their platform & working hours. 

You can view those here:

Is It for You?

Even though I no longer teach online, I am still a huge fan of the industry - it’s perfect for anyone looking to make some extra money, stay at home parents needing to work around their kids’ schedules, or even digital nomads searching for a job they can do anywhere (this couple has been using online teaching to fund their travels for the last 2+ years).

In addition, this industry is still in its infancy - there is tremendous opportunity for teachers who start now and stick around (Magic Ears even offers non-teaching opportunities to its best teachers).

Quincy Smith is a former teacher and founder of ESL Authority, a site aimed at making ESL teaching accessible and easy to understand for everyone.


Technology use in education is a must for the future of the industry. Online teaching is one large strand of this future but i can imagine that cancelations are a negative. As well as the 'lets keep changing teachers' as there are millions to choose from.

I know it says demand for native speakers is through the roof but the prices will come down over time. Not only because of india and the phillipines charging 4-5 dollars an hour but the access by new apps etc will mean students charging by the second and have thousands of platforms to choose teachers.

Its a great use of technology to make extra money but i wouldnt want to do it full-time unless i had great awareness of many companies offering online; researching to find who's ok and who is not ok.

This is something that i have looked at doing recently as a way of extra income. But not with my eyes closed.

By Sash, Bangkok (13th July 2018)

Dada has the worst materials I have ever worked with online and I'm pretty sure that they're not paying signup bonuses for demo lessons and they have pretty much scrapped the monthly attendance bonuses. They have a real Maccy Dee's feel about them but you'll find lots of rave reviews as they pay their teachers to write them.
VIPKid saturated their platform with teachers a while back and people weren't getting bookings (at least that's what I've been told.) Besides, they'll only hire Americans.
I've never even heard of Magic Ears and I've been working in the industry for almost 3 years.
Hujiang is one of the better of the bigger companies to work for and they are larger than the three previous and their materials are interactive and more student-centred.
Personally, I feel that the best companies to work for are the smaller indy companies that use platforms like Zoom, in which, you can share the screen and have more control over your lessons and the content.

By Steve, Bangkok (13th July 2018)

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