It used to be the case that teaching English was only really an option for native speakers.
But in this day and age, anyone with a comprehensible understanding of the language is more than capable of teaching it online, or in a classroom abroad.
We've taken a look at the top 5 companies helping ESL teachers get their foot in the door of teaching, and compiled an extensive list of their qualities.
Think of this as your one-stop-shop of all things ESL for non native teachers.
Star Teacher (First Future)
First Future is a long-established ESL company operating with teachers mostly in China. Their Star Teacher opportunity is quickly proving itself to be the product of choice for those looking to get into ESL.
It prioritises teaching in groups rather than one-on-one classes, and will allow you to teach children and teenagers – anywhere between the ages of 5 to 16.
They provide teaching hours throughout the week, but if you're prepared to work evening hours by Beijing time then you'll enjoy a lot more success.
You'll be teaching in classes of anywhere between 20 and 40 students; unless you teach VIP classes, in which case you can expect smaller classes – perhaps as small as only two students.
What do I need to work for First Future?
First Future emphasises a desire for cheerful and pleasant teachers, with your demeanour and character counting for just as much as your relevant qualifications.
They like their teachers to be cheerful and enthusiastic, to adapt their language for the skill-level of individual students, and to employ a well-lit teaching space and colourful backdrop to their classes.
What sort of qualifications should I have?
They'll also require a bachelor's degree at the very least – so if you haven't achieved this level of education then your options are going to be somewhat narrower.
What sort of pay can I expect with Star Teacher?
Star Teacher is quickly becoming a hit with TESL teachers across the globe, notably for its willingness to pay in native currency.
With a base pay of $18 per hour , its various bonuses and incentives allow you to increase your pay up to $20-$30 per.
As a rapidly growing company, your chances of promotion are excellent so long as you continue to provide outstanding service. Naturally, with a promotion you can expect an even more generous pay…
PalFish Freetalk allows teachers of all skill levels to conduct classes from the comfort of their own homes.
Using just your phone, PalFish can connect you to classes full of adults students waiting for you to teach them English as a second language.
PalFish Freetalk is proudly open to non-native speakers – as long as you can speak English they'll let you teach it!
What do I need to work with PalFish?
PalFish will allow any teacher regardless of formal education – the only thing you need is a stable internet connection on your mobile phone
If your internet is cutting out mid-class then that's obviously going to affect your ability to book lessons. If you can keep your connection stable, then you can work with PalFish.
What kind of qualifications will I need before applying?
As long as you are capable of speaking English to a conversational level, PalFish is happy to pay you to teach it.
This is a great place for non-native speakers to get their foot in the door.
What's the money like?
PalFish has no set rates, meaning you decide for yourself how much you think your services are worth.
With the ability to set your own rates and dictate your own hours, with no ‘minimum expected hours', you really are your own boss.
Skyeng is one of the fastest growing TESL companies working in Eastern Europe right now. They're still small relative to their Eastern counterparts, but growing noticeably faster.
Working with Skyeng removes you from the competitive ‘race' you'll feel with the companies operating in and around China, as each teacher is vying for a spot. This relatively smaller market will give you the opportunity to work at your own pace, and focusing on pinning down a structure that works for you.
What do I need to work with Skyeng?
As is quickly becoming a theme with these companies: you only really need a stable internet connection.
Basic hardware is suitable, but keep in mind necessary qualifications.
What sort of qualifications?
Skyeng as not quite so ‘laissez faire' as PalFish, for instance – you'll need to prove you've put in the work to be deserving of a place.
They'll expect you to be able to demonstrate a proficiency in English, with a qualification demonstrating your ability is up to C1.
They'll also want you to be able to speak about previous experience teaching – whether online or in person. If you don't have that kind of experience yet, then it's going to be harder to earn to earn the big bucks.
Speaking of… what's the pay scheme like?
Skyeng will reliably pay you between $5 – $10 per lesson, for each lesson that lasts 50 minutes. You'll also be granted access to lessons as a student, with up to 50% off language courses you might want to study yourself.
Preply is a language learning platform that excels at finding teachers to match their students.
If you want to make a serious living out of working as an English teacher online then you have to consider Preply.
Preply provides you with a calendar feature, which allows you to be totally flexible. Book classes around your daily routine, so you don't need to miss out on doctors appointments or regular lunches with a friend, just to keep the lights on.
You can teach students of all ages, and teach them the way you want to teach them. There's no prescription and instruction – you just start teaching,
There is a huge pool of potential students with Preply, and you'll be provided access to their own video platform which provides flawless tutoring face to face.
So what do I need to work with Preply?
Of course you need to typical ‘good internet‘, but there's a couple other things you'll need to keep in mind too.
Preply have a strong focus on the character of the teacher they work with, meaning they'll want you to be friendly and approachable. They'll want to see that you're passionate about teaching, and ideally they'll want to see proof of previous experience.
What sort of formal qualifications will they be looking for?
Well it's important to keep in mind that these are only ‘recommended', but failing to have them will hinder your chances…
They're going to want to see some kind of proof of a bachelors degree, and/or a TESL certification from a recognised body.
They don't mind if you're not a native speaker, as long as you're prepared to demonstrate proficiency. You'll need to jump through these hoops if you're looking to make some of the serious cash Preply allows for.
What sort of money can I expect to be bringing home?
Preply allows you to set your own rates – some teachers charge as much as $100 for their classes!
Typically you can expect to earn somewhere between $10-$25 per lesson, with the time of each lesson varying.
They guarantee you can withdraw the money you earn whenever you want, as well as guaranteeing payment for any and all classes taught.
Amazing Talker is a fantastic choice for those of you who would rather teach adults than children. What's great about this company is that they don't just target Eastern or Asian markets, but actually open themselves up to students from across the world.
Amazing teacher encourages you to teach as often as you're comfortable, with no minimum required hours. You're also encouraged to come up with your own, unique lesson plans.
So what do I need to work with Amazing Talker?
Well, they do insist on you being totally fluent in English. They won't let you get away with being conversational – you need to know your stuff.
Experience is a good attribute to possess, given that you'll be competing pretty heavily with tutors from across the globe. It isn't a necessity for working with Amazing Talker, but it'll definitely set you on the right track.
Having some kind of formal certification is recommended, but not absolutely essential. It'll definitely make the application process a whole lot smoother though, as it's the easiest way of proving you're fluent in the language.
As with the other companies, you'll be expected to have and maintain a reliable internet connection.
So what would a typical class with Amazing Talker look like?
Each 25 minute class will match students to tutors via ‘match alerts'. Once you're ‘matched' then it's up to the student whether they want you.
Generally you'll be helping your adult students practice for speaking exams, and they'll expect you to know how to do that.
What's the money like?
Amazing Talker encourages you to set your own rate.
New and inexperienced tutors are generally charging around $10 an hour, but the more proficient tutors have been asking for as much as $25 an hour.