How to Get an Online Teaching Position

Virtual instructor jobs offer many advantages but some disadvantages

Online Teacher
Nycretoucher/Stone/Getty Images

Teaching online can be very different from teaching in a traditional classroom. An instructor who accepts employment teaching online must be prepared to help students learn without face-to-face interaction and live discussion. Teaching online isn’t for everyone, but many instructors enjoy the freedom of virtual instruction and the opportunity to interact with students from around the nation.

To find out if teaching online might be for you, explore the pros and cons of e-instruction, as well as the requirements necessary for becoming a virtual instructor and the ways you can find a job that allows you to reach and teach students right at your computer.

Qualifying for Positions

In order to qualify for a position teaching online, applicants must generally meet the same requirements as traditional teachers. At the high school level, online teachers must have a bachelor’s degree and a teaching license. At the community college level, a master’s degree is the minimum requirement for teaching online. At the university level, a doctorate or other terminal degree is generally required.

In some cases, colleges accept adjunct online professors without requiring them to meet the same standards as traditional, tenure-track teachers. (Teacher tenure, sometimes referred to as career status, provides job security for teachers who have successfully completed a probationary period.) Working professionals may also be able to land an online teaching position in relation to their chosen field.

At every level of teaching online, schools seek candidates who are familiar with the internet and content management systems such as Blackboard. Prior experience with teaching online and instructional design are highly desirable.

Pros and Cons

Teaching online has many advantages. Virtual instructors are often able to work from anywhere they choose. You could get a job teaching online for a prestigious school in another state and not have to worry about relocating. Since many e-courses are taught asynchronously, instructors are often able to set their own hours. Additionally, instructors who make a living at online instruction are able to interact with pupils from around the nation.

Teaching Nomad notes that teaching online offers a great availability of jobs, flexibility, simplicity and a close, personal connection to students. That last advantage may seem counterintuitive, but large class sizes at brick-and-mortar schools often can prevent instructors from getting to know all of their students. Online, however, since your hours and time are flexible, you can reach out to each of your students individually, get to know them and provide one-on-one help as needed. Using a computer also negates the need to print out hundreds of tests, quizzes and even syllabi and course outlines since all material is presented online.

Teaching online, however, also comes with some drawbacks. Online instructors must sometimes teach a prepared curriculum, denying them the ability to use materials that have proved successful in past courses. Teaching online can be isolating, and many instructors prefer interacting face-to-face with their pupils and peers. Some schools do not value online adjunct teachers, which can result in less pay and less respect in the academic community.

Best Places to Look

Some colleges fill online teaching positions by selecting from the current faculty pool. Others post job descriptions specifically for instructors interested in teaching online. Not surprisingly, you'll find most online teaching jobs where you'd expect: online. For example, GetEducated, a free online counseling center for adult students as well as educators, offers seven websites that list multiple online teaching positions. When looking for positions on websites without a distance learning focus, simply type “online instructor,” “online teacher,” “online adjunct” or “distance learning” into the search box.