Online Instructor Certification and Certificate Programs

Certification programs in online instruction require students to take classes, and may also require them to teach classes on their own, pass a written exam, submit to student evaluations, and produce a final essay or portfolio. Certification programs can take anywhere from six months to two years to complete.

Essential Information

Online instructors must be competent in a number of skills, such as email, computer operating systems, current online educational software (like BlackBoard or Moodle, for example), online testing and audio chat software. Most people who earn online instructor certifications are already instructors, or are qualified to teach in a brick-and-mortar classroom.

  • Prerequisites: Nearly all participants have a master's degree or teaching certification.
  • Online Availability: Some schools offer classes for certification programs online.
  • Program Length: Six months to two years.

Online Instructor Certification and Certificate Programs

Online instruction is very different from face-to-face instruction and requires a different skill set. Once admitted to an online instructor certification program, students will take courses to become familiar with tools for teaching and assessing online, effectively communicating with online students, and designing online courses. To complete a certification program, a final project, such as an essay or portfolio may be required, as well as practice teaching online.

Here are some courses that might appear in an online instructor certification program:

  • Teaching online
  • Developing online curriculum
  • Students in the online classroom
  • Student-teacher relations online
  • Online evaluation

Career Outlook and Salary Information

Nearly all teachers who pursue this certification are postsecondary educators. The employment rate for postsecondary educators is expected to grow 19% between 2012 and 2022, which is faster than the national average according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( Also, an increasing number of postsecondary education institutions are offering distance learning programs, which may contribute to a faster growth rate for online educators.

A postsecondary educator working full-time teaching made a median annual salary of $62,330 in 2014, according to the BLS. It should be noted, however, that many online instructors work as adjunct professors; salaries also vary widely according to subject area.

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