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Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an online teacher. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties, and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.
Online teachers lecture, prepare curricula, administer coursework, and integrate distance-learning technology into their digital classrooms. These educators combine traditional teaching methods and technology to instruct students at all grade levels, from kindergarten through college. Educational requirements to teach online might include bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degrees, depending on the grade level taught.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree (K-12) |
Master's or doctoral degree (postsecondary)
|Other Requirements||State teaching license |
Courses in online instruction
|Projected Job Growth* (2012-2022)||Kindergarten-middle school: 12%|
High school: 6%
|Median Salary* (2014)||K-12 salary range: $54,120 - $56,310|
Postsecondary salary depends on course level and major
*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Educational requirements for teachers working at online schools typically mirror requirements of teachers working at traditional brick-and-mortar buildings. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), all teachers working at public schools who teach grades K-12 must meet state licensure requirements (www.bls.gov). Requirements for a regular teaching license include completing a bachelor's degree program, taking a state-approved teacher preparation program, and obtaining state licensure. Teaching positions at the postsecondary level usually require a master's or doctoral degree in the subject area taught. Additionally, many online educational institutions require teachers to take classes to better understand the methodology and technology used to teach online courses.
Online teachers are trained educators who typically specialize in teaching students at a particular grade level between kindergarten and college. Besides creating a curriculum, assigning homework, and setting up quizzes, online teachers have the additional challenge of organizing and tailoring their coursework to make it accessible and visually compelling to students accessing course materials remotely. As part of the process, they often combine traditional learning tools, such as books and handouts, with online tools, such as message boards, chat rooms, videos, and online media presentations.
Educational institutions offering online courses often compensate online teachers based on their course loads and online teaching experience. For example, Bergen Community College in New Jersey provides three levels of training and compensation, based on online teaching experience (www.bergen.edu). Full-time faculty members who teach online courses at Southern Oregon University are compensated at standard rates, but they receive additional pay when teaching online courses causes them to exceed their normal course loads (www.sou.edu). The pay for teaching an online course at Southern New Hampshire University, as of 2015, was $2,200 for a 9-week undergraduate course and $2,500 for a 10-week graduate course (www.snhu.edu). Online teachers employed by Lawrence Tech in Michigan, whether as full-time faculty or adjunct instructors, received $3,000 per course, according to data obtained in April 2015 (www.ltu.edu).
Although industry-wide salary averages for online teachers aren't readily available, the annual median salaries for elementary school, middle school, and secondary school teachers were $54,120, $54,940, and $56,310, respectively, based on May 2014 BLS statistics. The BLS specifies the salary data available for postsecondary teachers by categorizing by field. The overall median salary earned by all types of teachers at postsecondary schools was reported as $68,970 in 2012 by the BLS. The field of specialty can greatly influence the salary earned. For example, the BLS reported in 2014 that while postsecondary education teachers earned a median of $59,720, law teachers earned a median of $109,980.