Online Instructor: Career Education for Online Instructors

May 10, 2021

Online instructors have more flexibility in terms of where they work--they can often work from home--but must be knowledgeable enough to use technology to teach their subject. Get more information about job requirements, salary and employment prospects.

Essential Information

Online instructors teach self-enrichment, adult education, business, computer science and other subjects via the Internet. They develop lesson plans and assignments as well as advise students and monitor their progress. The educational requirements for online instructors vary according to educational level and the area of expertise; however, knowledge of online learning is essential. Many of these professionals have master's degrees, and some also earn a doctorate.

Required Education Relevant master's or doctoral degrees
Other Requirements Knowledge of Internet technology
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029) 9% (postsecondary teachers)*
Mean Annual Salary (2020) $86,430 (postsecondary teachers, all others)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What is an Online Instructor?

An online instructor is a teaching professional who specializes in distance or online programs. Many distance and online education programs are designed for adults who may not have transportation to a campus location, who have special circumstances or who have busy schedules. While teaching an online course, teachers communicate with their students through online message boards, e-mails and phone calls rather than in-person meetings.

Career Education for Online Instructors

Because online courses are offered at a variety of educational levels, education requirements vary for instructors. Teachers who teach lower-division online courses may only need a master's degree. Those who want to teach higher-division courses may need to earn a master's degree and a doctoral degree.

Along with necessary teaching degrees, online teachers must also have a proficient understanding of Internet technology. Some teacher education programs offer in-depth courses which focus on software, presentations, projects and research materials for prospective online instructors. Online teachers can find a number of online sources, journals and tutorials.

Because of the remote nature of online instruction, online teachers need to ensure all students are at a proper level of comprehension. Online instructors must pay close attention to cues such as low test scores, confusion, common questions and homework scores in order to help students meet requirements for passing a course.

Job and Salary Information for Online Instructors

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the general job outlook for all postsecondary teachers was good from 2019-2029, with jobs projected to increase much faster than average by 9% during that time. Because of the efficiency of online education, more institutions were expected to feature online courses in the near future. The BLS reported a wide range of annual salaries for postsecondary educators depending on their fields of study. For teachers of unspecified subjects, which the BLS categorizes as 'other,' the mean annual salary was $86,430 in May 2020.

Graduate study is usually a requirement for postsecondary online instruction, because an instructor must be an expert in their field or specialty. Job prospects for online instruction are good for the next few years, as colleges and universities continue to make use of new technology and offer more online courses.

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