Online Teacher: Educational Requirements for Teaching Online Courses

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an online teacher. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and required skills and tools to find out if this is the career for you.

To become an online teacher you have to have an advance degree. Salary, job growth projections, and job duties also matter when deciding if you want to pursue this career.

Essential Information

Internet-based education provides students with a timely and effective medium to gain their degrees. Online teachers provide many of the same duties as those who teach in classrooms, although they might not deliver lectures. These instructors utilize internet-based tools such as forums, social media and blogging sites to interact with students. Online teachers tend to work at the postsecondary level and therefore typically require a master's degree in their field.

Required Education Doctoral degree
Other Requirements Proficiency with internet-based technologies and teaching tools
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 13% (for postsecondary teachers)*
Average Salary (2015) $71,060 (for postsecondary teachers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Online Teacher Overview

Online teachers are instructors who teach courses through online forums and other online media formats. They also correspond with students through e-mail, chat rooms or message boards. Online teachers are able to address different learning styles by incorporating technology, written work and other group assignments into coursework. These teachers may not have any in-person contact with their students because all discussions and assignments are distributed online.

Online courses are becoming a popular substitute to traditional courses, since it's a more convenient way for busy professionals to advance their education. Online teachers often incorporate Internet activities involving blogs, social media, group activities or podcasts in their teaching.

Online teachers typically teach at postsecondary schools, such as colleges and universities. In most cases, the teacher of an online course will also teach courses on-campus, in addition to conducting research or producing published work.

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Education Requirements

In order to teach at the postsecondary level, teachers must typically hold either a master's degree or doctoral degree in the field of study in which they wish to teach. The level of education required typically varies between a 2-year college and a 4-year university.

In addition to the basic requirements for teaching at the postsecondary level, these professionals need a comprehensive knowledge of Internet resources and how to use them. Like traditional teachers, online teachers must incorporate engaging, active learning into their lesson plans and course material. There are educational programs that offer courses or certificates in technology-based learning for specialization in online teaching. Some skills that these courses or programs emphasize for online teachers can include student group work, online assessment, copyrighted material, Internet resources and course mapping.

Online teachers should also be open to feedback from their students. Some online teachers survey their classes to find out which activities, assignments or projects were most effective for learning.

Occupational Outlook

Data specifically for online teachers isn't available, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that employment of postsecondary teachers in general is expected to rise 13% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). This may be due to more faculty being needed as the number of students enrolling for higher education increases. As of 2015, the same source reported that the average salary of postsecondary teachers in non-specified fields of study was $71,060. Salaries for teachers at this level vary based on subject area. For example, postsecondary math teachers earned a median of $67,170 as of 2015, and postsecondary English teachers earned an average of $71,210, per the BLS.

Though a master's degree may suffice to become an online teacher, a doctoral degree is usually required. Salary varies depending on the type of subject you decide to teach, whether it's math, English, or a different field. Job growth is expected to grow faster than average for all postsecondary educators through 2024.


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