Online Instructor Educational Requirements and Career Info

Sep 10, 2019

Online instructing is a high-growth field due to major changes and innovations in education. Engaging writing skills are key to add personality to the virtual classroom. Strong academics, traditional teaching experience and adaptation to emerging technology are key requirements.

Essential Information

Distance learning and online education has expanded the need for online instructors. Online instructors use content management systems, message boards, chat rooms and email to deliver course materials, assignments and tests. These teachers typically need to have a bachelor's or master's degree. Professional experience and state teaching certification are also commonly required.

Required Education Bachelor's or master's degree
Other Requirements Professional experience and teaching certification usually needed
Projected Job Growth (2018 - 2028)* 11% for all postsecondary teachers, 3% decline for all postsecondary vocational education teachers
Median Salary (2018)* $65,660 annually for all postsecondary teachers, $53,120 annually for all postsecondary vocational teachers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Educational Requirements for Online Instructors

Online instructors must usually hold a master's degree in the field he or she wishes to teach; however, some schools may accept a bachelor's degree. For example, an individual interested in becoming an online English instructor should hold a master's in English, or a related subject, from an accredited university. Additionally, most schools require candidates to have 3-6 years of professional experience in their field of instruction. Some schools also require state teaching certification in the particular subject.

Individuals interested in teaching a technical subject, in which a master's degree is not available, such as auto mechanics, must comply with different requirements. Though there is variation by state and subject, schools generally require that individuals have several years of hands-on professional experience in addition to holding state and board certification in the area of instruction.

Several universities offer continuing education and certification programs for faculty and staff to instruct courses online. These courses and programs are designed to help postsecondary teachers learn the school's particular course content management platform, design and execute courses online and manage electronic communication with students. Other skills included in these programs include basic graphic design and web development as well as techniques for facilitating communication and collaboration online via virtual classrooms, blogs and pod-casting.

Career Info

An online instructor creates and administers online courses. Sometimes he or she must design the course completely, while other times, a current classroom curriculum must be revised for online delivery. Online instructors are also responsible for communicating with staff, administration and students via email, chat rooms, message boards, blogs and instant messaging. Additionally, online instructors facilitate individual and group discussions, assign and evaluate tests, manage course content and provide feedback to students in a timely manner.

Online instructors may work at traditional universities, community colleges, online universities or online vocational schools. While the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics ( doesn't separate information on online instructors from traditional instructors, it reported that in May of 2018, postsecondary teachers earned a median salary of $65,660 and postsecondary vocational teachers earned a median salary of $53,120. Actual wages depend on the school and area of instruction. Some online instructor positions are full-time and pay a salary, while many others are part-time and pay per course.

Online instructors have a high projected growth rate that is visible in the considerable number of new online courses available, and degree programs devoted specifically to online course design. A master's is usually preferred for these positions, as is several years of teaching experience, although requirements vary, depending on the subject. Expert communications skills and proficiency in technology are critical to success.

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