Do you need a degree to teach ESL online?

The headline news here is that in many cases a degree isn't necessary for teaching English online. We will elaborate on this aspect further in this article.

The standard prerequisite to teach ESL, either in-person or online, is a 120-hour TEFL or TESOL certification. This is typically viewed as the baseline qualification that most employers demand.

Employers also look for additional qualities, which include but are not limited to:


Employers highly value any formal teaching experience. This could be as minimal as a few hours of real-class teaching during your TESOL training or volunteering at a summer school. The more your experience aligns with the type of teacher they are seeking (for example, teaching children or adults), the better. Ensure that your resume reflects all your teaching experiences.

Additional Qualifications

These should be relevant to the job you are applying for. For instance, you might have completed a specialized training course in ESL, such as teaching young learners, business English, or online teaching - these should be emphasized. Other useful qualifications to highlight might include a bachelor's degree in any discipline, a BA degree in an English-related field, a B.Ed degree, and similar.

Native English Speaker

Certain jobs might necessitate being a native English speaker, generally defined as being a citizen of specific countries. These are typically the USA, UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. Often, it is also stipulated that candidates should not possess a strong regional accent from these countries.


While the previous list was somewhat restricted, it is often extended to include countries where English is the first language. This expanded list could include India, the Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, and South Africa, among others.

Online teaching platforms that do not require a degree


Typical hourly pay rate = US$10-30

Minimum weekly hours = 4


Typical hourly pay rate = US$8-13

Minimum weekly hours = 5

Verbal Planet

Typical hourly pay rate = US$12-26

Minimum weekly hours = None


Typical hourly pay rate = US$5-35

Minimum weekly hours = None


Typical hourly pay rate = US$10-45

Minimum weekly hours = 8


Typical hourly pay rate = US$10-12

Minimum weekly hours = None


Typical hourly pay rate = US$8-13

Minimum weekly hours = 10


Typical hourly pay rate = US$10-16

Minimum weekly hours = 15

These online platforms represent a cross section of those available and the figures shown above were correct at the time of writing (May 2023).

As there are so many platforms available for teaching English online, we recommend that you do plenty of independent research before making a final choice.