Pros and Cons of an Online Instructor Career
Online instructors typically teach remote postsecondary classes through the use of e-mail, discussion pages and video. Learn about more pros and cons of this career with the table information listed below.
|Pros of an Online Instructor Career|
|Flexible schedule with the possibility to work anywhere that has an Internet connection*|
|Relatively high wages (postsecondary instructors made an approximate median annual salary of $62,000 as of May 2014)*|
|Sharing your expertise with students can be rewarding*|
|The number of students attending postsecondary institutions is expected to grow*|
|Cons of an Online Instructor Career|
|Master's degree or Ph.D. often required*|
|May need previous teaching experience*|
|Might need to balance teaching with research responsibilities*|
|Often must communicate with students on weekends or evenings*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Online instructors use digital platforms to teach courses in a variety of subjects. These instructors can work for different types of educational institutions, including professional organizations, community colleges, vocational schools and universities. Although most online instructors provide postsecondary education, some teachers might also teach at the secondary school level, usually as a temporary employee. As an online instructor, you could provide distance learning to students who are pursuing their education entirely online, or you might supplement a local program through an Internet-based course.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that employment of postsecondary teachers would increase by 19% from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). This growth was faster than the average for other jobs. Much of the growth will be driven by an increasing number of students using education to help meet their career goals. Some of the growth might be hindered by financial cuts to government programs that support educational institutions.
As of May 2014, postsecondary teachers made a median annual income of about $63,000, according to the BLS. That year, the bottom ten percent of postsecondary teachers made yearly salaries of about $25,000 or less. The BLS also stated that the top ten percent of earners in this field made $135,000 or more each year.
What Are the Requirements?
Educational requirements for online instructors can vary depending on your institution and the subject matter you plan on teaching. For example, many community colleges require a master's degree, while most universities require a doctoral degree. You may need experience in the field you teach in. If you're an online professor at a research university, you might be expected to conduct research and present findings, in addition to your teaching duties. For those who are instructing high school students, you typically must already hold your teaching license, which requires you to complete a bachelor's degree and teacher training program.
Other requirements for online instruction usually include having a reliable Internet connection and a personal computer. You typically must hold basic word processing skills and have excellent written communication skills, since you might be keeping in contact with students entirely through e-mail messages and discussion posts. Some employers may require instructors to undergo training sessions to learn about the school's specific online learning platform.
What Do Employers Look for?
Employers usually look for highly-educated instructors with computer and Internet fluency, as well as past teaching experience. To give you an understanding of what employers may request, here are some summaries of job postings from May 2012.
- A California technical institute advertised for an online instructor to teach business classes. Qualifications included having a doctoral degree and a minimum of three years of experience working in the business field.
- A community college in Iowa looked for an accounting instructor to teach distance classes, as well as some evening or weekend courses. This position required a graduate degree, and applicants must meet accounting teacher accreditation standards.
- In Illinois, a college wanted an instructor who could teach speech through the school's online platform. Because speaking face to face is part of the curriculum, instructors were required to include four hours of speaking time, in person, on the college's campus each semester. Qualifications for this position included a master's degree in speech communication and experience teaching at the college level.
- Another California college advertised for an online finance instructor. The position required a master's degree in finance and experience in the field. Candidates also needed to meet on campus for faculty meetings, committees or other in-person commitments.
How to Make Your Skills Stand out
While it's true that some colleges only require a master's degree for online instruction positions, earning a Ph.D. can give you an edge over the competition and qualify you to work at universities. Having prior teaching experience in your field can also set you apart from other job candidates. You could gain this practice by serving as a graduate teaching assistant and taking on your own class or discussion section.
The greater aptitude you have with computers and online systems, the better your job prospects. Taking a computer science course could prepare you to properly communicate with students and possibly solve any technology issues that might come up in an online classroom environment.
Career or Technical Education Teacher
If you want to pursue a teaching career, but don't wish to go to graduate school, you might become a middle or high school tech teacher. Career or technical teachers facilitate occupation-based classes that can cover subjects in business, computers or culinary arts. These teachers need a bachelor's degree and a state teaching license or certification.
According to the BLS, the demand for tech and career teachers was projected to grow little between 2010 and 2020. As of May 2011, middle school career and tech teachers made a median annual income of about $54,000. Those teaching high school made a similar median income of about $55,000 that year.
Postsecondary Education Administrator
For those who wish to earn a higher salary in the education field, you might become a postsecondary education administrator. These administrators may oversee admission, student services or other business aspects of a postsecondary institution. Qualifications include a bachelor's or master's degree, and in some cases, teaching experience. Demand for these administrators was expected to grow by about 19% from 2010-2020, which was average. As of May 2011, postsecondary education administrators made a median annual wage of approximately $84,000, according to the BLS.