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Tips to Get the Online Teaching Job You Desire

written by: Laurie Patsalides•edited by: Laurie Patsalides•updated: 12/2/2011

Get a head start before applying for that online teaching position with these tips on what you will need to succeed.

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    More Opportunities Than Ever Before

    Teaching college classes online is an attractive option for many graduates with teaching degrees. While there are many teacher positions being cut nationwide due to budget constraints, the online teaching environment is experiencing the opposite, growth. The reason being, there are more students going to school online from pre-kindergarten to PhD studies than ever before. In line with this trend, more schools are providing online programs to maintain enrollment status.

    There are online teaching positions that are outside of higher education, but the pay is minimal. To make a living at it, you will most likely need to teach as an adjunct instructor for a community college or even a smaller private college.

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    Education Requirements

    All of the major universities offer online classes. These schools require their instructors to have a doctorate degree in their field. The professors teach the online classes or their teaching assistants (TAs) do. You probably won’t have much success trying to teach online for these institutions unless you are degreed. While they do use some adjunct instructors, they typically don’t seek them out.

    In the community college world, things are different. Due to lower degree offerings (i.e. associate's degrees) and sometimes budget constraints, these colleges hire mostly adjuncts to teach their classes. To become an adjunct, you will need at least a master's degree. Colleges don’t have to pay benefits to adjuncts because they are not full-time employees. This leads to high turnover. Therefore, community colleges are constantly hiring adjunct instructors. Many of these offer online classes.So your best bet in landing a job teaching online is to research these community colleges to find out which ones offer online classes in your field.

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    Researching the Possibilities

    Community colleges rarely advertise a need for online adjunct instructors. You have to find the colleges that have distance learning in your field and contact them. I would recommend sending an e-mail to the distance education department expressing your interest and the process to apply if it is not posted on the website. I would also send an inquiry letter/e-mail to the head of the department of the subject you teach. This person is usually responsible for hiring the instructors. If there is not a need for an online instructor, at least they will have your information. Most hiring, though, begins through the human resources department, so check the site carefully.

    As mentioned before, almost all of the colleges offer online courses. Some are strict about only using existing faculty to teach these courses, but many are not. Some of the colleges that hire many out-of-state adjuncts to teach online courses are Park University, Florida Community College in Jacksonville and Darton College.

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    Tips to Land the Job

    You should have a reputed online presence in the degree you desire to teach. Publishing online articles, blogs, and participation in professional online communities in relation to academia will enhance your resume.

    The online teaching environment is different from a traditional learning environment. You must be able to speak and write well. You will be required to give frequent feedback and communication through lectures, discussions, assignments, and grading and critique. Highlight your attributes in these areas.

    You also need to be technologically adept as courses are delivered in an asynchronous, Web-based mode. Reliable, high-speed Internet, good typing skills and a computer with significant enough memory to support the software for the course are necessary. Flexibility is a must as computer glitches happen.

    You may be required to include with your CSV letters of recommendations, a teaching philosophy, a sample of a syllabus you have created, and your academic transcripts so have these ready to go before you start applying.

    As with any employment position, do your homework. You want to know about the college history and philosophy, their degree offerings and the position offered.

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    Hard, but Not Impossible

    It can take some time and persistence to land an online teaching position, but it can be done. While there are certainly more jobs, you want to be sure to stand out among the other applicants. Remember to be proactive for yourself and seek out positions before they are posted. Make your professional status known in the field you would like to teach and make sure you have the technological tools to succeed before beginning your search.

    Laurie Patsalides, M.S.Ed., is a teacher and writer. She has adapted this article to meet the needs of inquiring teachers. She has extensive experience working in an online environment and has also studied the qualifications of an adjunct professor for her own personal interests.