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How to Become an Online Teacher

January 13, 2023

Online teaching is a valuable offshoot of the digital revolution. Virtual teaching platforms make education more accessible to students by allowing them to receive a quality learning experience remotely. Some schools even allow K-12 students to enroll in a balanced mix of online and in-person courses. This equips them with modern technology skills that they will be able to leverage later in life as they enter the workforce or pursue higher education. 

The benefits of online learning are not limited to the students, though—online teaching jobs often offer the perk of allowing faculty members to work from home. This, combined with flexible hours, makes learning how to become an online teacher a valuable goal.

The Importance of the Online Teacher Today

Today’s children have never known a world without the internet. Thanks to innovations like smartphones and their associated channels of communication and social interaction, connecting and engaging online is a common practice for many kids. Teachers who develop the skills to be effective online teachers can bring a unique source of educational engagement to their students.

Online education can pay dividends for students in the long term. It can prepare them to fully embrace the online skills of the future, including digital information literacy and information sharing. Online teaching should not be viewed as a complete replacement for the traditional classroom setting. A Pew survey noted that 65 percent of all students surveyed said they preferred a completely in-person learning experience. However, online teaching has been and will remain an important tool for building a comprehensive, holistic educational experience.

Steps for How to Become an Online Teacher

Whether someone decides to become an online teacher, a traditional teacher, or a teacher who works in a blended learning environment, the requirements are very similar. Private and charter schools have more flexibility regarding whom they can hire, so the required qualifications can vary. However, public school teachers must complete a specific set of basic educational requirements.

1. Pre-licensing Requirements

The minimum education is a bachelor’s degree—preferably one in education or the subject the individual will be teaching, such as mathematics or English. In some states, high school teachers may be required to earn education degrees in specific subject areas. Furthermore, the majority of states require prospective teachers to complete a teacher preparation program. These programs are often part of a bachelor’s degree curriculum, and they teach students the fundamentals of education. 

Future online teachers also need to gain supervised education experience before they can apply for a teaching license. The total number of hours required varies, depending on state regulations. Individuals can complete these supervised teaching hours during their time in a bachelor’s program, through an internship, or after graduation.

2. Licensing and Certification

The next step for someone working toward a teaching career is to apply for a teaching license or certification. These certifications are offered in different tiers, based on the grade level in which teachers aspire to work. For each level of certification, applicants must pass certain exams, which vary from state to state. 

Most states require candidates to pass a fundamental skills test and a subject area competency exam. The skills test is based on reading, writing, and mathematics and helps the state to determine a teaching candidate’s academic capabilities. The competency exam allows candidates to demonstrate their skills in a specific grade and subject area.

In most cases, the assessments of elementary school teacher candidates cover multiple subjects, because elementary school education covers a wide range of topics. Middle school and high school teacher candidates take subject-specific exams to prove that they can administer specialized lessons. Licensed teachers should be able to qualify for in-person and online teaching positions in grades K-12, but a graduate degree is usually a requirement for opportunities in college-level online education.

3. Transitioning Into Online Education

Educators who instruct online must be prepared to confront complex challenges that they may not face in a physical classroom. Their prior education and experiences prepare them to collaborate with students and support staff to achieve critical learning objectives, but transitioning to an online environment requires proficiency with modern information, communication, and learning technologies. Therefore, teachers who aim to excel in online education must continually pursue professional development in their fields. This includes seeking mentorship from senior online teachers, pursuing continuing education opportunities, and staying up to date on the latest trends in online pedagogy.

Beneficial Skills for Becoming an Online Teacher

Teachers who aim to excel in online education must continually pursue professional development in their fields to hone their skills and expertise. This includes seeking mentorship from senior online teachers, pursuing continuing education opportunities, and staying up-to-date on the latest trends in online pedagogy.


Becoming an online educator means being student centered and motivated to work independently with minimal supervision. Their goal should be to focus on delivering a high-quality education to their students.

Technological Proficiency

To manage virtual content, teachers must be adept at using online education platforms. Understanding how content and learning management systems work makes it easier for online educators to design online courses and deliver lessons remotely.

Virtual Classroom Communication               

Communication in virtual classrooms is quite different from communication in traditional classrooms. Online teachers need to be able to administer lessons and provide feedback without being physically present. Likewise, they need to understand how to limit inter-student conflicts and behavioral issues while fostering student-to-student discussion and collaboration. They may also want to seek out public speaking tips to sharpen their communication techniques with online learners.

Use Online Teaching Tools               

Citing links to website references is common when planning online coursework. Online educators should have the ability to search for legitimate links that they can include in assignments. Information literacy helps them determine which links are relevant and beneficial to the curriculum. Becoming an online teacher is a new age career path that is growing in popularity. 

When learning how to become an online teacher, it is important to recognize that the actual requirements often differ based on geographic location and grade level.

Guide the Next Generation to Success 

When you strip away all the technological innovation that comes with virtual classrooms and hybrid learning, determining how to become an online teacher still boils down to determining how to become a good teacher. Because teachers possess the noble goal of helping students learn and flourish, they can impact student lives dramatically. This makes teaching a perennially satisfying career choice, whether in person or online.

American University’s online Master of Arts in Teaching program can ready you to embark on this dynamic career. Our program is designed to help you gain the knowledge and skills needed to instruct students in an engaging, meaningful way, all within a framework that fits your busy schedule. Learn how we can help you pursue your career goals with confidence.