According to a 2019 report by Meticulous Research, the online language learning market will reach $10.5 billion by 2025. As technology improves worldwide and more people gain access to the Internet, it isn’t surprising that industries like online education anticipate such growth.
Teaching English as a second language (ESL) online is already an excellent way to tap into the growing need for online language education. English is also the most commonly spoken language in the world if you count new learners alongside native speakers, and the demand to learn English isn’t diminishing.
If you want to join the more than 70,000 VIPKid teachers around the world and make money while working from home, VIPKid is worth considering. There are a number of hiring requirements and recent changes to the pay model to consider, so read on for a complete breakdown of what it takes to work for the leading ESL company in China.
What Is VIPKid?
VIPKid was founded in 2013 and officially launched in 2014. It didn’t take long for this Chinese startup to begin taking over the online ESL market. Within five years, VIPKid raised over $1 billion in funding from investors to help spur growth. VIPKid now reaches hundreds of thousands of students and employs tens of thousands of teachers around the world.
The platform helps educate children in China between the ages of 4 and 12. Classes are completely online, and VIPKid uses a virtual classroom portal to provide one-on-one instruction between qualified teachers and students.
The sheer reach of VIPKid makes this company an excellent choice for beginner and veteran online teachers alike. Other platforms can’t compete in terms of student numbers, and there are plenty of other perks of becoming a VIPKid teacher if you can get the job.
Unfortunately, changes to online education policy in China make it more difficult to secure an online teaching job. However, as long as you meet the following requirements, you’re eligible to apply to VIPKid:
- Degree. VIPKid teachers must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Partial degrees don’t count.
- Eligibility. You can teach for VIPKid from almost anywhere in the world that has a stable Internet connection, but you must be eligible to work in the U.S. or Canada. Additionally, VIPKid doesn’t accept teachers from California due to new legislation protecting gig economy workers.
- Fluency. You must be a native English speaker.
- TESOL Certification. Chinese education companies require teachers to have TEFL (Teaching English as a First Language) or TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification. Thankfully, VIPKid offers TESOL certification as part of onboarding for successful applicants.
- Teaching Experience. You must have two years of experience working with kids. Both previous education experience and other experience working with children in jobs like coaching or babysitting count toward this requirement.
- Background Check. VIPKid also runs a background check on applicants. You don’t pay a fee for this.
- Equipment. Teachers must have a microphone, webcam or built-in camera, and Internet connection with adequate speed. The Linux operating system and Chrome browsers don’t work with VIPKid’s online classroom portal. VIPKid also recommends that your computer has an Intel i5 processor or higher and 8GB of RAM or more.
The most important requirements are your degree, work eligibility, and native speaking ability. VIPKid can’t verify previous teaching experience, so this is really just a box you have to check off when applying.
VIPKid also suggests having a headset, a backup power supply, and a mobile hotspot in case of utility service interruptions. However, these aren’t hiring requirements.
VIPKid has a more rigorous application process than other online ESL companies like EF Education First. There are four steps in the application process, and onboarding generally takes several weeks to a month or longer.
Step 1: Submit Basic Info
To begin your application, sign up for VIPKid with your email or Facebook. Next, submit an online form containing your name, address, and information regarding previous experience in education or working with children.
Step 2: Participate in a Demo or Live Interview
There are two options to complete your interview. You can schedule a live mock class with an instructor or record your own five-minute demo lesson. Each option involves verbally instructing several VIPKid slides that are representative of real VIPKid lessons in the virtual classroom.
For the live mock interview, your interviewer pretends to be a five-year-old student. The recorded demo lesson requires you to instruct a short lesson without an interviewer present. You have unlimited attempts for self-recording, and this option is faster than scheduling a mock class. Typically, you receive results from your recording within 24 hours.
It’s a good idea to review VIPKid tips and ESL techniques before taking your interview or recording a demo lesson. This will improve the chances you pass, and these basic ESL concepts also make you a better online teacher.
This step is the most important phase for becoming a VIPKid teacher and is the largest barrier to getting hired. However, if you pass step two, you’re in the clear once you become certified and upload the required documents. You’re assigned a starting base pay per class in this phase based on previous experience and your skills.
Step 3: Teach Mock Classes & Get Certified
If you pass step two, you enter the certification phase. In this phase, you choose if you want to teach English at a beginner level, a high level, or both. High-level students have some English experience, so the curriculum is slightly more advanced.
Each level requires passing another mock class with a live interviewer, who once again pretends to be a student. You can teach as many mock lessons as it takes to become certified because by this point, VIPKid wants to hire you after your training is complete.
4. Sign a Contract & Take a TESOL Course (If Needed)
VIPKid requires a six-month minimum commitment in their contract. Once you sign your contract, you also upload proof of your degree and any additional ESL certification. VIPKid accepts photos of your diploma, your official transcript, or a degree verification form from NSC Verifications.
If you don’t have any teaching certification, you must also take a free TESOL foundations course.
Starting to Teach: Curriculum & Class Times
Teaching English online is a relatively flexible side gig. However, there are some important aspects of VIPKid’s curriculum and scheduling to know.
All VIPKid classes are one-on-one. Depending on your certification, you teach beginner-level students, slightly more advanced speakers, or both types of classes. VIPKid provides lesson plans in a slideshow format, but it’s a good idea to review them before teaching.
You instruct students in 25-minute classes. Teachers also take five minutes to leave comments for students and their parents following a class, meaning you can teach a maximum of two classes per hour. You never have to communicate directly with parents.
Unlike EF Education First, VIPKid places an emphasis on using props during your lessons and even encourages creating a backdrop that’s bright and welcoming for your virtual students. Teachers commonly use props such as gold stars or smiley faces to signal a student has done well, but VIPKid recommends a range of supplementary tools.
VIPKid doesn’t have an hourly work requirement for teachers, so you can set your own hours. However, VIPKid recommends that you be available at least 7.5 hours per week to maximize the number of classes parents schedule you to lead.
Additionally, teachers should schedule themselves during the following Beijing peak hours:
- Monday to Friday: Weekdays 6am to 9am EST
- Saturday: Friday at 9pm to Saturday at 9am EST
- Sunday: Saturday at 9pm to Sunday at 9am EST
If you’re on the West Coast, these times are three hours earlier; this means teaching during the week from 3am to 6am PST. Note that Beijing observes China Standard Time (CST) year-round, so these time conversions change by an hour when U.S. daylight saving time begins and ends.
As a VIPKid teacher, you enter your weekly availability one month in advance. Parents receive your schedule every Saturday at 10am Beijing time to help them plan lessons.
You can’t receive bookings with less than 24 hours of notice unless you add a short-notice booking to your availability. Adding this allows parents to book you for a class with as little as one hour’s notice. Short-notice classes pay a $2 bonus. Classes only pay a bonus if they’re booked with less than 24 hours of notice; simply adding short-notice availability doesn’t automatically boost your pay for all classes.
VIPKid cautions that it can take up to a month to build up a steady stream of classes because parents and students need time to get to know a teacher and build rapport. Other gig economy jobs are a better choice if you need extra money quickly.
How Much Does VIPKid Pay?
Teaching ESL online remains a realistic way to make money from home despite some recent changes. Previously, VIPKid’s payment model paid between $7.50 and $9.00 per class in base pay, alongside various bonuses such as short-notice classes. According to Glassdoor VIPKid reviews, teachers earned $18 to $22 per hour with this model.
In 2020, VIPKid made changes to their bonus structure and base pay. Base pay is now between $7.00 and $9.00 per class depending on your experience level, and the incentives are different. The new structure replaces participation and finished-class incentives and switches to a tiered reward system.
Under the new plan, the more classes you teach per month with VIPKid, the more money you earn. Teaching more lifetime classes as a VIPKid teacher also increases pay, which encourages teachers to work with VIPKid for longer.
Incentives range from $0.80 to $3.20 per class, making the new earning potential between $15.60 and $24.40 per hour. However, reaching the $3.20 bonus per class requires instructing more than 10,000 lifetime VIPKid lessons and 181 monthly classes or more.
Realistically, most class bonuses fall within the $1.20 to $1.80 per class range if you teach between 21 and 90 classes per month. If you teach fewer than 21 monthly classes, you only earn an $0.80 bonus per class regardless of your lifetime class total.
VIPKid is still rolling out these changes. You can view the bonus breakdown for a list of the tiers. However, the takeaway is that a part-time teacher currently earns between $16.40 and $21.60 per hour, largely depending on your initial base pay. If you teach fewer than 21 classes per month, pay decreases to $15.60 to $19.60 per hour.
Despite the slight reduction in base pay, VIPKid is still the most popular online ESL platform. Its size and reputation ultimately provide several advantages.
1. Wide Student Base & Opportunity
If you want to teach English online full time, applying to multiple companies is a good idea as it allows you to try multiple platforms and potentially increase your hours.
VIPKid doesn’t cap hours. As long as you get bookings, you can work as many hours per week as you like. Because VIPKid is the largest online ESL company, there are plenty of opportunities to grow your student base and monthly income potential without running out of students to teach.
2. Long-Term Rewards
VIPKid’s new payment model is worse for beginner teachers. However, as your lifetime class total increases, VIPKid steadily becomes more lucrative. As long as you teach more than 20 classes (10 hours) per month, the new structure won’t significantly harm your hourly wage.
It’s clear that VIPKid is moving towards favoring steady, reliable teachers. If online education is just a side gig for you, make sure you understand the implications for your hourly pay.
3. Ability to Set Your Own Schedule
VIPKid is a flexible teaching company that lets you pick your own time slots to work around your schedule. If you live in North America, this means working early mornings to accommodate China’s time zone.
However, it also means teaching for VIPKid won’t interfere with your full-time job or a night job.
4. Free TESOL Certification
TEFL or TESOL certification is a requirement for anyone teaching students in China. However, not every company covers the cost of this certification.
VIPKid includes a brief TESOL certification course as part of onboarding, potentially saving you up to $100. The course only takes two or three hours, and this certification is useful should you ever want to teach for other online ESL companies.
The new payment model and $0.50 reduction in base pay are certainly worse for new teachers. Additionally, VIPKid has several other disadvantages.
1. Slow Onboarding
Companies like EF Education First are much faster in terms of onboarding and don’t require a formal interview and mock-lesson practice rounds. Similarly, apps like Palfish simply let you teach students from your smartphone and feature speedy onboarding.
If you factor in VIPKid’s requirements, interview process, and the initial month when bookings will be slower, it’s not a fast route to making money from home.
2. Initial Cost
VIPKid strongly recommends using a headset and an external microphone. They also recommend using props and creating a welcoming backdrop to instruct from.
If you don’t follow any of these recommendations, there’s a strong chance you won’t get hired. Interviewers provide feedback following your demo recording or first mock lesson, which commonly includes tips like improving your environment and implementing props.
These don’t need to set you back hundreds of dollars, but factor in the costs and preparation that go into a strong VIPKid application.
3. 20-Lesson Threshold
If you earn the lowest base rate of $7 per class and teach fewer than 21 classes per month, you earn a maximum of $15.60 per hour. If you struggle to land classes, the opportunity cost of being a part-time VIPKid teacher might be too great.
In contrast, jobs like being a Shipt shopper or walking dogs with Rover pay similar amounts, if not more when you factor in tips. Plus, these other gigs are more flexible and potentially let you earn money faster because the hiring process is less intense.
Ultimately, this makes teaching for VIPKid worthwhile for anyone teaching more than 20 classes per month. Otherwise, you should consider other side hustles.
There’s a reason VIPKid is the most popular online English education platform. It makes an effort to only hire qualified teachers, and the platform streamlines everything from class scheduling to curriculum.
If you have a bachelor’s degree and want to make money online, it’s hard to find a job that matches the hourly pay of online education. As long as you’re willing to put in the effort for your VIPKid application and understand it’s a slower route to making money than many other side hustles, VIPKid is worth it.
Making the effort to surpass 20 classes per month also increases your pay. It might take time to grow your student base, but the process is worth it. After all, few side hustles give you the opportunity to make such a positive difference in someone’s life like teaching a new language.