Teaching English online is one of the most consistent and rewarding jobs for first-time digital nomads. Teaching English as a foreign language is a job with soul, not a mindless slog to work for eight hours, five times a week.
But how does one quality company set itself apart from a mediocre (or awful) one?
I’ll make it easy for you…
Over the last few years, VIPKID Teachers has consistently ranked as one of the top companies employing English teachers online. They have enabled thousands of people to make a difference in students’ lives while earning an income and being mostly location-independent.
Below, I cover how to get hired by VIPKID as an online English teacher. I’ll give you everything that you need to know about the hiring process, including VIPKID interview tips, needed qualifications, pay/salary, and much more!
If you are wanting to get a job with a badass, respected company leading the field of online English learning, this guide is your ticket! 🙂
Why Choose VIPKID?
Landing a job as a VIPKID teacher is awesome for loads of reasons. Here are five I think you’ll find compelling:
- Teaching English online gives you much more freedom than teaching in a traditional classroom, whether you’re working from home or traveling the world.
- VIPKID lets you set your own schedule so that your job doesn’t feel like a regular 9-5 (which many of us backpackers avoid like the plague).
- The staff at VIPKID arm you with everything you need to be prepared for your classes! Let me say it another way: you never have to design or produce your own lesson plans. Now let me stress: lesson planning can add loads of unpaid hours to your week, so it’s a huge advantage for the company to do all that for you.
- Once you land a job, you’ll be guaranteed a 6-month contract to work for VIPKID. There’s a pro and a con here. On one hand, you’re tied to a contract (loosely, though) and on the other hand, you get the benefit of some stability, which isn’t super common in the digital nomad world.
- To be a VIPKID teacher is to be a part of a well-supported community of people who are equally passionate about both the teachers’ and students’ experiences.
Now, let’s take a closer look at VIPKID before we jump into the hiring process.
What is VIPKID?
Founded by Cindy Mi (read her story), the VIPKID teacher-to-student platform connects Chinese students with native English speaking teachers online. As of summer 2020, they employ 100,000 teachers! That’s…. a lot of teachers.
The company provides an international learning experience to children in China between ages 4-12. Headquartered in Beijing, they offer fully immersive one-on-one English language instruction provided online by highly qualified teachers.
The VIPKID curriculum is based on the U.S. Common Core State Standards and uses a flipped-classroom approach to foster creativity and critical thinking skills.
Table of Contents
Before Applying to be a VIPKID Teacher
Before we dive into the interview phase and the hiring process for VIPKID, you should be aware of the qualifications needed in order to be considered for employment, pay/salary, and contract details. I’ll cover vital bits of information regarding what to expect as a VIPKID instructor.
Or, apply for VIPKID right now!
VIPKID Teacher Qualifications
VIPKID is pretty specific about the type of individuals they hire. It is important to note that if you are NOT from the US or Canada then you are NOT eligible to be hired by VIPKID. If this disqualifies you, don’t get discouraged! There are other online English teaching companies worth your application.
Here are the qualities and certifications VIPKID likes to see:
- You must possess a 4-year Bachelor’s degree (in any field of study).
- Applicants MUST be from the USA or Canada.
- A TEFL certificate is encouraged (but not obligatory).
- You must be a native English speaker.
How Much do VIPKID Teachers get Paid?
First things first. The money!!
How much you get paid is directly influenced by your initial performance as a teacher. Student retention, finishing your classes, not missing scheduled classes, and the length of time you've worked will also determine your pay from VIPKID (and evolving pay rate).
VIPKID pays up to $22/hour depending on how efficient you are. In digital nomad economics, that's pretty damn good if you are living somewhere cheap like South East Asia. In the world of English teaching (in China or anywhere) $22/hour is GREAT money.
As an independent contractor, your VIPKID paycheck is calculated on a per-class basis (scheduled in 30-minute slots) and is composed of a base pay between $7-9 + incentives. Your base pay will be determined by your VIPKID demo lesson (so knock your demo performance out of the park).
With VIPKID, everything is performance-based. If you do a good job and they like how you teach, you will certainly reap the benefits.
Do Teachers at VIPKID get Offered Contracts?
Yes, they do! VIPKID signs 6-month contracts with applicants who get through the entire hiring process.
Depending on what you're looking for, a 6-month contract is a blessing for those who want a stable income.
Most other online language learning companies do not offer anything longer than a 3-month contract. Some do not offer a contract at all.
On the other hand, committing to a job that lasts 6 months is game over for some backpackers. It is important to keep in mind, however, that you can choose your own schedule and how frequently you work (within reason)! Also, given the fact that you can be a VIPKID teacher from anywhere in the world, you still really do have heaps of freedom and flexibility to do what you want to do in your personal life.
I say don't be intimidated by the 6-month contract! A guaranteed online income is truly a blessing. If you have done any sort of digital nomad work before, you know exactly what I'm talking about.
VIPKID Bonuses and Time Off
So if you become a VIPKID teacher, do you have to sell your soul in exchange for your unending loyalty and time for six months? Hell no.
VIPKID—whilst they would prefer you to work throughout your contract—does allow for time-off if you provide the company with at least 2-weeks notice.
If you are sick or have an emergency that you need to attend, you must give VIPKID 24 hours notice, at least. A last-minute cancelation will result in VIPKID charging you for your absence. Fair enough. If a kid on the other end has paid for the lesson and you don't show up to teach it, well, then that's on you.
VIPKID gives bonuses for things like completing your classes, working on holidays, and showing up on time to teach your lesson.
All VIPKID instructors are re-evaluated for a raise at the point of contract renewal (after six months).
How to get a Job Teaching English Online for VIPKID
So you're still interested in being a VIPKID tutor, are you? Good! Get excited, because the fun is just beginning! In order to get hired as a VIPKID teacher, you'll need to apply. The application process is like this:
- Sign up on the VIPKID website using your email and personal information (name, etc).
- Short questionnaire/survey (5 minutes to complete, and be sure to be honest when filling this in).
- Wait a couple of days until VIPKID emails you back.
- Set up an interview slot using the VIPKID web interface.
- Either schedule a live interview/demo class or a recorded interview with VIPKID instead. Either way, you'll need to rock this!
- Get hired, sign the contract, and start teaching! Or, if you didn't get hired, you can re-apply and try again!
Want to discover other awesome companies hiring online English teachers? Check out my in-depth article about how to find a job teaching English online.
VIPKID Interview and Demo Class
When the time for your interview or demo lesson with VIPKID, you need to take it seriously. This is your moment to shine.
You will need to display how you can explain your activities to a foundation level student, elicit complete answers from the student, and demonstrate your ESL teaching skills and time management awareness.
Also, be prepared to use the slides as it is very obvious if you have never looked at them. If you don't seem to know them very well, it could result in a failed interview with VIPKID. More on the slides in just a minute.
This crucial stage in the VIPKID hiring process—possibly the most important moment you will face during your time as a teacher— will determine your fate as an online teacher and also your VIPKID paycheck.
Really though, you need not be freaked out by this process. If you are overly freaked out, you likely won't do well. Remember: a failed VIPKID interview is ok. You can always re-apply (which seems to be encouraged).
I believe they are intentionally quite picky during the VIPKID hiring process for the purposes of attracting only those hungry enough to really want to become a teacher.
VIPKID offers two different types of interviews at this stage as I mentioned before:
The Two Types of VIPKID Interviews
- Live video interview with VIPKID hiring staff is the first option. During this live interview, you will be asked to perform a demo class. The material for your demo class will be provided to you in the form of slides. Again, make sure you have the content of the slides down perfectly, to the point you're dreaming about them.
- A recorded interview with VIPKID that is not live. Some people may prefer this method (as I do) as it gives you time to craft the perfect demo lesson free of mistakes. One downside to this method is that you may be prone to coming across unauthentic or overly rehearsed. At least at the beginning, you'll never have a class go as smoothly as your pre-recorded demo class. If you go down this road, remember to be yourself and don't re-record the damn thing 100 times. Let your inner teacher work some magic! Flow.
Top VIPKID Interview Tips (You'll Nail These!)
- My biggest tip for the either VIPKID demo lesson or the interview is to practice and be prepared to the best of your ability. VIPKID instructor requirements don't necessarily demand experience teaching English, but you should still have a basic idea of what they are looking for in a good teacher.
- You can log into the virtual classroom at least 1 hour before. Do that and get yourself familiar with the interface.
- Watch some VIPKID training videos - there are lots on Youtube.
- Crucially, make sure all of your computer equipment works. Test your microphone, speakers, and above all else, make sure that you have a rock-solid internet connection to work with. Don't shoot yourself in the foot with a lousy wi-fi connection. If your internet goes out on you during an interview, you are fucked.
- Position yourself for the interview in a place with good lighting. Make sure all of the areas in view of the person on the other side of the screen are relatively tidy. Wear a suit. Ha! Just making sure you are still paying attention...
- Remember to speak clearly, annunciate your words, and pace yourself (not too slow, not too fast). Every move you make and every word you speak is judged on some level. That said, I can't emphasize enough how important it is to be yourself.
- You are not applying for a job on Wall Street. You are trying to become an online English teacher so that you can live the digital nomad life you've always wanted!! Don't lose sight of your goal by overstressing and over-thinking the interview.
- Study the hell out of your slides, have a strong cup of coffee, and crush your interview! I believe in you, young online English teaching Jedi!
Review VIPKID's Slides!
Yes, your slides for your demo class! I may be repeating myself here but that is because the importance of studying the slides bears repeating.
The VIPKID staff member interviewing you will know if you don't bother to learn your slides. They will know and they will not hire you. Simple as that.
Want to give yourself the best possible chance to become a VIPKID tutor? Study the hell out of your slides and show up to your interview ready to own it. Your interviewers will know your serious about this gig, and that can only lead to good things.
Get to Know the VIPKID Teacher Performance Indicators
Your interview will be judged on a variety of factors called performance indicators.
Most of the time your interviewer will not explicitly say what you're judged on. Luckily, VIPKID makes it easy on potential teachers. They give you the whole list of performance indicators! Get to know these indicators so you can prepare accordingly. Again, crush your interview and things only get easier...
What's Next? The VIPKID Mock Class
So you just aced your VIPKID interview. While we’d like to extend an enthusiastic “CONGRATULATIONS” to you, the process is not over. You must still complete a series of mock classes with VIPKID before getting hired.
What are mock classes? As the name implies, you will essentially be conducting a trial classroom session. You will be assigned a MCM (Mock Class Mentor) who will do their best impersonation of an ESL student and will assess your competency in teaching them.
If you pass, you will be one step closer to becoming a VIPKID-certified teacher. If you failed the VIPKID mock, don’t worry you can take it again. (A lot of people actually fail their first one so don’t feel bad!)
There are a lot of factors that go into a successful VIPKID mock course:
- Since this is a precursor to how you will be interacting with real children, you will be critiqued heavily on personality. You need to be able to engage with inattentive kids who are even more inattentive at a computer. Smile, be enthusiastic, charismatic, fun; anything that would be interesting to a child.
- You will be asked to teach one of several mock VIPKID courses, which will be chosen at random. This means that you will need to study ALL of the courses. These will be provided in the new VIPKID Certification Center.
- Be smart with your time as your management of it will be assessed. One of the surest ways to have a failed VIPKID mock course is by not finishing your rubric with the allotted time.
- You will be expected to use props during this mock lesson. You’ll want to have some sort of writing board at the very least and will receive bonuses from VIPKID’s MCM for having a reward system.
Additional VIPKID Certifications
VIPKID has been changing a lot recently and appears to be tightening its hiring process. VIPKID now requires you to provide some sort of certification, be it in the form of an actual, third-party ESL certificate or by taking a test. Reportedly, this is because the Chinese government may require everyone teaching online to have the proper credentials.
What this means is that you’ll probably have to obtain additional certifications before VIPKID can hire you. Most likely this will come in the form of the aforementioned test.
The current certification test was developed with TESOL and is meant to test your ESL skills. It’s nothing new or intimidating - just another assessment device that the Chinese government is demanding of online English teachers.
VIPKID provides study materials for you to take and pass the test. Luckily, you can take the test online as many times as you want, so don’t fret too much. The interview and mock VIPKID course were probably much scarier. This is just a bureaucratic permit.
You can also provide VIPKID with some sort of ESL certification from a third party in order to pass this phase. You’ll get to skip the test and will most likely be offered a contract of employment.
Speaking of which, this is the final step! After passing the interview, mock class, and certification courses, you’re practically in the clear. Just gotta wait for that offer sheet!
What's it like to be a VIPKID Teacher?
Hurray, we have made it through the interview process! Now that wasn't so bad, was it?
Now we get to look at the nitty-gritty of what it is actually like to be a VIPKID instructor living the digital nomad dream.
Actually getting into the virtual classroom with students is the best part of the job. As is the case with any new experience in life, there is a learning curve. You will make mistakes, but there will be moments of triumph.
The fact is, there are opportunities for you to learn and develop as a VIPKID teacher around every corner. As time marches on and you gain more confidence and experience, teaching English online feels less and less like a complicated job and more like just something you do naturally a few times a week.
Teaching a Class as a VIPKID Teacher
Good news! As I said earlier on, VIPKID teachers do not develop their own lesson plans. That doesn't, however, mean that you can show up to class hungover and ill-prepared. All the same, VIPKID does make it easy on you.
The VIPKID curriculum team has already designed materials for every class. However, teachers must prepare for class by reviewing the class materials beforehand. Teachers may preview class materials in the classroom on the teacher portal 6-12 hours in advance.
Basically, you have plenty of time to get yourself organized. You will never be surprised or not know what you will be teaching.
I'd like to point out, it's a huge relief to not have to prepare your own lesson plans because you have WAY more free time outside of your online classes. You still need to prepare, as you now know, but with a fraction of the effort that English teachers abroad have been facing for decades.
Note: all classes take place on an educational interface VIPKID has developed to facilitate one-on-one sessions.
Do VIPKID Instructors Need to Communicate with the Parents of Students?
No! And even if that was somehow asked of you, I am guessing that you don't speak Mandarin or Cantonese!
Thankfully, VIPKID staff does all of the behind the scenes work with inquisitive parents. This is just one more burden lifted from your shoulders.
I think you are starting to see how different teaching English online is from a traditional classroom setting.
The energy that you have to spend figuring shit out on a daily basis is far, far less when you are working as a VIPKID teacher online!
No needy parents to deal with. No lesson planning. Is there actually any work? For sure! There is plenty of work that goes along with teaching—but that is the only type of work you have to contend with. All of the little extra stuff that typically drains teachers with life-force sucking intensity is simply not apart of the equation.
How Many Students does a Teacher Work with at Once?
All VIPKID online classes are one-on-one.
I truly believe that the one-on-one model is best for students as well as teachers. When you only have one student's needs to focus on, you can really make a breakthrough, and see growth and progress.
A majority of other online language learning platforms pair teachers with four or more students at once. Teaching one student at a time is a joy. You'll see.
Do VIPKID Teachers Always have the Same Students?
At VIPKID there is a constant revolving door of students. In a perfect world, you would be paired with the same set of students for multiple classes. Sometimes your schedule works out that way, but basically, you will be teaching any student who books your class.
Students who have good chemistry with teachers keep coming back for more, so you do end up seeing many of the same faces, though to be honest, you never really know who will book your class until they do.
What is the Schedule of a VIPKID Instructor like?
When it comes to scheduling, VIPKID teachers do have quite a bit of flexibility.
Teachers must enter their weekly availability one month in advance. Teachers’ weekly schedules are sent out each Saturday at 10AM Beijing time. Classes can be booked during the week, no less than 24 hours in advance.
The more you are available, the more you can teach, and the more beer and yoga you can afford in Bali.
In order to maximize the number of classes scheduled, you should be available at least 7.5 hours for VIPKID (15-time slots per week at 30 minutes per time slot) during Beijing peak times.
The following hours tend to be the most requested time periods for VIPKID tutors (Beijing time): Monday-Friday 6-10pm, and Saturday-Sunday 9am–10pm.
Working a full shift is not a rigid VIPKID teacher requirement, but having availability during the times mentioned above could ensure a higher possibility of student bookings.
VIPKID sets no limit on how many hours a teacher teaches during peak and non-peak time. Teachers have 100% control over their schedule! Yay freedom!!
Final Thoughts on Becoming a VIPKID Teacher
Well guys, there you have it. We have reached the end of my guide to becoming a VIPKID teacher. You are now ready to apply to become a teacher yourself!
I hope you have found the information in this guide useful, and, above all else, I hope you use it to land your dream job working as an online English teacher in the near future (or whenever is right for you).
Teaching English online is never an easy job. Remember, it IS a job—though for digital nomads and backpackers looking to earn a steady online income from wherever the hell they want, it is one sweet gig.
Of all of the ways to make money online, working as a teacher is simply one of the most consistent and rewarding jobs you will ever find.
Discover your inner talents as a teacher. Make an impact on a kid's life. Earn cash to keep the road reflecting in your sunglasses for a long, long time.
Whatever your motivation is, if you have enough of it (motivation that is) then I'm sure you will be successful in your endeavors with VIPKID and beyond.
Please share with us your experience working with VIPKID and anything that may be changing in the company. The online world is ever-shifting and we do our best to stay on top of it!
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Need More Inspiration?
- Guide to Teaching English Online
- Teaching English Abroad
- Best Travel Jobs for Backpackers
- Who is Cindy Mi?
- Teaching English in Japan
- Essential Travel Tips
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Chris Lininger is a writer, photographer, and guide from California. He is an advocate for off-beat responsible travel and the preservation of the world’s wild places and spaces. Chris is also a founding member of Epic Backpacker Tours and leads expeditions to Pakistan throughout the year. He is currently riding out the pandemic in Bali. Follow his adventures on Instagram.