What: Teach English online to Chinese students

Expected pay: $14 – $22 per hour

Husl $core: $$$$

Where: National

Requirements:

  • A Bachelor’s degree;
  • high speed internet connection;
  • a powerful computer with an HD camera (or a separate web cam);
  • a resume;
  • pass interviews and other employee screening

Review: Hundreds of teachers have reviewed VIPKID on both Indeed.com and Glassdoor and the reviews are overwhelmingly positive, noting that base pay starts at $7 – $9 per half-hour (depending on your credentials) and can be increased through a series of bonuses, allowing teachers to earn as much as $22 per hour. The catch? Classes are taught after dinner in Beijing, China, which puts them in the middle of night for many people in the U.S.. If you live in Los Angeles, for instance, the peak weekday hours are between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. The hours aren’t quite as tough if you’re on the East Coast, however. And they may be just the ticket for parents who want to spend days with their own kids and don’t mind working at odd hours during the night.

The only substantial complaints about the company appear to be about technology and cancellations, which get you nicked pay ($10 per cancellation) and can ultimately cause you to lose your position. Teachers are also not guaranteed work. They’re chosen by the students and the students may be bigoted. African American teachers complain that they’re less likely to be chosen than, particularly, white males. Also, unlike normal teaching positions, you get very little additional pay for advanced degrees. And, you apparently are more popular as a teacher if you act silly while teaching in your orange VIPKID t-shirt. The bottom line: This can be an attractive opportunity, but perhaps, not for everyone. We’ve included an unusually large sample of reviews to help you evaluate whether this hustle suits you.

You also may want to consider Wyzant for high-paying tutoring positions.

What their teachers say:

“I have been with the company over a year. I love everything about it. It is a great job. The hours can be a challenge. As an independent contractor there aren’t any benefits, but the job itself and the company is an excellent work from home teaching position. I am very, very pleased.”

“I was skeptical at first because it looked like a scam but I tried it anyway. It’s a time consuming interview process but if you practice and follow all directions it’s easy. I passed and have been teaching for 3 months now, I love it!! I get to stay home and make money. I have to wake up earlier than I would like but I’ve gotten used to it. Everyone is very supportive and I enjoy ‘going to’ work ! The children are adorable and so eager to learn it makes waking up early or staying up late manageable 🙂 Their cancellation policy is very strict however you’re in charge of your own schedule so just don’t sign up for what you can’t handle.”

“This is truly one of the best jobs i have ever had. throw on my orange shirt and walk down to my home office (while the rest of the family sleeps} and teach sweet, loving children across the world. So you may have to wake up earlier then you may want to…but it is so worth it to be done by 10am. You make your hours…open up time slots that the parents can book for their children. Check it out….cant beat it.”

“I am on the East Coast so the best hours to teach are 5-9 am (winter) and 6-10am (summer) and on weekends. I love that I set my own schedule so I can take off a day if I need to take my children to a dr. appt or similar. I work about 10-12 hours/week and make about $950-1000/month. There are lots of incentives/bonuses available. I do not qualify for all of them, but that’s OK b/c I’m already getting paid $20+/hour. Sometimes I do not receive timely communication from the company but there is a Facebook webpage where 2500+ teachers participate so I often get my answers there. The company is 12-14 hours ahead of me so usually questions get answered overnight while I am sleeping. The kids are so fun! I learn about Chinese culture while they learn English. It is not perfect but I am home for my family and making a decent wage.”

“It is competitive and difficult to get hired (this isn’t necessarily a con, you want them to be picky and selective about who their teachers are… it makes sense), only about 10% of applicants get hired. Depending on your time zone, you may have to wake up at odd hours in order to get booked. Upon being hired, it takes some time for your schedule to fill up. Orange shirt required (not that big of a deal but I look bad in orange.)”

1. Wonderful StudentsI had the opportunity to share my passion of the English language with many children who were (mostly) eager to work hard and learn. I never would have imagined that it was possible to form such a strong bond with kids who live half a world away. You don’t have to deal with nightmare traffic if you live in a large city. If you are a parent, you can stay home. It is possible to earn up to a $2 bonus per class at the end of the month depending on your attendance record and the number of classes taught. There are various other incentives that change from month to month; these can help you earn extra money on top of your base pay. There is a company-run forum (Freshdesk) in which teachers strongly support each other and answer each other’s questions. Working solely online can make one feel isolated, but this feature provided a sense of community. Various workshops are available for teachers looking to strengthen their abilities or enhance their classrooms. But….Cancelling a class for ANY reason is highly frowned upon by the company. Exceeding the allotted number of cancellations (roughly three working days per six-month contract) can result in termination with no consideration for a teacher’s overall rating and attendance record. So many loyal teachers fear losing their jobs and are experiencing undue stress simply because illness, IT issues, and other emergencies have caused them to exceed the meager number of allotted cancellations. It is well-known that China has persistent internet issues. If you as a company are not going to acknowledge this fact, then at least hire more IT staff to support the growing number of teachers and students. This will especially cut down on the number of classes that are haphazardly labeled as “Teacher IT Problems.”

“Every teacher is allotted the same number of cancellations whether they teach 15 or 70+ classes per week.The teacher has three minutes to enter the virtual classroom. Failure to do so (even if network issues delay classroom entrance) will automatically result in a “Teacher No-Show” and a $10 deduction from that month’s wages. Before there were 15,000+ teachers, the platform typically ran well. However, during the last six months (as of July 2017), the sheer number of students and teachers logging on at once has bogged the system down significantly. I upgraded my equipment THREE times over the course of a year and changed phone companies to invest in a backup hotspot, but many issues persisted (including flickering cameras, sound lag, and echoing/feedback). While the support staff were generally helpful, they were inundated with requests for assistance and were sometimes quick to label the class as a “Teacher IT Problem” rather than take the time to resolve the issues. This practice was particularly troublesome because teachers are not paid for classes with this label.

 “They have a VERY strict cancellation policy. The flexibility in your schedule is there initially, but you have to open your schedule booking 2 weeks in advance, so if an emergency comes up, it is nearly impossible to cancel or miss a day without severe penalties, and potential job loss. The penalty includes docking pay, and you get mysteriously ‘shut out’ from the bookings, so you cannot be seen by parents on the portal. They do not communicate this, nor tell you when and IF you will be opened up again. SO you enter this weird zone of silent ‘punishment’ from China with no response (other than scripted automated, with language and time lag barriers) waiting for the issue to ‘resolve.’ It can be a weather outage, internet issue, inability to log in due to their rapid expansion and overtaxed network, or a broken leg – all are treated the same. If you work 80 classes a week (40 hours, full time) or 10 classes a week (5 hours) you get the same amount of cancellations before you are locked out and terminated. Communication is poor, fireman (IT help) are very subjective in how they label classes (Teacher IT are VERY common mislabels, and you get are penalized when the issue was on student end) Parents are always right, and some of them are VERY overbearing, and sit in and interrupt he lesson, using poor English at that. It was MUCH better in 2016 before their rapid expansion, now -it is turn and burn, and they seem to care little for outcomes, and less for teaching staff. The system is overwhelmed, and communication/policies are poor.

“VERY little support -you will find more support/answers on fb teacher groups.”

 “Depending on your timezone, the hours might be in the middle of the night; some kids will scream into the mic and no one will help you stop them (not the parents, not the company), which can lead to permanent hearing damage/loss and tinnitus, which the company seems to care very little about; if you have a child that hurts your ears or is mean, the company will not stop them from booking with you again (if you want to stop it, it will count against your contract); pay is not commiserate with your credentials or work for the company and any raise is based on nearly unattainable standards (nearly perfect parent feedback, etc.), so someone with an MA will make the same as someone with an AA, a 20 year teacher will make the same as someone with very little teaching experience, etc.; there are no benefits and you have to file your own taxes, as the company got dinged for not having employees file correctly and, instead of putting their employees as “employees,” they misclassify them as “independent contractors,” but there is not much that can be done b/c they have NO presence on US soil and going after them in China is very hard; the company looks for any way to maximize profits from employees and puts a lot of penalties on them (for trial class no-shows and student IT problems, they are docked 50% of their pay; if they cancel a class 24+ hours in advance, it doesn’t cost anything, but counts toward their contract; 2-23 hours in advance is $2 off their pay; less than 2 hours is $10 off their pay; they may be forced to take IT problems when it is clearly the student (which results in $0 for the class); they may be forced to take a teacher no-show when they are having an IT problem and the firemen (tech/classroom support) do not respond; etc.); there are not enough firemen (tech/classroom support) to be useful, and they often do not help at all; the process of getting further help is lengthy and often fruitless/rude; the slides often contain incorrect grammar or punctuation, and the teachers are expected to send in corrections for no extra pay (they have an entire department that should handle this, who actually get appropriate pay and benefits, but put it on us); the slides often contain copyrights or free-from-the-internet clipart; the lessons are either too short or far too long; parents expect you to act like a cartoon and may leave bad feedback if you are not animated enough or have enough props, even if you taught their kid lots of new material; teachers are expected to fill in any gaps in the curriculum; sometimes, you are teaching kids violent words or slurs (gun, kill, fop); parents will often sit by and try to teach over you, which confuses kids, or correct your natural English accent incorrectly (common ones are V = W and W = V, short A = long I, short I = long E, etc.), and no one will help you; the company calls itself a school, but kids might take you to the restroom or parents might bring in a pee-pot so kids can pee while you are trying to teach, which would not happen in a school; parents can force their students into much higher levels than they can succeed in, and the company will allow them to flounder, allow them to continue even when they fail assessments, etc., because the parents pay through the nose; parents can leave arbitrary feedback that will affect your stress levels, your relationship with the company, and possibly your employment and contract, and the company expects you to monitor this and submit appeals, which are often rejected quite rudely; kids might be distracted the whole class, and somehow you are to blame for them surfing the internet instead of taking their English lesson; the company charges over $40 for 25 minutes, and you get a small fraction; one of the main American investors is a disgraced athlete; they used to offer monthly incentives, but messed up really badly a few months ago and had to pay out quite a bit, so now all of the incentives either only benefit brand new teachers or have really tough goals to meet; the company wants to use your ideas to further themselves, but offer horrible rewards that continue only to benefit them (they will feature your teaching tip if you earn a set number of points… or you can get a letter from the CEO… who cares? Send Dino dolls); the absence policy is insane and you are only allowed 6 per 6 months contract; excused absences are only allowed for things like hospital admission, so if you get sick, be prepared to teach while coughing or vomiting, unless you have the ability to be docked pay for your cancellations; the company makes it really hard to get past the interview process, but constantly tries to get you to recruit (out of about 15 people who have tried under me, TWO have passed, and some of them have been teachers for over a decade); representation for diversity in the lessons is laughable- there is ONE African American character of many and the lessons about the US are so nonsensical that an American wouldn’t recognize it as true; from what I have read, teachers of color have much lower booking rates than white teachers, and male teachers are preferred (though the majority of teachers are actually female). Overall, the company cares about money, not education or its “teachers.”

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