Education: A Guide to Work From Home Careers

Online learning and telecommuting provide a sense of freedom and flexibility with which traditional classrooms and cubicles cannot complete, but that doesn’t mean they are easy. Working from home requires one to be organized, disciplined and a self-starter. And to say the internet changed the way we learn and work seems almost insufficient, and recent trends suggest the revolution never ceased. One of the notable shifts in today’s classrooms and offices is their waning necessity; online school enrollments have grown dramatically over the last few years, and telecommuting or flexi-commuting is evermore commonplace.

The medium’s flexibility lets us accomplish more, expands our horizons, and enhances work-life balance. Scientific evidence suggests that working from home increases our productivity; reduces worker attrition; and makes us happier, healthier people. Studies even link meaningful environmental benefits with telecommuting.

Online learning and working can have a positive impact on virtually any industry or field of study, but few careers blend or demonstrate those ideals quite so well as online academic positions. The following careers have high telecommuting and online learning potential. The medium hit a major milestone in 2016 when researchers discovered that one in four college students enrolled in at least one online course. Colleges need more internet-savvy staff and faculty to keep up. Here are just a few of the online jobs available in education today.

Online Instructor

Salary Estimates

The Bureau of Labor Statistics. (BLS Oct. 2017) reports that postsecondary teachers earned a median annual wage of $75,430, though this rate includes both full-time and adjunct faculty. Online instructors are typically in the latter, which likely explains why the salary-tracking website Payscale reports online instructors earned an average of $47,693 annually as of early 2018. Earnings vary dramatically by institution and field of study. For instance, according to the BLS, law professors earned a median salary of $111,210, while criminal justice and law enforcement instructors earned $59,590. Public colleges paid the most on average that year, though private colleges and regional junior colleges were close behind.

Career Outlook

College enrollment is growing quickly across the board, but online schools are still growing much faster than traditional campus-based programs. The BLS projects that openings for full- and part-time college instructors will grow 15 percent nationally between 2016 and 2026, much faster than the national average for all occupations. Full-time non-tenure and tenure positions are expected to be much scarcer than those for part-time, or adjunct, instructors. Note that demand for online instructors will probably be higher in some fields than others. Health specialties and nursing school instructors may be in especially high demand.

Career Preparation: Online Degrees & Coursework

Education Requirements and Timeline

Online college professors usually need a PhD in whatever field they intend to teach, though junior colleges often accept master’s degrees and private institutions set their own employment criteria. Some instructors also invest in post-master’s teaching certificates, including those designed specifically for online teaching. Future instructors seeking PhD positions should be prepared to complete at least eight years of higher education, and often more. Combined master’s-doctoral programs can reduce this obligation slightly.

Average Tuition

Annual tuition at schools ranked among U.S. News & World Report’s Best Online Graduate Education Programs ranged from $177 per credit at Fitchburg State University to $14,265 per credit at Winthrop University. On the bright side, many online colleges do not distinguish between in-state and out-of-state students for tuition purposes, which could save the latter thousands of dollars during the course of the educational careers.

Coursework

Prospective online professors’ coursework is determined by their field of study. Graduate certificates in online teaching, on the other hand, tend to offer similar coursework from one institution to the next. For example, the Online Learning Consortium’s online teaching certificate program includes a ten-week foundational course followed by such targeted electives as online tools, online learners, blended learning and online science labs, among others.

Employers of Telecommuting Online Instructors:

  • Southern New Hampshire State University
  • Cambridge College
  • Tallahassee Community College
  • Monroe College
  • New York Institute of Technology
  • Northwestern College

Instructional Designer

Salary Estimates

Payscale reports that instructional designers or coordinators earned a median salary of $60,881 in 2017-18, which is comparable to the BLS’s (Oct. 2017) estimate at $62,460. Earnings tend to grow with experience and training. Targeted certifications, like those designed specifically for online instructional design, can help.

Career Outlook

Thanks to growing demand for achievement testing-friendly curricula, The BLS projects that jobs for instructional coordinators will grow by 11 percent between 2016 and 2026. That is much faster than the average for all occupations nationally during that decade. The BLS notes that prospects will be best for instructional coordinators with teaching and leadership experience, but warns demand is largely contingent upon state and local budgets.

Career Preparation: Online Degrees & Coursework

Education Requirements & Timeline

Most online instructional designers must have master’s degrees in education, curriculum and instruction, or a closely related field. Some professionals hold specialized degrees in areas like math, science, English or history. Graduate certificates in online curricular or instructional design can also give candidates an edge.

Altogether, future online instructional designers can expect to spend at least six full-time years in college. Note that some schools require a teaching or education administrator license, which might add an additional year or so. Online graduate certificates in instructional design range from a matter of weeks to a year or more, though their flexible format can better accommodate professionals’ schedules than their on-campus counterparts.

Average Tuition

The terminal degrees for many instructional designers—i.e., master of education in instructional design or a master of education administration in the same concentration—are usually offered through an online college’s School of Education. Please see the tuition information in the online instructor section above for more information.

Coursework

Students pursuing online bachelor’s and/or master’s degrees in instructional design complete a balance of general education and core courses and more advanced and specialized courses and electives. Sample courses include an introduction to e-learning, learning theory and instructional design, learning design and technology, and strategic assessment.

Employers of Telecommuting Instructional Designers:

  • Colorado State University
  • The Ohio State University
  • Valdosta State University
  • U.S. Department of Defense
  • Amazon
  • Princeton Information

Enrollment Counselor

There is some confusion about (and overlap between) the role of enrollment counselors, admissions advisors, and just plain counselors. The job titles are often used interchangeably, but their goals and duties vary. At some colleges and universities, enrollment counselors are akin to recruiters who field questions about the school or program. Online enrollment counselors (or admissions advisors) at other institutions may additionally serve as mentors guiding prospective students as they ponder their career and education options.

Salary Estimates

PayScale reports that enrollment counselors earned an average of $36,121 per year in 2017-18, but according to Glassdoor, enrollment counselors earned an average base pay of $43,476. The BLS does not collect salary data for enrollment counselor’s specifically, though it reports a 2016 median wage of $54,560 for all school and career counselors.

Career Outlook

Strong enrollment growth is boosting demand for many careers in higher education, including admissions or enrollment counseling. Career projections for admissions counselors—online or otherwise—are difficult to come by. The BLS projects that demand for all types of school and career counselors will grow by 13 percent between 2016 and 2026. Enrollment counselors with experience working with particular populations (e.g., military personnel and mid-life career-changers) may have an advantage over lesser-experienced job competition.

Career Preparation: Online Degrees & Coursework

Education Requirements & Timeline

Education requirements for online admissions or enrollment counselors are job-dependent. For instance, recruiter-esque counselors can usually get by with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, education, or another relevant field, while those who offer career support may need a master’s degree in counseling or education. Students should expect to spend at least four to six years in college. Professional organizations like the American School Counselor Association also offer post-graduate training or certificates in college admissions, as do many colleges.

Coursework

Online admissions counselors’ coursework depends very much on the nature of their education and intended career. For instance, those who serve as counselors can expect to take such courses as career development and counseling or counseling theories and techniques. Professional or college certificates frequently offer similar coursework. Students pursuing the College Admissions and Career Planning certificate at UC Berkeley, for instance, complete courses such as college admissions advising and counseling techniques for educators.

Employers of Telecommuting Enrollment Counselors

  • Grand Canyon University
  • Lincoln Technical Institute
  • Illinois Media School
  • The Learning House
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • University of Fairfax

English as a Second Language (ESL) Instructor

Salary Estimates

According to the BLS (Oct. 2017), adult literacy teachers (including online ESL teachers) earned a median annual wage of $50,650, or about $24.35 per hour. ESL instructors who offer one-on-one sessions can set their own fees.

Career Outlook

Due to low enrollment, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment of adult literacy educators to decline five percent from 2016 to 2026. Many online ESL instructors offer one-on-one, web-based instruction for a set hourly fee determined by them, though some institutions employ full- or part-time instructors for online students.

Career Preparation: Online Degrees & Coursework

Education Requirements & Timeline

The level of their students’ education usually determines an online ESL instructor’s degree requirements. According to the BLS, most states require diploma-equivalency instructors to have at least a bachelor’s degree while colleges and other education institutions prefer candidates with a master’s degree in adult education or English as a second language. Online undergraduate degree options might include linguistics, teaching, or a degree in the language you intend to teach.

Coursework

The BLS advises students to pursue coursework in linguistics and language theory, adult basic education, and multicultural instruction. Note that some states require ESL teachers to have teaching licenses or ESL certificates.

Employers of Telecommuting ESL Teachers

  • VPKID
  • Golden Voice English
  • Education First International Language Campuses and Summer Camps
  • Unilatina International College
  • Hopelink

Academic Editor

Salary Estimates

According to the career-tracking website Glassdoor, freelance academic editors earned an average of $55,971. The BLS does not track salary data for editors working in academia, though it reports a median wage of $57,210 for editors and $69,850 for technical writers.

Career Outlook

It is difficult to anticipate demand for academic editors as it relies so heavily upon their field of specialty. Someone who reviews articles and reports in cultural anthropology may be in less demand than one who edits articles for academic journals in a growing science discipline. According to the BLS, demand for technical writers is expected to grow by 11 percent between 2016 and 2026, and decline by one percent for editors.

Career Preparation: Online Degrees & Coursework

Education Requirements & Timeline

For most professional editors or copy editors, a bachelor’s degree in journalism, English, communications, or a similar field is sufficient. However, many academic editors review highly specialized copy that requires advanced knowledge of the field at hand. For this reason, many academic editors have master’s or even PhDs in said field, especially when working with research journals and academic articles.

Average Tuition

Academic editors have degrees in a plethora of fields, making it difficult to say how much they can expect to pay for college. With that in mind, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that the average annual tuition for undergraduate degrees at public institutions was $8,543 per year for in-state students and $23,523 for out-of state students. Students attending private four-year colleges paid an average of $26,740 that same year. Public two-year colleges were the most cost-effective option, charging an average of $2,955 for in-state students and $7,122 for out-of-state students. The average annual tuition for a graduate school in 2016 was $10,979 at public universities and $23,226 at private colleges.

Coursework

Academic editors with a background in journalism or communications supplement general education coursework in areas like English and math with core and elective courses in their major. Classes might include copy editing, media law, public relations, and more. Academic editors who specialize in their area of academic expertise (e.g., a person with a PhD in chemistry editing for an academic journal) will focus their studies primarily on that discipline. It is not uncommon for employers to seek this type of specialized editor with a doctoral degree.

Employers of Telecommuting Academic Editors

  • Cactus Communications
  • Bard College
  • Utah State University
  • Ultius, Inc.
  • Pearson
Aimee Hosler
Aimee Hosler
Writer

Aimee Hosler is a long-time journalist specializing in education and technology. She is an advocate for experiential learning among all ages and serves as the director of communications for a non-profit community makerspace. She holds a degree in journalism from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.

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