Online Teaching Blog

Best practices, tips & tricks, and career advice—served up fresh

How to Become an Online Professor

How to Become an Online Professor

by Dani Babb
November 28, 2014


With interest in online education high, credibility for online institutions building and more state schools developing online programs, the demand for professors is growing. Many people ask us, “how do you become an online professor?” In this article, “How to Become an Online Professor,” I will walk you through many of the steps required to get into the field of education as an online professor and what to expect along the way. My book Make Money Teaching Online is the staple book in the industry for new professors to get their first online teaching job, and existing professors to build their workload. If you are serious about this profession, I recommend that you pick up a copy.


Introduction to Online Teaching Jobs

In this article, I break down the steps into more manageable tasks to get started in online education. All candidates looking for online teaching jobs will usually go through a very similar process to get their first position. Landing the first job is by far the hardest; after that, getting new teaching positions becomes much easier because you can show your experience. 60% of our clients have never taught before. Like credit, sometimes you have to have a teaching job to get a teaching job. What many don’t realize though is that some of their professional or trainer experience, entrepreneurial experience or community service “counts” as experience, and how this is identified in your curriculum vitae (never a resume!) is vital to getting a job teaching online.

I recommend you stop here, and read this article on getting your first online teaching job, and be sure to check out the infographic as well.

Putting Online Education Rumors to Bed!

Before I go on, let me put some rumors to bed. I hear almost every day that you need a doctoral degree to teach. This is absolutely not the case; in fact most of our clients do not have doctoral degrees (and yes, they get work!) and many of us began teaching with our masters. In a recent survey we conducted over 65% of educators (n>100) did not have a terminal degree when they began teaching. Even positions that advertise “doctorate required” will sometimes hire someone with a master’s degree – they may also have positions available you do not know about that require a masters. Due to these two reasons, I tell my clients to apply to everything; doctorate required noted or not. Is it true that having a doctorate makes your work to get a job a bit easier? Yes that is true. Not having your doctorate does not eliminate your chances to teach. Another rumor: if you have no experience it’s too late now. This is absolutely not the case, and more on that later in this post.

How Long Will It Take?

In general from my experience, you can expect to apply to 80 to 120 positions to get your first job. Without experience, that might be 200 applications or more. (We have services to help you by the way, because that is a daunting task for anyone). If you apply to all of our Babb Group job leads and the leads you find elsewhere, this will take between 5 to 7 months on average. Some faculty get their first job in weeks; others can take far longer. Some of it is timing and your discipline (the more unique or niche the discipline the more likely you will be hired more quickly when a job pops up – but the more unique the discipline the fewer jobs there are). The key is to be consistent and apply often and to have your educator package completed and available.

What Do I Need to Get Started?

your CV highlights your experiences, skills, education and publications and presentations

So what exactly is the educator package I just mentioned? This is what I call a package that you will need to apply to jobs. I will be elaborating on all of these areas far more thoroughly below. In general, the educator package will include: your CV, a cover letter, unofficial transcripts, 3 letters of recommendations, your statement of teaching philosophy both in the CV and as a separate file, and 3 references in your CV and in a separate file.

When you have these documents available, reviewed and fine-tuned, you are ready to begin applying to teaching positions. If you are having trouble with your CV or cover letter or just want someone to review it, we have options available for our clients. If you want me to review your CV for keywords and to offer suggestions on how to improve it, we have an inexpensive CV review option.

Your teaching philosophy should have at least two parts or paragraphs. In the first part or paragraph, I recommend you identify what your theory of education is. Why does education matter to you? Why do you want to teach? How are you qualified to do so? In the second paragraph, my recommendation is to explain how a Dean or faculty reviewer would see evidence of your philosophy in the classroom. How do you engage students? How do you put into practice what you believe and how would someone else see it? Take some time to think through this and write it thoroughly and elaborately. Try to keep it to 2 to 3 paragraphs.

If you choose to have a separate, longer version of your teaching philosophy statement, you may wish elaborate a bit. A good thing to ask yourself is, "if someone came to me asking if they should pursue an education, how would I answer and why?" Remember you should be writing this in first person and do not feel as though you have to leave emotion out of it. Showing passion for education is good in my opinion and I have seen it positively correlated with getting teaching jobs. Next, if you are comfortable, I suggest explaining a bit about why and how education has played a role in your own life. Personal stories and examples can help convey the meaning and value of education to you. You should also elaborate on what you find most important to students. Is it engagement? Is it retention? Is it leading by example? Feel free to explain as many of these elements as you feel comfortable doing. Finally, you should wrap it up with a paragraph identifying how a dean, should he or she visit your online classroom, would see evidence of your philosophy carried out into the class. Essentially the first element is theory, the second is practice and the third is application.

I highly recommend integrating the teaching philosophy statement into your CV as the very first thing after your contact information. Not only does this show that you "get" education and the requirements today, but it will help you convey a message to deans or human resources professionals as soon as they review your CV. It will also bump up the keywords for searching in HR systems, which is important (particularly so when there is a job pool where thousands of candidates may apply and you want to stand out among them).

The version on your CV may be a shorter, more concise version of the longer teaching philosophy statement. The teaching philosophy statement should convey your passion and dedication to the profession, and thoughtfully identify ways in which others will see evidence of your beliefs in the classroom.

Getting Started Teaching Online With No Experience

Apart from “how do I get started teaching online”, the next most common question I am asked: “I have no experience. What do I do? Will anyone hire me?” Short answer: yes they will and yes you have options.

First, not every job will require experience as an online educator. Even jobs that say experience required don’t necessarily require it. We all had to start somewhere and it was with no experience! However, chances are you have something you can add to your CV in the teaching experience section.

Here are some examples: guest lecturing at a local college, teaching others in the workplace, being a workplace leader and teaching others how to use a new technology, software, master a new process etc., or even creating a course on a system (Babb Academy coming soon!) which will give you both course development and teaching experience (and you will be paid!). If you enjoy on ground lecturing, chances are just about any college educator at a local community college would be happy to give you a platform for an hour or two. List this in your teaching experience section. I wrote an entire article on getting your first teaching job with no experience.

The Online Teaching CV!

CV Writing for online teaching and academic job positions requires a new paradigm – do not use a resume to apply to teaching positions! A curriculum vitae represents all of your professional, academic and community achievements in one comprehensive document. You should not worry about the length of the CV Document, but about how detailed and comprehensive it is.

In my post 21 things to include in your Online Teaching CV, I documented many things you may not have been aware of that should be included in your CV. I recommend starting off with your contact information and then leading with your teaching philosophy statement. Why? Two reasons. It will contain key words for HR systems, and deans will see it without requiring a separate document.

I recommend listing unique attributes next and then following up with your experience, professional experience, education and the other items relevant to your online teaching career listed in my 21 items blog post. Try to be as thorough as possible. I recommend adding 5 to 8 attributes that make you stand out from other candidates. Don't worry if this isn't in the area of online education. Military experience, leadership experience, expertise, learning management systems, education, community service and more all make a difference. Just like your teaching philosophy, it is important to really try to dive into what unique skill set you bring to your teaching career. Essentially this is an overview of "why hire me?"

Some other areas to think about: presentations, ways you've advanced your expertise in an area, your dedication to lifelong learning, community service, military service, areas you have 18 graduate hours in, learning management systems, citations in articles or publications, media, scholarly publications, professional publications, residencies and colloquium attendance or presentations, extended education and more. If you feel overwhelmed by the process of writing a CV for online teaching jobs, I offer a service where I will do the hard work for you.

Now Get Going! Get Your First Job Teaching Online!

You have your teaching toolkit ready. Your CV is in great shape, and you are ready to get your first online teaching job and become an online professor! Continually update your CV as you gain new experience or training, and as universities hire you. Get job leads, and apply to everything – whether you fully qualify or not. One goal is to get your CV into as many job systems (where Deans and HR may search, using keywords, when they need other candidates, also) as you can. Sometimes this can take months, and it absolutely takes a lot of applications – particularly if you are getting your first online teaching job. Keep your social media profiles updated; LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook Pages. You want to be seen and searchable on the internet as a subject matter expert in your area of expertise. Be patient and apply to many positions, and spend time networking in our forums, and others. Connect with colleagues on LinkedIn and don’t be shy about your goal to secure an online teaching position. Most of the education community is friendly and eager to help new folks join our profession in online teaching.

Check out my blog for more articles on getting started teaching online, how to write a curriculum vitae, cover letter writing, creative ways to network to find jobs and more.


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Contact the author Dr. Dani Babb
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