Why Do People Teach ESL Online (2020 Pie Chart)

Like a lot of people, I enjoy geeking out with some interesting stats. Recently I discovered a poll on the OET Jobs Facebook Page which has been running since Jan 2020. I thought the current results were useful enough to summarize and share.

Disclaimer: I appreciate that Facebook Polls are not necessarily a statistically valid means of data collection. Also, one of the dangers of allowing users to create their own response options is that it leads to answers which are vague or nonsensical. But given that it’s a decent sample size (600+ valid responses to date), it’s interesting data nonetheless.

There is a full data breakdown at the end of the post and the methodology I used to categorize different responses.

Source: https://www.facebook.com/groups/online.esl.teaching.jobs/

The three main response types break down into “Full Time Career Choice”, “Part Time Income” and “Lifestyle Reasons”.

“Full time online teacher” is the most popular single voting response but unfortunately doesn’t give much in the way of explicit reasons about “why” people decided to do it as a career. For what it’s worth, I am going to assume that most people who answered this way are indicating that it’s a long term vocational decision. Hence, I’ve categorized it as “Full Time Career Choice”.

“Part Time Income” is a bit more insightful as it includes responses like “side hustle” and “in need of another source of income” which suggest clear economic motivations.

There were a small percentage of responses which indicated people were doing online ESL as a “Temporary Work Necessity” whilst they are between jobs e.g. “job transitioning” and “trying to find work due to unforeseen predicament”.

“Lifestyle Reasons” includes answers such as “I like to travel” and “digital nomad”. These would suggest that monetary reward isn’t necessarily the number one motivation.

I was tempted to distinguish “Parenting Lifestyle Choice” as a distinct category as it included the fourth most popular response of “stay at home parent”. It makes a degree of sense to separate it from “Travel Lifestyle Choice” because those are fairly different things. Unfortunately, one of the main responses was “enjoy the freedom” which could include both travel related or parenting related motivations (or even a third additional reason). So in the end I thought a broad category of “Lifestyle Reasons” was a more accurate general summary.

“Other Reasons” covers apparently philanthropic motivations like “supports my volunteer work” and physical restriction reasons such as “I’m disabled and the actual world doesn’t really get it”.

I excluded vague responses such as “corona shut the world (and ??) plus nonsensical answers like “I’m too sexy for my headphones” in order to calculate meaningful percentages.

The poll data reported so far was collected between Jan 2nd and Oct 24th of 2020. This period obviously spans the period when the COVID virus become a world-wide phenomena in March/April 2020. It would have been interesting to exclude data from before the corona virus pandemic in order to see what influence the virus has had on teacher motivations and choices. I’m guessing that the percentage of “Travel Lifestyle” votes has decreased as a proportion, but that’s just speculation.

Category of ResponseVotesPercentage of Non-Excluded Responses
Full time career choice20433.6%
Part time income14123.2%
Temporary work necessity304.9%
Lifestyle reasons21936.0%
Other reasons142.3%
Excluded (vague or nonsensical)13
Total621
Minus Excluded-13
Total Non-Excluded Responses608100.0%

Here is the full data table:

ResponseVotesCategory
Full time online teacher204Full time career choice
Make side hustle105Part time income
Enjoy the freedom83Lifestyle reasons
Stay home parent73Lifestyle reasons
I like to travel45Lifestyle reasons
In need of another source of income33Part time income
Job transitioning26Temporary work necessity
Digital nomad17Lifestyle reasons
An idiot that likes being poor8Excluded (vague or nonsensical)
Supports my volunteer work6Other reasons
Other reasons5Other reasons
I am a translator with a teaching side job3Part time income
Trying to find work due to unforeseen predicament3Temporary work necessity
Corona shut the world2Excluded (vague or nonsensical)
A believer in learning English, open doors2Other reasons
I’m too sexy for my headphones1Excluded (vague or nonsensical)
I’m disabled and the actual world doesn’t really get it1Other reasons
I don’t like people putting their advertising in my post1Excluded (vague or nonsensical)
Corona1Excluded (vague or nonsensical)
Because in-class work has become unavailable1Temporary work necessity
I love seeing the kids and parenting them1Lifestyle reasons

So what’s your motivation for teaching English online? Leave a comment below.

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