You Gotta Get Paid!

Talking about pay is a universally awkward topic.

I’m not quite sure if this is a natural reaction to the topic or if some standard was set long ago that essentially deemed that such talk was inappropriate in polite conversation.

But we gotta get paid


Truth be told, nobody goes into online teaching to make investment banker money.  While there is certainly money to be made, forget about your Richard Branson private islands (well, how his island used to be).

However, always keep in mind that you possess specialized knowledge, expertise, and probably experiences that make you uniquely qualified to succeed as an online professor.

Do you have a doctorate, master’s, or some other type of professional degree?  Congratulations.  You possess more education than eighty-eight percent of Americans.

Look at those numbers again; you’re ahead of more than 98 percent if you hold a doctoral degree!

Never be too hard on yourself; your credentialing makes you a qualified and needed commodity.

You deserve to get paid

Let’s fast forward to your first interview for an online teaching gig.

You may be talking to someone in HR, a recruitment specialist, or your future program coordinator (for the sake of this discussion, it really doesn’t matter).

Of course, you want to put on your best face, emphasizing your strengths, commitment to teaching, love for online teaching and online learning, and your desire to help students succeed.

You also should have a few questions ready to ask that are unique to the institution itself, showing genuine interest in the school’s unique qualities as well as of its unique teaching style and standards.

You also need to ask about pay.  Yes.  In the first interview.


Let me add a disclaimer here: for those of you who are looking to land your very first online teaching gig, the pay question isn’t quite as important.  We would all love to land a high-paying gig on our first go-around, but keep in mind that the experience that you’ll gain as well as the resume-boosting potential that comes with the job are the most important considerations at this point.

Without a doubt, getting that first online teaching gig is the hardest.  Be a little bit more flexible with your salary needs and expectations.

Already got a gig?  Well then you gotta ask about getting paid.  This is important for two main reasons:

You know early on the process (which can be rather long and time-consuming) if the gig is worth your time. 

Bottom-line, some schools pay really well and others pay really…not so well, especially when factoring in different expectations, requirements, and standards.  If you have a number or expectation in mind, it is better to know early on if the school can meet it or not.  If they can’t, you need to think long and hard about that follow-up interview.

They know early on in the process if the gig is worth your time

If you’ve ever needed to hire someone, you probably know how frustrating it can be to go through multiple rounds of interviews with a very bright prospect, only to be “turned down” during the offer phase.

Not only have you invested a lot of (now mostly wasted) time, but you got your hopes up for no reason.

That person interviewing you…yeah; he hates these types of situations.

He probably also assumes that there is a chance that you won’t end up wanting the online teaching gig.  If you turn him down, particularly if you do so early on, there are no hard feelings.

The more of a head’s up that you give him to seek out other candidates, the more he’ll appreciate it.

And who knows; maybe in the future, your paths will cross again on more lucrative terms!

So, you’ve broached the topic.  Chances are good that you’ll have at least an idea of what you can expect to be paid.

If the pay is acceptable to you (keep in mind not only your own pay preferences but also established online teaching industry norms), you can safely archive the information in your head and focus on other aspects of the likely on-going interview.

If the pay is not acceptable to you, it is appropriate to continue the conversation, proceeding as you would through the interview as if you had no idea what you would be paid.

After finishing the interview, take some time to think about if the pay really is that bad.  It is easy to be instantly dismissive, but consider other possible factors that can contribute to low pay.

The classes are only 4 or 5 weeks long.

The classes are capped at a low number of students.

There are less-than-normal grading or discussion board expectations.

You get the idea.

Also, consider the potential for “growth” or advancement within the organization that may be present.

My lowest-paying online teaching gig eventually became my most lucrative online teaching job to date once I went full-time.  My pay-per-hour went up exponentially as well!

Finally, like I said before, if the gig would be one of your first (or your very first) job, it is almost always worth gutting it out for a bit in order to pad that CV.


However, if it’s too low, it’s too low.

Go ahead and e-mail the person who interviewed you.  Thank them for the opportunity, but let them know that you’re “out”.

Another possibility is that the recruiter or program coordinator refuses to tell you how much you’ll be compensated.

Some schools are relatively open about their pay schedules and rates while other are very close to the vest about it.

Of course, you can poke around online for a bit (assuming you haven’t done so before the meeting), but, in my experience, the schools that want to keep it a secret are very good at keeping it a secret.

So what should you do?

Ask even more questions than normal about the position itself in order to get an idea of what the workload and environment will likely be like.

Not only will this show genuine interest in the position, but will also give you an idea of what is expected of you as you better develop how much you should be paid.

If the stuff they want you to do seems like a bit much, you can politely bow out of the process in a follow-up e-mail.

If the requirements seem reasonable and you’re not too busy, it is worth it to continue through the hiring process, essentially bluffing your way through until you get to see everyone else’s cards.

Worst case scenario, you are hired and the pay turns out to be too low.  The result?

You wasted a little bit of time and a little bit of enthusiasm.

However, by asking early and being up-front, you didn’t waste anybody else’s time.

You also got to practice your interview skills and learned a little bit more about online teaching pay and work conditions.

Ultimately, never be discouraged or shy about asking about online teaching job compensation.

At the end of the day, you gotta get paid!

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