Make Money Teaching Your Favorite Subject — Without a Degree

Image: Photo by Jose Camoes Silva
Jose Camoes Silva/Flickr

Think you’d be a good teacher, but don’t have a degree?

It IS possible to share your knowledge even if you don’t have a certification or degree — and earn some cash while you’re at it.

My wife Ana teaches Spanish in a local adult education program. She also taught a social media class, showing students how to use Facebook and Twitter. Other instructors teach students how to cook, paint, and work on their golf swing. The classes are typically two hours long, one night per week for six weeks. Anyone can design and propose a class, and get paid $20 per hour if at least five or six students sign up.

The program in Naples, Florida (where my wife works) is operated by the local school board. It’s also common for these kinds of programs to be offered by community colleges. They go by many names, including adult education, extended education, continuing education, adult learning, community education, and adult enrichment classes. To find one near you, just Google each of those names plus the name of your community or any others that would be an easy commute for you.

What Can You Teach?

You might be wondering: What do I know that I could share?

Almost all of us are experts in some area of life. If you have experience running a restaurant, you could teach a class called “Starting Your Own Restaurant.” If you travel quite a bit, you could offer a class that teaches the tricks of traveling safely and inexpensively. Just to give you an idea of what types of classes can be arranged, I Googled “adult education classes Traverse City, Michigan” (where I used to live). I found a list of classes offered at NMC, a community college with operates an “extended education,” program. Here’s a small sample of the classes offered:

  • Advanced Mobile Marketing
  • Italian Wine Dinner
  • Birding by Ear
  • Beading Basics – Make Your Own Jewelry
  • Small Engine Repair: Chain Saw
  • Sunrise Flow Yoga
  • Easy Cheese Making
  • Knitting: Beyond Beginning
  • Prezi Presentations
  • Solar Photovoltaic Boot Camp
  • Native American Law & Culture
  • Writing Your Life Stories
  • Modern Buddhism: What You Should Know
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes – The Big Story (with field trip)

I like that last one. It might be fun getting paid to take a group of people to a national park or wilderness area for a day!

And by the way, this is truly a small selection of the classes offered at this college. Looking over the choices available in the next three months, I stopped counting after 200. Programs near you might not be that developed, but it’s possible students are just waiting for new subjects. My 30 years of ultralight backpacking experience could be used to create a class on lightweight camping. Your experience with (fill in the blank) could be the basis of a class.

How Continuing Education Teachers Get Paid

These programs are run in several different ways. Classes here cost students anywhere from $37 (one day) to $89 (six classes over six weeks) and are canceled if five or six students don’t sign up. Here are three common pay arrangements for teachers:

1. Hourly Pay

Where my wife teaches, they pay $20 per hour and contribute to a retirement account for her — but benefits are rare in most programs.

2. Percentage of student fees

My friends used to teach classes at a community college where they paid teachers half of the student fees collected.

3. Flat Fee

Some programs pay a set amount per class. It may or may not be enough to make it worth your time, but in programs with low pay, teachers often use a class as a marketing tool. For example, a lawyer teaching a class called “Real Estate Law for Landlords” probably isn’t doing it for the immediate pay. She knows that if she does a good job and students ever need legal help, they are likely to come to her. Of course, if you just love to share what you know, making a little money from the gig is a nice extra.

You’ll have to call the director of the programs near you to ask how they pay instructors. Remember to consider other arrangements that can affect what you make. For example, if materials are required for your class, have the students buy them so you don’t have that expense. Classroom space is provided for the most common courses, but if you’re teaching people ice fishing or wild plant identification you may need to arrange student transportation (and your own), and you probably won’t be compensated for money spent on gasoline.

What are the Requirements?

You may need a college degree to teach a language, but not for teaching flower arrangement. For non-academic classes, many programs just want you to have some experience in the subject. So, for example, even without a college degree I could teach a class on how to get a book published, because I’ve been published traditionally two times and I’ve self-published many other books in a variety of formats.

Sometimes programs have state requirements, like the California law requiring a “Designated Subjects Adult Education Teaching Credential” for certain programs. To get that you need a high school diploma and “Five years of experience and/or education directly related to each subject to be named on the credential.” The program my wife works for does not require a degree for many classes, but the application process is tedious and takes hours. When you find a program near you, choose your subject, call the program director, and find out what’s required.

This is a great way to have fun and make some money while sharing what you know with others. And you can do it all on a schedule you choose. That’s not a bad gig, right?

Your Turn: Have you taught an adult education class or would you consider it? Tell us how your program works in the comments below.