Protostar Review Summary

Protostar Education offers most Native Speakers good pay, long-term regular students, adaptive teaching materials, US holidays and no extreme penalties, though their interview process is selective, their schedule is limited, and you must have ‘brick and mortar’ classroom experience.

Pay (per hour):$24-33*
Native / Non-Native Speakers accepted?Native (Not South African)
TEFL / TESOL / CELTA required?Yes
Degree / diploma required?No (with classroom teaching experience)
Adult / child students?Children
Class size:1-4
Minimum hours (per week):2
*$16-22 per 40-minute class

Protostar Pros and Cons


  • High pay rate
  • Long-term student relationships
  • 40-minute classes better for building rapport and personalizing lessons
  • Teaching materials provided can be personalized/adapted – allowed to be flexible/creative with lessons and introduce other materials, e.g. videos, games, and don’t have to stick to/finish slides.
  • No props, secondary rewards, or over-the-top acting required
  • No over-hiring means all teachers have classes
  • Company books classes, not parents
  • American holidays are observed
  • Relatively understanding about emergency leave, with no extreme penalties
  • Positive and receptive atmosphere


  • Only hires Native Speakers from the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand – not South Africans or Non-Native Speakers
  • Requires at least 1 year of ‘Brick and Mortar’ (in classroom) teaching experience
  • Teaching schedule is limited to 12 hours per week restricting this to a part-time job
  • Need to commit to long-term regular teaching slots
  • No classes (or pay) for 2 months over Chinese and American holidays
  • Interview process can be drawn out and selective
  • Personalized feedback and worksheet grading is unpaid and time-consuming

Is Protostar Education Legit?

Protostar ESL company is a legitimate online English school, founded in 2018 by parents from top US and UK universities who wanted to provide a better standard of tuition for their children. They have offices in Seattle, Shanghai and Hong Kong and teach students across Asia. They are a relatively small company, with just over 100 teachers.

Protostar Education Salary / Pay

Protostar Education pay a base rate of US$16 per 40-minute lesson. This can be supplemented by a $1 attendance bonus and up to $5 in performance bonus, making the maximum pay per lesson $22. If you teach back-to-back lessons, this works out as between $24-33 per hour.

The performance bonus is calculated by scoring you against a checklist, based upon the written feedback you submit and three random class observations each month.

Additional Protostar Education bonuses are available if you successfully refer a new hire to the company ($50), convert a trial student into becoming a regular ($5), or substitute for another teacher’s class ($7); each of these is on top of your regular pay.

You are paid in full for student no shows so long as you wait for 15 minutes.

The only penalties are a potential loss of the attendance bonus if emergency leave is required less than 24 hours before a class, or if vacation is taken without giving at least a month’s notice (teachers are entitled to 2 weeks of vacation). Even then, in these instances Protostar teachers report the company as being understanding and not always enforcing this penalty.

Unfortunately, the time that it takes to write personalized feedback and grade worksheets isn’t paid and can take up to 20 minutes per student.

Payments are issued on the 15th of each month via PayPal, or direct bank transfer through OnPay. As is standard in the industry, you will be responsible for paying your own taxes as an independent contractor, and Protostar will mail you a 1099 form at the end of each year.

Contracts last for 12 months and will be reviewed for renewal one month prior to expiry.

Protostar Education Hours

The Protostar Education schedule is 6.40-9pm (Beijing Time), Monday to Saturday (no hours on a Sunday), with three 40-minute class slots and 10-minute breaks in between:

  1. 6.40-7.20pm (BJT)
  2. 7.30-8.10pm (BJT)
  3. 8.20-9pm (BJT)

You are expected to teach a minimum of 2 hours (3 classes) a week. Protostar teachers are scheduled with regular students for at least 18 weeks, so you must be able to commit to the same time slot/teaching block long-term. Students may choose classes once or twice a week.

Classes are allocated by the company, not parents, and there is no competition between teachers – if you convert a student, they’re yours to teach regularly so long as you can agree upon a time/day.

You can request additional classes by updating your available time slots and becoming a ‘standby’ teacher, where you will be notified when a substitute is required to fill-in during your open hours. This will earn an extra $7 on top of the usual pay.

If you need to cancel any classes, due to personal or family illness or other emergencies, then message the company as soon as possible as the penalty is the potential loss of your attendance bonus for the month (though teachers find Protostar to be understanding).

Protostar Education Requirements

These are the Protostar Education requirements for their teachers:

  • Native Speaker (USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand – not South Africa) – can teach from anywhere
  • Minimum of 1-year ‘brick and mortar’ classroom teaching experience (may include a registered non-profit church or English teaching organization, but home schooling and private tutoring DO NOT count)
  • TEFL or TESOL certificate

While some Protostar job ads ask for a Bachelor’s degree or higher, the company’s FAQ page states that they ‘do accept applicants with relevant teaching experience or education background, even if you do not have a bachelor’s degree’. However, it would help if you have both.

Some online ESL teaching experience and other teaching certification is also preferred.

Protostar Education Technical Requirements

  • Desktop or laptop computer with Windows 7/Mac OS X10.9 or higher
  • Intel Core i3 4th generation processor or above
  • At least 2GB RAM
  • HD external or internal webcam
  • Microphone headset in good condition (Apple’s own headset device is not recommended)
  • Minimum 20 Mbps internet connection (test your internet speed here)

Protostar Education Application Process

The Protostar Education website‘s FAQ page claims that there are just ‘3 steps’ to becoming a Protostar teacher, however, the reality is not so quick or simple and it’s actually 7 steps for most applicants, taking approximately 6 weeks to complete (with around a week between each stage):

  1. Send your resume to [email protected] or sign up here
  2. 40-minute interview including a 10-minute teaching demonstration
  3. Mini interview session (for those who have areas of the demo to redo/work on)
  4. Test session to ensure familiarity with the platform
  5. New hire training
  6. Receive an offer email with contract to e-sign and upload documents
  7. Pass onboarding, including a test session with a Protostar trainer and prospective students (you will receive feedback from mentors who observe the class)

If you use the Protostar sign up form, you’ll be asked to provide the following details:

  • Name
  • Email address
  • State and country you currently live in
  • Citizenship
  • Who referred you (if applicable)
  • How you heard about Protostar
  • Offline teaching experience (in years)
  • Online teaching experience (in years)
  • Upload resume (doc/docx/pdf format, under 10mb)
  • Introduction video link (3-minute video in your teaching environment shared via Google Drive or YouTube). Here is an example:

Protostar Education Interview

Should your resume pass Protostar’s review, you will be contacted to schedule an interview on Talk Cloud, their teaching platform (it used to be Classin). This will last around 40-minutes, and consists of two parts:

  • Part 1 – teaching showcase using Protostar content (10 minutes)
  • Part 2 – company introduction and Q&A (30 minutes)

You will receive content for the teaching demo to prepare with ahead of time, which can be adapted and supplemented, and includes two slides each from three different levels (phonics, early reading, and advanced). It will be conducted with a US-based teacher who will pretend to be a student of different ages and abilities as you move between the slides.

You will be assessed on your technical ability when using the platform along with your teaching ability. In particular, your interviewer wants to see student engagement, pace control, and extensions for the reading part above the prompt questions on the slide. While some TPR is useful for younger phonics students, Protostar isn’t looking for over-the-top performance, and there is no compulsory use of props or secondary rewards. Make sure you’re dressed professionally and have a clean, child-friendly background (a good-quality webcam will brighten and sharpen this).

Here is a recorded example of the Protostar initial interview:

You will receive the result of the initial interview within 2 business days. If you pass, you will have to do at least one more ‘test session’, plus possibly a ‘mini’ interview session if there are areas of the teaching demo that they want you to redo/work on. Here is the recorded example of the same teacher’s mini session:

One of the biggest complaints against Protostar, however, is the way they conduct their interviews. While the company claims to ‘respect different teaching styles and encourage natural conversation, [with] no mandated script’, the experience of these two interviewees seems to contradict this, with them being rejected because they did not use the precise wording given to them:

Furthermore, this applicant criticizes Protostar’s practice of using their own teachers to conduct the interviews, as he claims it fosters nepotism and conflict of interest:

Protostar Classes

Protostar English teaching is conducted online via Talk Cloud (they formerly used ClassIn), with 40-minute classes of up to 4 students (2-3 is the norm). The youngest students are 4 years of age and the oldest are teenagers; most are Chinese, though some come from other Asian countries as the company continues to expand.

The curriculum uses a gamification approach and is developed by US teachers based on Common Core State Standards, starting with phonics before developing reading and writing skills, while STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) is also embedded into the content. There is flexibility to be creative and personalize the class with supplementary teaching materials, such as videos or games. You are under no pressure to stick to or finish the slides, nor are you required to act over-the-top, use props or a secondary reward system.

Here is a recorded example of a regular Protostar reading class:

You should preview the materials and instructions at least 24 hours before class, while a written evaluation is required within 24 hours of a demo class finishing or once a week for regular classes. Feedback can take 10-20 minutes to write up, which is unpaid time. More like a traditional classroom, homework is also set for reading classes in the form of worksheets, which also have to be graded, while older students (on the advanced reading program) are set end-of-unit projects on topics such as ‘The Great Wall of China’.

Each class is assigned an assistant who serves as liaison between teachers and students/guardians, and can be contacted for assistance with the following issues:

  1. Class scheduling
  2. Question about the curriculum content
  3. Classroom discipline
  4. Students’ progress
  5. Offline practices needed

Teachers can contact other members of Protostar through a WeCom group (they’ve moved away from WeChat), while there is also a Facebook group, free online training, and monthly ‘Teacher’s Lounge’ meetings where any problems or suggestions can be raised with the company directly.

Protostar Education Reviews

The Protostar Glassdoor page gives the company a rating of 3.5 out of 5, with 75% willing to recommend them to a friend, though this is averaged from just 4 reviews. The one negative Protostar review among these claims that they’re ‘disorganized and untruthful with their policies’, but doesn’t provide specifics. Otherwise, Protostar English reviews generally appear positive (so long as you make it through the aforementioned interview which was a bad experience for some):

Conclusion – Is Protostar Education Worth It?

Protostar has a lot going for it, most notably the good pay rate, long-term regular students, adaptive teaching materials, American holidays, and understanding leave system. The biggest complaint against it is the selectivity of their interview process, but teachers who make it through this generally appear satisfied there (a trend seen at other small companies), which might make it worth the effort of doing up to three teaching demos to get hired. The caveat to that is Protostar’s rather limited schedule, with only 12 available teaching hours a week, meaning this could only be a part-time option for many and doesn’t complement other Chinese companies that demand similar time slots.

You can apply to Protostar Education here.

A full list of other online teaching companies can be found here.

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Dr Daniel Spence

Daniel Spence is the founder of Online Teaching Review. He has been an international teacher since 2008, an award-winning academic, author of two books, and holds a PhD, MA, BA (Hons), and TESOL.

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