A Bankrate survey has shown that 39% of all US adults have a side hustle, be that walking people’s dogs, delivering Crunchwraps or Frappuccinos to hungry folk, designing logos for businesses, or something else.
Among these adults, those with a knack for teaching (or an aversion to chihuahuas) commonly pursue tutoring as a way to raise their income. Some even end up doing it full time!
If you’ve been toying with the idea of becoming a full-time or part-time tutor, this article should help you make an informed decision. Let’s look at what tutoring entails, what skills and qualities good tutors have, and what steps you must take to become one.
You can think of tutoring as a supplement to people’s educational “diets”. When someone is trying to master a subject (be that a student grappling with core math or an adult interested in learning Spanish), a tutor will often come to their rescue.
Tutors assess how much a person already knows about a given subject, put together lesson plans based on that, and provide guidance and feedback while their student progresses — much like teachers do. The main difference between teachers and tutors is that tutors work different hours and in different settings to teachers.
We’ve talked briefly about what a tutor does. Now let’s look at their duties and responsibilities in more detail:
- Creating lesson plans consisting of key learning outcomes, resource materials and activities
- Assessing students’ existing ability and knowledge in the subject area to create a tailored plan of action
- Assisting students with any homework, projects, test preparation and research tasks they were given at school or university
- Testing students’ knowledge through quizzes and mock exams to help them prepare for the real thing
- Reviewing students’ homework and providing feedback
- Staying up to date with current curriculums and teaching trends
Tutors may work with various age groups in various settings. Let’s look at the different kinds of tutoring services that exist so you can consider which one would suit you best.
In-person tutors instruct small groups and offer one-on-one lessons to students in their area. They often teach at their own homes or visit their students’ houses for private tutoring. These tutors may work on a full-time or part-time basis and be able to teach more than one subject.
Online tutoring can be done from the comfort of your home or that snazzy coworking space you’ve been eyeing just down the block. It can connect you with students anywhere in the world, allowing you to work any hours you please and set your own hourly rates.
Freelance tutors commonly make use of online learning platforms and work marketplaces, such as Upwork, to find potential clients. They may see tutoring as a supplement to their overall income and teach on the side when they’re not busy with their day job.
Tutors for individuals with learning disabilities
Like other educators, some tutors are certified to work with individuals with learning disabilities. Depending on the student’s needs, tutoring might take place in person or online and aid in specific subjects or broader abilities such as reading, writing and reasoning.
Depending on their background and interests, a tutor may teach any subject, from drama and photography to computer science and physics. Let’s look at some of the most common subjects that tutors teach their young and older students:
- Languages, including English, Spanish and French
- Mathematics, including geometry, algebra and statistics
- Literature, including English, French, Russian and Classical Greek
- Design and technology
- Natural sciences, including physics, chemistry and biology
- IT, including networking and programming
- Music, including musical theory and instruments
Although in most cases teachers and professors are required to be physically present in order to teach a class, tutors don’t tend to have similar restrictions. Some may work from home, delivering lessons in person or over the internet, while others might work at learning centers alongside other tutors or meet their students in public libraries and cafés.
Of course, e-tutors who work from home or remotely from other locations need to have access to quiet, well-lit rooms and a stable internet connection. Tutoring online becomes tricky otherwise, compromising the quality and efficacy of the service provided.
Besides having a flexible profession, tutors also have a relatively safe one. Occupational hazards include slip and fall accidents, repetitive strain injuries, and stress, which most workers regardless of profession are faced with. A more “unique” hazard to tutors are subject-related injuries: for example, a chemistry tutor might become exposed to harmful chemicals when demonstrating an experiment.
Just how their working environments tend to vary, tutors’ working hours vary also.
Those who work exclusively in a learning center will have to be available during the hours in which the center operates. If they are self-employed and tutor students online or at home, they can pick their own schedules, working more on some days and less on others if they wish.
Generally, in-person tutors work in the afternoons and on the weekends, as their students are most often at school or at work during the first half of the day. The same goes for e-learning tutors who teach people in the same time zone as them, although they also have the option to teach students all around the world. Thus, their working hours can be less predictable.
As many tutors teach private or group lessons in addition to working full-time jobs, it’s not uncommon for them to frequently end up working long hours and well into the evening.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, tutors in the US have a mean hourly wage of $21.55, or an annual income of $44,820. While that seems low compared to the average nationwide salary ($59,428), bear in mind that many pursue tutoring as a side hustle in addition to their day job, and the fact that, if you’re freelancing, you can work as many or as few hours as you wish.
As with all professions, tutors’ wages can vary depending on location. This is due to local demand for said profession as well as the cost of living in the area. If you’re curious as to which are the top highest-paying states for tutors in the country, they’re the following:
- New York ($67,120)
- Massachusetts ($65,690)
- Alaska ($57,860)
- Wyoming ($57,070)
- Connecticut ($54,550)
Those who tutor online exclusively typically earn between $24–$35 an hour, according to data from Salary.com. This difference in hourly rate makes sense, as self-employed folk have to cover additional expenses, such as buying and maintaining their own equipment.
To sum up:
If you’re a recent graduate deciding on a career path or a working professional considering to quit your job to pursue tutoring full time, you might be wondering whether the profession will continue to provide a viable income for you in the decades to come.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it should do: in the 2022–2032 period, job opportunities for tutors will rise steadily by 3.3%.
And, although aspects of the profession might get “eaten up” by AI and automation, tutoring won’t cease to require human judgment and interaction.
In an interview with Education Week, Peter Stone, professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Austin, shared the following view on the matter: “Jobs are going to be transformed. They’re not going to disappear. There’s always going to be a role for a teacher… Did a calculator replace the role of human teachers in math classrooms? No.”
We can certainly see his point!
The National Career Clusters Framework divides all existing professions into 16 groups, or clusters, each one with its (multiple) subcategories. These clusters include architecture and construction, education and training, and human services, to name a few.
Naturally, for some people, picking one profession out of the hundreds of options that exist can be tricky at best… And result in choice paralysis at worse.
To make things a little easier, our team has collaborated with a group of psychologists and psychometricians to create CareerHunter, a career-matching platform that matches young and older adults against 200 professions.
So, if you still have some doubts about becoming a tutor, consider taking the science-backed reasoning and personality tests on CareerHunter to ensure that this is the right career path for you.
Unlike becoming a doctor or a lawyer, there’s no universal path to becoming a tutor. Having said that, there are still some desirables in terms of qualifications and training, and certain must-haves in terms of your soft and technical skills and personality.
In the “beneficial to have” category, we’ve got:
- A bachelor’s or postgraduate degree in your chosen subject
- An education degree or tutoring certification, as per your employers’ preferences
In the non-negotiables, we have:
- Excellent verbal and written communication skills, including active listening and the ability to provide constructive feedback
- Excellent time management skills to ensure the lessons run smoothly and finish on time
- Patience— when working with children especially, you can’t get frustrated every time someone asks a question (for the 20th time in a row)!
- Creativity— an out-of-the-box approach to teaching can be more memorable, thus boosting how well your students retain the information you share
- Commitment to keeping up with teaching methods and curricula — learning and relearning your trade is important if you want to stay in the game
If you’re setting out to work with children, then you’ll also need to have a clean criminal record. In the United States, federal law requires all paid and volunteer workers to undergo a criminal background check if they care for or supervise children or have unsupervised access to them.
Aspiring tutors have no “tutoring university” to attend and no “tutoring degree” to pursue. So, what must they do to land their dream career? Let’s get into it.
Step 1: Graduate from high school
Getting your high school diploma should be the first step you complete on your path to becoming a tutor. With it (and some additional training or tutoring experience), you should be able to tutor children and teens who are in school themselves.
In fact, tutoring is a very popular job with high school leavers and college students, as it’s flexible and takes less of a toll on the body than waiting tables or minding young children.
Step 2: Get a degree
Depending on whether you want to find an employer, such as a learning center or school, or want to go the freelance way, getting a degree may or may not be a requirement. It can still help you stand out, however, even if you decide to go solo!
As more and more people are taking advantage of the internet to teach, let’s look at the requirements listed on two popular platforms.
Tutor.com requires their online tutors to either be enrolled in a four-year degree at or have obtained a four-year degree from an accredited university. Preply, on the other hand, doesn’t require any specific certification; they’ll take you on if you’ve got outstanding communication skills and a passion for teaching. With over 32,000 tutors on the platform, however, you’ll still need to compete for potential students. A degree, therefore, could more easily set you apart.
Step 3: Consider getting a certification
Aspiring tutors who want to be able to teach in a traditional classroom setting are typically required to pursue education degrees. If this is an option you’d like to have, keep this in mind!
Besides that, depending on your specific employer, you might need to have a tutoring certification as well. Certifying bodies in the US include the National Tutoring Association and the College Reading and Learning Association, the latter catering to college tutors specifically.
Step 4: Do some volunteer work
Whether you decide to go down the self-employed route or apply for a job at a school or center, having some work experience is bound to help you stand out from among other candidates.
Doing some volunteer work online or in your community, therefore, is an excellent idea. If you’re a high school student flirting with the idea of a gap year before pursuing a degree or finding a job, volunteering abroad as an English teacher could also be a great option for you.
Not only will you acquire experience working as a tutor, it’s likely that you will also make lifelong friends and important connections that might open doors for you in the future.
Step 5: Build an online presence
Let’s face it: even if your goal is to tutor people in person, you will still benefit greatly from having a strong online presence. That can be achieved by building yourself a website that outlines your services and years of experience, being active on social media, creating an attention-grabbing profile on your tutoring platform of choice (if using one) or, ideally, a combination of these.
If you’re not sure how to best put together a website or create impactful social profiles, consider hiring a creative to help. It will pay off!
Online tutoring has been quickly gaining momentum in recent years — meaning now is a great time to get involved! Here are some tips for when you’re getting started:
1. Choose the right platform
Different platforms, like Wyzant and Skooli, take different commissions from the online tutors they host. They also have different requirements; some require you to be enrolled in or to have graduated from an accredited, four-year degree, while others accept high school diplomas and GEDs.
Do a bit of research, therefore, before offering up your time and knowledge in order to find the platform that suits you best.
Of course, you can always invest in your personal branding and pour your energy into networking, thus finding your own students.
2. Invest in high-quality equipment
Online learning platforms have minimum technology requirements of the tutors they onboard. These might include operating system, computer processor and internet speed requirements. While familiarizing yourself with the various platforms out there, keep a note of the prerequisites for each one.
But even if you don’t sign up on a platform, you’ll still want to ensure that your video and audio quality are good, and that your computer doesn’t overheat within 30 seconds of you launching Skype.
3. Create a profile
Whether you decide to become a tutor for an established online platform or go solo, you’re going to need to build your online presence. A professional Facebook page, for example, as well as a complete LinkedIn profile, can allow potential students to connect with you, all the while building your credibility through the posts you share.
The same goes for using an online tutoring platform: you’ll be on there alongside thousands of other tutors, and so your profile needs to stand out. A concise summary that’s free of spelling errors and a professional headshot can go a long way.
4. Promote your services
Using social media to promote your tutoring services, building yourself a professional website and maintaining an active profile on LinkedIn can all be great ways to build your reputation and attract new students. This is especially important if you decide against joining an online teaching platform, and attempt to build your clientele alone instead.
Luckily, advertising on social media can become straightforward with the help of free, online tutorials, even for complete beginners — and there are endless resources out there!
5. Keep on learning
If you want to ensure that your students stay happy, then what you’ll do is keep on learning alongside them. Make time in your week to stay up to date with the latest teaching methods and emerging trends in the field of education, such as using augmented reality technology to make classes more immersive.
Of course, besides that, you’ll want to stay up to date with any new research or happenings regarding the subject you teach. If you’re a literature tutor, prioritize reading in your free time. If you’re a physicist, follow the latest science news (if you don’t already).
The more wealth of knowledge you can demonstrate, and the more passionate you are about your subject, the more engaging your lessons can become.
Still have some questions about the tutoring profession? Check out the answers to these FAQs below.
Q: What’s the difference between tutors and teachers?
Unlike tutors, who work one-on-one or with small groups of students, teachers are typically in charge of large groups of pupils, sometimes as many as 30. They tend to work fixed hours and have proper employment contracts, the duration of which can vary between school districts.
Tutors, however, normally decide their own hours as well as what to charge for their services.
Q: What are the most in-demand subjects to teach?
In 2018, Cambridge University conducted the Cambridge International Global Education Census, providing insights into the most popular school subjects around the world. The results showed that English, mathematics and natural sciences were among student favorites across the board. In the US specifically, art and design, languages, music, and history also ranked high.
Q: What are the best tools for online tutoring?
As an aspiring tutor, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the following tools:
- Web conferencing platforms, like MS Teams and Zoom
- File sharing services, like Dropbox
- Content creation tools, like MS PowerPoint and Canva
- Online whiteboards, like Ziteboard
- Audio recording software, like Audacity
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire,” said Irish writer William Butler Yeats. Indeed, skilled educators play a vital role in children and young adults’ lives: they inspire a passion for learning, instill confidence and often leave a lasting mark on their students.
On your way to pursuing this rewarding career, keep the following in mind:
- Where teachers instruct large groups, tutors take on small groups of students or one pupil at a time.
- Although not always required, tutor certifications can help you stand out from the crowd.
- If you’d like to offer tutoring services online, tools like Evernote and Ziteboard can enhance your lessons.
- To teach effectively, tutors need to stay up to date with various curriculaacross different grade levels.
Do you have any tips to share with fellow aspiring tutors? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
Originally published on December 13, 2019.