The world of tutoring is certainly appealing in that it entails helping students reach their full potential while setting your own hours. If you tutor online, you don’t even have to leave your house! As high school and college admissions become more competitive, tutors are in greater and greater demand. If you have a professional demeanor and advertise locally, you’ll be able to find many in person tutoring gigs in your neighborhood. There are also many opportunities online. For overseas students or students who live in remote areas, online tutoring is often their only option.
You'll need a college degree. Ideally you'll have a college degree in the discipline that you are going to tutor. If you don’t have a degree in the field you’d like to tutor, you can always enroll in a certificate program at your local college or community college. Certificate programs admit most of the students that apply to them, and many provide job placement assistance. These certificate programs can be a little pricey, however. Expect to pay at $3,000 for a worthwhile certificate. That upfront cost should be justified though if you can charge a higher hourly rate once you receive the certificate. Also, you can bolster your resume by completing programs at organizations like the American Tutoring Association or National Tutoring Association.
Beyond a college degree, the only qualification you'll need is experience.
Clients hire tutors with experience. After all, repetition is the mother of skill. Tutors with experience are naturally more confident and better able to help students. Each individual case is unique; experienced tutors can intuitively adapt to help different types of students.
To gain experience you can volunteer at community centers or the YMCA or just reach out to family friends in high school or college and offer to help them with their studies. Any experience you get counts as hours logged.
One thing to keep in mind is that many tutoring agencies provide training once they hire you. Often these training services are online. Kaplan, for example, which is a prominent SAT tutoring company, provides paid online training at roughly $10 per hour. Their main qualification for hiring you is that you received an 1800 or above on the old SAT. If your scores weren’t high enough, they’ll let you take a practice test at their facility to prove that you can score above an 1800. I promise you that if you prepare, you'll get an 1800 on the old SAT. Finding a job with an agency that offers training, especially paid training, is a great way to gain vital experience.
As touched on above, the opportunities for tutoring—both online and in person—have been growing in number as the industry continues to become more prominent and valued. You might be surprised at the many different types of programs, schools and organizations that are actively seeking tutors. Reach out to schools and organizations, in particular schools you attended or organizations you're familiar with. For example, if you used to work at an insurance company, you can offer ‘half price’ writing instruction to everybody at the company. Subjects like ‘writing’ or ‘communication skills’ are always in demand.
If you have a certificate or degree in something more specialized—let’s say website design—be creative and market yourself. Reach out to local businesses that don’t have a website, and offer to set up a website for them if they pay you X dollars. And then you can charge them X dollars to teach them how to maintain the website.
There are also many tutoring agencies that have a team of tutors on staff. The upside to these agencies is that they'll provide you with a steady stream of clients which is invaluable especially when you're first starting out. Also, as noted above, many of these agencies offer training.
If you're having trouble landing a paid job, there are always volunteer positions available. Volunteer positions will provide you with experience that you can leverage into paying jobs. If you’re looking for volunteer positions, libraries, orphanages and senior centers are great places to start. If you do a good job as a volunteer, these places will often start paying or refer you to paying customers.
Standardized Test Tutoring
One great way to break into the industry is to focus on standardized tests. There is a niche market for tutoring standardized tests such as the ISEE or SSAT, two tests that are designed for eighth graders, so you don’t have to be a genius to tutor them. You simply need to study them and research how to teach them. And if you happened to have done well on the SAT or GRE—even if you’ve simply done well on a practice test—you can easily make upwards of $100 per hour tutoring these higher level exams. "Master" SAT tutors can charge up to $400 per hour.
The SAT recently completely overhauled its format so tutors who were so called ‘experts’ on the old SAT are in the process of acclimating to a completely redesigned test. This fact plays well into the hands of inexperienced tutors because every SAT tutor is in a process of adjustment to the extent that many tutoring companies are advising students to steer clear of the SAT and take the ACT.
Asian students in particular need help preparing for standardized test, as well as general academic support, because English is normally their second language. Many Asian cultures place great emphasis on education and are willing to pay a lot of money for good tutors. These jobs are often online based, especially if you're working with a student who currently lives in Asia.
Specializing in one thing is a good way to build a solid client base. You can specialize in a particular standardized test or pre-calculus, for example. Once you've gotten really good at tutoring one specific thing, you can branch out your skill set and add to your repertoire.
If you work independently (i.e. not for a tutoring agency with a pipeline of clients) you'll need to aggressively market yourself. One great way to do so is to create your own website as well as instructional YouTube videos.
You can also add your name to numerous online directories. Type in ‘tutoring directory’ in Google and you’ll find too many directories to count. The website Thumbtack.com is really good for finding clients. You can even do some hardcore guerilla marketing such as distributing flyers at a local community college or contacting guidance counselors and informing them about the service you provide. Be creative and pleasantly pushy!
You can also reach out to students and schools all over the world if you're able to provide Skype tutoring which you should be.
Which Subjects Are In Demand?
Every subject is in demand, although in the United States, math and science are most in demand. A lot of students have trouble in math and science because those disciplines involve particular jargon and concepts that are technical and disconnected from every day life. Subjects like English and History, for example, revolve around language and historical facts, things that we come across in every day life.
Foreign languages are also in demand, especially obscure ones. If you register as an Italian tutor on Thumbtack.com, for example, you'll get several notifications per week from students seeking Italian instruction, some of it online and some in person. There's also a large market for teaching English as a second language, but you'll need something called a TESOL certificate to find consistent work in that industry.
Writing is also in demand. Students need help producing good, clear writing in every subject. So if you’re a good writer, there are definitely opportunities out there for you.
And, as touched on above, standardized test tutors are highly sought after and can make hundreds of dollars per hour from wealthy clients.
Salary and Lifestyle
The salary range for tutors varies greatly. Do you work for yourself or for a tutoring agency? If you work for an agency, you’ll only receive a small percentage of the client’s hourly rates, usually around one third, which equates to about $25 per hour for beginning tutors. If you're working full time for a tutoring agency, you'll likely be making around $40,000 per year unless that agency caters to wealthy clients in which case you can pretty easily make upwards of $100,000 per year. If the company caters to wealthy clients, you'll likely need impressive credentials or lots of experience to get hired.
If you work for yourself, you pocket every cent that the client pays. Ideally you’d like to build your own client base and tutor independently, but especially at first, a tutoring agency will help provide you with a steady stream of clients.
When you first start out, unless you have very impressive credentials, you’ll be able to charge around $25 per hour for normal subject tutoring—i.e. math, science and English tutoring. Once you have experience, especially if you're working with wealthier clients, you'll easily be able to charge $40 per hour which is a bargain for a top level tutor.
But as time goes on and you have more experience, regardless of whether you’re working for yourself or an agency, you’ll be able to charge more and more. And if you’re providing a service that’s in very high demand such as SAT tutoring, you can charge around $40 per hour from the get go.
How many hours per week you work depends on several factors such as whether or not you're a full time tutor or simply working as a part time tutor. Many tutors work part time to help support themselves while they're in school.
If you start out working at a tutoring agency, many agencies have guidelines that you'll need to follow such as you have to tutor between 9-15 clients per week. If you work independently, you can basically choose how much you'd like to work.
The challenge is getting those first clients. If you do a good job with your clients, you’ll naturally get plenty of referral business. You can take referral jobs independently without an agency knowing, although be careful that you’re not violating an agency’s referral policy. Everybody has a friend or a sibling who needs a tutor so you'll always get referrals.
But let’s say you start out making $20 per hour. Let’s say you have ten clients per week—that’s $800 per month. That’s $9,600 per year—not bad for ten hours of work a week, especially considering that as a tutor, you aren’t required to do much work outside of your tutoring sessions other than keeping track of your students' homework assignments.
Pros and Cons
+The tutoring industry has been growing as admissions becomes increasingly competitive.
+It should be easy for you to get consistent work online if you market yourself well.
+You can help students of all sorts. If you tutor in person, then you help students in your neighborhood grow academically. If you tutor online, you help students all over the world improve.
+You’ll get plenty of repeat clients and referrals if you’re diligent and work constantly to improve.
+You set your own hours.
-You are more likely to get a better job if you work in multiple disciplines. As opposed to hiring three different tutors—one for math, one for science, one for French—many clients prefer to hire one tutor who can “do it all.” For this reason, if you’re able to teach a very specialized exam such as the SAT, you’ll have some serious job security. Standardized testing tutors are not expected to teach anything else, but often need to master a range of skills in order to teach the math and verbal sections of a test.
-Some students (and parents) are unrealistic and expect you to make sure that the student receives straight A’s. Be honest with students and parents from the get go about managing expectations. A large part of being an effective tutor is inspiring the student to get into the habit of doing his or her own work without you nagging them.
-Summer may be somewhat of a down period, although if you’re working with overseas students or affiliated with some community college or high school, there will always be a demand for Summer tutors. Often weaker students will need instruction over the summer.