Updated July 2021
A recent survey by the US Department of Education found that at least 32% of high schools in the country required some kind of academic tutoring for students who fall into the “at-risk” category in their performance. There’s never been a better time to learn how to become a tutor.
Even more students are privately tutored outside of their schools, with the workforce of tutors in the United States topping out at more than 190,000 and growing. Tutoring helps students to achieve their academic and life goals every day by providing valuable extracurricular help.
If you’d like to learn how to become a tutor, then you’ll need an in-depth guide to the kinds of tutoring, the requirements needed to break into the industry, and a step-by-step breakdown for getting started with tutoring online.
Why Become a Tutor
The main reason many people become tutors is to see positive change in their students. Though tutoring may not mean seeing as many students as a standard teacher, it does mean building deeper, more personal connections with each student.
Tutors watch their pupils grow more confident in their skills and in themselves and see the decisive impact of their teaching. They may tutor the same student for many years, meaning they get to see the progress over time and know they were part of that student’s success.
Of course, there is also the financial aspect of becoming a tutor to consider. According to Payscale, tutors in the United States make between $21,000 and $83,000 per year, depending on their experience and education. The average hourly pay is between $17 and $25, meaning you can easily make a full-time living on tutoring, whether you’re working in person or online.
Kinds of Tutors
In general, tutors are educators who work with one or a small group of students outside of school hours to improve their performance. There are multiple different kinds of tutors, but they can be broken down into five basic categories.
A grade-specific tutor focuses on a particular age range, generally just a few grades at a time. There are four basic kinds of grade-specific tutors:
- Preschool tutors, who cater to children ages 4-5 who are just entering school, help these kids learn basic skills such as the alphabet, phonics, numbers, and classroom behavior.
- Elementary tutors, who focus on children in grades 1-5 and help them with various subjects to make sure they are keeping up with their peers. They may also help with the students’ first forays into standardized testing.
- Middle and high school tutors, who focus on children and teens in grades 6-12 and who help them stay on top of increasing workloads and testing schedules.
- College tutors are generally fellow college students at the same university and may be graduate students participating in programs to help underclassmen.
Most grade-specific tutors will be expected to work with various subjects and act as general academic support.
As the name implies, topic-specific tutors specialize in a particular subject area such as mathematics, English language, literature, the sciences, or different periods of history. These tutors typically cater to a broader age range and may even work with adults in college and beyond.
Topic-specific tutors are often experts in their fields with either degrees, certifications, or several years of experience as their accreditation. They’re well-suited for students who only struggle in one or two areas of academics but otherwise perform well.
Some examples of topic-specific tutors include:
- Online math tutor
- Organic chemistry tutor
- Python tutor
- Writing tutor
Special Education Tutors
Special education tutors work with children with special needs to hone their skills using case-specific strategies. They may work on academics alone or general life skills and typically work with a particular age range (preschool, elementary, middle, or high school).
Special education tutors are usually required to hold specific degrees and certifications showing their knowledge and experience working with developmental conditions such as autism, dyslexia, ADHD, or speech and language issues.
Test Preparation Tutors
Test preparation tutors provide focused guidance for standardized testing. They may work with general state education assessments or help students prepare for gifted or advanced placement program entrance testing.
Test preparation tutors have been commonly associated with preparation for college entrance exams. They may also recommend or screen for readiness for advanced courses and programs for gifted students.
A homework assistant is a tutor who provides light assistance to students who have trouble with take-home work. Their coverage is usually not as intense or long-lasting, and they may be hired on an as-needed basis rather than as a regular tutor.
Homework assistants generally cover a wide variety of subjects and age ranges and offer shorter sessions than other kinds of tutors.
Requirements for Becoming a Tutor
Considering the wide variety of tutoring programs and stand-alone tutors, there’s no single requirement for getting started as a tutor. That being said, there are several factors your potential clients will consider before taking you on as a tutor.
Most tutors need at least a high-school diploma. This is all that’s strictly required in terms of formal education when it comes to preschool and elementary tutoring. For older kids and teens, it’s often preferable to have at least an undergraduate degree in their field of expertise.
The level of education required will vary based on the institution or organization you choose to work with as a tutor. Generally, tutors with more academic credits in their given field will be seen as more trustworthy and will garner more work.
There are a multitude of ways you can become a tutor without any formal experience, especially if you are working with a tutoring program through a university.
That being said, having some experience with education or leadership will often make a tutor appear more reliable and capable to potential new clients. This may include previous tutoring programs, professional projects in a chosen field (such as published research or experiments), or any experience with teaching or running organized activities such as workshops.
Several organizations offer certification to tutors specializing in a particular area, whether that’s an age range or a subject. These organizations include:
- The National Tutoring Association provides training through workshops, both online and through many college campuses in the United States.
- The International Tutor Training Program is run by the College Reading and Learning Association and provides training for college-level tutors.
- The Association for the Coaching and Tutoring Profession offers subject-specific certifications and a professional support network.
Most of these certifications will require participants to pay a certification fee, attend training, and show proof of education and experience. They’ll typically have a set period of validity (usually for one year), after which they’ll need to be renewed. This, again, will cost a fee.
How to Start Tutoring
Figuring out how to become a tutor starts with deciding which kind you will be, which will determine how you proceed.
- If you decide to become a grade-specific tutor, you’ll look into the educational requirements for your age range, and you’ll want to build up a base of knowledge across several subject areas.
- If you decide to become a subject-specific tutor, you’ll want to have proof of your expertise in your chosen area.
- If you decide to become a special education tutor, you’ll need to become properly certified to work with children with developmental conditions.
- If you decide to become a test preparation tutor, you’ll need to become extensively familiar with the rules, requirements, and content of the standardized testing in your state and country, including those for the ACT and the SAT in the United States.
- If you decide to become a homework assistant, you’ll want to keep up a broad base of knowledge across several subject areas, in the same way you would as a grade-specific tutor.
Once you’ve found what the requirements are for your job, educate yourself and get certified accordingly. Research education programs that match your needs, or, if you are working toward a particular degree, be sure that it is in the field you intend to tutor in. This may take some time, but once you’ve done so, you should have a good idea of how to tutor and can start actively looking for work.
How to Become an Online Tutor
Becoming an online tutor is relatively simple, and it all begins with choosing a platform to work on.
- Choose a platform for work. This is covered in more detail below, but generally, you’ll want to choose a site from which to find new students and interact with existing ones.
- Choose software for your work. Though it may be included in some online tutoring platforms, if you’re choosing to freelance as an independent tutor, you’ll want to choose software to work with your students through. This might be as simple as a video chatting program or as complex as an interactive whiteboard, and the costs will vary as such.
- Set a rate. You may charge hourly or per session, depending on the kind of tutoring you provide. Remember that the average hourly rate for a tutor is between $17 and $25, so adjust according to your background and financial needs.
- Establish a profile. When you’ve found a platform and software, set up an online profile and advertise it as appropriate – LinkedIn and other social media can help you find clients relatively quickly. Showcase your education, experience, rates, and availability.
- Get clients. With that, you should start seeing clients filter in. Interview them to ensure you’re a good fit for their needs and begin working with them.
Be sure to keep a consistent, up-to-date calendar to manage your appointments and meticulous records for your taxes. You may also look into regular educational opportunities such as online courses or workshops to hone your skills between sessions.
Where to Find Online Tutoring Jobs
As mentioned above, the first step on how to tutor online to choose a platform to work with. This platform will be how you connect to your clients initially, book sessions or build a recurring schedule, and meet with your students. You may need multiple programs for actually meeting your students, but these will work as a centralized booking profile.
There are quite a few options available to you, depending on the level of specificity and control you want over your profile.
You can build your own website for the most customization possible to showcase your resume and book clients directly. If you have coding experience, the only thing you really need to pay for is a personalized domain.
Sites like WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace let you create a website without coding experience and offer relatively easy updating and maintenance. While the actual creation of the website itself is usually free, you will still need to pay for a personalized domain and, in most cases, the removal of advertisements.
Most of these sites also let clients book with you directly, giving you more control. If, however, you don’t want or can’t afford to maintain a personal website, there are third-party services you can use to connect with clients.
Tutoring Websites and Job Boards
Sites like Skooli, Tutor.com, and Care.com offer specialized profiles for tutors and match them with clients looking for a particular skill set. They’ll often have working relationships with many certification boards, so can allow you to receive a discounted certification fee or other benefits.
There are also job boards where clients can post for specific needs and tutors can apply for the position directly, even without an online profile. These boards tend to be less specifically about tutoring, but can let you target keywords so that you appear in clients’ searches when they match your expertise.
You can also use sites like Upwork and Fiverr to act as a freelance tutor. These sites offer free online profiles for freelancers of all kinds and allow you to create specialized, standard-priced sessions to book or to apply for jobs posted by clients.
Freelancing websites like these also tend to have features for current or past clients to leave testimonials and reviews of your work. This can improve your credibility and give you access to more clients the longer you hold the profiles.
Keep in mind that each online tutoring option has its own requirements and specifications, so be sure to do thorough research into which one is right for you.
Online Tutoring Versus In-Person Tutoring
The Princeton Review encourages students to choose online tutoring over in-person tutoring for a variety of reasons, from having complete control over their schedule to being able to consult multiple experts at once. These same benefits can be applied to the tutors themselves, though there are still some advantages to teaching in person.
In-person tutors tend to be able to work more directly with their clients’ needs. They can run physical activities such as lab experiments and games that bolster the students’ learning and reinforce the day’s lessons. They also don’t have to worry about technical issues costing them time or money.
Unfortunately, in-person tutors are limited to a very specific service area. They’re also often responsible for transportation costs to and from clients’ homes, or the cost of operating a tutoring facility. They may work with a particular institution that controls their schedule and availability.
Online tutoring can often be more efficient, both in terms of time and money, for everyone involved. An online tutor can work from the comfort of their own home and set their own schedule. They’re also able to work with clients all around the country, and potentially all over the world.
There is the risk of technical failure for online tutors, though. They need to have the proper equipment for teaching at home, including a well-equipped work computer and software for communicating with students and sharing interactive lessons. Online tutors need reliable, high-speed internet connections, and may be in trouble if there is an issue with connectivity.
Which Should You Choose?
If you’re planning to work only with a specific subset of students, a particular area, or with an established organization, then you should consider in-person tutoring. This is especially true if you’re planning to work with a particular school or college, as they’ll often have offices and meeting spaces available to tutors.
The more profitable and preferable choice, though, is usually going to be online tutoring. Most institutions are now offering virtual tutoring even if they have brick-and-mortar locations, so you’ll likely have to do some version of remote tutoring anyway.
Tutoring is a lucrative career, both in terms of finances and fulfilment. Tutors help students who might otherwise have fallen behind due to a mismatch in education styles within the current system, or even due to a disability they have no control over.
By offering your expertise to at-risk students, you’re helping them reach not only graduation but their career goals beyond it. Tutors offer an invaluable service that can quite literally change lives.
Hopefully you now know the steps you need to take on how to become a tutor. There has never been a better time to get started as an online tutor. Your students will thank you for it.