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What is a Tutor?

A tutor is basically a private teaching coach who helps a student with a specific learning concept or subject. Most tutors have niche subjects and age groups they work with so they can effectively market their talents and reach their core clients.

Although most tutors have a background in education it is not a prerequisite for the position. The key requirements are an ability to effectively convey knowledge and a complete knowledge of their subject matter. Tutors traditionally work face-to-face with their clients but may utilize live chats, emails, or video conferences if meeting in person is not convenient.

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Steps to Becoming a Tutor

Although many tutors enter the field with no educational training, there is a standard path to success in this occupation. This means that the majority of tutors have followed these steps to become adept at tutoring, so although it is a clear path you might wish to modify it depending on your own personal knowledge and experience.

  • Step 1: Earn a bachelor's degree in education

  • Step 2: Become an expert in your field

  • Step 3: Complete tutor training

  • Step 4: Become certified and licensed

  • Step 5: Set up a business system

  • Step 6: Advertise for clients


Step 1: Earn your Bachelor's degree

A degree in education or a specific subject such as mathematics will demonstrate you have a well-rounded education. An education degree will give you valuable teaching skills; if you choose a specific subject you should strive to add teaching courses to your curriculum. Because many tutors are self-employed, you should also consider taking basic business courses so you can run your business efficiently. If possible, consider tutoring other students while you're in school, as this will give you valuable experience as well as references to showcase your tutoring abilities.

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Step 2: Become an expert in your field

Although many tutors work with several subjects you should find a niche and expand on it. For example, many tutors are in demand to help coach high school students with the SAT; likewise, the GRE often presents a challenge for college students wishing to pursue their graduate degree. If math is your forte, you should focus on advanced courses, such as calculus and statistics, that many struggle with. Look at the areas where tutoring is in demand and you will most likely find a need you can fill.

Step 3: Complete tutor training

Look for a reputable tutoring association and complete the basic training requirements. This will give you the ability to share your knowledge in a proven format and will help you adapt to different learning requirements you may encounter with future students. You'll learn to tutor in different formats, tutoring software, how to communicate with parents, and gain access to a support system as well as a network of other tutors. A tutor training course will also give you credibility when you enter the field, as your clients will know you have the ability to teach what you know.

Step 4: Become certified and licensed

Many states require tutors working within the public-school system to be certified or licensed, so check the requirements for the state you live in. It's an excellent plan to become certified even if you don't plan to work with the school system because certification will show you have measurable expertise in the tutoring field. If there are no state requirement guidelines, you can earn certification through a national tutoring association such as the American Tutoring Association, the National Tutoring Association, or the Association for Tutoring Professionals.

Step 5: Set up a business system

Many tutors are self-employed, so you should be prepared to set up your own scheduling system, as well as a bookkeeping system to invoice clients and track your income and tax payments. As a tutor, you'll be required to provide progress reports and test results, and you'll need to be able to access your information quickly and efficiently. You'll need dedicated folders and files on your computer as well as an organized file for hard copies of paperwork. Membership in a professional organization will give you access to proven business strategies for tutors.

Step 6: Advertise for clients

Marketing will be important as you launch your business, so plan an advertising campaign to reach your niche market. Consider job boards, posting informational flyers on community boards, social media, and using your personal network to spread the word about your business. Consider signing up with an online tutoring agency if you don't have time to market yourself but be aware they charge a percentage of your tutoring commission.

What Does a Tutor Do?

Unless working within a school system, tutors typically travel to their clients' homes to conduct private teaching sessions. Tutoring sessions are usually measured in one-hour increments; you could spend an hour teaching a child, but exam prep for college may be a two hour session.

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Besides one-on-one instruction a tutor might help develop study habits, provide assessments, and craft a plan for improvement. Parental reports are provided for minor students, and adult students are tested to determine improvement.

If the home situation is not conductive to private learning, a tutor might meet the student in a public place such as a coffee shop or library; video conferencing may also be employed.

Aside from actual tutoring sessions a tutor must write reports, compile study matter, acquire appropriate testing material, and document time and progress. Bookkeeping, billing, and marketing are also regular chores that might be performed on a daily or weekly schedule.

Tutor Skills to Acquire

Aside from expertise in one or more subjects, tutors must have a diverse skill set in order to work with a wide range of clients. Although some of your specific skill requirements will depend on the subjects you teach and the age group of your target audience there are many skills all tutors will need.

Here are some typical skills you should have or acquire:

  • Listening to clients to understand their needs and point of view
  • Speech recognition, especially when clients have an accent or speech impediment
  • Speaking clearly, so client can understand what is said
  • Customer service skills to interact with both clients and parents
  • Psychology to understand basic behavioral and learning disorders
  • Educational training to design curriculum, measure effects of teaching, and similar teaching skills
  • Tutor academic software fluency
  • Database software used by educators, such as Blackboard
  • Basic software such as spreadsheets, photo imaging, email, and scheduling calendars
  • Marketing skills to promote your business
  • Basic business knowledge to run your business smoothly

Alternative Paths

Although the path outlined here is the most common used by successful tutors it is not the only way to become a tutor. With enough expertise in a specific subject, some are able to enter the field in high school or college simply by marketing their skills to classmates. Others focus on becoming adept on a specific topic such as the SAT or GRE. Those who speak another language might tutor others who wish to learn a second language, and those who work in an area such as bookkeeping might tutor entrepreneurs to help them learn basic business books. Likewise, a statistician offering to tutor statistics students would find themselves in high demand, as would teachers who no longer wish to work in a formal school setting.

One might gain tutoring experience through volunteer work teaching adult literacy or at a community outreach program for at-risk children. Your teaching niche may determine where you volunteer or find clients; for example, an SAT tutor might connect with local GED classes to find clients who wish to enter college and a statistics coach might connect with their local Small Business Association to volunteer and find paying clients.

Tutor Careers & Salary

Where Might You Work?


Private tutors typically travel to their clients' homes. They either operate as a small business or work for a tutoring company, and each option has its pros and cons. Working as a self-employed tutor allows you more independence and higher pay, but you have to do your own marketing and scheduling as well as handling your own taxes. Working for a tutoring company allows you to utilize their advertising and job networking but the company takes a commission out of your income.

Many tutors work within their local school system which allows them to follow a set schedule and receive a standard income that doesn't fluctuate. On the other hand, most states require school tutors to be licensed or certified (or both). If you already have a teaching degree this may be the optimum path for your tutoring career.

Some adult education centers hire tutors, allowing you to bypass the licensing and certification process in many states. Searching job boards in your own state and city will give you a clear idea of what tutoring jobs are common where you live. Obviously, if you live in a college town you will find more opportunities than if you reside in a more rural area, but with video web communication you might be able to set up a virtual tutoring business from the comfort of your home.

Potential Career Paths

As an entrepreneur you may take your tutoring career to any path you choose by adding areas of expertise to your resume. In this case, it is more expanding your portfolio to become more versatile, which will allow you to tap from a larger client base:

  • Basic math tutors might expand to tutoring algebra and calculus
  • Elementary level tutors might expand to high school courses
  • Accounting or finance tutors might add statistics and basic tax preparation to their portfolio
  • SAT Tutors might become proficient in coaching potential grad students for the GRE

You might also choose to expand your business by opening your own tutor company, where you take on the advertising, scheduling, and payroll system for other tutors while receiving a commission on the tutoring jobs they work through your company.

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If you have a teaching degree and are tutoring within a school system you might segue into another permanent position within the school or system. This may require learning additional skills or completing your master's degree, depending on the requirements of your state and school board. Here are some positions you might move into as a school tutor:

  • Reading efficiency course director: plan, utilize, and analyze the reading curriculum to determine its effectiveness within a grade school or across a school system
  • Learning services coordinator: coordinate all tutors within the school to provide the most effective services to the students needing the most assistance
  • Director of academic support: oversee the entire tutoring program throughout a school system
  • Guidance specialist: identify students needing help and coordinate the services between student, parents, and tutors

Tutor Salaries

Occupation Entry-Level Mid-Career Late-Career
Tutor $20,000 $38,000 $68,000
Preschool Teacher $20,000 $33,000 $50,000
Substitute Teacher, K-12 $13,000 $29,000 $43,000
Teacher Assistant $15,000 $23,000 $36,000
Daycare Teacher $18,000 $29,000 $43,000

**Salary info provided by PayScale

Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the median annual wage for tutors was $39,710 in 2017. Keeping in mind that most tutors work part time and have many hours of work that are not billable, Payscale reports the average hourly wage is $17.51 with a range from $9.94 to $39.76. Again, your niche will affect how much you can charge for tutoring; a tutor specializing in exam preparation reports a fee of $100 per hour for LSAT and GRE tutoring and $160 per hour for the GMAT with an average tutoring time of 10 to 15 hours per client. On the flip side, a high school or college student can expect rates at or below the lower range of $9.94.

Tutoring as a whole is expected to have a healthy job growth in the next decade, growing at a robust 14% per year through 2026. This means you can expect a steady flow of clients for your tutoring business regardless of your areas of expertise. As you add more subjects to your resume you can most likely raise your hourly rates accordingly so it's important to stay informed on developments within the field as well as subjects that may be in demand in the near future.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Advancing From Here

As mentioned above, if tutoring is your forte you might consider opening your own tutoring center and directing other tutors to help them build their career. If you're working within a school system you should plan to earn your master's degree, which will allow you to move up the educational chain from tutor to teacher to director, and from there you might move to a position as principal or administrator.

Outside the school system you might consider teaching at the college level or entering your field of expertise. For example, one who is tutoring in mathematics might enter the finance field or an expert in statistics might pursue a career as an analyst.

If you specialize in test prep tutoring, you might consider creating an online class in your subject and expanding your business in that direction to reach a wider range of clients with less personal involvement. Likewise, if your area is reading fundamentals you might start an online class or an after-school supplemental program to help a larger number of clients in a group setting.

Wherever you go with your tutoring career, remember to add your experience to your resume to showcase your ability to help and teach others. This will be an asset to employers in virtually any field you choose.

What are online tutoring jobs?

Online tutoring jobs are available via online platforms and offer more flexibility than standard tutoring. Online tutoring jobs use a combination of videoconferencing, chat support, or voice calls. An online tutor will generally make their own schedule and have more freedom over their teaching style. To be an online tutor, you will generally need prior tutoring experience.

What personalities are best suited for online tutoring jobs?

Online tutoring jobs are best suited for people with high levels of patience, flexibility, and high emotional IQs. Online tutoring jobs require good communication, self-discipline, and an openness to change.

How much do online tutoring jobs pay?

Full time online tutoring jobs pay around $38,000 annually.

Do you need to earn a teaching certificate to be a tutor?

A teaching certificate is required to teach in public and most private schools in all states. Tutoring jobs are generally performed outside of the school and do not require a teaching certificate. Most tutoring jobs can be done with a high school diploma.

What is the job outlook for online tutor jobs?

Online tutor jobs are expected to grow by 11% by 2030.

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