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Teaching One-on-One: How to Become a Private Tutor

October 2, 2019

Every student has unique educational needs. Tutoring once was merely a rigorous, strict program lasting hours outside of school; now, private tutors from a range of backgrounds regularly meet with students to help them brush up on skills, study for tests, and learn more complex subjects. Students are just as diverse as their tutors: some students are visual learners, while others rely more heavily on their auditory senses to soak up information.

As a private tutor, you help people tap into their learning strengths and provide valuable guidance along their educational journey. Families may hire tutors independently. Or educational institutions wanting to provide students with expert resources to support their learning may hire tutors as well. Companies focus on meeting diverse tutoring needs, whether it’s helping elementary school students master reading or helping high school students prepare for the SATs. Not only that, nonprofit and governmental institutions also hire tutors.

Clearly, aspiring tutors have many opportunities to choose from. And if you want to maximize your potential, a master’s degree is recommended. Find out how to become a private tutor in this article.

What a Private Tutor Does

Regardless of the type of organization they work for, private tutors work with students one-on-one, providing focused and personalized attention. This enables them to recognize areas where the students are having trouble—both in terms of subject matter and learning style—and to provide tailor-made solutions. At the base level, the job will involve meeting with students, identifying learning hurdles and coming up with ways to overcome them, creating innovative lesson plans, and assisting with homework and test preparation. Tutors of younger children, the may also communicate with parents and teachers. Exactly in what direction your career grows from there depends on what educational and career opportunities you pursue.

Steps on How to Become A Private Tutor

Tutors start by educating themselves. Regardless of where you want to work, an undergraduate degree will be the minimum requirement. If you’re going to tutor someone in a subject, whether it’s English literature or biology, you need to have a thorough knowledge of that subject yourself. Your first step is thus to decide what subjects you’d like to tutor. Most tutors focus on three or four core subjects. For example, if you get an undergraduate degree in a STEM field, then you might tutor in biology, precalculus, and statistics.

The next steps to becoming a private tutor depend in part on what type of client you want to work for (private family, educational institution, etc.) and what grade level you want to work with. You can get a feel for this by doing some volunteer tutoring during your undergraduate studies. Some people love to work with young kids—meaning elementary school tutoring would be ideal—while others prefer to work with teenagers. Once you’ve completed your undergraduate degree and discovered what age group you want to work with, you’ll have a better idea of where you want to work.

Typical workplaces for tutors include the following:

  • Schools. If you want to work one-on-one with kids, whether it’s 7-year-olds or 17-year-olds, then a school is perfect for you. You’ll be surrounded by other educators who share your passion for teaching, which can be rewarding.
    • Education Required. An undergraduate degree is required, and a master’s degree may also be needed.
    • Developmental Path. If you start out in a school, you can advance to more senior levels with added education. Say you work with elementary school kids. You see children struggling to learn in the classroom. Eventually you decide you want to be in a position in which you can implement broader changes from the top down—so you get a master’s in teaching with an elementary focus. You might then eventually become a school principal.
    • Other Skills Required. You need clear communication skills as well as creativity to come up with engaging lesson plans. Patience and persistence are also important as you may need to cheer students on when they get discouraged.
  • Tutoring Company. A tutoring company employs a team of subject experts to address various fields and age groups. You’ll not only work with students but also collaborate with other employees and company management.
    • Education Required. Most tutoring companies require a minimum of an undergraduate degree and will view a master’s as advantageous. If you’re tutoring in areas like SAT prep, tutoring companies may require you to have achieved a certain score on the exam yourself.
    • Developmental Path. Opportunities depend largely on the size of the company. If the company’s large enough, you may be able to climb the ranks from a hands-on tutoring role to a more managerial position, for instance, a position in which you train other tutors.
    • Other Skills Required. You’ll have to be able to communicate and work with diverse individuals, both the students and your tutoring coworkers, so an open mind is important. Flexibility regarding what you tutor and when is needed.
  • Independent Business. You can also choose to set up your own tutoring business. You’ll have more flexibility, but you’ll also have less stability—you’ll have to build up your own client list and continually hustle for business. Also, tutoring independently can mean you won’t have other educators to connect with daily.
    • Education Required. An undergraduate degree is the minimum needed. While you can stop there, acquiring a master’s will make you stand out from the competition. Gaining accreditation from the National Tutoring Association (NTA) will also help attract clients.
    • Developmental Path. You’ll have to grow your business yourself, expanding your client list by networking and advertising. You may choose to further your education to expand your offerings, thereby attracting more clients.
    • Other Skills Required. In addition to great communication and tutoring skills, you’ll need excellent time management and planning abilities to juggle diverse clients. You’ll also want to learn marketing basics, for instance, how to set up your own website.
  • Educational Organization. Many diverse organizations employ private tutors, including nonprofit associations, governmental agencies, and education-focused companies (for example, publishing companies creating textbooks and other learning materials). Such positions generally give you broader oversight over learning techniques and tactics and may even enable you to work in a policy-shaping role.
    • Education Required. An undergraduate degree is nearly always a must. A master’s degree is recommended and may be required for some roles. Receiving accreditation from the NTA is also a plus.
    • Developmental Path. In addition to an undergraduate degree and hands-on experience, a master’s is often required for more senior positions.
    • Other Skills Required. Communication, advocacy, and leadership skills are essential. You must be able to speak on behalf of students and represent their needs to school administrators and parents.

Job Outlook for Tutors

The job outlook for people in teaching assistant positions is good. Growth of 8 percent is expected from 2016 to 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). An increase in student enrollment and anticipated increases in funding for state and federal education programs will support this jump. Salaries vary widely. The BLS reports that the lowest 10 percent of earners received less than $18,670, while the highest 10 percent received more than $41,020. At the time of writing, PayScale estimates that the average annual salary range for tutors is $20,738–$83,277. The reason for this wide range between low and high salaries is the diversity of positions available: some tutors only work part time, as the BLS notes, for example. Again, an advanced education will mean more options in terms of employment and access to more senior, higher-paying positions.

If you’re interested in how to become a private tutor and want to maximize your earning potential, learn more about American University’s online Master of Arts in Teaching and online Master of Education in Education Policy and Leadership programs. In addition to teaching fundamental skills, these programs also instill soft skills like communication and how to address diversity and inclusion in the classroom. Since they’re online, they offer fantastic flexibility while providing you with a respected education and hands-on experience. With these credentials under your belt, any of the paths discussed in the article will be open to you.