How to Become a Tutor

Qualifications, Skills & Education Needed to Be a Great Tutor

Have a passion for helping others succeed? Are you in between jobs or considering a career change? Looking for service hours, a side gig, or simply a new challenge? Tutoring may be the answer!

Tutors can offer their services in private settings, within K-12 schools and college campuses, or via companies specializing in tutoring. Many tutors focus on specific subjects like reading or science, general homework help and schedule management, or areas that they have experience and excel in, such as standardized testing (SAT, ACT, GMAT, etc.). Read on to find out if you are a perfect fit for this very important role.

How to Become a Tutor

Qualifications Needed to Be a Tutor

Tutors come from various educational backgrounds and, while a background in teaching helps, an official certification or completion of particular coursework is not necessarily required to be a tutor. What is key is that a tutor has the qualities of a good teacher – substantial knowledge in a specific subject or skill, a passion for learning, and a professional yet caring attitude. A tutor must also be up-to-date with the current school curriculum and possess particular skills to be a successful tutor.

Skills Needed to Tutor

More important than having an official certification for tutoring is the skillset you must have to be a successful tutor.

Communication Skills: Tutors must be good communicators that are able to actively listen to tutees’ thoughts and ideas, consider their input, and then discuss the input as it pertains to the lesson.

Patience: It really is a virtue, and a skill that can make or break a tutor. Someone possessing advanced knowledge in a subject, who is teaching someone with very little or no knowledge must remain calm no matter how frustrating the session may be.

Adaptability: Tutors must be willing to to confront or change their own ideas and preconceptions – nobody knows it all, and learning is a lifetime endeavor. Being able to eat humble pie when one finds that a previously believed fact is inaccurate is an important skill for tutoring.

Creativity: Since people have various learning styles, tutors must be able to creatively adapt their lessons to accommodate those styles in accessible and fun ways.

Positivity: A positive attitude is absolutely essential to be a good tutor since tutees need support and encouragement throughout the educational process. This positivity can also “rub off” on tutees to make for a more constructive learning environment.

Empathy: Some students struggle with learning and retaining information, and tutors must be able to empathize with their tutees in order to stay dedicated to their learning and keep the tutees equally dedicated.

Problem-Solving: Tutors must be able to identify problems and generate creative solutions to provide the most effective instruction possible. This skill is also necessary since tutors must regularly help tutees problem-solve to learn the material.

Confidentiality: If you enjoy gossip, tutoring is probably not for you since it requires discretion. It is not okay for tutors to discuss their tutees’ with anyone else without authorization from the tutees – no chatting with other tutors or teachers about frustrations, no filling in family members about the high schooler who hates math, no telling close friends about the crazy thing a tutee said the other day.

Organization & Time Management: Tutors manage their own schedules and must be respectful of time for their own sake, as well as tutees’ sakes. Time management and organizational skills are needed to ensure that sessions don’t go over the allotted time, that all planned topics are covered, and that the goals of the session are achieved.

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Becoming a Tutor

Often elementary schools and K-12 school districts have peer tutoring programs where older students tutor and coach younger ones. Volunteering for peer tutoring assignments is a great way to earn service hours for graduation awards and also gauge if you have the interest and skills to pursue more formal, paid tutoring opportunities.

To work as a formal paid tutor for a school district, company or tutoring agency, you must meet certain educational requirements. You may also need further training and certifications to work for a specific employer or within a particular state.

Get an Education

No matter where you are located and what type of tutor you wish to be, a high school level education is typically required to get paid to work with students. 

Anyone with a 4-year college degree is qualified to tutor others in their field of study – a degree is usually required to find work with a tutoring agency or organization.

Join a Tutoring Association

Tap into timely and curated tutor resources by joining a national tutoring association that keeps tutors informed of industry news, job openings, opportunities for mentorship and networking, and educational opportunities (including official certifications). Popular tutoring associations include: 

Obtain a Tutoring Certification

Tutoring certification provides proof of advanced knowledge of teaching methods and techniques – and while tutoring certifications and licenses are not required in the U.S. in all tutoring scenarios, they can improve your chances of obtaining higher-paying tutoring gigs or starting your own business. Contact the Associations listed above to research certification and licensing in your specific area of interest (test prep, math, reading, etc.)

Acquire a Tutoring License (If Applicable)

If you plan to offer paid tutoring services within a public K-12 school setting, most State Boards of Education require a license be obtained – a quick online search for “How to become a tutor in (insert state here)” will provide needed details. Private tutors and volunteer tutors are not regulated or licensed.

Tutor Appointment Manager

If you think you’d make a great tutor, SignUp is here to support you! When it comes to managing tutor appointments, free online SignUps are the perfect way to keep everyone on track with no tutee registration required, e-calendar syncing, and automated reminders.

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