Becoming a tutor can lead to an incredible career or be a lucrative part-time job. Whichever path you choose, deciding on your hourly rate is a challenge each tutor faces. How do you evaluate your experience, your subject matter expertise and settle on the perfect price that encompasses it all? This article will walk you through the factors you will want to consider before you decide on that one right number (or several numbers, as the situation warrants.)
In the past ten years, there has been a boom in private tutoring requests from parents around the world, especially in Canada. Tutoring centres like Kumon, Oxford Learning and Mathnasium have popped up in nearly every city. Case in point, Kumon has ranked as the number one North American educational franchise for eighteen years running.
The expanding tutoring job market means there are many more people jumping into the business. There’s room for math tutoring, English essay writing, physics tutors, science tutors, language and literature, TOEFL, LSAT prep, it takes all sorts. It’s been a smooth transition for those who enjoy teaching but who may not be certified teachers. Why? There isn’t a list of requirements or schooling for this occupation. There is no such thing as a certified tutor.
The benefits of becoming a private tutor are it allows you to set your hours and your fees, which is very attractive for those who need flexibility and are self-starters. But what is the right rate to charge?
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What Factors are Most Valuable When Setting Your Tutoring Rate?
There are five things to consider when you are deciding how much to charge your potential students.
- What is the average tutoring rate for this subject in your region?
- What grade level is the student? Elementary, High School, University, Postgraduate?
- Will the lesson be one-on-one tutoring? Group tutoring? Home tutoring? A tutoring learning centre? Online tutoring?
- How much preparation time do you need before each lesson?
- What is your tutoring experience? Are you a student? A certified schoolteacher? A professional with a degree or qualifications?
You’ve noticed above that experience is divided into three categories: student, teacher and qualified professional. Where do you fall? Let’s break down each and see the one that best suits your skillset.
Professional grade tutors typically work in the field and have extensive experience and educational qualifications that set them apart. Beyond their in-depth knowledge of their subject, they also have life experience and connections. For students, this can dramatically affect their decision to hire them. An excellent example of this kind of tuition is professional musicians who have completed their music education, often through university and college-level courses. They also have deep connections in the music industry and valuable life experience. Their rates are the highest and they typically only have time for a few students per week.
Provincially certified teachers are often retired or are younger teachers supplementing their income. They have the benefit of being trained in school pedagogy, and this experience brings the best out of their wards. They may not have the most up-to-date knowledge. Still, they understand the school system, study skills, test taking, and how to achieve academic success. They typically command a higher than average hourly fee.
Students are the most common tutors in the market and they make great teachers. Due to their age and relative inexperience, they do charge a lower rate per hour for their services. However, what they lack in experience they make up for in current knowledge and enthusiasm.
They make the best peer tutors and can provide excellent help with homework assignments, study tips, test preparation and are typically available more often because of their school schedule.
If you need to hire tutors on a budget, engage a student who is currently enrolled in the course you are studying. They will have the academic skills to push you forward, and they don’t have office hours. You can see them by appointment.
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Be careful not to underprice yourself.
You may be tempted to set your rate so low that you look like a bargain to your potential clients. Even though you may not have much experience, don’t undervalue yourself. Charge what is right for your market and your clients will see your worth.
Do You Need Formal Qualifications to Become a Tutor?
As we mentioned, there is no professional designation required to start your own private tuition business. It is expected, however, that you will have completed the course work you are teaching and, as a general rule-of-thumb, you are at least one year ahead of your student.
Depending on your client’s educational goals and learning style, they may require you to have specific qualifications. For example, students who have learning challenges like ADHD or dyslexia do better with teachers who are trained to accommodate those kinds of hurdles. They know what is required to assist students with these difficulties and provide the academic support they need to give the student success.
Sports trainers also have specialised skills that require them to have training that makes them uniquely qualified for their discipline. For example, in martial arts, you need a black belt or master qualifications to be able to lead a class. The same is true in other games, like hockey or tennis. There aren't any graduated awards in these sports. Still, these coaches have typically played at the highest level of the game, and they understand all aspects of it intimately.
Advanced music students also expect their teachers to have completed their Royal Conservatory of Music certificate if they are teaching at that level. However, if they are introducing students to an instrument, a college-level of musical education is not necessary.
Do you need a university degree to become a tutor?
Will it enable you to charge a higher fee?
The short answer is no, they aren’t required, and yes, you can charge a higher fee if you have one. It comes down to a higher level of training and proof that you have demonstrable expertise in that subject. Is there a vast difference in pay between those with degrees and those who don’t have one?
Graduate degrees are value-add parts of your resume, which are not formally mandated but are expected by the public in some subjects/sports.
The most important thing to remember is to be completely transparent with your clients about your education and experience. Doing this upfront will create a healthy environment of realistic expectations and honesty.
Does a Teaching Background Affect How Much You Can Charge?
It works in your favour. Private tutors who are former teachers have three things that recommend them: proof of experience, professionalism and training.
Parents know when they contract a former teacher that they will have the training to teach in a multitude of different ways. They can accommodate visual learners, audible learners, experiential learning etc. They’ll also be trained to know which style is best for your child and employ it correctly.
They have years of professional service that instills a code of conduct that’s appreciated by clients. For example:
- Reliability and punctuality
- An individualised study plan
- Prepared lesson plans
- Comprehensive assignment and test feedback
- Identification of the student’s strengths and weaknesses
- Progress tracking and goal setting
Their experience will mean that they come with recommendations that lend credibility and value to their services.
Today the world of online tutoring has grown so exponentially you can quickly gain experience and positive ratings/reviews. Doing this will immediately elevate your private tutoring status. SuperProf is an excellent website that promotes, for free, online tutoring services around the world. This enables an online tutor to create a virtual learning environment with no travel costs or time spent whatsoever.
What If You Have No Experience in Tutoring?
Everyone must start somewhere; the important thing is to start and progress from there. The time couldn’t be better to supplement your income or change careers into this lucrative field.
You may begin at the lower end of the tutoring rate spectrum; however, continually review your subject and the tutoring fees in your area to make sure you are keeping up with the marketplace. As you gain more experience and find more tutoring jobs, reflect those accomplishments in your rates. The same premise applies should you pick up any relevant designations or awards. It’s important to sell yourself!
Finally, when you have a roster of students, give them your best. Sharpen your skills, create lessons that expand and challenge your students while praising the strides they make each session. You may teach reading and writing, trigonometry, anatomy and physiology or hockey and piano. The sky is the limit.
Whatever you do, do it well. It will result in 5-star references that will make you proud. It will also be a calling card to new students looking for that perfect tutor who will make them better and more confident. And who can put a price on confidence?