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How to become an online tutor

Check out these expert tips for becoming an effective online tutor and using your skills to earn some cash.

Whether you’re looking to break into the online tutoring world from a completely different field or want to move your in-person tutoring service to an online setting, there are a number of things to consider when becoming an online tutor — including some of the undeniable advantages online tutoring has over in-person tutoring.

“We’re really seeing the benefits of online tutoring come to life lately — for both tutors and students,” says Jill Schnack, a 10-year tutoring veteran and the owner of Jill’s Tutors. “Not only are you able to work from virtually any location,” says Schnack, but also, “as education transitions to the online setting more, we’re beginning to notice some of the constraints that come with in-person tutoring. With online tutoring, tutors can fully use the technology that’s available to them, which, in some cases, can contribute to a better learning experience.”

Before reaching out to online tutoring services for work or starting a business (or side gig) of your own, check out these expert tips for becoming an effective online tutor and using your skills to earn some cash.  

What experience do you need to become an online tutor?

While a specific degree or certificate isn’t required to become an online tutor (or an in-person tutor), strong knowledge in the subject you want to teach is. “Technically, anyone can be a tutor, but your success [and, in turn, your income] will depend on your experience and knowledge in the subject(s) you’re tutoring in,” says Schnack. “Some of our most popular tutors have been college students who had little or no previous tutoring experience or people who earned a degree in an unrelated field but have a passion for a certain subject.”

That said, if you’re looking to become an online tutor — on your own or through an agency — Schnack says you’re likely going to be asked about your education background and experience, and with the latter, you may need some type of accreditation. “In the United States, there’s no required certification to tutor, but we recommend tutors complete a training and certification program,” says Stephanie Dunaieff, VP of Grants and Marketing at the National Tutoring Association and CEO of Margot Tutoring. “We also advise continued tutor training in order to stay up to date on the latest trends and information.”

And finally, keep in mind that a background check will likely be required. “Since tutoring usually involves working with minors, most tutoring companies or parents will ask you to submit a recent background check,” says Schnack.

For more information on background checks, visit the Care.com Safety Center.

How to get a job as an online tutor

There are a number of things you can do to start a tutoring business or become a successful online tutor, but before you do that, you need clients. “To get an online tutoring job, you can work your own professional network to find tutoring opportunities or get in touch with companies who are searching for online tutors,” says Egger. 

Another option? Search for tutoring jobs or put up an online profile on Care.com, which offers a platform to a wide variety of tutors in a number of subjects and grade levels. 

How much can online tutors make?

When it comes to how much you’ll make as an online tutor, there’s no universal price point; instead, it depends on what you’re teaching and how long you’ve been tutoring. The longer you’ve been at it and the more advanced the subject, the higher the price you can command. 

“Tutoring rates can vary immensely, ranging from $10/hour to over $250/hour,” says Dunaieff. “The rates vary based on your experience, education level, certification level and content area.” 

“In general, our tutors, who work with elementary through college students, make between $21-$27 an hour, with premiere tutors (educators with 15+ years experience) making about $50 per hour,” says Schnack. “If someone is looking for an ACT or SAT tutor, the rate would be higher since it’s so specific.”

According to Schnack, when you’re tutoring online, you’re up against a bigger pool of people since geography isn’t an issue, and this may affect your tutoring rate. “By being online, you’re competing against a greater number of tutoring options,” Schnack says. “To be competitive, you may have to lower your rate.”

Another thing to keep in mind is that if you decide to work with an online tutoring center, which can be instrumental in getting you work, they will likely take a cut of your pay. 

What platform should you use to conduct online tutoring lessons?

For regular and semi-regular tutoring in basic subjects, one of the well-known videoconferencing services should suffice. “We use both BlueJeans and Zoom at our company, but other videoconferencing options, such as GoogleMeet and FaceTime, work well, too,” says Kathleen Egger, Vice President of Teaching Operations at LearnWell, a company that conducts in-person and online instruction for students who are on extended absences. “That said, it’s crucial to choose a tool that has both video and screen sharing capabilities since this allows the tutor to share lessons with the student during their session.”

For subjects that require students to see you doing the work in real time — like math — a whiteboard may be necessary. There are a number of online whiteboards to choose from — some more sophisticated (and costly) than others. For a fuss-free whiteboard app that doesn’t require a login (and is free), Whiteboard Fox is a good option. Zoom also allows for work on a whiteboard, but keep in mind, Zoom is only free for sessions 40 minutes or less, so you may need to pay for a subscription.

If you’re looking to build an online tutoring business, you may want to get a little more sophisticated. “If you’re doing online tutoring on a regular basis or looking to start a company, you may want to consider getting an online tutoring platform,” suggests Dunaieff. “The online platforms can vary from just providing resources to be able to tutor more easily, including whiteboards and equation editors, to full management systems that manage tutors, scheduling and payments.”

Both TutorCruncher and WizIQ are two of the more well-known online tutoring suites.  

Advantages of offering online tutoring

When it comes to tutoring, there are a number of benefits to going online — the main ones being convenience, flexibility and access, according to Schnack. “With in-person tutoring, you’re limited to the time and resource constraints of two people, which can make it difficult to make a match,” she says. “Traveling becomes an issue in many cases since most tutors won’t travel outside a 15-mile radius and many clients want tutoring in their own homes.”

In addition to eliminating travel and the expenses that come with it, you can access a larger pool of potential clients with online tutoring — and you may stand to make more money. “Online tutoring allows tutors to work in a larger geographic location that they would not be able to reach in person, which can be helpful for both students and tutors,” notes Dunaieff. 

Also, with online tutoring, there’s the option of screen recording, which is a feature of most videoconferencing services. “This is great for students to use as a refresher,” says Schnack.

Payment options for online tutors

If you’re tutoring online without the help of a company, it’s best to accept payments through services with which people are familiar. “PayPal and Zelle are easy, trustworthy ways to get paid for online tutoring,” says Schnack. “Whichever platform you choose, though, it’s advisable to familiarize yourself with the service’s business policies before using them. For instance, Venmo technically doesn’t allow business transactions.”

Another way to get paid is to set up a business website using a service such as Wix. “Wix allows you to invoice clients directly using an email address, and its payment portal offers a number of different forms of payment, including credit and debit card, as well as PayPal,” explains Schnack. “Also, these services are all third-party and collect the user’s information, so you never have to worry about safely storing someone’s personal information.