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by Margot Carmichael Lester, Monster

More parents are seeking help for their kids outside the classroom. According to education research group Eduventures, parents spent approximately $4 billion on tutoring in 2003. And demand is expected to grow through the end of the decade.

For some people, tutoring is a part-time job for extra cash; for others, it’s a career. Either way, if you love learning and the satisfaction of helping others succeed, tutoring might be just right for you. These tips will help you break in.

What It Takes

Traditionally, we think of tutors as people who help students with their homework. But today’s professional tutor serves more as an advocate, making sure children get the materials and instruction they need to succeed.

“Just because someone is from Harvard with a PhD in math doesn’t mean she can teach,” says Lisa Jacobson, founder and CEO of Inspirica, a New York-based tutoring agency.

Jacobson looks for these traits in candidates:

Personality and warmth

Communication skills



Good tutors have “a willingness to respect the student and address his/her needs,” says Susan Knepley, developer of the International Tutor Certification Program at Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood, Colorado.

“Sometimes parents just want you to do the homework,” says Jane Harwell, a teacher and tutor in Carrboro, North Carolina. “You can’t be afraid to tell them there’s more their kids need.”

Training and Development

Tutors are usually self-taught. Of course, it always helps to learn more about education or a particular subject you want to teach. Being a former teacher helps but isn’t essential.

“A person wanting to become a tutor needs to first gain experience, either by working for a company and getting training or working with friends and family at very little pay until reputation is built up,” says Ian Simpson, president of Integrated Learning, a Los Angeles-based tutoring agency.

Tutors can improve their credibility by applying for certification from the National Tutoring Association. The organization certifies tutors from basic to master based on experience level and education.

Where You Work

Tutors generally work either for a tutoring agency as employees or contractors or as freelancers with private clients. If the ups and downs of freelancing don’t appeal to you or you don’t want to deal with building your own business, consider working for an established agency that typically engages clients on a semester basis.

What Will You Earn?

Established independent tutors can earn $30,000 to $60,000 a year in urban and suburban areas. Depending on demand and experience, freelance rates range from $25 to $50 per hour, rising with grade level and difficulty of the subject matter. To set your rate, survey other tutors’ flyers and choose an amount that reflects the market average and your skill level. Note that if you work for a tutoring agency, your rates will likely be lower than if you seek work independently. In exchange, the agency will handle tutoring’s marketing and accounting aspects.

A Seasonal Business

“Tutoring is a feast-or-famine kind of business,” says Simpson. Busy periods include the summer, particularly before school begins, and just before big test times. Since work may be inconsistent throughout the year – and it can take time to line up clients – you might want to start out by moonlighting as a tutor.

Writing: In Demand

Tutors with specialties are always in demand, particularly in math and science. With increased enrollment in AP courses and the SAT’s essay component, the need for writing tutors is growing.

Selling Yourself

According to Harwell, the best marketing is by word of mouth. Ask satisfied customers to recommend you to their friends.

Then use these ideas to build your practice:

Develop a Web site and register with search engines.

Prepare a rock-solid resume for potential clients.

Create a flyer for local bulletin boards and post your services on online boards.

Related Links

Introduce your services to guidance counselors and instructional coaches at schools, as well as HR professionals at tutoring agencies.

Ask satisfied customers for testimonials you can use in your flier or on your Web site.

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