How to Become a Personal Tutor

"Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress in every society, in every family" – Kofi Annan

Education forms the ground bed of society, and yet each individual has a unique way of learning that can often make the curriculum and teaching methods inadequate for students throughout the UK. Personal tutors fill an important gap in the education system, complementing school and university studies to help students get the support and guidance that they need. As a personal tutor, you can enjoy flexible working hours, an attractive salary, and a rewarding opportunity to watch your students progress thanks to your insight and encouragement. Utilising your skills and knowledge to equip the next generation to face the challenges of education, becoming a personal tutor can revitalise your career and offer fantastic opportunities in the UK and beyond.

Whether you choose to take on a few positions to supplement an existing income or fund your own studies, or you are looking for a career change into something new, private tuition is a thriving industry with much appeal to tutors from all backgrounds. From the traditional subjects of Maths, Science and English, to more specialised subjects such as Foreign Languages, Medicine and vocational courses, as a tutor you can share your knowledge on a vast range of interests. During this article, you will learn everything you need to know on how to become a personal tutor, including advice and guidance on how to market yourself and make the best of your position. In doing so, we hope to highlight this richly rewarding career path as an ideal role for anyone with extensive knowledge in a particular subject and an interest in teaching.

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Why Become a Personal Tutor?

Personal tutors have the opportunity to make a fantastic salary, whilst enjoying the freedom to shape your own working hours and areas of expertise. Some people prefer working afternoons, others on the weekend. Perhaps you love working with children, whilst some tutors choose to work with adult learners or students with learning difficulties. As a tutor you can decide how many hours you work, what age group you cater you, and whether you want to travel for work or offer your services from your own home or office. The impressive scope for flexibility in this profession makes it an attractive career choice for both part time and full time work, as a permanent or temporary role.

Moreover, it is hard to underestimate the importance of job satisfaction, and by providing one-on-one guidance to students of a wide range of abilities you can make a huge difference to peoples’ lives, both now and for their future job prospects. Ask any private tutor about the perks of their role and their first response is unlikely to be the pay. A box of chocolates, a bouquet of flowers and most importantly those light bulb moments when you can almost see something click into place in a pupil’s mind can make your hard work and patience pay dividends.

Private Tutoring is a Popular Career Choice For...

Tutoring is generally linked to individuals with a background in education, especially those who have taken advanced qualifications such as postgraduate degrees and PhDs. Equipped with a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips, becoming a tutor is a relatively easy way to utilise this vast understanding of a subject to earn a respectable wage, either during or after completion of these studies. Meanwhile many people take on tutoring roles as a way to build up experience on their CV for a permanent position in education, such as PGCE candidates.

Because of the flexible nature of the role, private tutoring is also a popular option amongst teachers and lecturers, many of whom choose to move into this sector of the industry as a transition towards retirement. Allowing you to work as many or as few hours as you choose, with a particularly attractive hourly rate for experienced teachers and lecturers, it offers the opportunity to be self-employed without making a significant change to your career and specialism.

Private Tutoring is a popular career choice

What Skills Do I Need?

It goes without saying that personal tutors require extensive knowledge of at least one subject, however this is by no means the only skill that can make someone a suitable fit for the role. Being able to pass on information and skills in a way that is easy to understand and engaging for the learner is essential. Although training and qualifications can certainly enhance a tutor’s ability to teach difficult subjects in a straightforward and uncomplicated manner, having this natural ability to begin with can really strengthen your potential. Strong communication skills are therefore a must, and coming across as approachable yet professional will not only gain the respect of your future students, but the parents who ultimately have the decision when choosing a tutor for their child.

On the other side of the coin, good communication skills also involve listening, and a professional tutor will be able to grasp the challenges and requirements of each individual pupil by being flexible and intuitive to their needs. This underlines the whole premise of personal tutoring; if a student is unable to get the support and guidance that they need from the classroom or lectures, a one-on-one approach is designed to help them overcome obstacles to learning and progress at their own pace. Without good listening skills and the ability to perceive the unique requirements of individual students, tailoring the most effective lesson plans to secure your pupils' progress is near impossible.

Finally, there are certain personal qualities that can really distinguish the best private tutors from the rest. As the nature of this career involves helping students who are often struggling to comprehend key subjects, patience really is a virtue in this position. Without it, both parties will find the process frustrating and unfruitful, as time and commitment is required to overcome the challenges that learning poses for many. A genuine desire to help others progress can also make the difference between a flexible and well-paid job, and one that really gives you job satisfaction on a whole other level.

If you feel that you have one or all of the above skills and qualities, then you could be just the right fit for a fresh career start as a personal tutor. Read on to learn more about how to make your new job become a reality.

  • "Patience, perseverance and adaptability are the key words for success as a tutor. I am passionate about giving each student the best possible guidance."

    Mike - English Tutor.

  • "I am an enthusiastic teacher who is totally committed to bringing out the best in a tutee. My tutees always improve at a fast speed and I have very high success rates for English language exams including several 8s and an 8.5 for IELTS."

    Vittorio - Foreign Language Tutor

  • "For me teaching is a massive passion. Each day brings new challenges and surprises which has enabled me to become more flexible and adaptable"

    Sachin - Maths Tutor.

How to Become a Personal Tutor

Unlike state school teachers, there are no legal requirements or qualifications necessary to become a private tutor. However, this doesn't mean that you should simply start advertising your services as soon as you make the decision to pursue this career path. In order to have long-term success in this venture, you need to invest in at least a little research before taking on any paying students. After all, a bad reputation can be near impossible to shake off if you fail to meet the expectations of your first few pupils. Let's take a look at some of the ways in which you can enhance your credibility, and secure your future success, as a tutor.

Deciding upon your speciality subjects is an essential first step to consider, and one that can be more obvious and straightforward for some than for others. A bilingual Arabic and English speaker, for example, might have little question as to their area of expertise. A Journalism graduate, on the other hand, might be able to offer help with a cross-section of subjects including Journalism itself, English, Media and Communication Studies. Although offering tuition in more than one subject does make yourself more marketable to a broader range of students, it can on the other hand put some people off, by establishing you as a 'jack of all trades.' It can also make it harder for yourself when attempting to grasp a keen understanding of each curriculum, for each subject that you are hoping to offer.

Knowing your subject inside out isn’t enough as a tutor; what might have been a key topic or focus when you were in college might be completely irrelevant to students of the same age today. Brushing up on and staying up to date with the curriculum for your subjects is therefore crucial if you are to help your students progress. Without the learning objectives, course content and key materials in mind, even the most engaging and well-informed tutors will be unable to secure the grades for which their pupils strive. You should therefore decide on the age group(s) that you would like to teach and get to grips with the curriculum for each; again there are advantages and drawbacks of choosing to offer your services to more than one key stage or age group.

Each subject for each particular year group can be governed by one of several exam boards for the course. Whilst the differences between the curriculum for bodies such as AQA, Edexcel and OCR are often subtle, they are by no means less important. Key distinctions between the focus, learning objectives and outcomes can really shape the way in which pupils are encouraged to study the subject, and as a tutor it is your responsibility to know the unique features of each examination board. The curriculums can be found free of charge on the website of each governing body, and you should familiarise yourself with at least the most widely recognised ones before entering the field as a tutor.

Useful Qualifications and Accreditations

As a general rule, tutors are expected to hold at least an undergraduate degree to qualify them as a specialist in the subject(s) that they teach. However there are a growing number of university students taking up tutoring either to supplement their own studies, or to gain valuable teaching experience that will support their route towards a permanent career in education. Highly qualified tutors can expect to charge rates reflective of their expertise, although there is certainly a market for less qualified candidates to offer their services at a lower rate, making the relationship between pupil and tutor mutually reciprocal.

For anyone wanting to pursue a career in education, either by taking on tutoring as a full time role or using it as a stepping stone to a permanent position in a school, some choose to use their income to enable study towards a PGCE. This qualification is by no means necessary for private tutors, however the commitment to teaching demonstrated by those studying towards a PGCE can be attractive to potential students. It is reflective of a broader understanding of teaching skills and methods, coupled with the subject knowledge, that will make you a more professional and experienced tutor.

The Tutors Association

The issue of poor quality tutoring has been frequently raised over the past year, as this growing industry has raised concerns about a lack of regulation over teaching standards. Although not currently regulated by official legislation, The Tutors' Association exists with the purpose of "encouraging professional standards’ within the industry. Membership is strictly vetted to ensure that only tutors who meet their minimum standards on qualifications, quality tuition, and professionalism are accepted into the association. As such, a successful application to become a member of this esteemed institution can significantly enhance your reputation.

Inviting a stranger into your home can be a daunting prospect at the best of times, especially for parents with children. Unless you choose to offer your services via a platform that asks for a DBS check (formerly CRB) as part of its policy, it is not a legal requirement to have one done. However many tutors voluntarily submit a disclosure, as providing one can offer peace of mind to parents looking for a tutor for their child, making it a worthwhile investment when trying to build up your client base. A basic disclosure will enable any prospective parents, adult students and organisations to see that you are a trustworthy candidate for the position, and they are only recommended for renewal every 3 years.

The Practicalities

Before you start advertising your services as a tutor, it can be helpful to decide on a few logistical considerations that will distinguish the nature of your work. Establishing a rough guideline of how many hours you want to work per week, for example, will ensure that you don’t suddenly become overwhelmed with more work that you bargained on. You should also consider that tutoring requirements can be subject to seasonal fluctuations towards exam periods, and therefore if you are willing to ‘make hay whilst the sun doth shine’ then you will feel less pressure during quieter periods such as the summer. Deciding when to offer your services will also help you to tailor your services to specific preferences and requirements; remember that school students in particular will only be available later in the afternoon and on weekends during term time.

Choosing whether to offer your services in the students’ home, your own home, or a neutral location is also a good decision to make, as every parent and student will have different preferences. Remember that if you offer to travel as a tutor then you should either set a boundary for the distance, or where appropriate factor this into the cost. Travel can be costly not only financially, but also for your valuable time. Tutoring from your own home can seem like an easier option, however bear in mind that if you are inviting paying pupils into your home then you’ll be expected to have the facilities to accommodate them. You should have a spare room equipped with any furniture, technology or learning materials that you may need – being able to guarantee minimal distractions is also essential. If you are unable to create a sound learning environment in your own home, then tutoring in a neutral space or travelling to the student for lessons may be required.

Although it is a good idea to establish these factors before you commit to any clients, a degree of flexibility in your arrangements can be useful if you want to attract as many students as possible. Showing a willingness to increase your time spent with students who are really struggling towards exams and deadlines, for example, or rearranging the occasional lesson when a student cannot make it, distinguishes a tutor who is genuinely interested in helping their students from those who are simply interested in the material benefits of the job. It can also make a big contribution towards building up your reputation if you want to pursue tutoring as a long-term career option.

Advertising Your Services

After you’ve followed all of the above steps to prepare yourself for your new role as a personal tutor, the final step is to advertise your services to attract students in the area who are in need of help. Of course, there are many possible ways to make your services known, from local adverts to online tutor-matching services such as UK Tutors. However as many parents and pupils want to be sure that they are choosing a reliable, trustworthy and professional tutor for their one-to-one learning requirements, the latter offers access to a huge pool of students and an easy way to quickly establish a client base. Over time, word of mouth and a strong local reputation can make gaining new students increasingly simple, however building up a strong reputation is a crucial prerequisite to get to this point.

When looking for platforms to advise your services online, you’ll notice a few subtle but important differences between agencies and tutor matching services. A tutor agency takes a direct role in matching the two parties together, and mediating between the student and tutor where necessary. They have a lot more control over the whole process, from student-tutor selection through to the tutoring itself. Tutor matching companies, on the other hand, allow local individuals to request your services based on their own preferences and judgement. You are also able to communicate directly with potential clients to come to an agreement on the terms of the contract. By giving both parties more autonomy in the process, tutor matching services tend to be both more successful and affordable for everyone involved.

Choosing an hourly rate for your services can be a difficult decision, but a little research about the going rate in the area, combined with an understanding of the factors that determine the price for personal tutors, can help. London and the South obviously have a premium versus hourly rates in the rest of the UK, but generally speaking an A level tutor could expect to charge between £25 and £35 for their services, £20-30 for GCSE level, and anywhere between £15 and £25 for key stage 1, 2 and 3 tutoring. Within these price brackets, the subject itself also influences to the going rate, with core subjects such as maths, science and IT generally commanding a higher rate. Meanwhile the experience, reputation and qualifications of the tutor can play a role in the price. However the final rate is always subject to negotiation and agreement between the pupil and their tutor.