The national debate about whether students have too much homework shadows the critical importance being placed on academic success. Surveys indicate that parents of school-age children say their number-one concern is their children's education. Accordingly, there's a growing demand for academic tutors by parents at all socioeconomic levels.
Tutors offer students individual attention-something in short supply in crowded classrooms. Tutors can customize what they teach to the level and needs of each student, allowing students to learn at their own pace without the pressure of peers or authorities. While national chains are providing tutoring services in many communities, self-employed tutors are charging-and finding work for-as much as $150 an hour.
While math is the most popular subject students and their parents seek professional tutoring for, there's almost no limit to the subjects that someone can offer tutoring for. Tutors are sought by everyone from struggling history pupils to students slow to grasp computer skills. Other parents just want their kids to keep up, knowing they'll fall behind if they haven't mastered basic skills or are struggling to pass required coursework. Another tutoring specialty is working with students who have learning disabilities.
A key market for tutors these days is coaching students to pass entrance examinations. Standardized admissions tests-such as the ACT, CSEE, ERB, ISEE, PSAT, SSAT, SAT I & II, and TOEFL-strike fear into the hearts of parents and students alike, driving some students to begin preparing months before the exams.
What kind of qualities should a tutor have, besides strong knowledge of a particular subject? Good communication skills are essential in order to listen to and interpret students' needs and to impart directions and information in simple, clear and concise language. "[Students] may not know how to ask a question in a way to get the information they want," says Jan Berinstein, a computer skills tutor. "If you don't listen carefully to their questions and don't take time to give thoughtful answers, they'll become frustrated."
Enduring patience is also required. Students who need tutoring may lack confidence and don't instinctively understand what a tutor presumably knows well. Students may need frequent repetition, repeated rephrasing of explanations, continual reinforcement, and lots of encouragement and reassurance.
Although a degree in education isn't necessary, a bachelor's degree or, in some specialized subjects, an additional advanced degree is needed for credibility in marketing yourself as a tutor. While most states have yet to require examinations or licenses to be a tutor, there are exceptions such as Pennsylvania, so this needs to be checked. Regardless of licensing, if you're going to tutor in a complex subject like microbiology, you must be well-versed in it. Thus, most tutors tend to offer more basic subjects to grade school and high school students.
Most self-employed tutors have students come to their homes, but some go to their students' homes and charge a higher fee. While tutoring is usually done on a one-to-one basis, some tutors will work with as many as three students at a time, reducing the standard fee per student. While some elite tutors do command fees of as much as $150 per hour, most tutors charge between $15 and $50 per hour. The rate varies with experience, location and whether the tutor goes to the student's home.
Ways to get started include contacting teachers in your specialized subject areas, posting fliers, participating in community organizations, and having your own Web site with its own domain name and testimonial letters.
Paul and Sarah Edwards are the award-winning co-authors of thirteen books, including Working From Home, The Best Home Businesses for the 21st Centuryand their latest book, The Practical Dreamer's Handbook. More information is available on their Web sites, www.workingfromhome.com and www.simplegoodlife.com.
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