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What does a tutor do?
A tutor provides tuition to students and supports them with studying various subjects at different levels. They use varying methods, approaches and skills to enhance an individual’s learning and development. They also help students prepare for qualifications, exams, entry requirements and tests.
Tutors can work at students’ homes or directly from their own homes. They may also travel to provide their services in other settings, such as centres, schools and public places, e.g. libraries and cafes. Tutors can work with individuals of different ages, backgrounds and abilities, for example school children (primary, secondary and sixth form), college and university students, adult learners and students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
Tutors will have various duties, including planning tutoring sessions, assessing students’ work, monitoring their progress, providing constructive feedback and reporting back. The role also involves administrative work, such as marking assignments and preparing progress reports.
A tutor’s main aim is to meet the needs of individual learners and help them reach their full potential. They also play an important role in helping students struggling with their learning and confidence and help progress their studying skills.
Tutors will work with students and parents/guardians (depending on the student). They may also need to liaise with external stakeholders, including tutoring agencies, educational providers, insurance providers, other tutors, awarding bodies and SEND professionals.
Most tutors are self-employed and have their own tutoring businesses. However, they can also work for private tutoring agencies, educational providers, charities, community interest companies, local authorities or organisations providing specific tutoring services.
A tutor will have many different responsibilities, which may include (this list is not exhaustive):
- Maintaining a professional tutoring service at all times.
- Helping students with their learning and developing studying skills.
- Organising and scheduling tuition sessions.
- Setting up audio and video conferencing, delivering video tutoring sessions and managing online forums (online tutors).
- Providing tuition in line with individuals’ needs, abilities and levels.
- Using various methods, materials and equipment to facilitate learning and enhance development.
- Identify any barriers to learning with students and parents (where applicable).
- Planning and preparing tutoring sessions.
- Keeping up to date on the curriculum, qualification frameworks and syllabuses relevant to the tuition offered.
- Helping students to prepare for exams and tests.
- Assessing and marking students’ work and giving constructive feedback.
- Monitoring students’ progress and producing reports.
- Complying with legislation (e.g. health & safety and safeguarding), tutoring standards, policies and procedures.
- Managing finances, insurance and other business needs (if self-employed).
- Keeping accurate records safe, e.g. students’ information.
The working hours for tutors are variable and will depend on how many students they see during the day and working week. They can also expect to work after school, evenings and weekends. However, this will depend on students’ needs, e.g. most school children will require tuition outside of school times.
Most tutoring sessions last for approximately one hour, but there may be instances where students need more time, i.e. if an exam date is approaching.
The role allows for a high degree of flexibility, as tutors can schedule tuition sessions to suit their commitments, e.g. another job, studying and parenting. However, the more flexible tutors can be to students’ needs, the more tutoring work they will likely receive.
Travel may be necessary for some tutors, i.e. those who decide to provide face-to-face tuition at students’ homes and other locations. This may lengthen the working day travelling to and from sessions, and tutors will need to factor in the preparation time between each student.
What to expect
Being a tutor is hard work but rewarding. They can go home at the end of the working day knowing they are making a difference by supporting students’ learning and development. It is also fulfilling to help individuals struggling with certain aspects of their education and seeing them improve and progress with their learning.
As mentioned, tutoring can be highly flexible and ideal if someone wants to fit their work around their personal life. Self-employed tutors can choose the days/hours that suit them and set their own fees. Being your own boss can be exciting and fulfilling.
There is always a demand for tutors, and there has been significant growth in this area, particularly online tutoring. There is scope to be self-employed, work for an agency or be an employee. Tutors can also work in different locations and even deliver sessions to overseas students online. There are also no limits to what tutors can teach, as long as they have the expertise.
The set-up costs are considerably low for self-employed tutors. As long as they have the necessary knowledge and enjoy helping students learn and progress, little else is required. There may be additional costs, such as business home/car insurance and utilities.
Even though being a tutor is rewarding, and there are many positives associated with the role, they may also face challenges, for example:
- Unsociable days/hours – after school, evening and weekend sessions can be popular due to working around students’ schedules. There is also the time needed for preparing sessions, which may impact tutors’ hobbies and social lives.
- Difficult parents/guardians/students – some parents/guardians/students may be difficult to deal with. They may have unreasonable demands, turn up late and may not even pay their fees on time. There can also be personality clashes between students and tutors.
- Mental demands – some individuals have learning difficulties and behavioural issues that can be challenging and mentally demanding.
- Starting up – even though the set-up costs are relatively low, it still takes time and a lot of work to start up a business, even a small one. For a business to be successful, it will require a website, advertising and a good reputation. Additional training and accolades can be beneficial, as tutoring can be competitive.
- Being self-employed – there are additional responsibilities to consider, such as business insurances, tax returns and data protection registration.
There are pros and cons in every career choice, and prospective tutors must know what to expect before deciding whether the role is for them. There is no doubt that tutoring can be challenging, stressful and the hours can be unsociable. However, there are many positives too, and helping individuals progress their learning is very fulfilling and rewarding.
When considering whether to be a tutor, individuals should look at the pros and cons. They should also ensure they have the necessary personal qualities to carry out the role and responsibilities required.
Personal qualities needed to be a tutor
Some of the personal qualities a tutor requires will include (this list is not exhaustive):
- Knowledge of teaching and the subjects offered, including how students must meet the assessment criteria.
- Knowledge of revision and exam techniques.
- Knowledge of safeguarding if working with children and vulnerable adults.
- Knowledge of confidentiality, data protection and GDPR.
- Having a professional attitude to work, particularly in other people’s homes.
- Having confidence, patience and understanding.
- Having enthusiasm, motivation, creativity, imagination and energy.
- Having an interest in developing learners.
- Excellent interpersonal skills, i.e. the ability to deal with students, parents/guardians and other professionals.
- Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal.
- Good customer service skills.
- Good social media skills.
- Good reading, writing and numeracy skills.
- Good business and management skills if self-employed.
- Good listening skills.
- Good planning and organisational skills.
- Good time management.
- Being thorough and having attention to detail.
- Being friendly and approachable but remaining professional.
- Being flexible and open to change.
- The ability to work well with others and alone using own initiative.
- The ability to create an optimal environment for teaching and learning.
- The ability to design courses and identify new methods of learning.
- The ability to inspire, encourage, engage, challenge and teach students.
- The ability to be resilient in mentally demanding and challenging situations.
- The ability to gain students’ trust, respect and confidence.
- The ability to work well under pressure and remain calm in stressful situations.
- The ability to use IT equipment and software competently, especially if online tutoring.
- The ability to follow policies, procedures, instructions and risk assessments.
- The ability to keep up with necessary training.
Qualifications and training
There is no requirement to have specific qualifications to become a tutor. However, it will depend on the course level and type. Most tutors have an undergraduate degree, and some courses/subjects may require individuals to have specific qualifications. For example, if a tutor wants to provide tuition in A level mathematics, they will need a degree in maths. Having a degree may also be a requirement to work for tuition agencies.
Individuals may also need to be qualified teachers and have qualified teacher status (QTS). See our article on how to become a teacher for further information.
There are many different ways to become a tutor, e.g. having a degree, taking a relevant college qualification or applying directly.
In a subject relevant to the tuition offered.
- Four or five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent, including English and maths.
- Degree – two to three A levels or equivalent.
- Postgraduate courses (master’s and PhDs) – a degree in a relevant subject.
- Course level – Level 3, 4 & 5 courses.
- Entry requirements
– Level 3 – four or five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent.
– Level 4 or 5 – one or two A Levels or Level 3 course or equivalent.
- Example courses – Level 3 Award in Education and Training and Level 4 Certificate and Level 5 Diploma in Education and Training.
- This is a useful route for those with no or limited teaching experience.
- Individuals can apply for tutoring roles directly with training and tutoring providers.
- Entry requirements – depending on the company. Individuals will usually require relevant qualifications, good IT skills and experience (in teaching, training or tutoring).
A degree in any subject will give individuals an advantage over those who do not have higher-level qualifications. Students and parents are more likely to use the services of tutors who are more qualified and have more experience and skills. However, having a degree is not essential to become a tutor.
Work experience and volunteering
It is recommended that tutors have qualifications or training in the subjects they want to teach, but work experience is also important.
There may be opportunities to get paid work in relevant areas, such as childcare, teaching, coaching and mentoring. Whilst individuals get paid and gain valuable experience, they could also enrol on a college course, e.g. Level 3 Award in Education and Training.
There is no substitute for practical experience, and volunteering can also help individuals build their knowledge and skills. They can volunteer and work at their local school, after school club, learning centre or charity. Information on volunteering and local opportunities can be found on DoIT, NCVO and Volunteering Matters.
Having any relevant work experience, e.g. teaching or training, can be beneficial and can help an individual work towards becoming a tutor, particularly if they have helped people solve problems.
There may also be opportunities to shadow an experienced tutor to find out more about the role, see if it is the right career path and get advice on setting up a tutoring business.
Criminal records checks
Tutors will be required to undergo a criminal record check if they have contact with children and vulnerable adults. Some professional bodies and tutoring agencies also stipulate this as a requirement.
Having a criminal record, caution, warning or conviction may put off prospective employers. However, they should account for the seriousness of the crime, when it occurred and its relevance to the role.
The organisation that holds criminal records will depend on the country within the UK, for example:
- England and Wales – Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
- Northern Ireland – AccessNI.
- Scotland – Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme.
If a tutor travels to provide tuition, a full clean driving licence will be required.
Learning does not stop with experience or once someone becomes qualified. Attending relevant training courses and having additional certifications can help tutors enter the profession, enhance their reputation, learn new subjects and keep their knowledge and skills current.
Most colleges and accredited private training providers provide training courses. Some examples of relevant courses that may be useful for tutors include:
- Safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.
- Managing behaviour that challenges.
- Child sexual exploitation.
- Child neglect awareness.
- Prevent and radicalisation.
- Autism and ADHD awareness.
- Internet safety.
- COVID-19 awareness.
- Data protection.
- Equality and diversity.
- Health and safety.
Professional bodies, such as the Tutors’ Association can advise on reputable training courses. They also have events that can help tutors and give them the means to continue their professional development. Continuing professional development (CPD) is a mandatory requirement for professional body registration renewal.
The type of training required will depend on what employers are looking for, the subjects individuals want to tutor in, and any CPD requirements. As well as looking on professional body websites, it is also worth looking at several job advertisements to identify the courses required and other training needed for specialist tutoring roles. Jobs can be found on job sites, such as GOV.UK find a job service and Indeed. Also, look at tutoring agencies, e.g. Tutor Hunt, Tutorful and MyTutor.
Further training and competence will open up more opportunities for tutors. Refresher training will also be required, as it is a legal requirement, improves career prospects and keeps knowledge and skills up to date.
There are additional responsibilities associated with being self-employed, for example:
- Having the correct insurances, i.e. public liability and home/car business. If employing anyone, employer’s liability insurance will be required.
- Registering with HMRC.
- Filing tax returns.
- Registering with the ICO to hold personal data (to comply with the Data Protection Act 2018 and the GDPR).
Further advice and guidance on being self-employed can be found on GOV.UK.
Where do tutors work?
Tutors can work in many different settings, including (this list is not exhaustive):
- Students/families’ homes.
- Their own homes (face to face or online).
- Community settings, e.g. libraries.
- Tuition, learning, education and assessment centres.
- Private training providers.
- Independent (private) schools.
- Colleges and universities.
They can work for public bodies and private organisations, for example:
- Online tuition platforms.
- Other tuition providers.
- College groups.
- University providers.
- Local education authorities and private schools.
- Community interest companies.
Most tutors are self-employed or work for a tutoring agency.
How much do teaching assistants earn?
How much a tutor earns is highly variable. It will depend on whether they are employed, work for a tutoring agency, or are self-employed.
Tutors tend to be paid or charge an hourly rate, for example (these figures are a guide only):
- Average hourly rate for a tutor – between £20 and £30 (an hour session), depending on location (London supplement), experience and reputation.
- Hourly rate for more experienced tutors – between £30 and £40 (an hour). Some can earn up to £50 an hour.
- Working for a tutoring agency – average £45+ hourly rate, including VAT and commission.
If tutors work solely online, they are likely to charge slightly less as they will not be including travelling costs in their rates.
Tutors may be able to increase their salaries if they are offering tutoring services alongside other paid roles. However, they will need to account for the tax taken from any additional earnings.
Types of teaching assistant roles to specialise in
There are plenty of opportunities for tutors to specialise in various aspects of tuition, for example (this list is not exhaustive):
Different types of tutoring – tutors can choose to provide specific tuition types, such as:
- One-to-one – providing tuition to one student, which is also called private or personal tuition. It is usually given at students’ homes but may include other community locations, such as libraries.
- Small groups – providing tuition to small groups, e.g. less than six students.
- Class – some tutors may provide tuition to up to 20 students.
- Face to face – meeting with students in-person to provide the tuition.
- Online – providing tuition from computers and smartphones, and using online platforms and tools. It can be one-to-one but may also include groups.
- Drop-in services – enables students to drop in for tuition sessions at libraries, centres or schools.
- Blended learning – providing a combination of online and face-to-face tuition.
- Summer – providing tuition to students over the summer school holidays.
Specific stages/qualifications – tutors can specialise in key stages in the national curriculum and qualifications, such as:
- Foundation stage (ages 3-5).
- The primary school core curriculum, e.g. key stage 1 & key stage 2.
- The secondary school core curriculum, e.g. key stage 3, key stage 4 & GCSEs.
- Sixth form and college, e.g. A levels & T levels.
- University, e.g. undergraduate and postgraduate courses.
- International curriculum qualifications.
- Vocational qualifications, e.g. BTEC, NVQs and Diplomas.
Specific areas – tutors can specialise in certain areas, such as:
- Preparation for tests – helping students with tests, e.g. primary-age SATs tests, school admission tests, higher education entry exams and UK education entrance tests (for international students).
- Preparation for re-sits – helping students prepare for re-sitting qualifications, e.g. adult learners and GCSEs.
- Functional skills – helping students with English, maths and ICT.
- Employability – helping adult learners develop skills, which will enhance their employment opportunities.
Specific students – tutors can decide to work with children, adults or both. They can also tutor certain groups of students, e.g.:
- Special Educational Needs (SEN).
- Disabilities, e.g. hearing and visually impaired.
- Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) and behavioural difficulties.
- English as an Additional Language (EAL).
- Specific learning difficulties or disabilities, e.g. dyslexia or autism.
- Home-schooled due to illnesses and other issues.
- Unemployed adults.
Specific subjects – tutors can choose subjects to specialise in, such as:
- Business studies.
- ICT/digital skills.
- Art and design.
- Religious studies.
- Music, e.g. singing and guitar.
All different tutoring roles will require differing knowledge, skills, experience and qualities. Some may need specific qualifications and additional training for specialised types, groups and areas of tuition, e.g. GCSEs and A levels. Most tutors will need to know how to build relationships with students, understand the subjects they want to tutor in, plan and deliver tutoring sessions, use various learning methods, use IT competently, monitor students’ progress, and keep accurate records. Any additional areas of expertise will depend on the type of role a tutor wants to carry out.
If tutors do not carry out their role effectively, it may negatively impact students’ learning and development. It can also result in a poor reputation and loss of business (if self-employed). Therefore, whatever the type of role, tutors must have the necessary competence (knowledge, skills and experience) to carry out their role professionally and safely. They should also know the limits of their competency and not take on responsibilities if they have not been trained and are not competent.
Learning methods, tutoring standards, technology, guidance and laws are updated regularly. Therefore, tutors need to keep abreast with the latest developments and changes to remain legally compliant and ensure they are giving the best possible service. CPD gives tutors the knowledge and skills to keep up to date with these changes, helps them understand their responsibilities and allows them to progress their careers.
Joining a professional body can help prospective and current tutors enhance their skills and overall career. The Tutors’ Association offers different levels of membership, CPD, advice and support, access to industry contacts and events. Tutors who can showcase their qualifications and skills are more likely to have a larger customer base, a better reputation and higher earnings.
There is ample opportunity for career progression within the tutoring role. With more qualifications and experience, a tutor can offer other tuition services or manage other tutors in an organisation. They can also decide to focus on a specific area, subject or group. Alternatively, they may choose to work for a tutoring agency and do various contracts or become self-employed and have their own business.
Having knowledge, skills and experience as a tutor can also lead to a career in different areas. For example, a tutor may want to work in other areas of education or become an assessor or course developer. Finally, they may decide to combine tutoring with other roles, such as teaching, training or other areas of development.
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