Today’s increasingly crowded classrooms are too frequently beyond the capacity for a single teacher to provide special attention needed by struggling students. Add to this an increased use of standardized testing for high school graduation and entry into colleges, plus intense competition for prized seats in private K-12 schools and the best universities and colleges, and you understand the growing demands for private tutors.
And it’s not just young people who are seeking help. Adult education is equally on the rise. If you are a professional artist or musician, you can teach fans and those who aspire to become professional themselves. You can offer classes via the web with video lessons and courses.
Tutoring is estimated to be a $5 billion to $7 billion a year industry, and, despite the economy, is growing at more than 5% a year. Online schools are growing. Adults can also sell their know-how on sites like eHow.com, Instructables.com, Justanswer.com, mahalo.com, and myknowledgegenie.com.
At the youngest end of the age spectrum, private preschools and elementary schools have difficult entrance exams and interviews, and the competition for limited spaces is intense. So most parents wanting their children to be accepted into these schools make sure their children get tutored and coached to be sure they do their best. Admission to some private high schools is also subject to competitive testing.
Public schools now must administer standardized testing pursuant to the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires K-12 students to pass a test before advancing to the next grade. The act has also been a boon to tutoring companies, since failing school districts are required to provide free tutoring to their students (subsidized by the federal government). Though independent tutors have perhaps been slightly edged out of the equation by these subsidies, fewer than 1 in 6 of the 1.4 million students eligible for tutoring are taking advantage of it, which suggests that in at least some districts there may be opportunity.
College admissions have grown far more competitive than ever before, and both students and parents are willing to do almost anything to get ahead. This includes taking more difficult courses, often through the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs, which then often requires some degree of outside help or tutoring to help the student to excel. Then there’s preparing for college entrance exams, usually the SAT, SAT2, and ACT, and for students seeking National Merit scholarships, there’s the PSAT.
Though students at all stages are getting tutored, most academic tutoring is focused on middle- and high-school-age children. Math is the most common subject, but science, foreign languages, reading, history, study skills and writing are also in demand. Writing is of particular interest now that there’s an essay section on college entrance exams, and most colleges and universities require students to submit a personal essay as part of their applications.
Once admitted, college students often require tutoring in subjects they find difficult, such as physics, calculus, biology and foreign languages. The need for personalized tutelage doesn’t end with undergraduate school. College seniors who wish to continue in academic or professional post-graduate schools often need tutoring to score well on such tests as the GRE and LSAT. Those who want to get into a prestigious MBA program are using admissions consultants to coach them with their essays and personal interviews.
Adults are signing up for tutors and classes on subjects ranging form practical ones like raising chickens, carpentry, plumbing and permaculture to teaching sports and hobbyist skills, such as tennis, golf and dancing. Dave Gorrie, for example, parlayed his career as a head coach into a home-based business giving batting lessons to kids ages eight to eighteen, working with fifteen to twenty kids each week in forty-five-minute batting-practice lessons.
Adults wishing to improve foreign or regional accents or master pronunciation, grammar, and diction as do special education and ESL (English as a second language) students often need tutors,.
An emerging area is teaching what are considered to be “lost arts,” which are skills that until recently were thought of as no longer needed, such as boot making, chair caning, canning, crocheting, decorative ironwork, furniture making, growing one’s own food, metal casting, needlework, pottery, sewing, tanning, tinning, tracking, weaving, and wood carving.
If income is of primary importance, the most dependable type of tutoring remains the major tests that nearly all high school students take— ACT, which is accepted at all colleges and universities, and the SAT. But it is possible to make a good supplemental income tutoring or teaching topics that are a bit more rarefied. And there are subjects—such as various aspects of using specialized computer software and the Internet—that are as crucial for adults as the SAT is for high schoolers.
Generally students come to an academic tutor’s home. For a higher fee some tutors will travel to the student’s home. Tutoring in skills such as sports or metal casting requires a special facility where the tutor can work. Usually tutoring is one-on-one. Individual, personal attention is why people will pay well for it, but some tutors also offer small, semi private lessons. However, in working with small groups of five to six students, Christine Dreir, a math tutor/teacher, found that some move ahead and some get lost. “You experience the same issues a classroom teacher does.” There is also a technological movement afoot to provide “e-tutoring”—tutoring over the Internet. This has emerged into online teaching and even online education consulting. As the popularity of webcams and real-time interaction grows this may become a preferred method of tutoring.
In 2006 the College Entrance Exam Advisors and Educators (CEEAE) began administering its Educator Proficiency Exam (EPE) to college entrance exam tutors. The online exam tests acumen on the material regularly on the exams and communications proficiency. While it cannot be required, parents can be expected to ask about a prospective tutor’s score as word about the exam gets out.
While state licensing or certification to tutor students privately may not be required, if you wish to work with students whose tutoring is subsidized with government funds, you will need to meet the qualifications established by the school district that administers the money. A teaching credential will always fulfill the standard. Certification is available from organizations such the National Tutoring Association and TutorNation.com.
The challenging trends of globalization and othersourcing have placed demands on us and our children as few times before. Similarly your work as a tutors, you will needs to adapt what you teach and how you teach and price their time and expertise in a fast-changing world.