How To Become an Online Tutor (With Job Duties and Skills)

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 31 January 2023

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Building a career as an online tutor is a great way to enter the education field and create an opportunity to work from home. The ability to work from home can be highly beneficial for tutors, as they can reach people in almost any part of the world and share their expertise with any student who might be interested in learning more about a specific subject. If you want to work as an educator and think that remote work could be ideal for you, you might consider pursuing a career as an online tutor.

In this article, we discuss what an online tutor does, the benefits of becoming one and explore how to become an online tutor.

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What is an online tutor?

An online tutor is an educator who conducts lessons over the internet that can help students enhance their abilities in a specific subject. Most online tutors specialise in teaching a particular subject, such as the English language, mathematics or science. Online tutors can also specialise in test preparation, which can involve helping students prepare for standardised tests and other types of assessments, like entrance exams or grade-level assessments.

While online tutors typically have similar levels of expertise to online or in-person teachers, they can have different responsibilities. This is because online tutors typically act as supplementary educators who students learn from in addition to the schooling they receive from their regular teachers.

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What does an online tutor do?

An online tutor can have many job duties that contribute to helping students improve in a certain area of study. Online tutors can design and create lesson plans that consider their students' specific needs and goals, which can allow them to customise their courses according to the students they have. Their job can also involve conducting individual and group lessons over video conference calls, as this is a popular way to host meetings over the internet. Another common responsibility for online tutors is monitoring progress and sharing it with their students' parents, especially when they teach young children.

Here are a few more job duties that online tutors typically have:

  • Write curriculum materials, such as handouts, worksheets and tests

  • Plan and develop video course materials

  • Answer questions from students about the course

  • Take assessments that measure student progress

  • Troubleshoot technical and Internet connectivity issues

  • Respond to emails and messages from students, parents and administrators

  • Monitor and record student progress over time

  • Suggest new programmes or courses to school administrators

What are the benefits of becoming an online tutor?

Becoming an online tutor can be an excellent job for the right candidate. Here are several benefits of this career path:

  • Flexible schedule: often, online tutors and their students find study times that work for both of their schedules. This gives you the opportunity to tutor during your ideal work hours.

  • Help others: as an online tutor, you have to chance to help struggling students strengthen their study skills. You can help them reach their academic goals, even helping some students prepare for studies after graduation.

  • Work from home: rather than commuting to school, you can tutor students from the comfort of your home. You no longer need to make a commute and can easily resume the rest of your day after tutoring.

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Skills for an online tutor

Working as an online tutor can require a combination of hard and soft skills in education and technology. Hard skills refer to specific abilities that relate directly to the job title. For example, some hard skills that an online tutor might need include the ability to use computer software to conduct lessons, a strong background in the subject of their choice and knowledge of best practices in education. Soft skills describe skills that can transfer across different jobs and areas of expertise. A few soft skills that can benefit an online tutor are communication skills, interpersonal skills and online presence.

Here are some more skills that an online tutor might need:

  • Knowledge of teaching pedagogy

  • Ability to write curriculum materials

  • Time management

  • Leadership

  • Positive thinking

  • Compassion

  • Patience

  • Active listening

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How to become an online tutor

Some online tutors work for tutoring services or companies, while other online tutors open their own tutoring businesses. Here are some steps you can use for how to become an online tutor:

1. Research the requirements

The specific education and training requirements for online tutors can vary depending on the subject you want to teach and the area where you live. Most online tutors have a similar general requirement of being an expert in the subject they want to teach. For some online tutors, this might involve earning a bachelor's degree in their area of study, but there can also be opportunities to prepare for work as a tutor through tutor training programs, many of which exist online.

For example, an online tutor who wants to help students learn to speak English typically needs a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate. You can find out which steps you might need to take to prepare yourself for work as an online tutor by conducting research online or reaching out to companies you are interested in working for as a tutor.

2. Learn about your potential student base

Thinking about the types of students you might want to tutor can also help to inform how you prepare for your career. Because online tutors are so accessible, as students can attend lessons online from almost any location, they can attract the interest of students at all levels and ages. It can be useful to explore different demographics of students you might be interested in teaching before you start taking on clients in order to ensure you receive the necessary education and training to instruct them effectively.

For example, an online tutor who wants to work with young children likely has different steps for preparing and creating materials than an online tutor who wants to tutor adults.

3. Choose a subject

One of the most important steps of becoming an online tutor is to decide which subject you want to help students in learning. This is because most online tutors specialise in one or two subjects and only instruct students in those areas of study. One way to pick a subject to specialise in is to consider the types of students you want to help and think about which subjects they might want to learn better.

When choosing a subject to tutor, it can be beneficial to pick something that you are interested in or passionate about, as this can help make building your expertise easy and enjoyable. You might also already have an awareness or knowledge of the subject, which can reduce the time you need to spend learning about your subject before preparing materials and taking on clients.

4. Write the curriculum

This step can be optional for online tutors who want to work for existing tutoring companies, but it can also be beneficial, as some tutoring companies ask their tutors to design their own curricula. However, for online tutors who want to open their own tutoring business, this step can be crucial in making sure they have engaging materials that can help children learn efficiently. Writing the curriculum for an online tutoring course can involve designing several types of materials, like video lectures, written worksheets and handouts, and interactive assessments and tests.

When writing your curriculum, you can refer to other online tutoring curricula in your subject for inspiration. You can also use programs that are compatible with online learning to ensure all of your students can access your materials.

5. Find or create an online platform

This is another step that can be voluntary for online tutors who are interested in working at established tutoring businesses, as most tutoring companies require their tutors to use the same program in order to maintain consistency. For online tutors who want to open their own businesses, this can be another key step in making their business accessible and easy to use for any student who might decide to learn from them.

Because there are so many options for online programs and platforms, it can be helpful to research the different types of programs available to determine which might be the best host for your materials and lessons.

6. Start taking on students

Once you have your curriculum materials and a digital platform to present them on, you can start looking for students to tutor. You can find students by posting on websites that show listings for tutoring services and on social media platforms where people can share your business with others they know. If you're hoping to work for an existing tutoring business, you can start applying to companies you already know about or conduct research online to find companies that would appreciate your skill set and background.

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